What Pieces to know before College?

June 15, 2014 at 05:59 AM · I'm soon going to be applying for a music college in a year and was wondering what repertoire I should know before I enter college?

Replies (100)

June 15, 2014 at 04:31 PM · There is more music than one can learn in a single lifetime, but I would think that if you want to have a chance of getting into a decent music conservatory, you should have tackled at least several works from Level 8 and Level 9, perhaps level 10 as well.

Violin and Orchestra

Violin and piano

Violin solos

June 15, 2014 at 06:28 PM · Hi John - not an expert at all here, but I think it matters a lot both on the type of course you plan to do - 'music' or 'performance' and the level of institution you are aiming for (top-flight conservatory or (say) state school).

My impression is that Smiley's expectations are a bit stiff - that looks more like a MA requirement (but he may know more than me...).

June 15, 2014 at 07:30 PM · I don't know much, but I know there are some really accomplished young players. I'm sure you can get into a music program playing at a lower level, but to get into a decent music school, you have to play at a pretty high level.

June 16, 2014 at 12:23 AM · Depends where you're going tbh. I've known peers who entered the conservatory only knowing how to play some Mozart/Vivaldi/Handel (but played them well) while others know how to play Brahms V. Con and the likes. Personally when I entered the conservatory, I'd played through Bruch, Mendelssohn, Lalo, Barber, etc while my best friend never mustered past Vivaldi and Haydn upon arrival. They went through a lot of pieces fairly quickly for the next few years and quite superbly.

But, they (the schools) aren't necessarily looking at your repertoire list but more what kind of potential you have and whether you can succeed. Unless you're going to Julliard, Curtis or one of the very top schools in which case you really need a broad and solid repertoire foundation as well as performance experience on your chosen instrument.

June 16, 2014 at 01:03 PM · Johns bio states he plans to apply to the big J.

June 16, 2014 at 06:31 PM · I would agree with John A. Certainly here in the UK it always did matter how you played rather than what works you presented, within reason. As John said, they should be looking for potential rather than attempts to play the big concertos, which often then need to be re-studied with the new teachers if they achieve a place in an academy or college. So a good Haydn, Mozart, or Vivaldi concerto would show that basic ability, as well as any musical potential.

June 17, 2014 at 12:08 AM · I don't think that will cut it if he is applying to Julliard. I'm sure they are looking for quality, but there better be some fireworks or it isn't going to happen.

June 17, 2014 at 12:34 AM · Don't rely on Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso being Level 9! Winifred Copperwheat had me studying it before I studied the Mendelsohn.

June 17, 2014 at 02:06 AM · I would be shocked if anyone these days were admitted to juilliard with less than at least mendelssohn, bruch, and lalo played pretty well, with both accuracy and musicality aplenty. A lot of depth in the field these days.

June 17, 2014 at 02:53 AM · I imagine the question of what repertoire to study depends on what you want to do with your life.

From a practical perspective, for instance, if you're expecting to be giving recitals, you want as much repertoire as possible that you can compose into balanced programs, including plenty of things that aren't a challenge because you only have so much practice time. If you're going to be an orchestral musician, mastering the common excerpts used for auditions will be useful. Having at least one 19th or 20th-century concerto thoroughly in your fingers, along with the first movement of a Mozart concerto, will probably address a lifetime of auditions. If you plan to play chamber music, knowing the common warhorse repertoire will help you. And so forth. Learning this younger is probably better. (I find that I've retained my childhood repertoire much, much better than anything learned later.)

(This applies to the amateurs, too, by the way: Having the two concertos, including two contrasting selections, plus some common orchestral excerpts permanently in your fingers will be endlessly useful every time you have go prove some chops to get into an ensemble. The recital material is also good for auditions, good for random "hey can you play in church" type requests, and so on. And having some knowledge of the chamber music repertoire will make you a better reading partner for get-togethers.)

June 17, 2014 at 07:27 AM · It can work both ways - if you play the Tchaik, Brahms etc badly and struggle, it could go against you. However a really well performed Mozart concerto may show your potential and give you a better chance.

Here in the UK professional orchestral auditions used to want a Mozart concerto (often stipulated) along with other repertoir - but players would often present one of the bigger concertos as well or some suitable vituoso piece.

June 17, 2014 at 07:52 AM · Honestly hadn't looked at their profile to see they were planning on auditioning to Julliard. In that case, what I said in my original post would still apply in that you want a broad range of repertoire and played well with a solid foundation of techniques. You may be able to play Brahms or Tchaikovsky like a pro, but that won't help much if you play say, Bach's d min. partita the same way or, cannot play (have seen so many able to do the big pieces and then sound like a lumberjack when it comes to the "simpler" pieces. heh

June 17, 2014 at 03:57 PM · My thought (not based on much except my own experience as a dad watching his daughter go through this process) is that the specific repertoire doesn’t matter, or it does but only insofar as it reveals (through actual performance in audition), and in a positive way, your playing level (technically, artistically, etc.), and – to the extent it’s possible – your potential. So, on the one hand, Hilary Hahn could probably reveal her skills with the Accolay concerto, because players do reveal themselves, and extraordinarily quickly, in auditions. That’s why playing a piece beyond your level is such a mistake; it can instantaneously reveal all of your weaknesses and mask whatever strengths you do have; it can cause important fundamental aspects of your playing (that would be just fine in a piece at your level) to deteriorate and make you appear less skilled than you actually are. So, while schools do ask for repertoire lists, I suspect they don’t matter much. A great repertoire list stacked against a poor performance of Sibelius won’t make a bit of difference, and neither will poor repertoire stacked against an outstanding Sibelius (well, actually, that might be quite interesting). So basically there’s no hiding who you are; skills, not specific rep, are the thing. That said, advanced players will tend to have played some (or sometimes a lot of) advanced rep, but even if they haven’t, they will still reveal their advanced skills in whatever piece they choose -- if they choose wisely. Like everyone has said, the kids who are accepted to the top conservatories tend to be awfully good and experienced. Safe to say that no matter what they choose to play (and you might be surprised by some of the pieces), the accepted kids will play it extremely well. If you’re playing standard rep well at this point, then that’s great, even if you haven’t played a ton of it. If you’re not, you probably can’t realistically cram a great big pile of advanced rep in a short amount of time to make it worthwhile for anything but your rep list (which, as noted, is of limited value, at best). You may, however, be able to focus on and fix some nagging technical issues that need addressing, and thereby raise your level. Actually, I’ve been assuming you’re talking about applying this fall. If you have another year, you have time to do some important things – but I’m thinking that powering through Brahms, Beethoven, Sibelius, and Shosty probably isn’t the best use of your time, especially if you haven’t played Bruch or Lalo or equivalent yet, although I have absolutely no idea what you’ve played nor your playing level.

I realize that doesn't really answer your question. The rep links Smiley provided are interesting (although different folks rank rep quite differently sometimes), and from my little experience, like he said, I would guess that most of the kids applying to the most selective schools will choose audition rep graded 8 and above, although that doesn't say how many of each grade they've done previously.

Just my two cents.

June 17, 2014 at 05:09 PM · Sean - your post really seems to make a lot of sense with this in particular (it may get lost in the length):

"That’s why playing a piece beyond your level is such a mistake; it can instantaneously reveal all of your weaknesses and mask whatever strengths you do have; it can cause important fundamental aspects of your playing (that would be just fine in a piece at your level) to deteriorate and make you appear less skilled than you actually are."

Hear, hear! I'm reminded of the contrast of Math vs English language tests: the former you get a mark for what you get right, while in the latter (and maybe in auditions) you loose a mark for what you get wrong. ;)

June 18, 2014 at 02:39 AM · "Don't rely on Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso being Level 9! Winifred Copperwheat had me studying it before I studied the Mendelsohn. "

If you are implying that Mendelssohn is harder than SS, then I would respectfully disagree. Teachers do not always assign pieces exactly in order of difficulty.

Both pieces contain fast passages, high notes, arpeggios, and double stops. But, what makes SS harder IMO is the additional right hand technique required to pull it off.

Suffice it to say that the graded levels are just a guide. Surely a level 9 piece will be substantially more difficult than a level 6 or 7, but the difficulty level may vary from one individual to another depending on one's strengths and weaknesses.

June 18, 2014 at 02:43 AM · "That’s why playing a piece beyond your level is such a mistake; it can instantaneously reveal all of your weaknesses..."

What does it mean when the variations on twinkle reveal your weaknesses? I guess I'm in trouble.

June 18, 2014 at 03:07 AM · Having gone to Juilliard and having a BS, MM, and DMA from there my suggestion is something like Paganini Concerto #1, Ysaye Sonata (Ballade #3), a Bach Adagio and Fugue g minor is good, not C major, and one movement of a 20th century piece, solo and short. George Perle Solo Sonata, John Harbison solo sonata, Or if you really wish to be noticed do do something by a Juilliard composition grad like Ellen Zwilich. Also, have a lesson with the teacher you wish before the audition. This is essential. Otherwise you will not be accepted. This is for a Juilliard audition. For other places, you would use different choices.

June 18, 2014 at 05:36 AM · Smiley: one of the odd things of working on the violin is that while your technique improves so does your ear - and the latter can be faster than the former. The result is that you can have the sensation that you are rapidly getting worse (I've been through it recently*). Thus:

"What does it mean when the variations on twinkle reveal your weaknesses?"

It actually means you are being liberated from the hell of violinistic samsara, traversing to the sublime and reaching playing-moksha. Fiddle nirvana is reached when you can't stand to hear yourself play a single note, yay the thought of picking up the violin is a total horror.

*At least I hope that's what I was going through and I didn't actually have a mini-stroke...

June 18, 2014 at 08:28 AM · This is why a lot of performers never want to hear any recording they may have made. It always sounds better in your head.

June 18, 2014 at 08:58 AM · Last Sunday I recorded my adult beginner orchestra's annual concert. Not forwarding the recording to my colleagues has earned me karma points. They were so happy!

June 18, 2014 at 10:43 AM · @Elise,

That explains everything. I would therefore conclude that as I go deaf, my playing will improve dramatically.

Bruce wrote:

"Also, have a lesson with the teacher you wish before the audition. This is essential. Otherwise you will not be accepted. "

Really??? Why???

June 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM · [the lesson]

Smiley - because that's how the world really works. Entrance exams are irrelevant if the professor has already adopted you. And what Bruce is saying is that most of the people accepted have already developed that relationship. I think 'essential' may be an bit of an overstatement but it would be interesting to find out how many candidates got in that had no prior exposure...

This was a terrible problem in England back before the 60s or so - basically if you went to the right school ('public' that is private) you got into college through the old boy system. What the labour party did was to make applications anonymous - you were evaluated as a number. Of course it did not stop the 'privilege' entry route entirely, but it sure did put a dent in it.

June 18, 2014 at 12:20 PM · It's worth noting that including a cadenza in the concerto you play can notch up the level of the concerto, depending on the difficulty of the cadenza. How would you professionals rate Mozart 4 with Kreisler cadenzas? I've not attempted it, but from what I have seen on YouTube, I'd guess it was at least Level 9 - especially if you take Kreisler's speeds! And Mozart 4 tests things that other concertos do not test as much - yes, even Mozart's other concertos.

Also, if you want to compose your own cadenzas, incorporating things like staccato (Mozart's own cadenza to the Sinfonia Concertante first movement shows that this would not be anachronistic), you're free to do so. And if it's just for audition, copyright isn't an issue and you can even add bits of your own to someone else's cadenza; but give your examiners a copy of what you plan to play.

June 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM · Elise

"[the lesson]

Smiley - because that's how the world really works. Entrance exams are irrelevant if the professor has already adopted you. And what Bruce is saying is that most of the people accepted have already developed that relationship. I think 'essential' may be an bit of an overstatement but it would be interesting to find out how many candidates got in that had no prior exposure...

This was a terrible problem in England back before the 60s or so - basically if you went to the right school ('public' that is private) you got into college through the old boy system. What the labour party did was to make applications anonymous - you were evaluated as a number. Of course it did not stop the 'privilege' entry route entirely, but it sure did put a dent in it."

There may be an element of truth in that even now in 2014 - but generally speaking in the UK people were taken on their merit. There were plenty of working class kids who got into music college some of whom spoke with a cockney or north country accent. Some even did very well and became top players in chamber music and leaders of orchestras.

In the UK at the present time people who admit they were at public school are considered by a lot of people to potentially be total idiots. Examples are David Cameron, Boris Johnson - and quite a few others.

June 18, 2014 at 02:32 PM · What Elise writes did not apply to "Provincial" Universities, e.g., London, Bristol, Reading, etc. You could get a place there, whoever you were (But we didn't pay much attention to this, because provincial universities were thought to be second-rate - see Kingsley Amis's "Lucky Jim". The founding of new universities like Warwick and the migration to them of Oxbridge dons put a dent in this) - The overriding factor was finance. If your parents could not afford the fees, you either had to win a State Scholarship (2 A/S Level Distinctions plus a pass in the General Paper or 3 Distinctions) or obtain a County Grant (They weren't plentiful).

The other exception was the Medical Colleges, which saw themselves as required by the Hippocratic Oath to give priority to the children of doctors, who generally sent them to Public (as opposed to public - They had that name, because the other old schools were restricted to the children of clergy) Schools - Hence Elise's perceptions.

Elise, are you USA born and bred (or should I say born and raised?)?

June 19, 2014 at 02:15 AM · "Smiley - because that's how the world really works. Entrance exams are irrelevant if the professor has already adopted you. "

Say it isn't so. To think that a school like Julliard, which produces some of the worlds finest musicians, would choose relationships over ability is shocking.

Then again, I'll bet if you had wealthy parents, who were willing to drop a sizable chunk of money, you could probably get in even though you do not deserve to be there. What is this world coming to? Is there nothing left that is sacred? Or is everything about relationships and money? Very sad.

June 19, 2014 at 02:29 AM · Raised and trained in England John. And went to UEA.

June 19, 2014 at 06:59 AM · I'm curious but what repertoire does Mr. Derry have under their belt currently? Not a wish list or the likes, but their actual ability. There can be a lot of suggestions but I've not seen any mention other than a blog they posted with ideas for their audition. I mean, can be a sophomore in intermediate orchestra dreaming of Julliard planning to go Sibelius or bust or can actually play things like Paganini and the likes. Seems difficult to suggest anything without a little bit of information, no? >.?

June 19, 2014 at 07:30 AM · John R mentions "Provincial" music colleges in London, but I've never heard them called that before. Since they attract some of the finest young talent worldwide and equally famous teachers this is definitely NOT the case.

We used to call our regional orchestras "Provincial" and as they were in the Provinces I suppose that was OK, but these days they do not like that term, and would prefer to be called regional. Some of them are even quite good.

Certainly in London there are three colleges that would compete with any others in the world and even outside London there is the Purcell School and the Menuhin School both of which are highly regarded, not to mention Cheethams in or near Manchester.

Some people may in fact regard Julliard as over-rated - but that is not necessarily my opinion. (I've heard that it's a power house for technique and not much else - but I'm sure this is not true).

June 19, 2014 at 09:34 AM · Peter, I said Provincial UNIVERSITIES. Even in the 1970s the Music Colleges did not have this status. They did, however, have a massive status of their own: A mere music degree would not have got you a job outside academia and admin; in addition to their degrees, both music masters at my public school had Fellowship/Associateship of the Royal College of Organists - I suspect that without these they would not have been taken on (and don't underestimate these guys: my brother thinks that John Rutter owes an enormous debt to our then head of music, Edward T Chapman, a predecessor of whom had a piece of his performed at the proms).

Occasionally, things went pear-shaped (and unfortunately not à la Satie): In the early '70s my father needed to employ someone half-time to teach his violin classes for two weeks so that he could help recent appointees who seemed to be having difficulties. He would have loved to employ an LRAM/ARCM/Guildhall-Diploma-Holder for this, but the only money the Borough had for him was Burnham Scale-linked, which meant that the appointee had to have a 2(ii) degree or better (in just about anything). At least the person he was able to employ was ALCM (short of the LCM professed equivalent of a proper Royal Colleges diploma, the LLCM).

Thanks Elise - UEA is one of these New Universities I referred to, 2 years ahead of Warwick. Do you have a viola player in the (extended) family?

Before we get up tight about the Julliard system, one lesson with your targeted teacher is hardly a relationship. When I went for my first hospital laboratory job interview, the Principal Biochemist advised me that in future I should visit a laboratory before applying if I wished to be taken seriously. I think this one lesson is something like that. An audition leaves the quality of the prospective pupil-teacher relationship as a completely unknown quantity (This relationship is important - Pianist and tympanist Christopher Seaman, already pretty well as good a conductor as Sir Malcolm Sargent, went to Guildhall to study with Lawrence Leonard and they didn't get on; I think it set his conducting career back by two or three years). If you're absolutely brilliant, you can probably get in anyway, but perhaps only to have a Gershwin-Ravel type relationship with the teacher of your choice. If Julliard are at fault, it is in not making at least one individual lesson an official part of the admission process (If you don't hit it off with your first intended teacher, you can take a lesson with someone else on the staff and give yourself a chance that way - I doubt that the teacher you first tried would be small-minded enough to block you if another teacher was prepared to take you, I'm sure it's not like that). Remember, too, that that lesson can give your prospective teacher quite a lot of the information that the audition will give, and if that information isn't positive enough, in the same way that you wouldn't get into Julliard, you wouldn't be able to obtain another private lesson from that teacher either (When my father took me to Max Rostal for a lesson at the age of 8 or 9 playing a Bach concerto, virtually his first words were "You know I don't take beginners". Highly conceited brat that I was, I protested loudly!).

June 20, 2014 at 01:15 AM · Lots of useful information already posted, but I don't see anyone yet pointing out what seems obvious to me: (to the OP): Ask your teacher! If you don't have a teacher who is professional enough to be aware of what a school like Juilliard requires of its candidates, then I'm very sorry to say that you have little to no chance of getting in.

If you are serious about wanting to go to a top-ranked music conservatory, then you absolutely need to be studying with the best teacher available to you RIGHT NOW. And if you want a hint of what level your competition is playing at, go to Youtube and do a search on Juilliard Prep Senior Recitals. (Make sure you include "Prep" or "Pre-college" in your search.) These will be high school seniors who have been accepted to and studying in the Preparatory department at Juilliard as high school (and in some cases, younger) students. Big hint: Not all of them will be accepted into Juilliard proper.

June 20, 2014 at 10:28 AM · Mary Ellen,

That was a very informative youtube search. I listened to a few of them. I have concluded that if I were 9 years old, playing at my current level, I might have a shot of getting in, that is, assuming I take lessons from someone at Julliard and give them a lot of money :-)

June 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM · Smiley, what evidence have you that it is all about money and corruption. If you have a lesson with someone of Julliard teacher status, you have, of course, to pay them their going rate, unless they have Victorian doctor ethics (i.e., soak the rich and subsidize the poor) and perceive you to be both particularly worthy and impoverished.

These top classical musicians rake in quite a lot of money - and why not, but I was surprised to read that Piatigorsky was able to finance entire international chess tournaments. But now I think about it, where would the funding for the Menuhin school have come from?

June 20, 2014 at 12:32 PM · John, please don't jump to conclusions: Piatigorsky was married to a Rothshchild. That might be a more likely basis for his benevolence.

June 20, 2014 at 12:36 PM · Touché!

June 20, 2014 at 01:24 PM · @John,

Read Bruce Berg's posting above. Being a Julliard grad, I would assume he knows what he is talking about.

As for my personal experience, I know that private institutions are hard up for funding. I have friends who paid their way into one of the top private schools in the area. Their kids were flat out rejected, then after a 6-7 digit donation, they were admitted. Although it seems very political and sleazy, I can't say that I blame the institution. I'm sure they were able to do a lot of good things with the donation such as improve their infrastructure, hire teachers, etc.

That's not to say that the entire system is corrupt. I'm sure many kids get in based on merit, but politics and money seem to have a place in everything.

June 20, 2014 at 02:01 PM · Smiley, Bruce Berg wrote "Have A LESSON", not "Have a series of lessons"; and did so without comment as to motives. Please will you read the final paragraph in my third comment back and answer my points? It won't be the end of the world if you shoot me down in flames.

Actually, I don't think it's too bad for people to buy their way into something like Julliard if Julliard then use the money to create at least one extra place for others.

June 20, 2014 at 10:05 PM · Hi John,

I'm not interested in shooting you down in flames. Bruce made a comment above that you will not get into Julliard if you do not have a lesson with one of their teachers. He did not clarify what he meant exactly, so I am only inferring.

Another policy that I found a bit troubling about private schools is the emphasis on legacy students (i.e., if your parent or sibling attended the school, then you have a much better chance of getting in). Some schools put so much emphasis on it that they do not have any openings for non-legacy students because all the slots are filled by legacy applicants.

June 20, 2014 at 10:43 PM · Smiley - when is everyone going to realize that the US has become a class-based system? The main underpinnings of such are a) passing wealth from one generation to the next and b) ensuring that the upper classes have access to the best education.

Its not entirely stratified yet - but its going so fast in that direction because there are virtually no forces working against. Welcome to Wallmart - a reinvention of the serf.

I do not know the situation in music but it would be interesting to have an independent assessment of abilities of students that do, or do not, get into the top conservatories.

June 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM · "Smiley - when is everyone going to realize that the US has become a class-based system? "

I would move up to Canada, but it's so darn cold. How can you stand it up there? Just thinking about it makes me shiver. I wouldn't even consider living in any of the northern United States, and you guys start where we leave off... brrrrr. When they divvied up the land masses, Canada got a bum deal don't you think :-).

June 21, 2014 at 10:26 AM · Not at all Smiley, Canada would not exist if it was warm - it would have been taken over and destroyed by the US.

Its actually not that cold - sure it dips in the winter, but no more than, say Chicago (maybe less in Toronto) but spring is gorgeous and summer lacks the endless insufferable humid/hot days of your area. Basically its not cold here but a place of marked seasons. But don't tell anyone, we don't want it ruined...

June 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM · To clarify "have a lesson". I had a lesson (i.e.) audition with Galamian when I was a junior in HS and he accepted me as a student then. This was one year before my formal Juilliard audition. My other advantage was that I was studying with Josef Gingold during my HS years.

June 21, 2014 at 02:28 PM · Thanks for the clarification Bruce. So are you saying that the teachers at Julliard (or other music schools) get more information about your playing from a lesson than they do from an audition and are therefore more likely to admit you for that reason?

If you did not have the lesson with Galamian, how can you be sure you would NOT have been admitted? Do you know of people who had the chops but were rejected? How about the other way around -- people who did NOT have the chops but got in.

June 21, 2014 at 02:33 PM · Elise wrote:

"Its actually not that cold - sure it dips in the winter, ... "

One of the ill affects of cold weather is you lose cognitive ability. For example, thinking it is warm when it's really freaking cold. Once your brain is frozen, then the rest of your body doesn't care.

June 21, 2014 at 02:52 PM · Poor Elise - can't produce any decent science in the winter. Good thing the referees are too stupid to notice!

June 21, 2014 at 04:05 PM · Here's the list of American Nobel Laureates:

American Nobel Laureates

Here are the Canadians (a much smaller list):

Canadian Nobel Laureates

The affect of frozen brains should not be underestimated :-)

June 21, 2014 at 04:09 PM · Sweden can also be very cold. Otherwise a much higher proportion of Nobel Prizes would go to Canadians and Brits.

June 21, 2014 at 07:23 PM · We are far too polite to want Nobel prizes; we leave them to the hot-heads down south - and then we correct their science.

Cooler heads will prevail ;)

June 21, 2014 at 08:09 PM · Smiley, A teacher can learn a whole lot more information in a lesson than a one shot, 10 min. audition about a student's capabilities. That is why if we have a student auditioning for my school, Baylor, we give them a free lesson.Most people at Juilliard had a strong recommendation from a well known teacher (and also known by the prospective teacher). There are very few who walk in cold and unknown to a Juilliard audition who do not have a connection.

June 21, 2014 at 10:48 PM · and these, I guesa, even if they do get in, then have to find out whether the teacher they want has a slot for them - otherwise they will have to find another Julliard teacher. I imagine, for instance, that there were a lot more Julliard students who would have wished to study with Galamian than he could take (There certainly are now!).

June 22, 2014 at 02:11 AM · It is possible to get into a top music school without taking a sample lesson. I did it twice (Oberlin for undergrad, Indiana for grad). Granted, things may have changed a bit in *cough* *cough* thirty-five years, but a really wonderful player is very likely to get in somewhere even without a trial lesson.

That being said, an audition demonstrates the student's level of preparedness. A private lesson does that, and also gives the teacher a very good idea of the student's responsiveness, quickness, ability to adapt, as well as whether or not the student comes across as a mensch. I've taught very talented students who had character issues, and I would take a slightly less talented mensch over a gifted, well, not-mensch, any day of the week.

I do not believe it is possible to buy one's way into Juilliard or anywhere else--the most I would believe (and this I do believe) is that if two equally qualified candidates are vying for one opening and one requires financial aid while the other is full pay, the full pay candidate has an edge.

However, getting back to the OP, I still think he should ask his teacher. ;-)

June 22, 2014 at 02:25 AM · @Bruce,

That makes perfect sense, but here's what makes no sense. If a lesson is more informative than an audition, then why even have auditions? Or to put it another way, why don't they change the audition process to be more like a private lesson?

@Mary Ellen,

If someone's parent donates $1 million to the school, don't you think the admissions people at Julliard (or any other school for that matter), might give them a little preferential treatment? If the answer is no, then how about $10 million? I'm sure there is a price. If you still do not agree, then you are still as naive and innocent as you were 3.5 decades ago. I meant that in an endearing way :-).

June 22, 2014 at 02:31 AM · Maybe the "sample lesson" that Bruce described is a sort of interview. It could be that the level of the candidates for entry at Julliard has become so high, that the personal interview is the only way for the institution to determine which are well matched to their particular faculty in terms of learning styles, personality, etc. The down side of the interview is that it is hard to set aside certain biases that arise only when one is aware of a student's physical appearance. But I agree with Smiley -- if the sample lesson is effectively part of the audition, then that should be made transparent and formalized.

June 22, 2014 at 04:17 AM · The sample lesson isn't an interview nor an audition, per se. It's more about developing a relationship and getting somebody on your side for the actual audition and acceptance ultimately. (I'm sure having somebody like Galamian or DeLay in your court helps a bit) Regardless of which top music program one auditions to, it is always advisable nowadays to have a lesson with a prospective teacher, whom you can also talk to about the school, expectations, etc...

June 22, 2014 at 10:18 AM · "The sample lesson isn't an interview nor an audition, per se. It's more about developing a relationship and getting somebody on your side for the actual audition and acceptance ultimately"

John, that's ridiculous. If it gets you in, its a part of, or replaces the audition. If you are already in after "establishing a relationship' then the audition is really just a cynical public display of fairness.

But do any of these institutions actually claim to have an impartial application process? If it is, they should say so, if it is not they should not pretend that it is.

The question really is why are they admitting? We work under the naïve assumption that it is to train the best and that's it. But if they can be bought (by influence or worse, cash) then at least in my eye they loose their credibility as institutions of higher learning.

June 22, 2014 at 10:20 AM · If a representative of one of the top conservatories/schools is reading this I think it would be timely and nice to make a statement. This kind of talk could grow into a real problem if left unchecked.

June 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM · @Elise,

Even though your brains are frozen, I agree with you 100%. But let's not kid ourselves. I know for a fact that you can buy your way into a private institution. I have friends who did it. I do not have first hand knowledge of top notch music schools, but let's face it, money is just too important, even for a school as prestigious as Julliard. And assuming that I am right, then I don't think any representatives from the school will admit to it on a public forum.

Same goes for the auditions. I don't think it is quite as bad as Bruce implies. As Mary Ellen pointed out, some (perhaps even most) do get in on their merits, but in the end, the admission process boils down to human beings making a judgement call. And as humans, we have our biases (e.g., I know this applicant, but I don't know that one, therefore, I will admit the one I know). It's not criminal. It's just human nature.

June 22, 2014 at 03:12 PM · Smiley - I know, thats why nobody has piped up yet. I have no doubt that someone at at least one school knows about this topic already. However, complete silence may be worse since the way this topic is going some may think (go over the top) and suspect that without a donation, the audition is irrelevant to acceptance and that its best to go to a state school or Europe or...

Maybe we should start a new topic: "Auditions: do you have what (cash) it takes?" to get some attention?

June 22, 2014 at 03:33 PM · Many years ago Kyung Wha Chung urged me to go to Korea to teach. She said the lessons paid really well, but you made the big bucks from the bribes from parents when you judge competitions.

June 22, 2014 at 03:58 PM · No wonder those judges are all driving Maseratis, Mercedes, and BMWs

June 22, 2014 at 04:02 PM · Elise,

Well my son was put on the waiting list for a few private schools. Based on my conversations with the admissions people, I could sense that they were looking for a donation. My guess is he was equally qualified as some others on the waiting list but the spot(s) are open to the highest bidder.

June 22, 2014 at 04:06 PM · BTW, even after you get in and shell out 10's of thousands on private school tuition (it is just as expensive as college), they constantly hit you up for donations to keep the institution running. They need money big time.

June 22, 2014 at 05:36 PM · I suspect that some of the teasing in this thread might just be "friendly banter". But when you make off-topic retorts that can be construed as mean spirited and even xenophobic, you run the risk of promoting such responses as normal and accepted.

We are lucky to have so many prominent professionals willing to share their musical experiences with us. A little self-restraint on off-topic posting style will help keep them here.

Regrading the lively debate on admission practices: consider for a moment that the admission process might be much more complicated than you can imagine. It is not JUST about finding the most "talented" students (which can be a highly qualitative process for the music field).

Admission programs of reputable institutions are tasked by their board and the community to accommodate the financially challenged. Most are required to maintain some sort of social balance in admissions (male/female, ethnicity, etc.) They have to do this using a limited number of slots, funding and resources to support student and faculty needs.

Developing violin technique to the highest level is a resource intensive endeavor from the earliest ages and just gets more expensive as the student progresses. Completely blind admissions testing skews acceptance towards the socially and financially advantaged.

June 22, 2014 at 06:07 PM · Carmen - nice post, I think it helps balance our mushrooming cynicism. Incidentally, this really had not occurred to me before this topic (thought it might well have if I put some thought to it). My son got into a good University - but his tuition was astronomical for the time. We figured that it was so so that the football team members could have free tuition and benefits galore.

Think about that for the future of the US.

I realize the latter is not a mandate for private schools (though they might give it lip service_ - but who's mandate is it, in particular now with so many groups screaming no taxes and no paying for another person's children's education. People forget so easily what 'socialis' was invented for. It was for us, the less privileged.

I still think that schools should be obliged to reveal their admission policies and practises. If, as you say, they hold a number of slots open with schollarships for the talented, but less well-off student then make that information easily accessible and we will laud them in our topic rather than question. [Note at no point have I stated that the admissions process IS corrupt, I find it just not entirely clear that it is NOT.]

June 22, 2014 at 08:09 PM · Not to put a complete damper on your cynicism (since I have been accused of being overly cynical myself), but in general, football programs that give out many full scholarships to -ahem- student athletes make many times that in revenue from various sources. The football program is actually a major source of funding for the rest of the university.

It is so lucrative that there are current movements to unionize college players as de facto employees of the university.

Years ago I had some involvement with college athletic programs. Those that were not self-sustaining either chose to play in a lower division with hard restrictions on scholarships, or dropped the programs altogether. There are many fine universities that have no football programs, by choice, because they realized they had to treat it as a business or as a money sinkhole.

My daughter was a huge beneficiary of flexible admission programs for the arts. She was admitted to an exclusive high school because of a need to balance the student population (not enough girls).

The education she received enabled her to get a generous fine arts scholarship to a well-known university. The university had set-asides for what it considered talented students regardless of financial status.

I still incurred a substantial cost for both the high school and university, but without seeking out and taking advantage of special admissions practices, I (and she) would not have been able to afford the cost of the educations.

I think admissions programs might be more transparent than you think. I have found that if you have your eye set on a particular institution, all you have to do is ask them about special admissions programs and financial aid.

There really is no special effort being made to keep the process a secret. They want good students.

One of the few things a reputable institution will not budge on is "minimum" admissions standards. But once those standards are met, it should not come as a surprise that a full-pay plus generous donation can "find" a spot for a student.

June 22, 2014 at 09:01 PM · The optimistic (and useful) way to look at it, if you're a student or parent preparing for college/conservatory applications, is that it's not that different from "normal" college admissions. In other words, there are never any guarantees, and you make your best effort to get the schools that you want.

Any prestigious school has many ways of getting in, such as donating money, being a "legacy", knowing the right people, etc. This will always be the case, for better and for worse. At least with music school auditions, an exceptional applicant can make an immediate positive impression, in person, rather than trusting to a vague admissions essay or something along those lines.

If you're set on a certain teacher at a certain school, he/she may have very limited spots available and may always allocate those to people who have taken a lesson. There's really no way to stop that, if that's the teacher's preference. But many such teachers are also quite willing to hear any and all who would make the trip to play for them. But a quality school will have many quality teachers, and showing up for the audition gives you a chance to make an impression on many of them at once.

Just for fun, my story: I applied at four schools: Cleveland, Curtis, Oberlin and Indiana. At Cleveland, I had taken a lesson with one teacher but was scared off by the teacher's style. I took no other lessons, and was accepted by a different teacher. At Curtis, no prior contact and so I was assigned a teacher. At Oberlin, I knew one teacher very well and had taken many lessons over the years. And Indiana, I had no prior connection, but after my audition, one teacher requested that I take a lesson that day, after which they accepted me.

June 22, 2014 at 09:23 PM · Re the off-topic banter, Smiley is an old friend and former youth orchestra standpartner. :-)

Call me naive but I do not think any amount of money will buy a Juilliard (or other elite conservatory) admission for a student who is not qualified. I could see it tipping the scale when choosing between two qualified applicants for one opening, but I already said that.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that the financially advantaged have a huge leg up anyway in the classical music world because of the cost of private lessons, youth orchestra, summer programs and the like, and the need to start very early. When I look around at my colleagues, I see a few people who benefited from programs for the disadvantaged, and a whole lot of people who, like me, were the children of professionals who were at the very least middle class.

June 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM · And if the money is sufficient to subsidize gifted students who otherwise would not be able to study there, there's something to be said for it. Also, a number of graduates, even from a top institution, are doomed not to make it the way they'd like to. Why not assign a place to someone you know won't make it, if it creates extra places for some who might?

June 23, 2014 at 10:12 AM · Bruce, you really saddened me about KWC - I entertained better thoughts about her. But maybe she refused the bribes and her "advice" to you to teach in Korea was along the lines of "You could, of course, teach in Korea ..."? I hope our talented young friend Aditya doesn't succumb to temptations like that.

June 23, 2014 at 10:54 AM · "Not to put a complete damper on your cynicism (since I have been accused of being overly cynical myself), but in general, football programs that give out many full scholarships to -ahem- student athletes make many times that in revenue from various sources. The football program is actually a major source of funding for the rest of the university."

Sorry, but that makes me evem more cynical. The extreme of that is to only recruit students that will better the financial prospects of the University. Why have poetry and philosophy at all if they are a drain? Lets recruit drug development, GMO/GMF science students, sports and forget any delusions of academics - the latter is a non-starter for making cash.

Universities used to be seats of higher learning where we would nurture the gifted to change the world to a better place, not cash cows for winning competitions or trophies to boost the egos of the board.

IMO its is a sign of a decaying civilization, like Rome but delusionary in its intellectual, as apart from military, security.

Sorry to get off the original topic, but this has blossomed into something rather important.

June 23, 2014 at 06:41 PM · "Re the off-topic banter, Smiley is an old friend and former youth orchestra standpartner. :-)"

@Mary Ellen,

After missing all those page turns I'm glad you still consider me a friend. :-) Ahhh, those were the good ole days.

Re your statement:

"I do not believe it is possible to buy one's way into Juilliard or anywhere else."

I'm glad you haven't lost your youthful innocence. I won't corrupt you with a counter argument. But suffice it to say that I thought I was naive and innocent :-)

June 23, 2014 at 09:08 PM · Elise, the military security could be delusional as well - All these Russian and Chinese troops Obama is hiring from their respective governments ...

Remember that song by Bernstein, " ... but I could pass that football ... "?

I'm not against people being able to buy their way into institutions provided they pay enough to simultaneously buy places for some who are worthy of them. Don't begrudge it them - Like Beckmesser with the Preislied, they'll only make a mess of what they've obtained.

June 24, 2014 at 02:18 AM · Driving home today, I saw a car with a Juilliard bumper sticker. I never noticed before, but there is an extra "i" in the word Juilliard. I searched this thread and Bruce and Mary Ellen are the only ones that got the spelling right. You have earned my respect in violin AND spelling :-)

June 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM · I should have checked more carefully before following the herd!

I always have to confess to my foreign friends that the difference between English and Chinese is that English pretends to have an alphabet; but it is only a pretence and we have to call the shortfall "spelling". Thus you all know how to pronounce "ghoti" (My foreign friends had to tell me!): "gh" as in "enough"; "o" as in "women"; and "ti" as in "distortion"; the proper way to spell the word being "F-I-S-H". (I was since been given to understand that George Bernard Shaw originated this one - Actually not, if interested see what Wikipedia says about ghoti; mirrors within mirrors ... oh where have I seen THAT phrase before?)

June 25, 2014 at 06:03 PM · Universities used to be places where the privileged went for polishing -- especially the very top universities. The Ivy Leagues changed enormously, for instance, when the SAT was introduced as an instrument of determining merit.

So let's not be too cynical. We've just come out of a period of rising meritocracy. The recipients of that meritocratic period have now, as privileged classes tend to do, tried to entrench themselves so that their children are firmly seated in the upper echelons as well. It's just that now we've confused "merit" with "had the money to achieve the checkboxes that admissions officers are looking for".

To get to the level of major conservatory auditions, a child has to have enough privilege to afford top-notch lessons and a fairly decent instrument. The parents who can afford to fly a child cross-country every week to attend Juilliard Pre-College and buy them a great violin and bow are highly likely to produce a vastly better product than the parents who can afford the student violin and an okay local teacher, even if both children have the same innate level of talent.

June 25, 2014 at 09:09 PM · "The parents who can afford to fly a child cross-country every week to attend Juilliard Pre-College and buy them a great violin and bow are highly likely to produce a vastly better product than the parents who can afford the student violin and an okay local teacher, even if both children have the same innate level of talent."

That, restated (as I read it anyway), means that 'a class system where the haves get the best and the crumbs to the have-nots is a good idea'. Is that what you meant to say Lydia?

June 26, 2014 at 02:10 AM · "The parents who can afford to fly a child cross-country every week to attend Juilliard Pre-College and buy them a great violin and bow are highly likely to produce a vastly better product than the parents who can afford the student violin and an okay local teacher, even if both children have the same innate level of talent."

"That, restated (as I read it anyway), means that 'a class system where the haves get the best and the crumbs to the have-nots is a good idea'. Is that what you meant to say Lydia?"

I'm not Lydia, but I didn't read that as an endorsement of it as a good idea, more as an observation of fact. And there is a lot of truth in it, although it is certainly not necessary to be flying cross-country to Juilliard Prep in order to achieve a conservatory admission level. There are excellent teachers all across the U.S. But, to take an extreme example, the child of a single parent whose only access to music lessons is through the public school strings program is highly, highly unlikely to do as well as a peer whose upper-middle-class parents can provide private lessons with the best teacher in town and a good instrument, even if the latter is less talented.

I'm not saying it's a good thing. But it is what it is. Like many of my colleagues, I almost always have one or two students that I am teaching as scholarship students for nearly free. But, as is true for every professional I know, I have a family and other obligations, and cannot afford to devote the bulk of my teaching hours to nonrevenue students.

June 26, 2014 at 02:31 AM · Mary Ellen,

Let's say that hypothetically your studio were full. You are not accepting any new students. Then someone comes along and offers you $1M to accept their child into your studio. Would your studio still be full?

June 26, 2014 at 03:46 AM · Good grief, Smiley.

I'm not Juilliard and the "fullness" of my studio has always been rather flexible. The most recent student I started teaching, after about four rounds of promising my husband that I wouldn't take any more students (a promise that has never yet been kept), is indeed the child of a single mother who doesn't even own a car, and I am teaching her for very nearly free. The idea of being offered a million dollars for a student is too ludicrous even to contemplate, but I would most likely suggest that such a profligate parent consider using the money to set up a foundation to provide scholarships for all the impoverished but talented students in San Antonio.

I guarantee you that even a million dollars won't get an untalented kid who cannot play Accolay in tune into Juilliard.

June 26, 2014 at 10:38 AM · This conversation sounds very much like America before the revolution.

Bit scary that. I now see less entrenched class attitudes in the UK!

June 26, 2014 at 11:26 AM · @Elise,

We love you but it's time to get off your high horse. This conversation is not about America. There isn't a studio teacher on this planet that would turn down the $1M student, including Mary Ellen -- although she might not want to outright admit it on a public forum. Suffice it to say that her "full" studio might be just a little less full :-) There is always some wiggle room.

BTW Mary Ellen, very admirable to teach less privileged kids for cheap. That is far more altruistic than many teachers I know.

"I guarantee you that even a million dollars won't get an untalented kid who cannot play Accolay in tune into Juilliard. "

Regarding Juilliard, if someone donated $1B to the school, I think they would bend their entrance requirements just a bit -- actually A LOT! Never mind Accolay, we're talking Suzuki book 2 -- the bigger the donation, the more the wiggle room. Same goes for any other private school in need of funding and they ALL NEED FUNDING.

P.S. I hope no one is offended by my comments. But, I am enjoying this lively debate.

June 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM · Sorry, Smiley - its very much about America. Variants of this conversation are at the core of US politics at this time. Is it OK for the well-to-do to not only enjoy their good fortune but to ensure that they and their kids will be guaranteed to retain it even though equally - or more qualified - kids from poor families are excluded from the same table?

But what the heck. Why not go with the flow? Next time I recruit a grad student for my lab I won't bother with more than the minimum grade required to get into the Department. It will depend on how much you can put into my research budget. Whats good for the goose... Hey, we can all get into the game - $5 million will make you a lawyer $10 million you are a doctor, obviously a good one with that much cash. Oh, and lets not worry white people are in general richer than black; latinos have virtually no access and if you are a poor immigrant - well, I'm sorry you are screwed. Now, when thinking about America, just focus a bit on that last one...

But I'll leave it at that.

June 26, 2014 at 01:59 PM · Elise, you don't look QUITE old enough to be remembering America before the Revolution.

Actually, if I were in your position I WOULD take the money to put a totally incompetent person into a lab under my control, provided the money was sufficient to fund two extra competent workers (including extra lab space, equipment, etc) who otherwise could not be funded. Mind you, I'd have to make sure that there were no dangerous toys in the lab housing the incompetent. As Hillaire Belloc wrote "Children should not be given dangerous toys". By the way, the late Sir William Rushton wrote the following about a very, very good bassoonist called George Daisley and an almost as good bassoonist called Gerald Gold (Yes, the chemist):

"When George's grandmama was told

That George could play as well as Gold,

She promised in the afternoon

To buy him an immense bassoon

.... "

I can't remember the rest.

June 26, 2014 at 02:10 PM · whats the 'provided' for? How do we know that the bribes (for thats what they are) used to get students into conservatories are actually used to get other students in? How do we know that they are not used to pay the football coach another bonus (which is of course what they are used for) or worse, that the bribe goes straight into the teacher's pocket? And why should I care if the best and brightest become your future scientists and doctors (and, if you like, read here also, your children)? According to the grand scheme espoused here, that's really not my business.

June 26, 2014 at 03:17 PM · We know that the money isn't going to the football coach because Juilliard does not have a football coach! I understand they do field a team occasionally in Central Park against the Manhattan School (or even Columbia). ;-) Actually , our oldest daughter also played Rugby, but not while at Juilliard.

Come on folks. This started out asking about repertoire that someone should know. Now we are talking about the "haves" and the "have nots" mentality that lately is being fanned so fervently, supposed inequities in admissions standards, whether kids whose parents can afford to have them in pre-college classes is fair, class struggles, life being unfair... Lets just have our kids and students practice and become the best well rounded musicians who, if they decide to go into music, can PICK where they go because they know the rep and are good players.

June 26, 2014 at 03:20 PM · "Sorry, Smiley - its very much about America. "

So in my hypothetical scenario above, are you suggesting that all private music teachers in Canada would refuse the $1M student whereas the teachers in America would accept them? We all know that's not true.

Money has no national or political bounds. Like it or not, it is the major driving force for capitalism. It would be nice to live in a Utopian society where the only thing that matters is fairness and good deeds, but Capitalism in spite of its shortcomings, is the most productive system this world has devised. Money drives people to work hard, invent new things, create better systems, etc, etc. I'm not saying it is a perfect system, but so far, it is the best anyone has come up with.

But this is getting way off topic. To answer the OP's question, what repertoire is needed to get into a top music school. My answer is, it depends on who you know and how much money you have. Sorry, couldn't resist :-)

June 26, 2014 at 03:30 PM · The great achievement of the upper classes in America has been to convince the poor that it's in their best interests not to raise the highest marginal rate or the rates applied to capital gains. Even the mortgage interest tax deduction only benefits those on the upper end of the middle class and above. The same with conservatories -- a little bribery of the admissions board is fine because it helps provide scholarships for those worthy but less fortunate. Except it doesn't -- all the increases go to faculty salaries, fringe benefits, slush funds, swanky offices/studios, and other perks for those at the top. Sort of like all the states that promised money from lotteries and casinos would improve education.

June 26, 2014 at 03:42 PM · Best thing is to forget music college and just get some private lessons with someone good, and spend time thinking about what you are doing. Most music academies etc are a bit over-rated and you can do it without them.

But I suppose it sounds good if you can say you were at ******* school - even if you can't play that well after three years there! (OK, I admit I'm a cynic!)

June 26, 2014 at 08:58 PM · I was going to walk away from this thread but I need to correct a mistaken assumption that has my name on it. In Smiley's hypothetical world where a parent offers a studio teacher $1M to make room for one more student, such an offer would be akin to winning the lottery. If Smiley or anyone else is curious, a simple google search will verify that in most cases, winning the lottery turns out to be the worst thing that can happen to someone--it wrecks lives. No, thank you. I am happy with my life, my work and my family, and I have no desire to drop a bomb in the middle of it.

I make room for a student either when he/she is particularly talented or when the student is referred to me by a colleague or former student to whom I feel obligation. I could make a lot more money if I operated in a different manner, only taking students whose parents could afford very high fees. But I do not do this, and I resent the implication that my integrity has a price tag.

And the OP, if he's still around, has hopefully long since consulted his teacher.

June 26, 2014 at 09:28 PM · Mary Ellen,

You are my hero. If you ever win the lottery, then please give the winning ticket to me :-)

June 26, 2014 at 10:05 PM · Mary Ellen,

You are my hero - and no qualifications at all.

Just thank you. You illustrate perfectly my (ideal? cherished??) image of America. And by the way, I WAS an immigrant with 2 suitcases to my name

ee

June 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM · What? Originally named "Valises Stanley"?

Incidentally, just noticed the "ee" after that last sentence of your post. Are you telling us you're originally from Yorkshire?

Elise, the "provided" was for what I would do if I were in your position, which is really a way of saying what I think you could do and keep your principles. It wasn't about what actually happens in the States.

June 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM · eh?

e(lis)e

June 26, 2014 at 10:42 PM · I was thinking of "ee ba gum" (Yorkshire is the place with the most E regs, as in "Ee Reg, nice to see you") - I've never before seen someone sign off with just the first and last letter of their first name, especially when the last letter is a silent letter.

This is an edit rather than a new post, because two more posts and we get archived.

June 27, 2014 at 01:41 AM · Smiley, if I ever win the lottery, I will need the money for medical expenses because I will either have a brain tumor or dementia. I don't buy lottery tickets on principle.

June 27, 2014 at 01:31 PM · I've won over $10,000 on the lottery.

Every day for the last 30 yrs I have actively not bought a ticket.

I guess its time to buy a fine bow...

June 27, 2014 at 02:19 PM · I would guess that I've bought about 50 one-dollar rub-off lottery tickets in my lifetime. I viewed them as cheap entertainment, not as investments. Several tiny winners ($1 or $2), one worth $50, and one worth $250 (I scanned that one as a memento of getting ahead of the game).

As an American, I think the best part of this thread has been knowing that even something as oblique as repertoire for music college auditions can be "all about America." Go USA! Winners even when we lose! LOL

June 27, 2014 at 03:44 PM · I wonder what happened to John Derry - I hope he got into Juilliard... at the very least perhaps he learned how to spell it :D

June 28, 2014 at 07:47 AM · I think we're about out of space for posts on this thread (Laurie, any way to extend those limits?)

As I noted before, a privileged upbringing gives a child a lot more opportunities to be successful. This is simply a statement of fact. Not only does money allow a family to afford the best of whatever, such families are often better at discovering what "the best" actually is, and how to go about doing the right things to ensure that a child can maximize their opportunities. It's exceptionally hard to avoid institutionalized class privilege, even in ostensible meritocracies. (This certainly occurs in your own field of science, Elise, and in Canada, as noted in this article: http://blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/04/15/science-fairs-rewarding-talent-or-privilege/ )

Competitive college-level institutions, including Ivy League universities, normally reserve spaces for legacies (those with alumni in the family) as well as "special circumstances" (those that come from families who are capable of making a sizable donation). The standards are lower, but not embarrassingly lower -- i.e., you want a student admitted under those circumstances to still graduate credibly and successfully.

June 28, 2014 at 07:17 PM · One problem Lydia is that there is not an equal number of the well-off vs the poor. I don't know the ratio - but lets suppose its 1:10. If so the well-off would have to be ~10 times more gifted to match the 'star power' of the poor (which have a much larger field of potential violinists).

Many of the greatest musicians in the past (e.g Bach Mozart, Paganini, Perlman) were born into poor not rich families (many were born into musical ones - but again not wealthy). If born now they would be excluded from the top conservatories if selection was solely by resources (obviously its not - but that is where it is gradually going and the evolved theme of this topic).

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