Robert Estrin - piano expert

What if You Don't Get Accepted to a Music Conservatory?

Discover the different options for learning music

In this video, Robert gives you some tips to find your way in the music learning world, even if you aren't accepted to the school of your dreams.

Released on April 20, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin. The question we have today is what do you do if you don't get into a music conservatory? I know there are a lot of people out there who work very hard, and can have a crushing defeat in not getting into any schools that they wanted to get into.

You know what? Interestingly, so much of getting into a school is a random process, because it's so subjective. What kind of achievement is worthy of being able to be a music major or not, depends upon who else is applying at that particular semester. It has to do with how many openings they have, it also has to do with the whim of the teacher.

I've had students who've gotten into illustrious conservatories, and yet other schools wouldn't even allow them to audition, can you imagine such a thing? So, you should not be upset if you don't get into a music school, I mean, obviously you're going to be a bit disappointed. The good news is, there are options for you.

Ultimately, if you're a performance major on any instrument, or a composition major, or a conducting major, the most important thing to you is not the school, it's the private teacher. So if you can get a really great teacher for your instrument, you can progress arguably just as fast as you would in a music school.

Particularly if you reach out to other musicians to try to perform with them, to get some performance experience at local community orchestras and things of that nature, you could just as much get musical education without actually going to a conservatory.

Now, another thing you could do though, if you really do want to get a degree, you want to have those letters after your name, and maybe hopefully get a position in the university someday, or just to have the credentials, you could take a couple of years in a local community college, many of which have excellent music programs.

You'd be surprised at the level of teaching at some community colleges in music theory and ensembles. Not only that, even if you plan on going to a major music conservatory, you can get a bunch of your academic work out of the way for bargain prices locally at your local community college, and those credits often times will transfer right over to your four-year degree.

So, don't be devastated if you don't get into the school of your choice, it's not necessarily you. It could be many factors beyond your control, which is the nature of auditions of any sort. Whether its competitions, orchestra auditions or school auditions. It's a numbers game, be sure not to just apply to one or two schools of your choice, have a bunch, and have at least one or two safety schools.

Schools that you feel you have an excellent chance of getting into. Even if they're not your first choice, just so that you have something to do after you graduate. All right, thanks for the great questions. Again, Robert Estrin at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Richard on February 6, 2022 @10:23 am PST
Couldn't agree more with Robert-play on! Most of success goes to people who want to be successful. Not only The Best succeed-and some dont! You only have to be good - and work at it!
Robert Estrin - host, on February 6, 2022 @8:06 pm PST
For those who love music (or anything else), success is being able to devote your life to it.
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on September 5, 2018 @5:49 am PST
Robert you are a gem! I watch your videos as much for your artistry as the subject, if not more. I am an 80yrs old student {intermediate to advanced} with no chance or wish to attend such an important institution but your talk lifted me. Why? Because in all your talks you give hope - 'work and you CAN achieve it' in this case 'there are different ways to achieve your target'. Wonderful - keep it up and thanks. So much of your advice can be transposed to other areas of our lives than music.
Robert Estrin - host, on September 5, 2018 @11:43 am PST
Music is life - playing with passion is a reflection of living with passion!
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on April 21, 2016 @5:35 pm PST
Just a question for my curiosity. We have a lot of high school students who are already on a professional level with one instrument and they play regularly in orchestras. One example is right here where I live, the Highland High School is also home to the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra, in which there are some professionals and some high school students. The question is how can a high school student find the time to become so advanced in a musical instrument? Do we have so many extremely talented music students? I think of what my mother used to tell me that once she entered the conservatory in Trieste, as a young teenager, it was several hours a day of piano practice and no time to study anything else. In the last three years of conservatory her piano teacher was Antonino Votto, who later came to the US, I think called by Arturo Toscanini. I also think of the opposite situation, mine, that once I started junior high school, there was no time for even one hour of daily piano practice, just a little piano during the weekends and summer break. I was stuck on the books sometimes up to 11 PM!
Robert - host, on April 22, 2016 @12:27 pm PST
Our piano showroom/studios are a few blocks from the Orange County School of the Arts. So, we hear phenomenal young musicians performing around the community all the time. Many of them work exceptionally hard to fit in practice time along with academic requirements.

There are many possibilities to the situation you describe. One, is that you live in an extraordinary community with exceptional music education in the schools. Your perception of these young musicians success may be somewhat skewed, as talented as they are.

I am not familiar with the Piedmont Symphony, but I would venture to guess that it doesn't provide a living wage for its members. With the exception of a handful of symphony orchestras in this country with full seasons, the vast majority of orchestras in the United States only provide a sideline for musicians who must find other sources of income. The competition for the few good paying orchestra jobs is fierce and even the finest musicians will only ever have a fighting chance to win an audition to land a job with one.

Becoming a professional musician takes a protracted commitment and perhaps a bit of luck. So, there are many levels of musicianship that may be perceived as "professional".
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on April 22, 2016 @4:53 pm PST
Thank you for your explanation. In the past I heard that regarding the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra, there are 26 paid adult musicians, I am sure they need to supplement their income by giving lessons, etc., the rest is make up with highschool students.
I also know that in Italy, high schools have considerably lightened up their requirements, parents started to complain that it was like a punishment for the entire family having to stay at home to watch their children stuck on the books. And we went to school 6 days a week. They have removed that miserable latin, I had one hour of latin class every morning and at least 2 hours of homework! Totally wasted time, that I could have been enjoying piano lessons and practice!
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