Before music college...

August 25, 2019, 6:42 AM · Hello,
I was just wondering from you violists out there, what would you expect someone applying to music college/conservatoire (or whatever term) to already have under their belt in terms of pieces?
I have a local amateur orchestra in my town which I plan on joining soon, and I am in the process of picking the pieces I'd want to play at audition (only picking, a little while to go before I get there yet). I'm going to ask my teacher when I see him on thursday this coming week, but thought I'd ask here in advance.

Thanks for any help

Replies (27)

August 25, 2019, 8:50 AM · Are you auditioning on violin or viola?
August 25, 2019, 8:53 AM · On the viola as a major. A number of them offer "related study", but the audition for that doesn't happen until the school year starts from what I understand
August 25, 2019, 11:43 AM · Typically I think you want to be at a level to play the auditions for college. Some people play hoffmeister but some play Bartók. There is no real answer some people may be playing very very challenging repertoire very badly, while some modest repertoire very well. The important thing is really intonation, musicality, good projection. A teacher wants to see a very high quality of playing no matter what you’re playing but you want to at least be playing major rep by the time of auditions because that’s what’s required. (Ie the first and easiest major viola concerto is hoffmeister.)
August 25, 2019, 11:47 AM · Its not about what to play while there. I was just wondering what the average student would have already played before auditioning (but not audition rep)
August 25, 2019, 12:17 PM · Can you get around on a keyboard? You should have basic piano skills when you go to school, and be able to play, say, Bach chorales--you will use this in your theory courses...
August 25, 2019, 12:21 PM · I've had a few lessons before and can get "in shape" again before starting
August 25, 2019, 12:39 PM · From what I've read mostly on this site, your time is better spent getting as good as you can possibly get on your viola rather than diverting potential practice time to the piano. If you're already maxed out on what you can do on your viola physically, then buy a good digital piano like a Yamaha P-155 stage piano ($600 at Kraft Music), which you can take to school with you and keep in your dorm room to work on theory and composition homework (with headphones).
August 25, 2019, 12:45 PM · I don't practise the piano at all really. The music colleges specify the level that they want you to be at (if not piano forst study). Getting back will take around a year, so not a lot of time. And I have an electric piano already which I could take
August 25, 2019, 2:27 PM · @Paul Deck. Jake won't be "diverting potential practice time" to play piano, and in fact, the harmony understanding you get from acquiring decent keyboard skills provides a theoretical understanding of Western music that will pay off. Especially playing those inner voices on viola. Of course, pianists ought to play a bowed instrument, woodwind, or work on their voice to get that understanding of music that is utterly absent from the keyboard. When I was majoring in music, I knew a really good violinist who just couldn't grasp theory because he had only ever played the violin. Couldn't read bass clef. He left. If you're some 14-year-old phenomenon headed for the big competitions, well OK, maybe you don't need piano skills (though...), but the rest of us would be foolish not to work on it. Sightreading Bach chorales will take a long way towards what you need.
August 25, 2019, 2:39 PM · @Paul Smith, I'm a lot older than 14 haha. I had piano lessons in my 2 years at sixth form (last 2 of high school). My theory is decent, and I have a teacher just for theory
Edited: August 25, 2019, 3:26 PM · I play both piano and violin about equally well. You don't have to sell the benefits of piano to me. But if Jake is in his late teens and asking around what he should play for his audition, that sounds like someone who might be a little behind the competition on his main instrument. Not someone who needs imminent immersion in keyboard theory. But hey, let's see what the pros around here say.
August 25, 2019, 3:30 PM · I'm almost 22. Life hit and I didn't have the chance for this before. So am grabbing it with both hands now
August 25, 2019, 4:08 PM · A lot of that decision depends on what is your intended emphasis within the BA or BM music major. If Viola performance is the main priority then your technique already needs to be at the Hindemith-Walton-Bartok level, to win admittance to a first-tier music school AND be competitive at the auditions later on. If your emphasis is something else: composition, music ed., conducting, business, electronics, etc., then it is perfectly reasonable to work on your piano skills, go to the less expensive local state univ., and not need the B.M route.
August 25, 2019, 4:16 PM · @Joel, I'm not auditioning just yet. Giving myself 3 years (application year of 25th birthday), to start the September of my 26th
August 25, 2019, 8:52 PM · Jake's in the UK, if I recall correctly. As such, he should presumably know the pieces that are in the ABRSM lists going as high up the grade levels as possible.
Edited: August 26, 2019, 12:12 AM · A music college audition is likely to require at least DipABRSM level repertoire. I had a DipABRSM in piano performance when applying to colleges (not for music), and I'm guessing I would have been a marginal candidate for admission to second-tier piano performance programs.
August 26, 2019, 2:18 AM · @Lydia & Andrew, the 2 colleges which specify pieces, said pieces are from the DipABRSM syllabus
Edited: August 26, 2019, 8:49 AM · Jake I think the principle is simple really. It does not really matter what you have played other than your audition pieces. Because it is the audition that counts. So you "merely" have to be able to play your adition pieces really well, and these should be among the standard audition pieces. Of course nobody will expect you play like an international soloist, but still, the tempo must be right, the tone must be good, the intonation must be clear (as Mark Kliesen already replied). Obviously, if you are able to do that, you will be automatically at a level where you are also ready for a lot of other comparable pieces. And conversely, you can only reach such a level if you have indeed also worked on a lot of other pieces and etudes. You can't just start practicing on an audition-level concerto as a beginner, as you must be well aware.
August 26, 2019, 8:51 AM · @Jean, I know haha. I just didn't want to go and just be able to play my audition pieces. I want to have more stuff in my rep is all
August 26, 2019, 11:46 AM · I have my concerto chosen anyway. Just need to pick the "contrasting piece"
August 27, 2019, 6:28 AM · Ah OK Jake now I understand your question, you are just asking "what are the standard pieces viola students go through prior to entering conservatory". Indeed nobody answered that yet. I would suppose the ABRSM requirements for pieces for viola levels 7 and 8 give a good idea? See
August 27, 2019, 8:35 AM · At least 2-3 of Bach cello suites would be expected and standard Baroque/classical concerti (Telemann, Handel, JC Bach, Hoffmeister, Stamitz). Maybe one of the common sonatas like Clarke, Schubert, Bloch, Brahms, Schumann, etc. And likely at least one of the "big" concertos (Hindemith, Walton, Bartok) prepared for the audition.
August 27, 2019, 9:43 AM · Our UK colleges are ok with Hoffmeister/Stamitz concertos in audition
August 27, 2019, 12:18 PM · Since it was mentioned upthread, I want to address the issue of piano skills for the benefit of those following this discussion. Note: my comments are USA-specific.

I am in complete agreement regarding the usefulness of piano skills for instrumentalists and singers. However, it is an utter waste of time to take away practice time from the primary instrument to learn piano prior to getting into conservatory. Piano skills won't help you pass the audition; that is 100% based on your primary instrument. Once you get in, the conservatory or university will have their own piano class sequence that is required for all.

I say this as someone who had six plus years of piano lessons under my belt when I got into Oberlin; my daughter got into the Jacobs School with absolutely zero piano experience and is enrolled (along with everyone else) in the freshman piano class.

August 27, 2019, 1:08 PM · Mary Ellen, I think it is the same here. Although I think a lot of people who apply already have a high level of piano, but not required
August 27, 2019, 10:51 PM · Piano is merely a conduit for learning theory and counterpoint. Sure, it's nice if you can accompany your Suzuki kids, but you're never going to play piano concertos.
August 28, 2019, 1:59 PM · @Paul, I get that. But that doesn't stop a lot of people haha

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