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Blair’s Audition Weekend Helps Applicants Find the Right Fit

by Jul. 31, 2015, 2:38 PM

Earning an undergraduate degree in music is fundamentally different than most other courses of study at Vanderbilt. There’s the increased number of credit hours required—majors at Blair typically require double that of other subjects—not to mention the actual hours practicing an instrument and rehearsing with numerous ensembles. What sets music study apart even further is that a music student will work privately with one instructor on his or her preferred instrument for the entire length of time enrolled.

Blair-audition_celloThat means finding the right fit—for both instructor and student—is of paramount importance.

One tool Blair adopted two years ago to help smooth the application and audition process for prospective students is called Decision Desk. It’s an online program that allows applicants to upload a video audition, as well as letters of recommendation from music instructors (a total of five letters of recommendation is required for music applicants), a music résumé, repertoire they’ve mastered, and any additional music study and teacher information.

Assistant Director of Admissions Molly Jewell, BMus’10, says the program has made the application process easier for both the Blair faculty and admissions staff, as well as for applicants.

“We can see if a prospective student is eligible for a live audition and also whether Vanderbilt will be the right fit,” Jewell says. “And it has created a way for us to refer back to the applicant’s audition during the admissions process. Using the video to prescreen has made logistics easier, too, because it’s not a full, endless day of auditions on both days of the audition weekend.”

Such prescreening provides Blair a better way to identify which of the more than 600 prospective applicants will be invited to audition in person during one of three weekends each January and February. Typically, about 190 applicants are invited to an audition weekend in an effort to create a class of 55 to 60 first-year students. Applicants spend Friday attending classes, observing rehearsals, watching performances, taking a lesson with the faculty member who most likely would work with them as a student, and meeting potential classmates. A test in music theory is also given during the weekend.

The lesson with the faculty member “is equally as important as the audition in some ways because it’s our chance to see how the applicant will work with us and if it’s a good match for them,” Jewell says. “They get to see how much time the faculty takes with students. Because they’re with the same private instructor all four years, that relationship is important for both” the faculty member and applicant to consider.

The specifics of music study require a more complicated admissions process, and because of Blair’s presence within a major research university, the school also looks for applicants who are well-rounded.

“Our environment is not just Blair, it’s Vanderbilt,” Jewell says. “So the applicant needs to be able to do well in a rigorous academic environment as well as do well musically. We’re not just looking for excellent musicians. We’re looking for excellent students.”

Learn more about Blair admissions.