Visiting conservatories and trial lessons, part 2...let's try again, shall we? :D

February 5, 2008 at 10:15 PM · I haven't been on for a little while, so you can imagine my surprise when I went back on today and saw that my post on the discussion board regarding trial lessons at conservatories had exploded! :D

I enjoyed reading the lively, spirited conversation (debate? insult war?) that went on in that thread, but I figured I'd take Josh's advice and start a new one. :)

I'd like to thank Mr. Russell for giving us a teacher's perspective on these lessons, and I'd like to add (since this seemed to be a hot topic) that I have absolutely no problem paying for a trial lesson. I don't think it would be right for me to expect to not have to pay for a lesson.

I'd also like to thank Mara Gerety for the advice she gave me regarding schools. Thanks, Mara! :)

Anyway, here's an update (yes, I am possibly the most indecisive person in the world) on what I'm actually doing this February break: I'm going to visit Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College, since they are much, much closer to home. :) I will probably still be visiting CIM and Oberlin sometime in the future.

I don't really know a lot about either of these schools, so I would like to know if any of you have any experience regarding these schools. :D

This thread can also serve as a continuation for the first one (the original topic, I mean) if anyone has anything more to add. If you need to read about the original topic, the thread is

All right, that's about it for this thread/topic; as always, thanks so much for all your input/comments/advice! You guys are great. :)

Replies (24)

February 6, 2008 at 03:47 AM · Oh, by the way, when I said this was a continuation of the last thread, I meant it was a continuation of the discussion (if anything more can be said), not the argument (or whatever that was). It was interesting to read, though. :D

February 6, 2008 at 04:07 AM · Madeline -

The "Golden Spoon" award is now passed to you! The "Golden Spoon" goes to the person who can inadvertently (or otherwise), stirs up so much.... well, you get the drift :)

While I'm not a professional musician in any sense of the word, here are my 2 cents for what it's worth: continue with the "trial lesson" approach. If you pay, you pay, if you don't then you don't. The feedback you get during this process will be invaluable.

Every time I started with a new teacher (due to moving out of the country/state) we started with a trial lesson to make sure the fit was good - both ways (and yes, I paid each and every time). There was only one time that it was mutually agreed upon that the fit was not good (I was supprised that it was because I was too "advanced" - never thought THAT would ever happen in a million years!)

In essense you are putting your potential future into the hands of a master to help develop your skill. The relationship you will have with a conservatory teacher is a very close one (on a professional level of course!). You need to feel comfortable with this person and be able to accept any advice they give you - good or bad.

I wish you luck on your search!

February 6, 2008 at 04:28 AM · Enough yammering about thatched roofs and Shakespearean insults, yes. I would agree that trial lessons are a good thing to do. You get to see what teachers you like (and would be good for you), and they get to hear you. Some will charge money and some won't. Kind of a win-win really.

Edit: haaa, didn't notice the tip of the hat in the original post. You're welcome! :)

February 6, 2008 at 04:53 AM · yea... despite the yammering... I don't know what more you'd possibly want to know.

Ask the teacher for a lesson. Either they'll say yes, or they'll say no. The earlier you contact them the better. Don't be mad if they turn you down. Don't be mad if they want to be paid.

That was all covered before...

February 6, 2008 at 05:42 AM · It might not be a good idea to have a lesson right before the audition. it can be distracting having completely new ideas about your material

If you can't get a lesson because of time constraints, ask for a 20-30 minutes consultation.

February 6, 2008 at 08:16 AM · Ask if you can sit in a lesson or studio class. And attend an orchestra rehearsal if you can. You spend more time with your classmates then your teacher.

February 6, 2008 at 01:43 PM · Nick's point is really good. One major conservatory I visited had such obviously unhappy students and such a bad sounding orchestra that I ended up losing interest in going there, even though I liked the teacher and enjoyed my "trial lesson" with him. So do what Nick said. You might also want to spend some time hanging out wherever the students do to get a feel for life there. I still remember hanging out in Eastman's "second floor lounge", which had cool orange couches and giant tables and stretched the entire length of the second floor of the main building there. The students looked busy but happy, at least to my high school eyes and in stark contrast to the other place I just described, and on audition day, there was even a small jazz ensemble playing in the elevator all day!

Last bit of advice- don't go anywhere that has a thatched roof.

February 6, 2008 at 05:46 PM · I hope this is helpful to you this time around. I was caught between Mannes and Manhattan myself. I originally wanted to go to Manhattan because it was a bigger school and seemed more "famous." I took trial lessons with a couple of teachers at both schools and I came to the conclusion that it was better for me to study with a legend at Mannes than the teacher at Manhattan. I also really enjoyed the intensive theory/dictation/sight-singing at Mannes.

Teacher wise I made the right choice I think, especially since private lessons count as 6 credits each semester! But people that I know at Mannes who went to Manhattan for grad school were much happier at Manhattan. I think it has a better vibe maybe? Mannes is pretty small and there's some favoritism going on.

I had my trial lessons right before auditions and it went fine.

February 6, 2008 at 06:07 PM · gross there's lots of sight singing at Mannes?

February 6, 2008 at 06:09 PM · "Last bit of advice- don't go anywhere that has a thatched roof."

Unless it has busy people lounging on orange couches, in which case go for it :)

February 6, 2008 at 06:38 PM · At Mannes as an undergrad you are expected to take:

- 8 semesters sight-singing in all 7 clefs

- 8 semesters dictation and piano reduction/transposition

- 8 semesters theory including counterpoint and Schankerian analysis

It is not for weak~!

February 6, 2008 at 06:49 PM · o it's for undergrad... McGill had that and quite a bit more which is why I was worried I might have to go through even more of that BS. (Im talking about Grad).

February 6, 2008 at 08:33 PM · Pieter,

What do you think in retrospect of that sort of training, i.e. all that sight singing and theory?

At Eastman, we had to take a lot of theory, but the sight singing classes were spotty because they were taught by different grad students with different expectations and skill levels each year. I've found the theory and dictation to have been helpful over the years, but the sight singing and transposition stuff not so much.

Jim, let me tell you, those orange couches were the best place to sleep...

February 6, 2008 at 09:19 PM · Our sight singing classes were taught by people who had like, dedicated their lives to it. There's a lady there that knew the ins and outs of teaching kids this miserable course and when they had those evaluations of various institutions a few years ago... her program was like the most stringent or something.

I hated it. THe only thing that was helpful were the torturous rythym excercises. A 32nd note tied to a 64th... 4 against 3, 2 against 3 all at breakneck speed while conducting and solfege syllables, of course with the meter changing every bar. It made stuff like Rite of Spring look like a joke. Also the rhythms that we had to beat with two hands were at times really hard even for the people who somehow liked that stuff.

The rest of it... transposing on the fly in Soprano or Tenor clef in like F# while conducting and all that other stuff hasn't helped me at all.

Theory hasn't been that helpful to be honest but maybe I just haven't realized how analysis would help. I analyzed my Strauss sonata and frankly just using my ear and my artistic sensibilities illuminated many more things of signifance than a mechanical view of the work.

February 6, 2008 at 09:40 PM · Thanks for all the tips, everyone!

Yes, I know not much else can be said; I did read all the posts on the other thread carefully to make sure I didn't miss anything. :D

Anyway, yes, I am very excited to be visiting these two schools, and I have two trial lessons scheduled, one at Mannes in two weeks, and one at Manhattan sometime in March (the teacher is in the NY Phil, which is going on tour soon, so she said she would hear me when she got back).

All this theory/dictation/sight-singing sounds terrifying, but I did take AP Music Theory last year (I've forgotten pretty much everything, though), and I also have perfect pitch. I really like relying more on my ear to hear things than to actually analyze them, though, like Pieter said. But I understand that theory is a really important part of becoming and being a musician. :D

Anyway, if anyone still has anything to add, please feel free to do so, but if not, I'd just like to thank everyone again for helping me. I would also like to take this opportunity to accept the Golden Spoon award, although, I can assure you, any pot-stirring on my part was totally unintentional. Please feel free to bestow the award on anyone else as you see fit, since I am not sure I deserve the honor (and I am being sincere, not sarcastic). :D

February 6, 2008 at 09:47 PM · having perfect pitch is the only reason I passed all that stuff, because I definately didn't spend too much time preparing for the tests.

February 6, 2008 at 09:51 PM · Madeline,

If you go to Mannes try to meet Carl Schachter. His class taught me alot that I'm still using in my practice today. He is also on the faculty at Juilliard and Curtis. Good luck and all the best.


February 6, 2008 at 10:09 PM · Pieter, are you talking about Elisabeth Bertrand or Norma Sherman? McGill was pretty ridiculous as far as ear-training went (the Dallapiccola excerpts that Norma couldn't do herself come to mind) - though it was useful in the long run. I don't think we had 8 semesters of it when I was there, though. Then again, I tested out of a lot of it - maybe we did.

February 6, 2008 at 10:17 PM · Norma Sherman... o my god.

That woman had such a love/hate relationship with me. At one point she said I didn't deserve perfect pitch.

February 7, 2008 at 08:41 AM · Madeline,

I know someone at work who will be very disappointed to learn that she has had the Golden Spoon Award taken away from her. :D It is a cherished title and accolade.

February 7, 2008 at 01:57 PM · I find all those courses to be useful, even Schenkerian analysis and I hated it when I was at school. I was rather fond of solfege and dictation though. The people who teach the "Techniques of Music" classes as they call them at Mannes are world renown and have dedicated their lives to them. You will not see even a level 1 class at Mannes taught by a grad student.

February 7, 2008 at 08:49 PM · Madeline,

Just to add, the conducting classes at Mannes are great and alot of fun. Yakov Kreisburg who has recently recorded with violinist Julie Fischer was teaching there.


February 8, 2008 at 01:53 AM · That's good, Marina. I wish we'd had that consistency at Eastman. One semester, we'd have a grad student who really knew their stuff (perhaps a Mannes grad...) and the next semester some other theory grad student who didn't know or care about that particular aspect of musical training. I think the sight singing classes were sort of a graduate student welfare program as opposed to a serious training program!

That being said, the theory and dictation courses were consistently well taught and helpful to this day.

February 9, 2008 at 12:42 AM · Thanks again for the advice, guys! I'm really glad I can come here and have all of my questions answered so thoroughly! :DDD

That's good to know about the conducting classes; I don't think I'll be a conductor any time soon, but I'll keep it in mind! :)

Anyway, thanks again for everything!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine