Approaching Pre-college

Edited: July 9, 2021, 8:48 AM · We are looking at the next step for our daughter. We would be applying for pre college Fall 2022.
Most of the programs are long commutes 4-6 hrs. Each way, with the exception of one that’s about 1.5. One is a boarding school situation.
Any thoughts or recent experiences with NEC, Eastman, CIM, Juilliard pre-college programs? Great teachers at that age?
She has been getting suggestions, connections, recommendations to programs and faculty at summer camps this year. She has been making strides this year and would meet the minimum standards for all of these. Who knows about acceptance, but people she is playing for are encouraging.
Getting the best fit teacher wise and some financial aid are the priorities. Preferably not being in the car 12 hours every weekend of HS.
Is it acceptable for pre college to take take a collegiate approach to these applications? Meaning apply to all of them, audition,and see if you get in, who's studio wants you and what the money looks like. Then choose?
Lastly, how does one approach teachers for trial lessons, especially the most sought after, Email? Email with a video?

Replies (13)

July 9, 2021, 8:51 AM · Just as an edit, Juilliard is the hardest on all levels and I have a good sense of the faculty there. So not much need to discuss Perlman, Cho, Lin, etc. And I left out MSM.
July 9, 2021, 9:28 AM · Having heard her play in the past, I think she has a good chance for most of these programs. There are a few others that would also be an option if you are considering boarding -- Walnut Hill, Colburn Academy, and possibly Interlochen Arts Academy or Idyllwild.

Transportation is definitely an issue, and if it is more than 2-3 hours away, you really need to add on at least a night of lodging each week, since these programs typically run all day on Saturdays.

My son's program covers the midwest, with students typically from as far west as the Dakotas to as far east as Michigan and as far north as lower Canada, though occasionally an east coast kid will fly in as well. Some students fly in weekly and stay from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, with the pre-college program on Saturday and their lesson and an additional chamber rehearsal on Sunday. Obviously, that is really pricy with two nights of hotel plus a flight every week, on top of tuition.

Another option is to have one parent (or both) temporarily relocate. We had one student from Costa Rica who just moved here for four years. One of the North Dakota families relocated entirely after two years of commuting in.

Finally, the last option is a host family, though I have mostly seen this at age 16 and up. The student lives with another student in the program, a teacher, staff member, or other volunteer community family for a year or two while attending. This typically happened after the student commuted for a year and then wanted to be here full time.

One last thing -- even though the programs SAY they are just on Saturdays, they routinely end up having rehearsals or classes of some sort at least three days a week, meaning you may have to be commuting there multiple times a week.

None of that answers any of your questions, but I think it is important to consider because commuting can take up so much time and can end up being really costly.

As for specific programs, I would rank three of the ones you listed as top tier -- NEC, Juilliard, and CIM. MSM and Eastman are not as overall strong, though there are certainly some great teachers at each place and the programs would certainly prepare her just fine. I think all of these programs allow you to study with college faculty, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will get to do so right away -- or ever. Choosing based on teacher is a bit hard for precollege because the teacher often will change as the student gets better and older. Also, even if you do get placed in a higher-level studio, that doesn't mean you will always be seeing that teacher. For example, in my son's program, Mrs. Vamos sends most of the younger students either full time or part time to her teaching assistant (and she's not even taking very many kids anymore).

I would definitely apply to at least a few of them, because the top ones are definitely very hard to get in to for violin. But I wouldn't apply to ALL of them. That's overkill.

July 9, 2021, 9:50 AM · I'd think long and hard about what it means to your family to lose your weekends throughout the entire school year. That's a lot of time in the car, too, and don't forget about the cost of the wear and tear on your car from the sheer grind of the mileage. Also remember that six hours in the fall can turn into a lot more than that in the winter snow.

Also, I'd think carefully about what it means to lose the practice time on those days. The Saturday might normally be skipped because of the sheer amount of music on that day, but if your child normally practices on lesson days, that would probably end up getting lost on the Sunday, and likely on the Friday as well. So now that means that personal practice is only being done four days a week.

I seem to recall that you're in someplace pretty rural, so flying might not be an option, but I think flying would certainly be preferable to a 6-hour drive. (But given the requirements to now be at the airport pretty early for flights, the drive needs to be 4+ hours for flying to save you meaningful time, I think.)

1.5 hours each way is still going to feel like a grind, but 4-6 hours really requires an overnight stay. In the end your primary costs will not be the program itself. It will be the commute plus the hotel.

Edited: July 9, 2021, 10:01 AM · I recently read of someone doing it with a mobile home/RV.
July 9, 2021, 5:00 PM · I teach at a boarding school in Connecticut, and I have a number of students in my orchestra each year who make the 2 hour drive (4 hours round trip) on weekends to attend the pre-college programs at Juilliard in NYC or NEC in Boston. It's quite a commitment, and they've had to be very resourceful with using their time in transit, whether it is by car or by train, to read and do what homework they can. For a couple whom it is a critical part of their performance training, I know the families just straight out moved to the city to eliminate the transit time, albeit at great cost.

I'm hoping that I can develop the school's program to include more of the aspects that they are traveling so far to get, including a regularly weekly performance class, masterclasses with high-profile teachers, and concert opportunities so that they don't feel like they *have* to make the trek to get those experiences.

July 9, 2021, 5:34 PM · Susan, thanks, I’ll send a message through IG with more specifics.
She’s made some strides recently.
We are looking at boarding. Not really something we would have considered before violin.
She is having a lesson with Ms. Vamos next week, who just happens to be in the area.
Lydia, yes, we are chewing on all these factors. The 1.5 hour drive would not bother us, we drive 1 hour each way for lessons (pre COVID) But no violin focused program there.
July 9, 2021, 6:59 PM · Moving is not an option for us, for a variety of reasons.
July 9, 2021, 8:07 PM · A six hour commute each way, even once a week, sounds awful. Lydia's point that it will cut into her practice schedule seems very likely.

I think your best bet might be a host family. People host "exchange students" all the time. The only differences are that (a) it's not reciprocal, so you'd be paying room and board, and (b) the host family needs to really like the sound of violin-practicing.

July 10, 2021, 2:04 PM · I think I prefer Susan's suggestion of an arts boarding school to driving several hours a week. Another girl in my daughter's teacher's studio several years ago transferred to Walnut Hill for her junior and senior years and went on to Northwestern then Juilliard. I also think it's unfortunate that relocation isn't an option - there's something to be said for living in an area with a vibrant arts scene and having access to a variety of music and musical opportunities.
Edited: July 10, 2021, 2:37 PM · In support of Matthew, there's no way my wife and I could move to "the city" either without wholesale career changes and a change in lifestyle approaching financial ruin (have you looked at real estate lately?), and we'd be starting over making all new friends, etc. Moving your whole family so that your child can attend a posh music school is just not a good option for some people.
Edited: July 10, 2021, 2:58 PM · We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. We are not rich. We are quite poor actually but we make do with what we can afford.

It’s not easy but it’s not impossible.

Having said that, we won’t relocate for violin. This subject comes up time to time for our daughter but we are happy where we are and daughter herself cannot imagine growing up anywhere else. So no precollege for her until she’s 16 when I can imagine being okay with sending her to a boarding school.

July 10, 2021, 4:37 PM · Gene, a 2 hour each way drive to Juilliard would be a no brainer for us. (If she could get in).
Paul is correct and for some of the same reasons. My wife is a tenured professor closer to retirement than not. We are studio artists and our studio would not be replaceable, certainly in the areas we are talking about.
July 10, 2021, 9:01 PM · Is there anyway to work things out with the program that's 1.5 hours away? Do they have a teacher who could be a good match for your daughter?

I know a thing or two about long-distance commuting and it isn't something I would ever want to do again.


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