Speak Coffee starts at her MFA process. I'm going to start with undergrad. why? because explaining my MM or DMA process to date wouldn't make sense without it. Most of you know this story, some of you may not. Dunno who reads this blog. lol.
I didn't come into this world knowing i was going to major in music. I played piano starting at a very young age, took lessons, hardly practiced. In late elementary school, i joined band, played trombone, because i accidently checked trombone instead of tuba. My family wasn't poor at the time, but we didn't have extra money floating around so i was supposed to play a "school" instrument. Alas, i checked the wrong box. heh
High school was a bore. I went to a small rural public school in Indiana. it didn't have all the fancy advantageous of bigger schools, or richer schools. The main form of music was the competitive marching band. In my time from 7th grade till 12th grade, i had 4 directors, and an assistant director. One director was a bit more influential than the rest. He had charisma oozing out of every pore. We all wanted to be music majors after hanging out with him.
At the same time, i did a lot of work for a community theater. It's a moderately successful group, the musicals tend to sell out a 500 seat auditorium at least one night of the run. not bad for a theater situated in a town of 6000 or so. It wasn't quite the draw then, but i still landed a major singing lead at 15 (Edward Rutledge in 1776. Yes, at 15 I sang "Molasses to Rum to Slaves." the archival camera, which patched audio directly from the board, actually shook when i hit the final high note. talk about clipping...). I was a theater brat. my mom has her BFA in theater design/acting/directing (yes, triple major. and almost a music minor, but didn't take theory.)
So, yeah, i didn't know what to do. I knew HS sucked, so i started looking forward to college. During my sophomore year i started planning. I was getting materials sent to me from all over the country. I clearly remember some of the schools i considered before i even nailed down a major: Claremont-McKenna, University of Miami (Fl.), John Hopkins/Peabody Conservatory, DePaul, DePauw, Lawrence University, Case Western Reserve, Carnegie Mellon, Tulane. Obviously, i had no idea what kind of school i wanted to attend or what i wanted to major in. That runs the gamut, i'd say. the only thing was a push away from major state schools and toward private schools. The question to most seniors at my school was "Purdue or IU?" i ran away...
After much soul searching, i decided upon Music over Chemistry. i still miss the feeling i got doing all those experiments, but i've replaced it with other types of experiments now. I narrowed down the schools even more- DePaul, DePauw, Lawrence, Peabody, U Miami. I sent applications to DePaul, DePauw, and Lawrence. Peabody's sat finished, waiting for me to do a recording. U Miami cost more than i was willing to spend (it was, at the time, $110 application fee.)
I didn't understand liberal arts education. I wanted my degree to be more specialized, actually learn SOMETHING rather than a little of everything. I never dreamed of going to grad school- to me a bachelors seemed terminal. I had no idea the difference between a conservatory and school of music and just a music department (my mom tried to explain that a conservatory is usually more hardcore.)
I auditioned at DePauw and Lawrence. my decision at the time was 100% based on money.
What did i learn from this?
1) Start looking at schools early even if you don't know what you want to major in. There are thousands of choices, and, depending where you are, your guidance counselors will be no help. this is especially true in music. The only people who can help are the ensemble directors/music teachers in your school, and they may not know that many programs. I know, i wouldn't have been able to tell students jack after i finished my undergrad degree.
2) Look based somewhat on where you want to live. Close to home? far far away from home? i can tell you, it's nice to have your mom be able to drive down for a concert, but have it be far enough away that it's a special trip. Gave me lots of freedom, but if i needed to get home for some reason, i could. not true anymore.
3) visit the schools. don't send a tape. go audition. do an overnight. talk to current students at ALL levels. find out as much info as possible
4) check your mail...it was in Decemeber, 2002, after i started at DePauw that i found the letter from DePaul. they had offered me a large sum of academic scholarship and wanted me to come audition.
i don't regret my decision, but i do wonder a bit what would have happened at the other schools.
Thus shows my pre-undergrad years. It was a lot of indecision and fumbling around, wondering where to go and what i needed to do. There wasn't much help at my school, other than my band director giving me a few suggestions (of course, his alma mater first. lol).