Maybe you’ve already figured out that you want to major in music, but you don’t know exactly what that means for you and your degree. What are the classes like? What opportunities to perform will you have? What should you look for in a music department?
We sat down with Gregory Jones, chair of the IPFW Department of Music, to find out what you, as an aspiring music major, should ask when checking out colleges.
1. Is being accepted into the university the same as being accepted into the music department?
“It’s not only about being accepted to the university,” Jones explains. “You first get accepted to the university, but you also have to audition and be accepted into the music program. That’s the same everywhere, not just at IPFW. For example, if a student comes in as a guitarist, they’ll want to know what they’ll need to play for their audition.”
2. What scholarships are available for music students?
“Music students are always thinking about scholarships, as is everybody. We’re lucky at IPFW, as we actually have a lot of privately-given scholarship money, so we’re happy to tell our students about that. The cost of in-state tuition at IPFW is pretty low, so scholarships can really help them a lot if they’re that quality level of musician that we’re looking for.”
The same is often true at other universities. Just like for student-athletes, many universities will offer financial aid to “star” students to help them complete their degree—but instead of the hot new quarterback, it’s money to help the new stellar bassoonist.
3. What are my options for studying music beyond a performance degree?
“A lot of students know they want to be involved in music, but they haven’t explored their options outside of a performance degree. For example, we offer a music therapy degree here, which not many universities do. Our music therapy graduates currently have a 100% employment rate. They work in hospitals, they work with people with injuries and disabilities, and so on.
“But we also talk to prospective students about the music performance degree, which would prepare you to be a performer. Most of those students go on to graduate school in performance, and then try to play professionally in a symphony orchestra, teach, or some combination of performing in chamber music and teaching privately. There’s a lot of ways that degree can play out.
“Don’t worry about exactly what you want to do. You’ll find out more as you explore your degree options and the classes you take.”
4. Can I meet the vocal/trumpet/insert-my-passion-here professor?
“For students who definitely do know what they want to do, it’s a little more specific. They want to know a lot about who is going to be teaching them. They want to meet the professor, especially the applied teacher. So if you’re a trumpet player, you want to meet the trumpet instructor.
“That person is going to be a major part of your degree. You’ve got to get along with that person, or at least be able to work with them. Otherwise, it’s very difficult.”
5. Do you have an orchestra/jazz band/concert band/choir?
“If you’re interested in ensembles, make sure your school has one. Students ask, ‘Do you have an orchestra?’ Yes, we do. ‘Do you have a jazz band?’ Yes, we do. ‘Do you have a concert band?’ Yes, we do.
“Find out what kind of choir your university has, or if you can work on your jazz improvisation skills there. Those kinds of experiences are very important to the learning process in music, so you want to know what your school can offer.
“As an example, our top wind ensemble just went to Carnegie Hall for a big performance. It’s a big deal, the first time in our university’s history. If I were a student, I’d want to know if those were the kinds of experiences I could expect to have.”
So now that you have a handful of questions to ask, what’s the next step?
Visit! Contact the schools on your list and arrange for a campus visit. Ask if you can meet the music department faculty or sit in on a class. Talking to professors and students will give you a much better “feel” for the experience—and help you decide if any given school is the right fit for you and your talents.
To learn more about IPFW’s Department of Music, schedule a campus visit, and be sure to come equipped with the Campus Visit Checklist.