Applicants Pursue Higher Art and Music Education

Senior William Shropshire’s life is different from a typical high school senior’s. He has to deal with all of the usual pressures of homework and college applications, but instead of coming home from sports practice and starting homework, Shropshire returns to a violin, a bagpipe, and a marching band drum core uniform. He uses his computer for Facebook and YouTube, but also for Sibellius’music-writing software.

Shropshire is part of a small group of students looking to go into the arts in college. He wants to major in musical composition, and Vanderbilt University is his top choice.

“Because I’m going into musical composition, a lot of schools require you to submit a portfolio of two to three pieces that you’ve written. a�� It’s been a difficult process putting that together on top of continuing with IB and submitting regular applications,” Shropshire said.

Senior Konrad Swartz also wants to continue with music, but with music education. He plays baritone, trombone, bass, percussion, piano and cello, and has been part of almost every instrumental music ensemble offered at RHS.

“I thought about majoring in performance, but I thought that education was more suited to me, because for performance you’re expected to be perfect on a single instrument. But because I have background in so many instruments, this made more sense for me,” Swartz said.

Both Shropshire and Swartz shared that the college application process is much more complicated for arts students than for those who are planning to continue solely in academic fields.

Each college has a set of audition requirements, and many require students to send in recordings that music admissions officers use to evaluate the players’ ability before inviting them to audition. If the student receives an invitation, he or she usually has to drive, sometimes cross-country, to the school to perform live.

That is what college freshman and RHS alumna Erica Ferguson (2014) experienced. As a vocal performance major, Ferguson applied to eight schools, seven of which required pre-screening. She was invited to audition at six of those seven schools, and then was accepted at four of them.

“I would talk to my friends about it, and they would be like, “Now I just have to wait for the next three months to find out if I got in.a�� And I’m like, “Yeah, I have to wait a month to see if I can audition at this school, and then I have to drive forever across the country to audition for them, and then I get to see if I get in. Once I had to drive 10 hours straight to get to an audition,” Ferguson said.

Resource counselor Alejandra Crawley said, “It’s a different stress level than other kids, because you have to put together portfolios, and that’s not a process that can happen over night. It takes time because it needs to be perfected. [But] it also definitely creates a more holistic approach. Colleges look at that, and they want to see that you’re involved in music or photography.”

College sophomore and RHS alumnus Zac Al-Radiedeh is already studying music education at Towson University, and he said that although the application process was hard, it was worth it.

“To anyone going into the arts: It’s a good choice. You’ll make it work. Music is something that I’ve always done, and I’ll always love doing it,” Al-Radiedeh said.