Education of any sort is in effect, the process of communication. Whenever we seek education we are looking for instruction that is imparted to us in a way that is understandable. This notion is no different when you are seeking the music school that fits your needs. As much as you would like to be granted entry into a music school, you have to remember that the interviewing process is a fast but firm two way street. You are also interviewing the music school of your choice to make sure that they can meet your criteria just as much as you (or your child) need to fit theirs.
One of the best ways to interview a music school is to start your own process before you ever start researching which one you’d like to attend. For many eager student musicians, this step has already been mistakenly sidestepped and you believe you already found the perfect choice. Regardless, with as little information as possible rambling around in your brain, try to conjure up the five most important elements you believe a music school should offer. For instance, some people believe that all music schools should teach the classics, even when they are teaching additional elements and genres. Some students feel strongly that if their interest is in blues that they should be permitted to study the blues and nothing else. Whatever you feel your criteria should look like is of your own choosing, and you can develop a list with significant ease if you keep your own vision clear and your needs on the top shelf.
Once you have determined the five most important elements in your music school of choice, start researching. Chances are pretty good that the school you have created in your head doesn’t exist, at least not an absolute perfect match. However, there is a serious likelihood that there are music schools that will match enough of your own self proclaimed criteria to warrant further investigation. As you make your appointments to determine which music schools fit your notions and ideals as closely as possible, it wouldn’t be unheard of to find yourself becoming nervous. You want to attend. This is the time to remember that you are also interviewing them.
When you interview a music school, listen to everything that is said, and don’t be afraid to take notes. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is human nature to filter out the information that we don’t particularly want to hear, because we want the school of our choice to be perfect. Just because you are hearing information that doesn’t match entirely the scenario in your head doesn’t mean that the music school you’re interviewing won’t be a good match. Discuss points of interest as well as concerns. In some cases, during the interview process, you are being given general information while the reality can be deemed much more flexible. Perhaps you are concerned about tuition, but when you press for payment options, you find that there are numerous flexible payment arrangements that are available.
If you are uncomfortable, beyond the usual I-want-to-get-in jitters, pay attention to those signals. If someone is treating you in a way that is making you feel uncomfortable before you are even a student, you can take this as a sign that you will feel uncomfortable as a student to a higher degree. Music schools generally have significant tuition. You are paying for a service, and you should feel comfortable with the service you are receiving. Once you maintain such a perspective, it is not so difficult to realize that discomfort during the interview process is not necessary.
Always ask to hear the fruit of the school’s labor. Whether that means popping into a class, listening to other students play, or being introduced to private instructors who can demonstrate their own talents (however talent to play doesn’t always indicate talent to teach) before making any type of decision. You want to know the background of the instructors, but their achievements as a musician is not nearly as important as their ability to impart their wisdom unto their students.
Keep in mind as well, that you’re not in it alone. Perhaps the best resource in finding the best school has been around you the entire time. Be sure to ask the opinions of both your private music teachers and your band or orchestra teachers. Chances are they’ve consulted many other students and have done research of their own. In addition, they may be able to point out other considerations you may not have thought of. Another similar resource are your peers. Do you have other friends who are looking to study music as well? Friends of the family? Other people will be happy to share the information and experiences they have had.
Lastly, trust your judgment. If you are comparing music schools against the list you originally made, and they all come out meeting some most of your prerequisite criteria, listen to your instincts. How you felt during your interview in their presence and within their company is a good indicator of how you’ll be encouraged to achieve and excel as their student.