What Does "Going to Music School" Actually Mean?
Duet Partner
February 26, 2024
What Does "Going to Music School" Actually Mean?

Do you have a degree in music? As the mother of a serious high school musician, I’m starting to gear up for a very interesting process: helping my daughter apply to music schools. 

I was raised as a pianist by a professional musician. Even though she spent her career as a performer, her undergraduate degree was actually in Music Education. I knew I didn’t want a performing career myself, but I still went to a school with a graduate School of Music where I could take classes and stay very involved in the music community.

What kind of musical education did you have? How do you feel about that education as you look back on it? At Duet, we are grateful to be partnering with some important voices in the music education community, such as Kelly Riordan, Marcus Grant and Kirsten Haddox, who talk about the role of schooling. 

Happily, music education is an integral part of many higher learning institutions, providing students with opportunities to develop their musical skills, knowledge, and appreciation. Universities across the globe offer a wide range of music education classes catering to diverse interests and skill levels. But anyone who has studied music knows there are various types of music education programs commonly offered by universities and that their objectives, curriculum, and approaches differ.

So if someone like my daughter is considering “music school,” what does that actually even mean?

Studying Music History and Theory

My oldest daughter, already in college, is a Music Minor at a liberal arts school. So while she’s majoring in something totally different, she’s taking the academic classes to get a music minor.

At the core of this path lie foundational courses designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of music theory, history, and appreciation. These classes typically cover topics such as music notation, harmony, rhythm, form, and the historical evolution of music across different cultures and time periods. Through lectures, discussions, and practical exercises, students gain insights into the fundamental elements of music, enabling them to analyze, interpret, and critically evaluate musical compositions.

Being A Performance Studies Major

Rather than study music academically  - focusing on the history, theory or musicology paths - students can focus on the performance skills. Performance-based programs aim to hone students' technical proficiency, interpretative skills, and stage presence through individual and group instruction. Instrumental courses may include piano, guitar, violin, and wind or brass instruments, while vocal courses encompass various genres ranging from classical to contemporary styles.

Participating in Ensembles 

Ensemble participation is a cornerstone of music education, providing students with valuable collaborative experiences and performance opportunities. Universities offer a diverse array of ensemble classes, including orchestras, choirs, jazz bands, chamber groups, and world music ensembles. Through rehearsals and performances, students learn to blend their individual talents, communicate effectively with fellow musicians, and interpret repertoire spanning different genres and cultural traditions.

While many universities allow students to join musical ensembles regardless of their major, some universities require students to be music majors or in a music degree program to participate. Or some ensembles are reserved for music students. 

Focusing on Composition and Arranging

Not interested in performing or in studying history? For aspiring composers and arrangers, universities offer classes focusing on the principles and techniques of musical composition. These courses cover topics such as melody, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, and musical form, empowering students to express their artistic vision through original compositions and arrangements. Through workshops and critiques, students receive guidance from faculty mentors and peers, refining their compositional skills and developing their unique voice as creators.

Music Technology and Production

Of course today much about music happens in conjunction with technology. Technology aids in amplification of live performances, in recording, mixing, editing, etc. 

In response to advancements in digital technology, many universities have integrated courses in music technology and production into their curriculum. These classes explore the use of software, hardware, and recording techniques for music composition, editing, mixing, and mastering. Students learn to navigate digital audio workstations, manipulate sound using effects and processing tools, and produce professional-quality recordings across various genres and styles.

Studying Music Education and Pedagogy

Some students, like my mother, plan to teach from the get go. An actual Music Education course of study offers young teachers tools for a future in a school or private classroom.

Courses for these students might cover topics such as curriculum development, teaching methodologies, classroom management, and assessment strategies. Through practicum experiences and observation opportunities, students gain hands-on teaching experience in diverse educational settings, preparing them for roles as music educators in schools, community programs, and private studios.

Musicology and the Study of Music and Society

Some universities offer interdisciplinary courses that explore the intersection of music with social, cultural, and political issues. These classes examine how music reflects and shapes society, addressing topics such as identity, representation, activism, and globalization. Through critical analysis and dialogue, students gain insights into the cultural significance of music and its role in fostering empathy, understanding, and social change.

Professional Development and Career Preparation

In addition to academic coursework, universities provide resources and opportunities for professional development and career preparation in the field of music. These may include workshops on audition techniques, networking events with industry professionals, internship placements with arts organizations, and seminars on entrepreneurship and marketing. Universities also host guest lectures, masterclasses, and performances featuring renowned artists and scholars, exposing students to diverse perspectives and career pathways within the music industry.

However, with all of the other disciplines and areas of focus in a music degree, we’re aware at Duet Partner that preparing students to run their own independent music teaching studios is often not a priority. There is so much else to cover. That’s where Duet comes in. Did you know that Duet Partner offers free account to students who want to get a jumpstart on their teaching studios? 

Check out this information on our free sponsorship of university student accounts. Contact us at info@duetpartner.com to learn how you can access one of these free accounts. 

Are you a music teacher? Create a professional and streamlined music studio with Duet Partner. See what it can do for you.