Getting into school


Hey guys,
I am a 17 year old jazz drummer from Vermont. I love music and want to perform for a living, and I need some advice.

I want to study music in college. I am planning on going somewhere that provides a little bit of liberal arts education like Purchase, McGill, Hart, or Ithaca. However, I am planning on auditioning to conservatories even though they are super competitive (why not?). I think I have what it takes to get into Berklee, but I know for places like MSM or NEC, I'd have to work my ASS off. And since summer just started for me, I am ready to put in the time that I need to succeed.

I have already started looking at specific audition requirements for certain schools. My questions to you guys are what should I be doing? Any specific practice routines I should do? Any tips? Any schools that you recommend? Anything else a going-to-be-senior should know about applying to music schools, prescreening, etc? Anything you think I should know would be wonderful.

Thanks so much!


Platinum Member
I think that getting a teacher that will work with you on preparing your audition should be your first priority.


Platinum Member
Audition requirements may vary slightly from school to school. You will most likely need to perform a prepared piece on snare drum, mallet percussion, drum set and tympani. If possible, try to find both a classical percussion instructor and a jazz drum set instructor now. Study with them over the summer and into the school year to prepare for the auditions.

Make sure the teachers know how to prepare a student for college auditions. Not every teacher has the knowledge or ability to guide a student in this manner.

Try to take a lesson with the teachers at the schools where you are auditioning. While some do not teach outside of school, others will offer potential students a lesson to see what he/she will be studying.



Belmont University in Nashville.

Study music business and take as many lessons on the kit as you possibly can. Or, study commercial music with an emphasis in music business.

At your level, the people evaluating your audition will be looking for a solid grasp of the fundamentals of musical performance and technique. They'll also probably hit you with sightreading. If you're a percussionist this could be on the kit, the snare drum, mallets, or all of the above. Work up a couple tunes of contrasting styles that showcase your sense of time, feel, taste, and technique. Don't try to blow them away with chops, but do throw in a little spice here and there to show them that you're not just some garage band jammer with stars in his eyes. What they're looking for is a foundation of ability that they can see potential to grow throughout your time at the school. They want to see signs of someone who can play good music. They will be sitting there listening to (mostly) the same stuff all weekend long, so if you can play in such a way that you leave the room and they go "man, that was nice," you'll have done a good job.

The audition will probably not last very long. When I auditioned to enter music school 10 years ago on the trumpet, they had me play short segments of 2 prepared pieces and then sightread a short piece or two. I played the key sections of a classical concerto, and then I played a chorus / solo / chorus of a jazz standard. One of the evaluators got out from behind his desk and jumped onto the piano to accompany me. He said "what tune and what key." I told him and he started right up. Took me by surprise -- I was coming from a high school with a mediocre music program so this display of musical ability kinda shocked me. I had to get him to start over because I just wasn't expecting that. So I played down through 3 choruses of the tune, which lasted all of a minute and a half, and that was that. I was in there for all of 10-15 minutes.


Silver Member
Great advice from Jeff!! I think one of the most important aspects is to have reasonable expectations.

Have you studied with a professional teacher?
Have you been evaluated by a top pro teacher?
What programs do you honestly have a chance at getting into?

I'd try and contact the schools you're interested in and see if you can get a sample lesson. While you're there ask the professor, " will I be competative for a spot in this school?"
I'm sure they'll be honest with you. This can save you time and money next year during the application/audition process which from what I've already seen is going to be an expensive process.

You should get on this ASAP. I've spent the last couple of days on the phone with several schools, some on your list, trying to get a sample lesson/tour for my son who will be a senior. Things are busy for some teachers this time of year.

Can you get a parent/guardian to help with this?
I've been calling admissions and contacting the teachers for the tours/lessons. I think this lets the schools know that we are serious about coming in and looking at their campus.

Good luck!!!