Advice on Grad School

Edited: March 29, 2018, 2:11 PM · Hello Everyone!

I’m writing for advice about grad school. To give you a little background:

I was already in a full time orchestra job and had been deliberating about leaving for some time. I finally decided impulsively to apply to grad school (MM) at the last minute, (mid September,) and then got tendonitis as a result of over practicing. I wasn’t able to practice for most of December, January and part of February, right before auditions, and spent most of the time doing PT and mental practice. Not surprisingly, my auditions were a bit of a hot mess. I didn’t even have time to learn and memorize the entire third movement of my concerto, (Brahms,) so I simply prayed that no schools would ask for it, since I had heard that they often don’t. I just barely managed to learn the first two pages. Most of the schools in fact only heard 1st movement of Brahms, Bach and Paganini, but Indiana asked for third : (

It was the only school where I flat-out was rejected. I know I would probably have been accepted if not for the third-movement debacle. I got a full scholarship there back when I auditioned for undergrad.

My question is this: I received nearly a full scholarship from a few of my backup schools, such as Carnegie Mellon and Cincinnati, and was accepted with no scholarship at a few others (Stony Brook, McGill.) I didn’t even bother applying to the schools I ACTUALLY wanted to attend, (CIM, NEC, Eastman, USC,) because I couldn’t prepare all the prescreen material in time.

Big question: do I attend a school I don’t like or risk taking out big loans just to get my MM over with as quickly as possible? Or should I simply keep my job and wait a year, and start preparing to reaudition now? Or enter a program and re-audition and see if I get a better offer somewhere else?

I am inclined to choose option #3, since I think part of the reason I struggled to prepare in time, besides the injury and starting late with all new rep was not having regular lessons.

Suggestions?

Replies (64)

March 29, 2018, 3:18 PM · In your shoes I think I would keep my job and re-audition when I was healthy. I assume you don't have a high-level job already, because if you did, I can't imagine that quitting to go to grad school would be an appealing option. So I am guessing you have the kind of job that either does not pay very well, or is not stable, or both. That would strongly suggest that you already know that taking out big loans to go to grad school would be extremely unwise.
March 29, 2018, 4:12 PM · The orchestra I play in doesn’t pay much and is not someplace I want to stay long-term. Eventually I want to take auditions for bigger, better orchestras or try to create a professional quartet, but I still have some kinks I want to work out in my playing, which is my plan for grad school.

The one problem I see with staying in my current job is that the season is very busy, not allowing me much time to take lessons or practice my solo rep. What do you think about taking one of my full scholarship offers and re-applying for bigger schools next November? That way at least I might be in better shape with my rep (and especially my memory and confidence.) There is also the good chance I may get offered a TA position at a small school with a great teacher. If so, I would have my living costs covered and wouldn’t have to work oo many hours per week.

Too many decisions!! I don’t know how students deal with these big life decisions without going nuts!!

Ideas?

Edited: March 29, 2018, 4:28 PM · I don't know a tiny fraction what Mary Ellen knows about this, but her advice sure does sound level-headed to me. If you know you've got the goods for one of those top programs when you're in top form, why wouldn't you hold out for that? Your strategy of using one of the lower-tier programs (lower than Jacobs and USC is what I mean) as a stepping stone seems okay to me -- but in music is that done with any regularity? In my field the higher-tier program doesn't want to be seen as predatory toward the lower-tier program unless it's totally obvious that the individual needs to be in better surroundings, and lower-tier programs won't take you if they get a whiff that that's what you're about.
March 29, 2018, 5:40 PM · Does anyone know if this is a thing in music school admissions? Would a grad program turn me down if they saw that I was currently pursuing a MM somewhere else when i applied? Is it possible to apply for a MM program as a transfer student, or do you normally just end up repeating a whole year?
Edited: March 29, 2018, 6:30 PM · My guess is that it very much depends on the programs involved. Transferring in the middle of a master's is very rare. I only know one person who did it, and she changed from one Jacobs-equivalent school to another because her teacher changed jobs and she was following him. I think the greater the differential between program levels, the more likely you'd essentially be starting over, but that's just a guess on my part. I don't think you'd be turned down if you otherwise qualified for the program, though. Paul's comment about higher-tier programs not wanting to be seen as predatory really does not apply in performance. Performance graduate programs are not very much like most academic graduate programs, and by "not very much like," I mean "have nothing in common with."

A TA position at a small school with a great teacher honestly sounds ideal to me. From your description, what you need above all else is a great teacher. You're already getting professional experience. If the point of getting a master's is simply to get more lessons to be better positioned to win a more competitive job, then it's all about the teacher. You want to be looking for a teacher who is extremely familiar with what it takes to win a professional audition (i.e. a concertmaster or similar) more than a teacher who is known for preparing solo competition winners.

Is your undergrad degree from a well-known (Jacobs-equivalent) school? That also makes a difference. The less distinguished your undergrad degree, the more distinguished a graduate school you need on your resume.

Having said all that, the one thing I would not recommend to anyone is to take on a lot of debt for a performance degree. The ROI is horrendous for most people, and you'll do better in auditions if you aren't walking in with the feeling that you HAVE to win the job so you can pay your loans.

March 29, 2018, 6:48 PM · I went to Mannes for my undergrad, with a 2/3 scholarship. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken the full ride at Indiana, because then I would have no loans at all : ) Mannes definitely has less money than IU.

March 29, 2018, 7:48 PM · A friend of mine who I played together in youth orchestra with many years ago, somewhat disillusioned with his graduate program, took a year off any further school activities to go and study privately with the principal player of one of the big five orchestras, one who had a reputation for preparing people superbly for auditions, while putting in 4-5 hours of deliberate, focused, daily practice for that entire year. He won his next two auditions, and now enjoys a significant, well-paid, orchestral career while constantly being courted by various schools and summer programs to serve on their faculty. I share his story as a reminder that it really isn't about the school, but about the teacher. :)
Edited: March 29, 2018, 8:26 PM · How much time to practice will a master's with a TA fellowship leave you? Will you be okay with a school schedule that could end up being busier than expected?

1. How many courses will you be required to take, and how will that fill up your day?

2. How many students will you be teaching privately? Will you be required to teach a lecture class? If you're assigned to lecture, a new course prep will take up more hours than you'd expect outside of the classroom.

3. How often will your scholarship require you to play in student ensembles? Conducting and composition students need musicians to work with, and that can be another big time commitment.

4. After all this, factor in how much energy you think you'll have left to practice for lessons and auditions (for another school or orchestra). If you think it'll be a better deal (time wise) than your current schedule, maybe it's worth being a TA with a free ride. If it's not that much better, then consider doing what Gene's friend did - take time off to study privately without enrolling in a degree program.

March 29, 2018, 8:40 PM · I believe the TA position only requires 10 hours per week, which would include teaching undergrads and perhaps some admin work. I don’t think I would be teaching any lecture classes.

I definitely want a MM eventually- since I plan to pursue a DMA after that!

If I were to leave a MM program after one year to transfer somewhere else, do you think it would horribly offend whoever I was studying with and ‘burn that bridge’ for the future?

March 29, 2018, 8:42 PM · I forgot to mention that I don’t think I am required to take many credits the first semester, (less than 8,) in order to be a full-time student during the first year. From what I can gather, it would not be that busy.
Edited: March 29, 2018, 9:35 PM · I think it depends on the teacher. If you apply again for their DMA program then who knows. Most of the transfers I know of were because their teacher moved to another school.

I'd probably wait to reaudition, but that's just me. If you're getting offered a full scholarship at some of those schools, you could be a viable candidate (for admission, at least) at other schools too with some more time to prepare. It can be disruptive to transfer into your second year, and then you only get 1 year to experience the school and work with your teacher. If you want to form a quartet, you'll have less time to get to know people there.

On the other hand, if you accept one of your scholarship offers now, you do get at least 1 year tuition free. It's not clear if an MM program will give you a scholarship if you come in as a transfer.

Is there any chance you can defer the acceptance to next year?

March 29, 2018, 9:35 PM · Why do you want to do a DMA? The joke goes that DMA stands for "Doesn't Mean Anything". Do you want to get a university position at some point that requires a bunch of credentials ( the prestigious positions at major conservatories tend to just go with famous not so credentialed people anyways..)? Do you want to pursue some sort of marriage of violin and scholarship? Perhaps you just enjoy school so much that you don't want it to end?
Other than this, to me it seems like the kind of people pursuing DMAs tend to be mediocre players who weither want to buy time, or add something more academic to their resumes because just being able to play won't cut it for them. It's not like getting and MD or JD, where the degree is your ticket to practicing in your field. No one's asking for a degree to perform at Carnegie Hall, or get an Avery Fisher Grant.
March 29, 2018, 9:52 PM · I want to get a DMA because the career market seems so saturated these days with highly-credentialed applicants that even to teach at a high-paying private school, (read: K-12,) one must have a DMA. I have been extremely fortunate to be hired for a few very good teaching positions at community music schools in the past with only a B. Mus., but I feel like part of that was the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time when a position opened plus connections. Nearly all of the other faculty members had DMA’s! I feel like in order to have job security in the future if I plan to teach at all, I need a DMA, unless I just want to have a home studio. (And yes, I’m also one of those people who would love to just be in school my entire life, if that were financially feasible!)

I disagree that all people with DMA’s are mediocre. I know some incredible players from Rice, IU, Juilliard, MSM, Stonybrook, etc who have DMA’s. Some do it for the reason I listed above, others to extend their visa to continue looking for jobs in the US if they are foreign.

March 29, 2018, 9:57 PM · I do agree that a DMA certainly isn’t necessary to win an orchestra audition or play at Carnegie Hall, though. I’m living proof! ; )
March 30, 2018, 9:06 AM · Being offered a scholarship at Carnegie-Mellon graduate school sounds pretty good to me. As others have mentioned; the critical factor is which single private teacher you might have at each school. The M.M. degree appears to be the modern American preparation for either fully professional orchestras or performance teaching at colleges. Full-time university music department teachers are also expected to teach subjects outside of their specialty; theory, history, music ed., etc. So the M.A. and PhD. route should also be considered. My story is not typical. I am teaching as a part-time lecturer at a lesser CSU music department. My only degree is the BA in ethnomusicology from UCLA.
March 30, 2018, 9:12 AM · Another factor that complicates all this is that my husband auditioned this year as well and won a full scholarship plus stipend at a midwestern music conservatory. He is almost completely convinced that he wants to go. So do I go with him and study at this less respected university, or keep my job and go long distance for a year and audition for my dream schools? (Yale, NEC, CIM, etc.)
March 30, 2018, 9:17 AM · Carnegie Mellon seeme like it would have been a great option, but it’s not clear if the professor I hoped to study with will have room in his studio for me. If he doesn’t offer me a place in his studio, I don’t think I will go. Also, I just met two violinist friends of mine who study there now. They told me, ‘don’t go!!’ and said that the overall level of the school (orchestra, string players, other instruments,) has been extremely disappointing for them. Again, this is just their personal opinions. Not trying to bash CMU or anything. I have also known some fine players from CMU, personally. It did spook me that they said that, though, since chamber music is something I’m passionate about and want to pursue seriously during grad studies.
March 30, 2018, 9:57 AM · Your husband is a serious complicating factor, since if you're headed for a DMA, you're looking at not just this year, but an additional 4 years apart. And then there's the question of what happens after that, if you don't both win jobs in the same city.

In the cities where I've lived, the community music school jobs aren't that desirable -- they're often what people who are new to the area go teach at, before they've built a reputation, but often the school takes 50% of the lesson fee, so as soon as they're able to support themselves via private studio alone, that's what they do.

Similarly, the private school music-teacher jobs don't really pay much better than the public school ones (i.e., pretty terribly). If you want to teach at a private school, I think you'd be better off pursuing an education degree rather than a DMA. I think these schools really look for people who are great with kids and can inspire kids who aren't especially interested in playing an instrument in a general music-ed sense, rather than people who are great players. Where I live, anyway, it appears that the more-credentialed private-school teachers (at schools with significant instrumental music programs) have Suzuki credentials on top of a BME.

In any event, what these positions pay is paltry compared to the pay of a full-time ICSOM orchestra player, or the like. That plus a home studio would probably be the best financial scenario, I imagine.

March 30, 2018, 10:06 AM · How bad would a MM degree from U Cincinnati, Carnegie Mellon or CU Boulder look on a resume if I eventually want to apply for college teaching positions? (Not at places like Juilliard, more like state schools and less prestigious music programs.) I could potentially graduate with no debt from one of those schools . How much better does a degree from NEC, USC, CIM, IU, Peabody or MSM look? If I got in and got a 50% scholarship, would it be worth going and taking out loans for the name?

I think I have a very good chance of being accepted to those big-name schools, but probably not with a full scholarship.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 10:19 AM · I should add that I have a teaching job at a private school right now which pays quite well- about $88/ hour. No health insurance, though. I would have to leave the job to join my husband in the midwest, and am not sure what my work prospects out there would be. On the other hand, my living expenses are currently very high because I live in a major NE city.

I also have Suzuki training and have done that in the past, but would prefer not to teach very young kids in the future! No more tantrum-y 4 year olds, please!!

March 30, 2018, 10:22 AM · Are you planning to get another full-time orchestra job after grad school? I imagine that what they're looking for in artist-teacher adjunct faculty (i.e., a teacher attached to a big-name orchestra) is different than the credentials they want in tenure-track faculty.
Edited: March 30, 2018, 10:31 AM · It's a bit unclear what you hope to gain, career-wise, from getting a MM. Do you want to get yourself in a better position to win an orchestra job? Do you want the piece of paper to start teaching in institutions? Just nebulously "improve my playing"?

Assuming your goal is to continue playing in orchestras, if the orchestra job / combination of jobs you have now pays a living wage, I would be very very hesitant to give that up to go back to school - especially at an institution you don't really want to go to or with a teacher you aren't one hundred percent about. Auditions are getting more and more competitive every year, and there's no guarantee you'd get your spot or an equivalent one back if you gave it up. You mentioned paying 50% tuition at a top-tier school; if all you care about is improving your playing and auditioning, you could fly to wherever and take a lesson every two weeks, and still pay less money than you would paying tuition. The issue with practice time is going to be an issue whether you're in school or out; orchestra jobs you have more new music to learn, in school you have more requirements / obligations that distract from what you want to be practicing.

If you're looking to transition into full time teaching, I don't think where the degree comes from matters that much, but having at least one "name" school will probably help.

With regard to your husband, I think you need to decide what your priorities are, and if you're willing to sacrifice your career goals to make your marriage easier. No shame either way, but I think that that's something, unfortunately, that no one here can help you decide.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 10:33 AM · If you're hoping to apply for college teaching positions, then where you get your DMA (I agree with the "doesn't mean anything" outside of pure academia) matters more than where you get your master's. But tenure-track teaching positions, in my opinion, are harder to get than good orchestra jobs. Many schools are using adjuncts as a way to lower costs, and honestly you could make more money with a successful home studio than you would make as an adjunct. Job security is not really a thing as an adjunct, either.

Why don't you look at the sorts of schools where you'd be happy to end up at as a professor, and see what schools are represented among their current faculty's degrees?

I agree with Lydia's comments about private-school music teacher jobs. I think you'd do better with a home studio, or (though this doesn't seem to be your dream at all) getting a Mus Ed degree and teaching public school orchestra.

Regarding your husband's plans...that is, again in agreement with Lydia, a seriously complicating factor. I have known several long-distance couples. A few make it, more do not. That's not a situation to enter into lightly, at least not as a long-term plan.

Editing to add that I agree with Irene's comments just above, also.

March 30, 2018, 10:31 AM · I’m planning to possibly audition for big-name orchestras, but also want to explore the possibility of starting a string quartet. After playing in a full time orchestra, (which resulted in developing tinnitus, a huge psychological and emotional roadblock which took a lot of time to get past,) I’m not sure if I want to go back to playing in an orchestra because of the noise level.

Ideally, I would like to be an adjunct or full-time professor at a college, have an active chamber ensemble and teach a small private studio.

March 30, 2018, 10:42 AM · Mary Ellen, if this is true: “If you're hoping to apply for college teaching positions, then where you get your DMA (I agree with the "doesn't mean anything" outside of pure academia) matters more than where you get your master's.” In this case, do you think getting an MM from a smaller-name school like Cincinnati (with full scholarship) would not be that bad if I can get into a prestigious DMA program? (That’s where my husband got the scholarship, btw.)
March 30, 2018, 12:22 PM · Irene, my purpose in obtaining a MM is all of the above that you mentioned: improve my overall playing, increase my chances of winning a better orchestra job, open up the possibility of being able to get some kind of college teaching job.
March 30, 2018, 1:38 PM · Cincinnati is a perfectly reputable music school, and an MM from there is not going to hurt you at all.

"adjunct or fulltime professor at a college:" fulltime jobs are scarce and very hard to come by. Adjunct positions offer no job stability and pay little.

"active chamber ensemble" this is do-able but unlikely to pay your bills unless you play a lot of weddings (artistically unsatisfying) or can piggyback a concert schedule off of a major orchestra position. Some of my colleagues have their own chamber ensembles with good seasons and 501(c)3 status, but they got initial publicity and donors in part because of their orchestral positions.

"teach a small private studio" very do-able if you live in a goodsized city, easier to pull off if the local public schools have a strong strings program. However you can charge more, and acquire students more easily, if you're piggybacking off of an orchestral position.

March 30, 2018, 1:55 PM · "Why do you want to do a DMA? The joke goes that DMA stands for "Doesn't Mean Anything". Do you want to get a university position at some point that requires a bunch of credentials ( the prestigious positions at major conservatories tend to just go with famous not so credentialed people anyways..)?"

You're partly right. But not completely. The big schools hire soloists and well-known pedagogues, but there are many, many schools that don't (or can't). And for those schools, you will not get tenure unless you have the DMA. Teaching can be a pleasant career if you find the right fit. It is a tight market, however.

Not everyone wants to just spend their life in an orchestra.

March 30, 2018, 2:06 PM · If I had the opportunity to study privately with a member of one of the top string quartets in the world, but at a small, relatively unknown school, with a full ride, would it be worth it? What if the overall playing level of the students was quite low? Would it improve my chances of starting a successful quartet of my own at all?

It’s good to hear that Cincinnati is considered a respectable school. I haven’t seen it appear in any ‘top 20’ rankings, so I was concerned that it was not considered very reputable. Of course, I know those ranking lists can be bogus, too!

Does anyone know anything about Kurt Sassmannshaus or his students? I am a fan of his violin masterclass videos, but have never met him or any of his students.

March 30, 2018, 4:12 PM · I don't know if this is still true, but once upon a time Cincinnati had a ton of German students, mainly (I suppose) because of the LaSalle Quartet's presence on the faculty.

March 30, 2018, 5:42 PM · I think the Ariel Quartet is the quartet in residence now.
Edited: March 30, 2018, 8:36 PM · I live in a college town where the school's music program is not ranked very highly. There is work for private violin teachers here because of all the children of professors of diverse ethnicity who want lessons for their children and can afford to pay for them. The nearest pro-level orchestra is a freeway phil (an hour away) that has no significant bearing on the local teaching market. Public universities are very strong economic drivers and wellsprings of opportunity generally. Cost of living here is pretty low too.
March 30, 2018, 9:04 PM · Now I am curious as to what this relatively unknown school is where the playing level of the students is quite low. Violin pedagogy has advanced so much in recent decades that I would think you'd have to drop several tiers in music schools to find one where the overall playing level of the students was not very good. At any rate, I am sure that gaining admission to the studio of a member of a top string quartet is very competitive so there would be other excellent players there.

The chance of anyone starting a successful string quartet--if by successful you mean like the Emerson, or the Kronos--is extremely, almost vanishingly low, so if you could improve those odds tenfold, they'd still be low.

Edited: March 30, 2018, 9:43 PM · I would second that demand for *good* private violin teachers is very high in college towns.

The level of playing of those recently appointed to tenure track positions is vey high. As an example, below is a link of one who holds a tenure track position in a small college in rural Minnesota about 3 to 4 hours outside Twin cities. She is a graduate of CIM and holds a DMA from Rice where she studied with Cho-Liang Lin. One of her first tasks on her job was to tour with the college orchestra as the soloist playing the Berg concerto.

https://www.concordiacollege.edu/directories/faculty-staff/detail/dr-sonja-harasim/

March 31, 2018, 9:13 AM · She sounds fantastic!
March 31, 2018, 9:19 AM · Mary Ellen- the small school I am talking about is CU Boulder, where the Takács is. Not actually a ‘small’ school physically, just not as well ranked for music. The campus is actually enormous and very beautiful. Of course, it would be wonderful to work with the Takacs, but I can vouch from my experience there during auditions that the overall playing level is quite low, especially for strings. I slinked around and listened to students practicing, also heard the finalists in the concerto competion. I worry that in a program like that there will be no other good players to form a quartet with.
Edited: March 31, 2018, 12:07 PM · In state universities like that, you may have a lot of non-music majors hoarding up the practice rooms on that particular day...the quality of concerto competition finalists is harder to explain away.
March 31, 2018, 11:48 AM · I was wondering if you'd meant Boulder. I just heard the Takacs a few nights ago. They've got a lot on the ball, but I'd also guess that part of the experience is knowing how good your best peers can be.
March 31, 2018, 2:02 PM · Sure. How much does that aspect matter, the quality of your colleagues in school? If it is very important, I might be better off at Stony Brook, where I know the level of the string players is exceptionally high. I even met (and observed) one DMA student there who has won a prize in nearly every major international violin competition there is. Stony Brook would be much more expensive (than a full scholarship,) since they didn’t give me much money, and living in Long Island is extremely expensive.
Edited: March 31, 2018, 2:08 PM · The quality of your colleagues in school matters a great deal although not so much because you're hoping to form a quartet from them. It's human nature to work harder when you're surrounded by people better than you than when you're the best one there.

CU-Boulder, OK, I have to agree with your assessment to a point although I think there are always a few good players there. I have spent the past 31 summers in Boulder playing in the Colorado Music Festival. We don't get our subs from CU. But you should ask about the possibility of getting on area sub lists, if you end up there. The Boulder Phil is a freeway philharmonic and there are others within driving distance as well.

Edited: March 31, 2018, 5:56 PM · Has anyone studied with any of the following professors? Any idea about how they work during lessons? (If they tend to have students play a lot, if they talk a lot, if they focus mostly on technique or on more abstract concepts, if they demonstrate a lot in lessons, etc)

Harumi Rhodes
William van der Sloot
Giora Schmidt
Kurt Sassmannshaus
Jennifer Frautschi
Hagai Shaham
Violaine Melançon
Axel Strauss

I was only able to take very short trial lessons with them, so it’s hard to really get a sense of how someone works in such a short time!

March 31, 2018, 6:40 PM · I don't know what Giora Schmidt is like as a teacher, but I've seen him give a few masterclasses. I would say that he has a special talent for this. He listens really intently and then focuses on whatever is the student's main weak point for the particular piece, whether it be technical or musical. He gets his points across clearly, and is very good at demonstrating, so that the student knows what to do. Somehow, although he is so direct, he also manages to inspire the students at the same time, making the masterclass a positive experience. He usually gets results, and also often gives clear advice about how to continue improving in future.
March 31, 2018, 6:49 PM · Great! That sounds really encouraging!
April 1, 2018, 1:50 PM · I think I am leaning toward Stony Brook, but that would mean taking out more than 20k in loans. Is it worth it, or should I simply re-audition next year? Is it worth having 20k in loans for a school like SBU? Would it make more sense if it was Rice or IU? Thoughts?
Edited: April 1, 2018, 2:41 PM · I would never recommend to anyone to take out $20K in loans to get a performance degree. Jobs are few, mostly do not pay well, and can be unstable (ask me how I know*). I would suggest that before you borrow any amount of money, use one of the amortization calculators available online to see what your monthly payments would be over various periods of time. Only you can determine your risk tolerance, but keep in mind that borrowing now can add stress to your audition experiences later, and/or can postpone (or eliminate) the possibility of buying a house, upgrading your instrument, starting a family, etc., etc.

I would say the same if you were talking about Rice or IU. The truth is, once you have any one of those schools on your resume (including Stony Brook), or a major teacher, you'll get invited to auditions. And at the actual audition, we don't care where your degree is from--in fact, at my orchestra, we're contractually prohibited from discussing resumes at the audition--we care how you play.

*True story: if you take my salary from my first year in San Antonio (1988-89) when I was NOT titled and had no seniority, and apply an inflation calculator to it, I was paid $5500 MORE that first year as a nobody newbie than I was paid last year as Principal 2nd with 29 years seniority. So yeah, I'm a titled player in an ICSOM orchestra but it is a very good thing indeed that I was fortunate enough not to have to take out student loans.

Editing to add that when I was at IU, I actually had an assistantship with the *math* department that paid 2X what the violin assistantships did (the math dept needed more AIs than they had graduate students). Another of my studio mates had an assistantship in the French department--he had done his undergrad at the Paris Conservatory and was fluent.

April 1, 2018, 2:45 PM · This is good to know! So perhaps I should take the scholarship from Carnegie Mellon or Cincinnati and run? Or re-audition next year and hope for more scholarship?
April 1, 2018, 5:31 PM · I can't advise you what to do, I can only say that in your shoes I would be seriously considering only those options which did not require significant debt. That's my older and wiser, parent of current college student, long-term sufferer in an artistically satisfying orchestra with chronic financial difficulties, viewpoint. I don't know what I might have considered when I was young with stars in my eyes--I was extremely fortunate to have parents who covered whatever costs my assistantship did not. In retrospect it was a very good thing that I did not have student debt.
April 2, 2018, 7:35 AM · Thank you for all your advice!! I truly appreciate it!
April 2, 2018, 12:49 PM · Axel is truly a wonderful teacher, coach, and soloist, someone who has everything calculated and measured.

If you can afford to wait another year and you have a good gut feeling that it will significantly improve your lot in terms of school and scholarship, then that seems like a pretty good draw to me...

But you have a complicated situation (factoring in your husband too). Am very curious what would you decided to do. Hope it all works out for the best!

April 2, 2018, 7:15 PM · Another idea my husband and I had- he got into IU with a pretty good scholarship (about 2/3.) We both feel that the level is much higher at IU (than at CCM.) He is trying to negotiate for more scholarship at IU, and I am thinking of keeping my job and applying next year so we can be at IU together. Is that crazy?
April 2, 2018, 7:24 PM · I think that makes more sense than some of your other hypotheticals.
April 3, 2018, 12:09 AM · Sounds like a great idea to me...

Definitely haggle as much as you can.

April 4, 2018, 4:34 AM · My impression on this issue of looking for a school comes from talking with students and teachers from a variety of places, in the context of doing my job, and that is that the most focused students find schools by chasing specific teachers, not institutions. First they find the teacher they get along with who has something they want, then they go wherever that teacher is, often changing schools when/if the teacher moves.

You can talk about a school being good or bad, but the "school" doesn't teach you a thing. Gene Wie touched on this idea very early in the thread.

April 12, 2018, 11:00 AM · Good News Update:

I just received final confirmation that I did indeed receive a 100% scholarship at U Cincinnati- College Conservatory of Music. I also received an Artist-in-Residence Fellowship at a luxury apartment complex which gives me (and my husband) free rent for two years while we do our MM at CCM in exchange for me performing monthly recitals at the complex. Easy peasy : ) My husband won the Cincinnati Symphony/ UC’s Diversity Fellowship, so he has a full scholarship plus 18k stipend and gets to play a few concerts with the CSO.

Even though CCM isn’t where I originally thought I would be studying in the Fall, (I wasn’t even planning on applying until my husband got through 1st round of Diversity Fellows audition,) the school has been unbelievably generous to both of us.

Thanks to everyone for all the solid advice about not getting mired in debt. The more my husband and I discussed, the more we realized this is a golden opportunity to graduate debt-free and study with great faculty at the same time.


I also just learned that I have been nominated as some kind of grad assistant/ TA for Giora Schmidt, which will provide me with a modest annual stipend. I still have to figure out the details, but the entire package seems pretty good! I will be studying with both Giora Schmidt and Kurt Sassmannshaus, who share some students, and hopefully will work on orchestra excerpts with Tim Lees, CM of CSO, as well. (He seems fantastic!)

Anybody with experience as a TA? I know one earlier poster warned that being a TA can eat up a lot of time.... is it worth it to be able to say that you have college-level teaching experience, if indeed I get the chance to teach some undergrads?

Thanks!

April 12, 2018, 7:42 PM · I am really happy for you and your husband! Sounds like it was meant to be.

I would not turn down teaching opportunities mostly because I enjoy teaching and really believe that we learn so much from our students (I don’t teach music though but I think it’s generally true regardless).

April 12, 2018, 8:08 PM · Congratulations to both you and your husband!

If the teaching opportunity is lessons, I would do that in a heartbeat. You will learn so much about your own playing by teaching others.

Edited: April 13, 2018, 3:49 AM · congrats! Cincinnati is a very pleasant place to live, by the way. and, the zoo is a true Garden of Eden, be sure to become a member, it's great to just be able to walk in there for half an hour or so.
April 17, 2018, 9:27 AM · Yes, just confirmed with Giora Schmidt that when he is away performing, I will be able to teach students from his studio. He even said I may be able to teach some masterclasses on technique/etudes while he is gone. Cool!

I will be sure to check out the Cincinnati Zoo.

If anybody has any tips on baroque music going on in Cincinnati, it would be very welcome. I play period music as well, and hope that I won't have to forget about playing on gut for the next two years.

April 17, 2018, 10:08 AM · Perhaps you can eventually connect with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra?
Edited: April 17, 2018, 10:26 AM · Sounds like you will have an income close to the subsistence level with your husband's fellowship, especially if you get a TA too. Be sure to find out what kind of health insurance options the university provides and take advantage of that. Being debt-free is a good thing, but if things get tough for you, there really isn't any harm in taking out a few thousand in Stafford loans just to keep yourself from having to decide between food and transportation.

Mr. Schmidt is affording you both opportunity and responsibility. Of course you don't want to controvert his philosophy or methods, but more importantly you have the chance to absorb those and hopefully realize new insight and establish a teaching credential of your own, modest though that might be in the larger progression of your career.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one thing. But have you heard of Cincinnati chili? It is absolutely the most disgusting, artery-clogging slop ever invented. Enjoy.

April 19, 2018, 9:03 AM · Hahaha thanks! I have been warned about the infamous Cincinnati chili...

We may take out a small student loan to cover incidental expenses. The move itself is going to be WAAAYYY more than we originally anticipated. Even renting a uhaul & car tow trailer and driving the whole thing to Cincinnati ourselves seems like it will be 1400 + : (

April 19, 2018, 11:13 AM · $1400? Hock your diamond. Now that you're hitched you don't need it any more.
April 19, 2018, 11:17 AM · OMG Paul

Not everyone has a $1400 diamond. I certainly don't.

I think the OP and her husband are going to be just fine. :-)

April 19, 2018, 6:57 PM · Yeah I do too. Seem like the type that make decisions the right way.


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