Although some professional musicians are just naturally gifted, most spend years perfecting their crafts. Music education plays a vital role in developing those abilities, and Oklahoma is home to over 25 collegiate music programs. Every semester, hundreds of prospective students seek admission to one of them.
Virtually all collegiate music programs require students to go through a two-part admissions process. Music students must first apply to the college of their choice. Then, if accepted, they audition for admission to the school of music or the music department.
The requirements for auditions vary from school to school and also by instrument, but most ask the student to perform two musical pieces that contrast in style and showcase technical ability. Some colleges require students to sight-read sheet music or complete an interview.
“We hear some amazing performances,” says Dr. Roland Barrett, Henry Zarrow presidential professor and director of the School of Music at the University of Oklahoma. “The level at which young students are now performing is incredible. It gets better every year.”
Faculty assess students who audition across multiple criteria, such as tonality, lyricism, phrasing and breath support. Although the audition process may cause performance anxiety, both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma strive to make it an encouraging experience for participants.
“We try to find a pathway for students who want to be involved in the program,” says Dr. Jeffrey Loeffert, professor and director at Oklahoma State University’s Greenwood School of Music. “The purpose of the audition is to help ensure that the students can be successful.”
Students typically wait a few days to a couple of weeks to receive the results of their auditions. If accepted, there may be numerous music-related degrees they can pursue, ranging from a Bachelor of Musical Arts to a Bachelor of Science in Music.
While many might assume the end goal would be to become a professional musician or performer, there are many other career paths that music students can take.
According to Barrett, over 90% of the University of Oklahoma’s alumni who have music education degrees secure teaching positions after graduating. Other opportunities include working in arts administration or music production.
“There are many great music programs in the state,” says Barrett. “Our goal is…to provide a welcoming, comfortable, supportive environment, in which all of our students can really feel like they’re being given a chance to thrive, and excel and meet their dreams.”
The Business of it All
At the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO), students have the opportunity to learn from instructors who have toured and performed with musical acts such as The Flaming Lips, Aretha Franklin and Miley Cyrus.
ACM@UCO emphasizes hands-on experience and provides students with access to state-of the-art equipment for recording, producing and performing their own music. Located in OKC’s Bricktown Entertainment District, its facilities include four recording studios, five rehearsal spaces, fully-equipped classrooms, a concert venue and two technology labs. The academy serves nearly 400 full-time students, offering degrees in Contemporary Music Business, Contemporary Music Performance, and Contemporary Music Production.