SAT for Music

November 3, 2020, 4:31 PM · Hello, I was wondering if I needed to take a SAT test to apply for some colleges to major in Music Performance, did some of you got any info on that? Thanks

Replies (29)

November 3, 2020, 5:05 PM · A lot of schools are waiving the SAT requirement, including the Cal State universities and University of California system.

November 3, 2020, 6:27 PM · You should check the requirements for each school you’re interested in.
Edited: November 3, 2020, 9:25 PM · Yeah you just have to check the school. It's the school that sets these requirements. Individual departments really don't have any say unless it's some kind of really special program. Colleges and universities are in a pickle -- they want something objective to measure applicant quality, but they KNOW that the standard instruments like the SAT and the ACT are not only expensive but significantly flawed.
November 4, 2020, 4:54 AM · Mary Ellen raises a good point -- have you looked into any specific schools you might want to apply for? If you're deciding whether or not to take the SAT it seems as if you might be a high school junior at this point. Now is the time to be doing serious searching for whatever schools you will want to apply for. Then you should check out what their application requirements are.

Be sure to check the audition requirements NOW to see what pieces you will need to be able to play well in order to get in. Many music departments and schools require at least one movement, many require two, from a major concerto, and those can't be learned overnight or even in a couple of weeks. Auditions also usually require a lot of scales, so start working with your teacher NOW to get the material mastered.

It seems as if you want to major in music, and since you're asking here at my guess is that you want to major in violin performance. Find a school where you can graduate with a marketable major such as Music Education or Music Therapy or where you can double-major in violin performance and something like business or one of the sciences. That's very difficult, given the amount of practice time you will need every day while in college, but many colleges have requirements for each major that you take a certain number of credits outside your major. That makes doing a double-major possible because the major requirements for one major can serve as the "credits outside your major" for the other major, and vice-versa.

Also as you search for colleges to apply to, do research on who their violin teachers are. If possible take an individual lesson with each violin teacher before applying (I realize that can be expensive) to find out whether you think you will be able to get along with that teacher for four years. Also realize that just because a teacher is on the faculty this year that doesn't guarantee they will be there next year, but nothing can guarantee who will be the violin teacher next year or the year after. Find out how long the teacher has been on the faculty already -- that might help to consider whether the same teacher will be there when you apply.

These are the kinds of things that high school guidance counselors often neglect to share with students and now is the time to investigate them, rather than getting your heart set on one or two schools from which you might graduate with an unmarketable performance degree. I know that at your age it's hard to think of life post-college, but you need to think about that in order to make the most of your college education.

In reality, taking the SAT is just a minor aspect of the whole college search and application processes. But if you can find three or four colleges you would like to apply for that don't require either the SAT or ACT, then you won't have to take them at all.

Be sure to find three or four colleges, SAT/ACT requirement or not, of varying degrees of probability of acceptance for you. Make sure to include at least one college you're practically guaranteed to get into (usually your state's major university) so you'll have a fall-back school in case the other schools are too competitive or financially don't offer you enough aid to make it affordable.

Edited: November 5, 2020, 2:05 PM · Wow, that's some nice and detailed advice! Thank you!. As you have deducted, I'm a high school junior, and yes, I'm thinking about if should I take act/sat or not.
The thing is, I think double-majoring would be too expensive (and maybe too demanding) to me; my expectations are to get into somewhat middle third/low second tier, like Baylor or maybe USC, getting finantial aid, and then, loans. In any case, if I could, I could see myself getting a MBA after the bachelor, or something, but that would also require ACT.
Right now, I'm finishing Kreutzer book, have a pair of Flesch scales and 1 Bach partita on my pocket, and working my way through Bruch's VC, 1st and 2nd movement. I want to start a Paganini caprice and some Mendelssohn or Wieniawski or something like that next year, and then w/e I'm missing on the summer; though, also, I could have one more year to prepare for college if needed, and maybe to apply to a better uni, but I don't know.
November 5, 2020, 2:31 PM · I've never heard of a college/university charging more for a double-major. As for the demanding aspect, you will have to take courses/credits outside your music major. You will need (for most colleges/universities) 120 credits to graduate. This is what you need to be asking these colleges right now -- contact USC and Baylor and ASK them if it will cost more to get a double major. Regarding music performance majors, the "better/worse" aspect of a college isn't as important as the quality of the violin teacher you'll be working with.

Most auditions for professional jobs don't care so much about which college you attend -- they more care about how much orchestra experience you've had and then if they let you audition, how well you play. Period. Sure, maybe graduating from Juilliard or Curtis with a violin performance degree might get you the chance to play an audition live that USC or Baylor might not get you, but if you're only looking into things now Juilliard and Curtis are not schools you'll be able to get into.

My son, a trumpet music-ed major as an undergrad and a masters of trumpet performance from Hartt and a graduate professional diploma from Hartt, has been turned down for live auditions of professional orchestras because the only orchestral experience he has had was in college. Nobody wants to be the first to take a chance on a new musician. So whatever school you graduate from you will most likely have to audition and get a job playing in a per-service orchestra, then move up to a slightly higher paying per-service orchestra, then move up to an orchestra which pays an annual salary but not large enough to be your sole means of support, and so on and so on until you finally pass an audition (very rare) into an orchestra which pays a nice salary that's good to live on.

Which brings me back to getting a "marketable" major -- one that can easily lead to employment, such as music-ed or double major.

DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about what will or not happen with a given college, like your statement about a double major costing more. Get the information from the people who actually know, the colleges themselves. If it does cost more, find out how much.

One avenue to consider -- major in something you might be interested in, such as business, and MINOR in music. Take violin lessons just as if you were a performance major. You can graduate with the same skill level very likely but might be better able to find a job.

November 5, 2020, 2:34 PM · If you're someday interested in getting an MBA, you would take the GMAT just prior to applying. Most other graduate programs use the GRE. The SAT/ACT is used only for undergrad programs.

Many schools are waiving the SAT/ACT for seniors applying right now. There's a good chance that this won't be true next fall, though. If you are applying to most conservatories embedded in a university, the SAT or ACT will likely be required; you have to pass the general admissions bar with decent grades, too.

If you're generally a good student, you can go sit the SAT or ACT with minimal or no preparation and do just fine. If you need financial aid in order to pay for the exams, you can apply for that.

November 5, 2020, 3:00 PM · Baylor has a fairly new program where students can major in something else and minor in music performance, avoiding the usual issue that a music minor is heavy on academics (theory and music history), and light on performance.

“My son, a trumpet music-ed major as an undergrad and a masters of trumpet performance from Hartt and a graduate professional diploma from Hartt, has been turned down for live auditions of professional orchestras because the only orchestral experience he has had was in college. Nobody wants to be the first to take a chance on a new musician.“

There is some truth to this, but while I am sure your son’s instruction was excellent, Hartt is not typically considered a major music school. If he had Juilliard on his resume instead of Hartt, I strongly suspect he would be getting invitations to auditions that are currently turning him down. Still, your advice is good regarding getting professional experience in per service orchestras.

If by USC you mean the University of Southern California, that is not a second-tier music school. That is a very good school, and extremely expensive. My daughter was advised not to apply there despite its excellent flute professor because we were so unlikely to get enough financial aid to make it possible for her to attend. If you mean the University of South Carolina, that’s different. :-)

Double majoring is only more expensive if you need an extra year.

If you’re a junior, you should be preparing your audition repertoire now. Please discuss your hopes, ambitions and schools of interest with your teacher ASAP if you haven’t already.

If everything in your life works out the way you want it to, what do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

November 6, 2020, 6:00 PM · OP, it's unclear from your posts what a career in music means to you. Why the possible MBA, for instance? If you wanted to go into arts management, you'd get a master's in arts administration, probably, rather than MBA. I'm guessing a performing career is not in your plans, since you're figuring a second or third-tier school.

Note that USC is NOT a second-tier school, and academically, it is also quite competitive. And it is expensive.

Double majors can be somewhat more expensive because you may have additional lab fees, etc. but as long as you finish in 4 years, they won't charge you for taking more classes each semester (which is usually what you do to get both degrees into 4 years).

November 7, 2020, 12:34 PM · Well, I meant the California one. I have also thought about Rice, but I think that would be a bit out of reach. If everything works the way I want to, in 10 years I see me with a degree and a tenure in some orchestral job, living somewhat comfortably.
But, now I don't know: I have read so much info, that I got a bit demorallized. Doing something like that was always my dream, but it seems its so unusual, and everybody brings me down, specially with the finantial part, that I got a bit depressed, or maybe angustiated.
In this forum, I have seen a lot of advice from David, but in almost every thread he talks about his son's story, and I don't know how to say it without sounding a bit harsh, but I don't think everybody will have the same experience as your son. In addition, trumpet isn't the same than violin, neither going to Hartt, to different colleges.
I just think Balley, who has got a bad experience with the degree, has grown despise for it, but I'll consider it. (no offense intended).
November 7, 2020, 12:36 PM · No, I meant the MBA because my academics aren't bad, and I could study and suceed in w/e field around that, but, I really want to be a music performer, I just thought about it as a backup plan, or idk.
November 7, 2020, 12:42 PM · I threw MBA as a idea, but I could do MBA, Sound Engineering, Math, maybe Art History. The thing is, I could do many things, and I wouldn't mind to, but I really want MP. The thing is, now I'm starting to doubt if should I, because it would be extra work, for less pay, and also more debt. Playing the violin is my vocation, but my doubt is if should I make it my profession too.
Edited: November 7, 2020, 5:49 PM · This recent thread on being an orchestral violinist is almost certain to be of interest: LINK

Yes, when we say USC we mean University of Southern California. It is a very competitive school with an excellent music program (once upon a time, Heifetz taught there); it is certainly not a "safety" school.

Rice is a top-tier conservatory as well as one of the most academically competitive universities in the US -- think of it as Ivy League equivalent in its competitiveness. Double majoring there is a popular choice, but it's for quite extraordinarily capable students and musicians.

A more relevant question is how you get from thinking that a "middle third/low second tier" school is right for you now -- but you hope to land one of the rare full-time, tenured orchestra seats, which only a tiny fraction of the graduates from top-tier schools manage to do. How do you plan to get from this point to that point?

Many of the pros who post here -- and many pros in general -- believe that if you think you can be happy doing something other than music, you should do that thing. If you've got great academics, strongly consider another profession, but do it at a school that can support you in continuing to improve as a violinist. (The Baylor program mentioned earlier in this thread would be well suited to that.)

An undergrad degree in sound engineering is very practical and would allow you to stay close to the music industry for your career. Note that you can pursue an MBA after almost any undergrad degree -- even a violin performance degree -- so if ultimately you want an MBA, your undergrad major matters slightly less (though given that most MBA programs now want you to work a few years before you apply, your undergrad will determine to some degree what industry you end up in).

November 7, 2020, 6:22 PM · I mean, I think I can be happy doing something other than music, but I didn't found it yet; by no means I think that music is the only thing that I do well or something around that, so that's why I am starting to doubt. I also have a calculation where for some conservatories the standarized tests require almost the same results than some good STEM or so colleges, IN ADDITION of the audition ones, and I'm evaluating if for less effort, I could get in a even better college for other degree.

Also, the orchestral job was a hypothetical situation where all plans would go well, though, if we are going to make that statements, I could see myself on a soloist position, if I was to speculate. That, would be the real thing. A orchestral/chamber job, would be another thing that I could me see doing for a living, related to playing the violin, as I am not seeing myself teaching. Now, with that reasoning, I realize that more often than not that would mean that even with the orchestral job, the paying wouldn't be enough. Furthermore, I read the link that you sent, and I'm starting to think that chair isn't as desirable as maybe it would seem a priori. And realizing that, it makes me a bit sad. On another side, I need to choose a career before the end of the year, so I can start paying the opportunity cost of studying one thing or another in advance.

People (not you) boast about pursuing your dreams, babble about doing what you want, but then comes the reality to slap you in your face.

November 7, 2020, 6:32 PM · In other order of things, I maybe could take a gape year, if I were to improve, or if I saw myself a bit low, to be a little more competitive, and, say, by the end of 2022 to be playing at a decent level a Conus, or some of the big 3 concertos, but that would be assuming I choosed MP
November 8, 2020, 5:10 AM · I'm only trying to help you do whatever you do with open eyes and a clearly made decision. I don't despise a performance degree -- it's just not a guarantee to a nice tenured performing job in a decent orchestra at a decent salary.

A flute student of mine years ago when she was in middle school went with her school to an educational concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, after which she was able to speak with the principal flute. At that time, which was 30 years ago or so, the principal flute player said that whenever there is an opening in the flute section they get a THOUSAND applications. Only one person gets the job. What do the other 999 people do? Keep looking. There aren't that many orchestras around.

You're correct that there's a difference between trumpet and violin -- large orchestras only hire 4 trumpets but they hire around 30-40 violins. However in most music schools the number of violin students is much higher than the number of trumpet students, so when there is one opening for a violinist there is a proportionally higher number of competing violinists. Most full-time orchestras do not have a steady stream of multiple openings in any section. Usually one or maybe two in the violins, often due to either the person moving up to a better paying orchestra or retiring. There are not a lot of openings for any instrument in a given year.

Whatever colleges you apply to, since your dream is to have a tenured job in an orchestra, find out what the job placement is for their violin students.

It's quite possible to build a life for yourself in music, but you need to face the reality that most people who have built a life in music have put together several income streams including performing, and often teaching private lessons in addition to performing.

A college education costs a heck of a lot of money these days, and it's a shame for a person not to know ahead of time that it's possible to spend $200,000 on a college education only to find once they have that degree in their hands that there is no employment for them.

I don't really care what you decide as long as you make your decision based on reality and not just a dream. You will likely end up with college loans which will need to be repaid starting a few months after you graduate. If you're lucky enough not to have to worry about that, then by all means pursue a performance degree without a second major to help you gain employment. But if you're like the vast majority of college students, you will need to land a good paying job right out of college, and unfortunately in the musical world that's not often possible.

November 8, 2020, 12:50 PM · Someone more knowledgeable should comment on OP's repertoire level. We were told Bruch, Mozart 5, some Partita were a rough minimum for a high school freshman at Interlochen or Walnut Hill, and many pre-college programs.
Gap year sounds like a great idea, double down on practice, with a teacher who has prepared others successfully for conservatories.
November 8, 2020, 2:43 PM · Even if you *do* get a full-time orchestral job, almost everyone with such a position also supplements their income with teaching. In many cases it's a necessity not just a nice-to-have extra income stream. It's a tough life. Rehearsals plus personal practice in the day, concerts in the evenings, teaching with your spare hours -- it's not unusual for even violinists with very secure orchestral jobs to work 7 days a week.

If you had any possibility of being a professional soloist, that track would already be clear to you, and by your age, you would probably be winning a steady streak of competitions, moving towards competing at the national or international level.

Test prep for the standardized tests shouldn't require a lot of work unless you haven't really done well academically and need a lot of remediation. You can just go take those tests. Your scores are going to determine where you can apply and to some degree may impact your ability to get certain types of scholarships.

It is worth asking yourself why you are not a better player right now. Have you not practiced much? If not, why is that? What else have you been prioritizing in your life? How good is your teacher? etc. If you want to change your trajectory you've got to figure out what that looks like -- and your parents need to be supportive of that.

November 8, 2020, 3:28 PM · Well, I've been practicing thoroughly for the last 8 years, tho I play since 7. I had one period when I had 10-12 when I didn't practice as much, and since the pandemics started, I'm not practicing as much as what I did last year.
November 8, 2020, 3:38 PM · How many hours a day? And does your teacher routine prepare students for conservatory?
November 8, 2020, 3:59 PM · Why didn't I? When I was 10, I just didn't see what I see now, and well, it was like only a hobby then. Now, I got so overwhelmed by high school homework and such that I lost practice time. It striked me a lot, bc I wasn't prepared/organized, but that won't happen again, I'm recovered now.
Though, I don't think I have done little: I did Beethoven sonatas 1 and 8, saint saens sonata 1, sarasate Zapateado; and now, I intend to somewhat finish with bruch by December or January; after that, I need to ask my teacher.
November 8, 2020, 4:06 PM · Last year, it was something between 4 and 5, but now, its between 2 and 3 hours; anyways, I'll boost that on holidays.
November 8, 2020, 7:06 PM · I'm also thinking about going to some summer camp in, well, summer, but I don't know to which.
November 8, 2020, 7:42 PM · That is certainly a lot of practice time -- a pre-professional amount of practice time. Two hours a day is solid; five hours a day is a very great deal. With that amount of practice time you should be making terrific progress. Have you talked to your teacher about a conservatory plan and recommendations for where to apply?

Where does your teacher usually recommend their pre-conservatory students go to summer camp? Orchestral, chamber, or practice jail (Meadowmount)?

November 17, 2020, 3:58 PM · Sorry for not replying; I didn't have internet in 15 days.
Well, I have not talked to my teacher, but next time I'll see her, I'll ask her.
IIRC, she doesn't recommend often any summer camps.
November 17, 2020, 10:45 PM · Why doesn't your teacher recommend going to summer camps? They are hugely valuable.

What conservatories does your teacher usually recommend her students apply to, and where do they end up going?

Edited: November 18, 2020, 7:19 AM · I agree with Lydia about summer camps. I hope your teacher is not just worried about losing a month of income from your lessons while you are off getting a fresh injection of advice into your skill, inspiration for your overall motivation toward musicianship, and invaluable networking opportunities with peers and potential future professors. Your teacher should be talking to you about this now at the latest because auditions -- aren't they due pretty soon for the serious camps?
November 18, 2020, 7:23 AM · Take the SATs. There's basically no down side to taking them if you don't need them and (1) you may test great and (2) they may give you options you wouldn't have otherwise. For any of your plan Bs they are probably a help. These are also strange times. Hopefully everything will be back to normal in a year, but you may find that you want to take some classes locally, do summer music courses, etc., and having the SATs could be a help.
November 18, 2020, 7:23 AM · Take the SATs. There's basically no down side to taking them if you don't need them and (1) you may test great and (2) they may give you options you wouldn't have otherwise. For any of your plan Bs they are probably a help. These are also strange times. Hopefully everything will be back to normal in a year, but you may find that you want to take some classes locally, do summer music courses, etc., and having the SATs could be a help.

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