I am a soprano in my early 20s. I am currently a junior in college, working toward a Bachelor of Arts in a field unrelated to music. I began college as a vocal performance major, but personal problems forced me to withdraw from school. Ever since I returned to college as a non-music major, I’ve been missing music but have simultaneously been trying to find something more practical (what can I say, I’m a worrywart). I have now come to the conclusion that nothing I am interested in is practical, so I figure I should go with what I truly love so that I can have a little bit of fun while I struggle.
The best plan for me, short-term, would be to simply extend my undergrad time (probably by a year) and stay with my major and minor, but add a bunch of music classes. I would hate to switch my major again, because I’m an “old” student as it is. I know that it’s possible for musicians who don’t have undergraduate music degrees but who have the proper background in theory and history – and of course, the talent – to be accepted as graduate music students. I want to be able to attend a prestigious graduate school, and I wonder whether my lacking the complete undergraduate background that other candidates have will hinder my chances at being accepted anywhere. I’ve heard quite a few times that when it comes to graduate school it’s more about the talent level and potential for growth, which I feel fine with, but I am concerned as to how not having a music degree might affect me. It’s hard enough to get into opera with a Master’s, so I want to make sure that wherever I go to receive that Master’s is a place that will open doors for me in the future.
When I spoke to my voice teacher about the possibility of adding music classes in order to go on to graduate school, she thought it sounded good. When I pitched the idea to the chair of the music department here, s/he was extremely dismissive. I find this funny, because there is a music professor at this school who received his Bachelor’s degree in a subject totally unrelated to music and went on to study music at the graduate level at Indiana University, and he himself told me that it doesn’t matter what your undergraduate degree is. Anyway, the chair said that having a Bachelor’s degree in music would qualify me much more for graduate school, and that I probably wouldn’t be able to get into a good Master’s program without that degree.
I don’t believe that last part, simply because I have evidence that says otherwise. But this does make me think about what kind of program I’d be able to get into. A while ago, I saw a Peabody student in a LJ community state that they were in graduate school with people who didn’t get undergraduate music degrees, and Peabody’s just the type of place I’d like to get into.
So, bottom line, what I need to know is whether or not I’ve been naïve/delusional to believe that I could have a shot at getting into a top tier school like Juilliard/Mannes/Peabody without a Bachelor’s degree in music. Or perhaps I’m being delusional when I believe that I have to attend such a school in order to successfully break into the industry?? I’m really struggling, so please, if you can shed any light on the situation, I would love to hear from you! (And thanks to anyone who read this whole thing!!)
(Cross-posted to a few other communities.)