How Good should you be…??

How Good should you be…??

Hey guys,
In the event that you were considering studying music at a college, is it ok if you’re on the beginner end of the spectrum? I’ve only been playing fiddle for a year and four months but I’m working really hard and improving all the time.
And I’m a junior in high school.
Not even sure if college will work for me, but it’s an idea I’ve toyed with for awhile.
Thanks!!

Re: How Good should you be…??

A liberal arts college will offer the opportunity to sample various disciplines and you don’t have to declare a major immediatly. You should discuss this more fully with your guidance counselor and also with college recruiters who come to your campus. My daughter studied music in college and went on to major in education. She now teaches high school chemistry and biology. She still loves music and plays regularly,
But she also loves teaching. And, it is never too soon to pursue that which you love.

Re: How Good should you be…??

Depends on the college. They will probably want you to audition so it’s really more a matter of whether or not you can get in. I went to college for Irish trad at what’s now TU Dublin (it was DIT back then), I had only been playing flute for 3 years when I auditioned but I got in and I wasn’t the worst player there. Plus, I was an American playing Irish trad in Ireland; that did NOT work in my favor. If it calls to you more than anything else then you’ve got nothing to lose by trying. They say it’s not what you do that you regret, it’s what you don’t do!

Edit: I posted this just after the post above mine and reading it makes me want to add this: I studied Irish trad in Dublin for college. Since then, I’m 31 now, I found that, while I still love and play trad, my real passion is writing my own music. Now I’m a starving artist singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t have pictured that 10 years ago when I was in Dublin but I’ve never been happier. While living in a foreign country wasn’t always easy; if I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing!

The point is that; even if it doesn’t work out, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret it.

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Re: How Good should you be…??

@avery Amen!

Re: How Good should you be…??

Okay…
so you DO have to impress them before they let you in the program?? Like they won’t just accept any musician…you must show that you have talent or potential?
Thanks, Averey for the encouragement!!

Re: How Good should you be…??

I would say, in a general sense, if you are looking at enrolling in a college music course some type of audition is pretty much inevitable. I would also say that, yes, they do want someone who has ability and shows dedication, there’s a limit to how many people they can take and they want the best ones. It will still depend on the course though! Think of it the same as an academic subject, they will weed people out based on their grades in that subject etc.

I guess it I were to answer your original question, be the best you can be!!! If you’ve only been playing for two years but sound like you’ve been playing for six you will be a lot more impressive to those auditioning you than someone who has been playing for six years but sounds like they’ve been playing for two. Keep putting in the work and striving to be better than you were yesterday, that musician you were yesterday is your only competition; nobody else matters.

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Re: How Good should you be…??

This is something that you should get advice on from advisors in your school system, as not all that many of us have experience of music education in the higher education sector.

Generally, though, there are a lot of different types of music courses out there. Some are aimed at producing the top level professionals in various genres. Entry to those is usually only available to those who are already relatively skilled musicians who have the potential to work (very) hard during the course. Others are more about studying music than playing it, and then there are courses on music technology, or business aspects, and so forth.

I’m not clear what sort of age you are (education systems are different across the world) but I’m guessing mid-teens? In which case you have a good few years to really dig in and learn as much as you can. Not just playing, which goes without saying, but read and listen widely. You won’t just be auditioned, you’ll be interviewed as well - so when your interviewer says “what can you tell me about the origins of Cape Breton fiddle?”, you’ll want to have some idea what you’re talking about.

Lastly, if you’re serious about college level study in music, learn some piano as soon as you can from someone who understands what your aim is. Keyboarding is a pretty essential skill and if you can play all your chord progressions in every key on day one you’ll make your life a lot easier.

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Re: How Good should you be…??

Lauren, just by way of example, you could look through the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts’ admission process at https://music.uconn.edu/#. Their audition focuses on classical pieces. But it does not tell the whole story.

We took our son down this path. I won’t sugar-coat it: Every college major is competitive, some more than others. Violin study and performance are extremely competitive.

In our local northern New Jersey school system, ensemble music became competitive (auditions required) by the start of middle school. While no one was denied a chair at that age, there were two orchestra levels: general and chamber.

By high school, quartet was added as a level above chamber, and many players didn’t make the cut at any level. Kids were constantly striving to move up, and others were moving down and out.

Many students who pursue a violin performance degree begin private lessons between the ages of 3 and 8. Our son started at 6 and did really well throughout high school, but ultimately decided on a different college major. He is now a remarkably creative businessman who still plays music on the side.

To pursue a college “performance” BFA in violin, prior ensemble experience goes without saying. Many orchestral applicants will have four to six years’ ensemble experience alongside ten or more years’ private instruction by application time. Many of them, like our son, will have spent entire summers in youth music camps. They will have a portfolio of recordings.

So, for someone who has been playing for two years or so, pursuing violin as a major would be an uphill battle, to put it mildly. Not to say that you shouldn’t try, but you might want to have a “plan B” ready, just in case.

I also want to say, though: it’s not as if your music journey has to be tied to a university timeline. And being a musician and exercising the creative side of your brain, vocationally or otherwise, already puts you miles ahead of others in whatever you pursue. Whatever you do, you will do it better and enjoy it more.

Re: How Good should you be…??

No, for sure I’ll keep on playin’ and grinin’ regardless. I don’t want my music to be stressful, or even competitive. I learn and play just for fun and because I love it so much.
Perhaps in the end I could get all the learning, experience and hopefully fun, I wanted by playing with other good musicians, going to music camps, the Gaelic College etc….and it wouldn’t cost nearly so much and I wouldn’t lose much besides boasting of a degree..,??
One day at a time I guess. I’m in my learning stage for now and my aim is to do that with excellence!!
Thanks for the firsthand advice, Barry!

Re: How Good should you be…??

I teach music at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, a few hours from where you are. I will say that Barry’s advice is sound, especially the last parts about not feeling tied to a university timeline, but I want to elaborate a bit. A career in professional violin playing would be very competitive. Depending on where you attended, however, getting a music major on the violin might not be so competitive. At a smaller liberal arts school or a “directional” state university (think Middle Tennessee State or University of Southern Indiana rather than UT or IU) you might do quite well if you are willing to work hard. And you can go on and do many things that aren’t “being a professional musician” with a music degree. Many people - employers, grad schools, etc. - understand that someone with a music degree knows how to work hard and how to exercise the creative part of your brain, as Barry put it. College is not, people tend to forget, intended to be vocational school. It’s for broadening your mind and your understanding. You aren’t necessarily supposed to pick what you want to be when you grow up and major in that. And music is a lifetime endeavor. You will always be able to seek out opportunities to play and grow. Some of the finest musicians, and people, I’ve known had day jobs outside the music field, and some of them pretty successful there, too.

Feel free to PM me with more questions. We do not have a music major at USI, but I do run a student traditional Irish music ensemble. All the best in your journey!

Re: How Good should you be…??

I was especially interested in the degree program offered at Cape Breton University, which focuses on the traditional Cape Breton music (joy!!) They said their is no audition since the programs are focused on STUDY, mostly. In some performance themed classes, there may be competent performance required.
Anybody know much about that program?
Lauren