September 17, 2008 at 1:52 PMThe Opera is over, and was a big success...in fact, we all now want to quit our day jobs and become opera singers. Alas, it's time for real life to elbow itself in and insist on having attention lavished on it.
In addition to the real world duties of the season, it's time to begin the dreaded 'search' in earnest.
The college search, that is. My 17-yr. old violinist daughter is beginning her senior year, and it has sneaked up on us. It's time to begin submitting college applications, and looking ahead at audition dates for various schools.
I am realizing that the college search is a very different process when looking at music programs than it was for my older children. With my older daughter, she decided that wanted a good political science program, found a school she liked, and that was it! There was no need for me to research her poli. sci. profs, no 'sample classrooms' to visit, no major projects for her to submit to gain acceptance.
This, however, is a very different animal. I didn't realize just how different until we made a visit last spring to one of the state schools (in Michigan) with a reputation for excellence as a music ed. school. I sat in on the orchestra rehearsal at this school, and was horrified--- there were only 9 violins in the entire orchestra, and of those, it was obvious that only about 4 were in any music programs. One was a performance major, a couple more must have been music ed. majors and the rest were students of other disciplines. And it was pretty obvious that there was no real audition process to get into that orchestra....I saw 1 student in the back of the 1st violin section who literally didn't know how to hold the bow. She 'air-bowed' the entire rehearsal, and the bow never left the top 3 inches at that. This school is probably a really good choice for anything in music EXCEPT strings, but I left pretty shocked. My daughter would have gone into the first stand of 1st violins as an incoming freshman at that school, which seems to me to be not very productive from an educational standpoint.
So---now the search feels distressingly ponderous, as I realize that I need to personally visit every school we are looking at, and meet every teacher we are considering. What a lot of work!
My daughter is looking for a program that is fairly small. We come from a tiny area, and I think she really likes the personal feel in a smaller setting, where the students all get to know one another and the teacher is highly invested in the students. This rules out the bigger schools in MI (UofM, MSU, etc.) and leaves us looking for an excellent teacher in a smaller program that is known for excellence. Her plan is Performance major; however, we tend to vascillate depending on whom are talking to. (i.e. "You really should have that teacher's certification. You'll have work for sure that way".)
As a musician/teacher/parent it feels risky in a different way to me. I have invested 13 years of time, energy, cheerleading, nurturing and $$$$ in this kid, and have seen her arrive at a very neat place. She has had only 2 teachers thus far. I don't want to hand her over to a teacher who will be harsh with her, or who will, by temperament or personality, dismantle what we have built.
I know of a girl who was denied graduation because in her senior year, she had a falling-out with her teacher, who then refused to sign off on her senior recital. The falling out was personality and not based on her playing/performances. This was 2 years ago. This girl still doesn't have a degree (she was double-majoring in violin and viola) and is in limbo. This freaks me out....
this one-on-one relationship with a teacher that can either make the college experience a time of growth or a nightmare. One bad fit with a teacher can destroy what it has taken most of a lifetime to grow.
So....I plan to attend every initial meeting, go to rehearsals, sit in on sample lessons. It's all I can do. We live at least 5 hours away from any school with a music program, which makes visits, sample lessons and auditions etc. a bit challenging.
Money IS a consideration....we need her to earn some scholarship assistance. All in all, it sounds like a weighty endeavor. I'm trying to look at it in it's most positive light though....the search, as an experience that I can have with my daughter as we explore her future, looking with excitement to what is ahead. Still, it feels weighty.
One encouragment in this all is that I know that the market for employment is tight enough that there are some truly outstanding teachers in some smaller schools. I hope that we can find a perfect fit of teacher/school/program and student.
We begin in earnest next week as she is attending a masterclass by the Merling Trio (from WMU) who are visiting our area. She will be playing parts of the Schubert Sonata Duo and the Lalo. This will be our first one-on-one contact with a university violin professor, and should give us information.
I too know a man who was denied a performance degree based on his senior recital. I knew his playing and he should never have gotten that far. It was unconscionable to hold out the expectation of a performance degree based on his capacity. He has recovered and is doing well in his alternative profession.
Clearly you picked the wrong group to go see on your visit...
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