So you’re a percussionist and you’ve decided to go to college for music. Great! Now…which one? Choosing a program takes careful examination and research. These are just a few things to consider in the search process.
Know the tradition.
One of the quickest ways to know if a school is a “good fit” for you is to know their history and musical traditions. Do some research and ask yourself:
What type of literature does the program perform? Does the music department emphasize education, performance, etc? What performance, research, and/or academic opportunities are offered? What are the alumni doing? Many Schools of Music and their percussion departments have webpages. Using these websites and asking friends these questions are great ways to start.
Understand the degree program.
Your time and money are valuable. Know what will be expected of you. Will the set curriculum get you where you want to be? If you’re a Teaching Assistant, what will your duties be? Figure out which classes you will have to take and how many. Some programs will require classes you love. Others may require classes you don’t. Will your schedule be flexible to add any electives that interest you? Figure these out BEFORE you commit.
It’s important to be open to opportunities and different ways of doing things. Be willing to consider a program which focuses on a variety of skills. You will certainly be surrounded by new personalities and people with unique talents. Make the decision to learn from the people wherever you go. There really isn’t such a thing as a “bad percussion school” out there. Anywhere you go will have people worth listening to, so take advantage of it.
Know what you can offer them.
To be seriously considered by a percussion program director, you must bring something to the table. Whether it’s a unique ability to connect with other students, an interest in composition, or knowledge of some of the most underground contemporary music, be able to communicate what you can offer the program.
Research the instructor(s).
Know who is teaching you. Do some research on the primary percussion teachers at your prospective schools. Discover for what they’re regionally/nationally recognized. If this is difficult to ascertain, it could be a red flag. Also, do a little digging on potential ensemble directors and academic instructors. You should know what their individual interests are and where they stand within their field. It’s important to know you’re learning from the best possible teachers.