My district is transitioning to the Career Academy model, which focuses on college and career readiness. In short, each student will select a career academy by the end of their sophomore year which will house courses both in the field they are interested in addition to their general education requirements. While I see how it can greatly benefit the students desiring careers in the medical or business fields, I have pondered what it looks likes in the arts world.
In my profesional opinion, 4 years in a large ensemble (choir, orchestra, band) does not deem a student college or career ready if they are pursuing an arts career. While students are exposed to 4 years of literature, and receive general musicianship trip training, there are huge deficits in their music education as a whole.
So what does college preparation look like for prospective music students?
First, they need private study.
Singing in the choir or playing in the band teaches you ensemble skills and creates a foundation for solo performance skills. Private study gives the student individualized instruction in technique that can’t always be offered in school. In order to prepare for college auditions, students need to be exposed to solo literature that usually requires a higher command of their instrument. While private lessons can be pricey, the time is really invaluable when you consider audition and college preparation.
They need exceptional musicianship skills.
As I say in my classroom, “Sight-reading is the key to life.” While that statement is slightly exaggerated and humorous, it is one of my most important skills for any musician. If you can sight read well, you are truly an asset to any ensemble. If the director can spend more time making music and less time teaching notes, that’s the dream right there! Students need a solid foundation of theory in order to be competitive during the audition process.
They need unique musical experiences.
As much as I hate self-advertising myself, it’s important that students can articulate why they are set apart from other candidates. One way is through unique experiences. Maybe they performed a masterwork, recorded an album of original music, composed a piece for their high school ensemble, conducted their peers, gave a recital, organized an arts event, shadowed an arts professional, etc. This shows the institution that they are already pursuing their career goals and gleaning valuable knowledge and experience.
Where do we fit in?
As educators, we need to have the resources available to provide these skills and experiences. We need to have a list of private instructors ready for referral. We need to spend time on music literacy and musicianship skills in our rehearsals. We either need to find or create experiences for them. Students can’t do it alone!
How are you preparing students for collegiate arts study? Feel free to leave a comment below, or send a tweet to @LindsayBrazell