Top 3 Factors in Finding YOUR Program
We all know that applying for college/grad school can be daunting. There is so much research to be done on each individual program before deciding whether you even want to apply... Then the work begins: preparing the applications (full of résumés, letters of recommendation and deadlines), pre-screening, the live audition (fulling the repertoire requirements, understanding the procedures, and booking your travel), and touring the school (performance facilities, studios, practice rooms, and dorms/off-campus housing).
Tons of information is at your finger tips already, but here are some of my "big picture" ideas to keep in mind overall when trying to pick the right program for you:
3. Post-Graduation Factor
What are the alumni of your perspective program doing now? This is a big question and not to be brushed under the rug. Remember that in the arts world the connections you make at school can last your entire career in the real world. Who someone works with during their time is school has lasting implications after graduation. Which artists inspire you? Where did they train or get their start? Seek out alumni of the programs that interest you and ask them questions. Even if they are high profile, in this day and age of social media you'd be surprised how happy they'd be to reply with a simple tweet or message.
By "culture", I mean asking the question, "can I see myself as a part of this community?" How a school looks on paper is very different from how it feels in person. Do your homework and know all the details about a school, but then when you visit really listen to how you engage with your surroundings. Can you see yourself learning in this environment? What is the student body like? The teachers? Administration and Staff? Really look for a community where you can thrive, be challenged and nurtured, be pushed and let your uniqueness shine.
The most important factor for picking a program, in my option, is personnel. Whose hands will you be placing yourself into for 4 years of your life? Who loves to educate artists, not merely promote or produce talent that will reflect positively back on themselves? Day in and day out, who do you want to go to work with and give everything you've got to? These are big questions, but research thoroughly: reach out to as many faculty members as possible and ask tons of questions. Being a member of a conservatory is like joining a new family. Make sure you feel welcomed, embraced, and challenged by that family. Remember, they wouldn't have a job if it weren't for the students like you, so try them out as much as they are trying you out.
Hope these ideas help in guiding you to discover the best place for YOU to grow into the artist you dream of becoming.