Do music colleges look at undergrad academic transcripts?

Edited: November 19, 2018, 7:29 PM · I'm currently in my 2nd year of a BMus Performance course and it's looking like I'd benefit from further study (i.e. a masters in performance) after graduation. I'm looking at auditioning for universities in Europe/UK, and possibly US depending on finances.

I am fully aware of the *musical* competitiveness. However: do universities tend to look at your academic transcript in addition to the performance audition? Or do they just verify that you have a degree?

I'm not doing badly, but want to know if it's necessary to step up the academic grades to be more competitive.

Replies (13)

Edited: November 19, 2018, 9:11 PM · Thanks Michael - what if you're from overseas and there's no 4.0 system? Would they convert it from a 0-100% system?
Edited: November 19, 2018, 9:19 PM · Hi Kate - sorry my reply got deleted. My browser is screwy - was trying to edit and ended up deleting!

There are online converters. Really you want to do as well as possible to be competitive. Any graduate school is going to care about your transcripts. If you failed music theory I twice and barely scraped by with C's in the rest of your courses they're not going to take you when the next person in the pile has straight A's or B+'s.

Unfortunately academic achievement in your undergrad is used as a measure of your capability for success in your graduate studies. In my case it's not an accurate metric as my grades were 'artificially' low due to working full time nights while also studying with a full time course load. However I did ensure to keep a strong A- average in all my music courses incase I wanted to go to grad school at a later date - either education or musicology for me. Some people are in similar situations that affected their grading outcomes. I think that is part of the reason why places like the United States have the GRE's.

November 19, 2018, 9:51 PM · I don't know what sort of conversion U.S. universities might use when looking at foreign marks, but I am 100% sure that your undergrad academic history will matter when applying to grad school. Not in the sense that a 3.9 will definitely get you in while a 3.3 will for sure keep you out--the audition is still by far the most important part when applying to graduate school in performance--but a questionable academic transcript will say a lot about your work ethic and about how seriously you take your education. If, like Michael, your grades were impacted by other life circumstances, you can always write an explanation and append it to your application.
Edited: November 20, 2018, 12:36 AM · Imagine 2 clones of yourself. One with good grades, one with bad grades, but both equal musical performance. Who do you think the school will admit? The only difference between this and real life is that you don't have a clone. I did not go to music school, I'm actually in math. Having said that, I'm fairly certain any discipline will view this the same way. Of course if you are very outstanding on the violin I'm sure you can get away with a lot.
Edited: November 20, 2018, 3:14 AM · This business of BA performance, MA performance, PhD performance is an American concept that doesn't exist in the UK, afaik.
If you want a performers diploma from the RAM or the RCM, they may only want an audition. If you have a degree in music with performance, they will note that, but they won't be reading any essays! These places accept 18-year-olds, so maybe that is below your level, but not if at university in the USA you mostly write essays and minor in performance.
I'm guessing, but I'm more than 99% sure.
UCL accepted me as a Classics postgraduate without reading anything I had written. I doubt a music college would be different.
But maybe best wait for a British music college graduate to reply. Otoh, they probably wouldn't be able to guess what level you are at.
Otoh, maybe you are good and the American college system is just a money-spinner?
November 20, 2018, 6:38 AM · Thanks everyone. Fortunately I have time to bring my average up a little.

Christopher, that scenario makes sense - what I was asking was whether that would be a factor to begin with. If they simply didn't look at academics, no number of A+ grades would help someone get in.

Andrew, I'm not from the UK, but looking on the websites of UK universities it seems they do have all the usual degree options.

Edited: November 20, 2018, 7:05 AM · Yes, I guess I have to back-pedal a bit.
If you mean degrees in music, of course they do, but that seems to be exactly what you are doing at the moment. A music degree is mostly academic work, but I suppose it must involve some small amount of practical music-making. I would assume an MA at such a university would be even more academically orientated.
But if you want to be a performer, such a degree is not the normal route - at 18 you begin a performer's diploma at either the RCM or the RAM (there may be other places, such as Leeds. They would seem to be inferior to London, but there's no real reason why they should be if they can pay good teachers)

To summarise, if you want to perform (or join an orchestra), and you want to study in the UK, do a performers diploma (LRAM, LRCM), don't do an MA.

Edited: November 20, 2018, 7:17 AM · A music performance degree is performance-based, with academics as supplemental study. Not the other way round.

Also, most UK universities only offer diplomas for masters graduates, or highly recommend this route.

I have never heard of anyone - in any country- doing a diploma before a BMus.

November 20, 2018, 8:37 AM · Andrew, I think you're confused. The normal performer's route is a bachelor's in music (performance degree) followed by a master's in music (performance degree). Some people may do an Artist's Diploma or a DMA.

The LRAM is a teaching qualification that is supplemental to a degree, not a replacement for one.

Kate, in the US, an Artist's Diploma is sometimes taken by performers who have already started a career and do not have the time or desire to do a normal course of study.

Edited: November 20, 2018, 9:05 AM · Just to clarify Lydia's otherwise excellent explanation, an Artist's Diploma is very, very different from a DMA. The former is either wholly or mostly based on performance. The DMA is an academic degree with a heavy performance component (think lecture-recitals). The AD is intended for people who are on the verge of a performance career. The DMA is the qualification necessary for a tenure-track teaching position at a second- or third-tier music school--some professors at first-tier schools do have DMAs but there are many who, in lieu of the doctorate, have an international performing career. If you aren't interested in pursuing a tenure-track university position, there is no advantage to having a DMA.

The old joke is, DMA stands for "doesn't mean anything."

In my orchestra, I can think of three people who have DMAs--all excellent colleagues, but the DMA is incidental to that. Most of us have BMs and MMs in performance. Some have only the BM.

November 20, 2018, 9:23 AM · OK, I didn't realise I was living in the past (and I got the Associateship and the Licentiate the wrong way around).
LRCM and ARCM now seem to be obsolete terms and have been replaced by degrees.
November 20, 2018, 12:27 PM · LRCM and ARCM aren't obsolete, they're just not the same thing as a degree from a music conservatory or university. Apples and oranges.
Edited: November 20, 2018, 11:04 PM · I don't think grades matter all that much in BA, MM, or DMA programs unless one has below a 3.0. Some grad programs, like Michigan or Indiana, are known to be academically more rigorous. But still...

The priorities are:
Fill the teacher's studio with someone who can play.
Fill the orchestra.

If it comes down to fingers vs grade point, at least in the US, the fingers will win every time.

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 YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases


Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

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