What is Instrument Insurance?

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Instrument insurance is an important part of caring for your instrument. Professionals use it regardless of their genre and music shops have it to protect their inventory. Whether you recently bought an instrument or own one that isn’t already insured, we highly recommend purchasing a policy to help protect your investment.

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It’s exactly what it sounds like: an insurance policy with specific coverage for your instrument(s). It usually takes the form of either:

  1. A rider on your current renter’s or homeowner’s policy, or
  2. A separate policy through a company that specializes in insuring musical instruments

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Any insurance policy is about financial protection should damage or theft occur in the future and instrument insurance is no different. It is designed to protect you against things like theft, accidental damage, and devaluation. Always check with the insurance provider about specific coverage questions, but most companies will cover common problems that can happen with musical instruments.

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Rider: This something you can add to a preexisting renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy. This is a great option if you are not a professional musician but still want protection for your instrument. Be sure to ask about the kind of coverage a rider has with your current insurance company before adding anything.

Separate Policy: If you use your instrument professionally, this is what you will need. The main companies used by most musicians and shops in no particular order are:

  1. Heritage Insurance Services, Inc. 
  2. Clarion Associates, Inc.
  3. Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc. (formerly known as Merz-Huber)
  4. Traveler’s Insurance (they have a valuable items policy that includes musical instruments)
  5. Total Dollar Insurance

The benefit of these companies is that they understand the specific nuances of musical instruments and their value. It’s also a good option if you have multiple instruments, a lot of equipment, or travel frequently.

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You will need a couple of things before you start looking:

  1. A list of items you need to insure. Many companies will insure everything from instruments to electrical and recording equipment, sheet music, and cases but always ask the company what is and is not covered first.
  2. Up-to-date appraisals for all of your instruments and bows.

Once you have this information, start shopping! Talk to the companies you are considering about any concerns and ask what they specifically cover in their policies. Make sure to compare deductibles as well as rates. For example, if you have a $1,500 instrument and the deductible is $1,000, that policy may not be your best option. Get quotes from everyone you are thinking of using, decide what will work best for you, and enjoy the piece of mind that comes with knowing your instruments are protected.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Ukulele Line Modeled On Prized Classic Instruments

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While their name may suggest a focus on other fretted instruments, Cordoba Guitars makes exceptional ukuleles in a wide range of sizes and prices.

The ukulele first appeared in the Americas (most notably in Hawaii) by way of Portuguese immigrants during the 19th century. Having evolved from the Portuguese braguinha, a small strummed instrument commonly used to accompany a folk singer, the uke continues to be a popular instrument for musicians of all ages.

These Ukuleles Recreate Some Coveted Models

Cordoba Guitars designs their instruments based on time-tested building techniques and aesthetic features such as hand-inlaid wooden rope-style rosettes and bindings. When Cordoba began expanding their ukulele line, they sought to honor the rich tradition of the instrument while still making efforts to innovate and carry it into the 21st century. Using patterns established two hundred years ago, many ukuleles in the Cordoba line are available in a number of different sizes such as soprano ukulele, concert ukulele, tenor ukulele, and baritone ukulele. Having such a wide variety of sizes allows the player to find the perfect instrument for their hand size and tone preferences.

Starting at only $89, ukes made by Cordoba Guitars are sure to provide you with years of enjoyment strumming ukulele chords. Whether that be on your couch, by a campfire, or in the park, the ukulele has an amazing ability to evoke a sense of calm and transport you to an idyllic island in the Pacific.

For more information on the Cordoba Ukuleles carried by Johnson String Instrument, please visit our website.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

Fiddles and Violins: What’s the Difference?

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We’ve all heard the terms “fiddler” and “violinist” used interchangeably. Maybe you associate one term with specific genres or prefer to be called one over the other. You may also be confused as to why we’re quibbling over labels.

A Fiddle is Just a Violin–isn’t it?

Yes. A fiddle is a violin and vice versa. Fiddle refers to a style of playing rather than a completely different instrument.  However, the specifics are not that simple. Fiddle can refer to a number of different genres including country, jazz, rock, bluegrass, old time, and so many more. It can be a traditional acoustic instrument or an electric fiddle.

But what’s the difference???

“Fiddle” and “violin” are used to describe the same instrument in different genres of music. What most people call fiddling consists of traditional styles that were historically taught by ear and passed down between generations. This was music you would hear at a community dance, at house parties, or on the back porch. It was meant to be heard over a band before amplification and in some cases to simulate multiple instruments at once, so many techniques were originally intended to help the sound carry over a band or in a large space. For the purposes of this post, when we say “fiddle,” we’re referring to old-time, bluegrass, and similar styles.

When people talk specifically about the violin, they tend to be referring to classical players who were trained by teachers over an extended period of time. Classical music incorporates written music and was historically heard in churches, concert halls, small salons, and similar venues.

There are some additional differences as well:

Physical

While none of these adaptations are required to play one style or another, many fiddlers make some changes to their instrument:

  • Flatter bridge. Some players request their bridges to be less rounded to make string crossings and double stops easier to play.
  • Different bow hair. Many fiddlers (or players of other alternative styles) will use a combination of or completely coarser hair. Since these styles are more percussive and require more aggressive bow techniques, this helps keep the bow hair from breaking.
  • Flatter profile. This brings the strings closer together, again making string crossings and double stops easier.

Technical

Since these styles are different, the techniques vary too:

  • Positions. Classical violinists are all over the fingerboard while traditional styles require less shifting, almost never going higher than third position.
  • Alternative Bowing Styles. Fiddlers use percussive techniques such as chopping, while classical players have a less percussive type of bowing style.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about these genres in the broadest of terms. Some prefer to play more within one or the other, and many fall somewhere in the middle. Regardless of what genre(s) you prefer to play, we have everything you need to make playing your instrument enjoyable!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Summer Program Necessities

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Summer has finally arrived!

Excited yet?

In addition to the school year being done and the promise of warm, hopefully beach-filled days, many of you are getting ready for summer programs. Not sure what to bring? We have a few suggestions:

THE BASICS

  • Extra Strings. This may be the single most important item to bring excluding your instrument. In most cases you won’t be near a shop and you do not want to be in a bind because you didn’t have an extra A string. Bring at least a full set of new strings, and hang on to those old ones that may be less than ideal but better than nothing in a pinch.
  • An organized way to carry your music. Maybe you have a music pocket in your case that works just fine. If not, a messy pile on the floor you grab before running to rehearsal is not gonna cut it. Whether it’s a backpack, tote bag or something else entirely, make sure it safely fits those original parts.
  • Tuner/Metronome. Yes, many of you have an app on your phone. However, it is nice not to have to drain your phone battery. Plus, these metronomes and tuners can be much louder and more versatile. Go for a combo to take up even less space.
  • Peg Compound. This product is small but useful. It’s helpful in both summer and winter to help pegs grip and to lubricate them. When you are far away from a workshop, this can be an invaluable product.

THINGS THAT GET LEFT BEHIND

  • Water Bottle. Hydration is the key to success. You may not be rehearsing in the AC, and these programs, while rewarding, are also tiring and can take a lot out of you. Stay healthy and hydrated.
  • Sunblock. This is an important and easily forgotten item. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside. Stay protected! Playing a violin with a severely sunburned shoulder is not fun.
  • A Fan. AC is not a given in the dorms you are most likely staying it. Even a small box fan in a window can do wonders for air circulation.
  • Pencils. This is a no-brainer. You are a musician and need a pencil in rehearsal. Grab a package of them before you leave (and a sharpener if you prefer non-mechanical ones) so you’re not caught without one.

ONE LAST THING!

Before you leave, visit a luthier. Get your instrument and bow looked over. Be sure to let your luthier know if you will be going somewhere with a drastically different climate so they can prepare your instrument accordingly.

Have fun and work hard!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Non-Classical Careers: Booking Gigs

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Are you interested in breaking into a new genre of local music but don’t know where to start? Do you want to play indie rock, country, punk, metal, blues, ska, rockabilly, folk, zydeco, Celtic, funk, bluegrass or create something new? Have you been mainly a classical player or perhaps even jazz player and want to expand? Here is a short list of ways to get started in your local scene:

1. To play shows or find band mates, you have to go to shows. 

Don’t expect good results just from answering an ad on Craigslist. You have to put yourself out there and be part of the community. You need to meet people who already play the genre you are interested in. Don’t be a wallflower! Join a jam session, talk to the bands, compliment something about their set, and casually drop into conversation that you play an instrument and what it is. You never know; one of these bands might be looking for a violin, cello or upright bass player to flush out their sound.

2.  You will not be booked just because you can play. You will be booked based on what you know, or rather who knows you. 

Even after you have people to play with, you need to continue networking within the community. Talent helps but it’s not the determining factor. Actually, I think that’s a rule for life. Make sure that you are going to at least one show a week and that you are sticking to a genre and not just going to random shows that don’t connect with your vision. If you want people to invest in you, you first have to invest in them and the community. Have a good time, make some friends, connect on social media, and don’t give up.

3. Not every non-classical musician reads music. Get comfortable with improvising.  

A lot of genres outside of classical are about improvising around the skeleton of a song idea instead of playing a part that is written down. There are other kinds of music notation; in country they have the Nashville number system, in jazz they sometimes have chord charts, and rock songs can be created in a group setting and then performed immediately. Those systems provide a guide but it is up to the players to get creative. Remember that a lot of musical styles outside of classical were created by the working class who couldn’t afford an education in classical music and theory. That folk spirit is still very much alive in these genres and you must learn to play with your ears by both listening to the music and listening to your band mates.

4. You are going to go further if you can play both acoustic and electric. 

Sure, in traditional bluegrass and Celtic music it is generally frowned up on to use an electric instrument. However, many of these traditional genres are becoming more progressive by adding electric instruments and many other genres (such as rock) almost always require electric instruments. If you have the ability to play acoustically and electrically you will have more options, especially if you want to join an indie rock band or play in a band with drums and other electric instruments.

5. When you go to shows, BRING EARPLUGS. 

I can hear you say, “But it’s a solo acoustic guitar act. It can’t be that loud.” Then you get to the show and they run that acoustic guitar through a distortion pedal with 12 loop pedals that spiral out into a deafening wash of noise that will follow you to sleep that night. If you see a drum kit or a guitar, put the earplugs in.

6. When you didn’t pay a cover fee and someone says “We are taking donations for the bands….”

Put at least $5 in. A “cover” is what a bar would charge for admittance. When you go to an independent show, there may not be a “cover” but instead a “donation.” This isn’t considered an option–this is often the only compensation a musician might receive for their performance! You could be in their shoes one day, so pay it forward.

7. Are you at least 21 years old?

This can make a big difference as a lot of places, especially in the city, only allow people over 21. If you are under 21, you will have to get creative. Trust me, there is an all-ages show somewhere out there and, more often then not, it’s happening in the basement of a church, apartment, art gallery or VFW hall. Most of these shows will not be clearly posted , so you are going to need to do some sleuthing.

If you are in a city the answer is easy: Find places where the art kids hang out and make friends. Go to an independent record store, bookstore, or coffee shop and get a job there if you can. If you can’t, then become a frequent customer. Once there, you will be able to immerse yourself in new information.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Amer Koudsi

Teaching Alternative Styles: An Interview With MYRO Director Kevin Oates

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In this blog, we would like to introduce you to Kevin Oates. Kevin is the founder/director of the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra (MYRO) based in Portland, Maine. While some people might think that this is an oxymoron, MYRO (a 501(c)3 non-profit organization) is an ensemble that focuses on the same classical string techniques as a “traditional” orchestra but in an alternative music environment. Founded in December of 2013, MYRO has grown from 12 students to 25 in the top touring ensemble and has recently formed MYROCK (Maine Youth Rock Orchestra Classics for Kids) for its younger students. Since its formation, MYRO has performed with 25 local and national musicians and bands with styles including rap, metal, folk and soul. This past April, MYRO became the first youth orchestra in the country to tour with a nationally signed band, performing nine shows on the East Coast with folk rock band The Ballroom Thieves.

Kevin was clear to state that because his ensemble is performs alternative styles, this does not mean that the students are not required to demonstrate a high level of technical proficiency on their instrument. The ensemble holds auditions similar to any district or all-state ensemble, requiring students to demonstrate three octave scales, two excerpts in contrasting styles (classical repertoire only) and a sight-reading example. Kevin focuses on the development of tone and intonation while maintaining consistent bowings, advanced techniques such as ponticello and glissandos and even encourages his students to improvise. He has found that his students are gaining confidence and musicianship skills while having the opportunity to perform for sold-out crowds. He has also noticed that these skills are translating into the students’ traditional orchestras. After recording an EP and debuting a video on NPR, it’s not hard to see why the students love what they do.

When asked how a classroom teacher can try to replicate MYRO’s results in a school setting, Oates encourages other teachers to use alternative styles within their ensembles. By using either pre-existing arrangements of popular tunes or arranging the song yourself, the benefits of modern music with your students can be substantial. Oates points out that many popular songs are in “difficult” keys for string players; use this as a teachable moment. Chances are that many students know the melody and with careful listening will naturally make adjustments to their intonation. Using original keys also provides your students the option to use the artist’s original track as a play-along, tuning their ear and training their aural skills while listening to the music they are most familiar with.

If you want to arrange the music yourself, Oates suggests taking the following steps:

  1. Transcribe the melody
  2. Find your chordal bass
  3. Add harmonic support and experiment with switching the melody between different voices
  4. Selectively add expressive techniques to heighten the natural emotion within the song

While this is certainly a lot of work, Oates says the reward of seeing your hard work translated by your students is well worth the effort. If this seems daunting, Oates suggests trying arrangements done by Larry Moore (which can be ordered at Johnson String). Varying in difficulty, these arrangements are true to the original piece and still include the technique that you, as a teacher, are trying to instill in your students.

Utilizing alternative styles with your students is a great way to connect the classical musicianship of a trained player to the music they love and already listen to on a daily basis, and your students will have fun while they do it. Isn’t that what music is all about?

Click here to learn more about Kevin Oates and the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra. Also be on the lookout for his latest projects:

American Youth Rock Orchestra, a nationwide YouTube-auditioned orchestra set to launch in 2017.

Empire Youth Rock Orchestra, a youth rock orchestra to be based in New York City starting in September, 2017.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

Violin Cases: How To Choose The Best One For You

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Choosing a violin case is an important decision. While everyone is looking for something different when it comes to cases, there is one commonality everyone is looking for: a product that will protect their investment. How this can best be accomplished is an individual decision, but here are some factors to consider:

What To Look For In A Violin Case 

Fit

  • Instrument. We’ll start with the obvious: Does your instrument fit in the case? Is it secure, or does it slide around? When you close the case, does it look like nothing hits the top of the instrument? Again, you want the case to protect your investment and the less your instrument slides around, the safer it will be.
  • Bow. Do all of your bows fit inside the case? Do you want them to? Violin cases usually have between two and four bow spinners, which is enough for most players.
  • Accessories. How much extra stuff do you want to keep inside your case? Some cases have more room for things like accessories or music than others.

Portability

This means different things to different people. Think about the type of travelling and commuting you typically do with your instrument. Then, consider the following factors:

  • Weight. Some cases are lighter than others. If you are doing a lot of walking or get around using public transportation, you may want  a lighter case since you will be carrying it on your person more frequently. If you typically drive to your gigs, weight may be lower on your list of priorities.
  • Straps. How to do you like to carry your case? Check for strap configuration options–most cases allow for different variations. Also take into consideration what kinds of straps come with the case. Brands like Galaxy and BAM come with two padded backpack straps, while Bobelock comes with only one strap. (You can also purchase individual straps depending on your needs.) One more useful kind of strap to look for: the subway strap. This is the one that is attached to the scroll end of the case that allows you to hold it vertically, and can be a lifesaver on the (of course) crowded subway.
  • Shape/Style. Shaped cases tend to be more compact but fit less things, while oblong (rectangular) cases fit more things but take up more space. Half-moon cases fall somewhere in the middle.

Protection

We’re referring to two specific things when we say protection:

  • Suspension. Get a case that has suspension. Period. This means that the instrument is not touching the back or front of the case and will not absorb all of the impact if something happens. 99% of cases you look at will have suspension, but double check.
  • Climate. Do you live somewhere hot and humid? Dry and cold? Both and everything in between? Most cases on the market are at the the very least water resistant, but you may need something more waterproof or insulated depending on where you live. Most cases can be customized to accommodate the climate you live in (in-case humidifiers and case covers are two popular examples), but this is still something to keep in mind when shopping.

Still unsure what to get? Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular brands we carry:

VN Case Chart 2

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

The Best Grad Gifts: 2016 Edition

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They did it! All of the hard work, late nights, practicing, homework and dedication have paid off. If you’re looking for ideas for what to get the grad in your life, we have a few suggestions for you:

Sheet Music

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This is a great gift in so many different forms. Maybe it’s the Urtext edition of their favorite chamber piece or a piece they have always wanted to learn. All of our folk, fiddle, jazz, pop and world music is included in the Grad Sale, which includes things like Star Wars, Disney, The Fiddler’s Fakebook and more.

A New Case

Now is a great time to invest in a new case. With brands like Bobelock and Galaxy (a JSI exclusive) on sale, this is a great option for surprising your recent grad.

Ukulele

While not included in our Grad Sale, our ukuleles start at at just $89, making them budget-friendly in addition to being an accessible instrument. Curious to learn more about the ukulele? Check out our previous post about them.

Upgrade Their Instrument

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Our Grad Sale for commercial instruments is back! Selected commercial instruments are 10% off through June 30, and you can take 15% off the bow and case when purchasing an instrument on sale as part of an outfit.

Want to purchase your rental instead? We’re offering double your first year equity when you purchase a rental instrument from us. Keep in mind that while you can always use your equity to purchase an instrument through our sales department at Carriage House Violins, this double first year offer is only available when purchasing your rental instrument.

Gift Certificates

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Always available in any amount.

Still not sure what to get them? You can’t go wrong with a gift certificate! You can purchase one in any amount (call for details) and they are valid on everything from accessories to instruments.

You can check out the products listed here and much more in store or on our website. A heartfelt congratulations to all graduating this May and June. Good luck with your future endeavors!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

The Wedding Season Starter Kit

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Summer is almost here, and with it comes the start of wedding season. The parade of weddings and parties, both outdoor and indoor, has the potential to keep freelancers employed for the entire season. If you’re new to the life of wedding gigs, here is a starter kit of things you’ll need:

Folding Stand: Never show up to a gig without one! Some people are satisfied with the traditional folding stands, but these can be flimsy when you have a large gig binder or you are outside and subjected to a strong wind. A sturdier stand with a flat back that is still portable, such as the ones by Peak, are a great alternative if you run into this problem.

Clothespins: Don’t let your music fly away! We all have stories of forgetting clothespins and suddenly watching our music make a run for it across the lawn or flip open to a different piece. Traditional clothespins are a great option–lots of musicians keep a box in their car for this reason. We also carry an over-sized music clip for a more elegant solution.

Gig books: Every wedding will want something a little different, but in many cases they will want standard fare such as the Mendelssohn Wedding March or Pachelbel Canon. Lots of musicians build their own gig binders with a set of arrangements that they can use for multiple weddings. The Latham wedding series and the Last Resort Music compilations are among the most popular since they come for multiple types of ensembles. The Last Resort Music series can even be mixed and matched depending on instrumentation.

Note: Make sure your music is appropriate for the venue and ceremony. If you are given free reign to choose repertoire, don’t play something that you wouldn’t normally perform in a church or synagogue. 

Stand lights: This is another great back-up item to keep in your car because you don’t know what the lighting is going to be like at any given gig. We carry our own JSI brand in addition to popular brands like Mighty Bright and Lotus. Stock up on extra batteries too–no light in the middle of a performance is not ideal.

Outdoor instrument: This is definitely not an option for everyone, but a great idea if you are able to swing it. Many people hold on to their old instruments when they upgrade and use them for outdoor gigs or any performance that they wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing their usual instrument to. Some players use alternate bows as well, especially carbon fiber bows like Codabow and JonPaul.

 

Wedding Gig Infographic

 

Good luck and happy gigging!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

How to Choose Your College

Choose College Blog HeaderYOU DID IT! You navigated the applications, survived the auditions, and received your acceptance letters. Take a moment to bask in the glow of your accomplishments.

(Go ahead, do it–you deserve it!)

Now for the reality check: How do you decide where to go? You can make a pro/con list, solicit advice from friends and teachers, talk to your parents and take whatever steps you need to help make this decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go through this process:

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For most families, this is the biggest concern. Maybe the school you had your heart set on didn’t offer you enough financial aid, or you didn’t receive as much aid as you hoped all around. First take a look at the type of aid you’ve been offered.

  • Government aid is determined by your FAFSA and is essentially set in stone once it’s awarded. This does NOT come through the school itself. For some government aid, the earlier you complete your FAFSA the more aid you get so make sure to complete it as soon as possible.
  • Scholarships and grants are awarded by the school and can be a little more flexible.

Concerned you didn’t receive enough? The best thing you can do is contact the school’s financial aid office and ASK. There is a possibility you can find more money through scholarships or grants, or they will have advice on securing a loan from an independent lender. This can also be helpful once you are in the school and can prove your commitment and financial need. Whatever you decide to do financially, make sure you consider the investment before you commit to a school; it may be a well-chosen debt if you are comfortable taking it on for a school you are passionate about and can advance your playing and your career. However, don’t put yourself in a financial hole you aren’t OK with getting out of.

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If you didn’t visit a school you’re considering during auditions, now is the time to do so. Go to those welcome parties and information sessions they’re offering! It’s a great way to meet professors, administration, and possibly future classmates. Get a feel for the school, since it’s the place you’ll possibly spending the next four years of your life. Make sure to also take a test lesson with the teacher while you are there, as they will be one of your biggest mentors during your time there. Sit in on a masterclass or lecture if possible. In short, do everything you can to experience what it would be like to go to this school so you can make an informed decision.

Don’t forget to consider the location of the campus too! As we said before when choosing where to apply, know what you’re comfortable with distance-wise and what kind of environment you thrive in. If you despise being in the middle of nowhere, that cute college you visited that borders nothing is probably going to drive you crazy. Keep in mind too what kinds of opportunities are available, musical and otherwise. Some schools have stronger chamber music programs, others are great for learning orchestral repertoire. Find out about the local music scene in the community too, especially if you are interested in pursuing a non-classical career. It is even worth it to see if you can take non-musical classes as well if that’s what you are interested in. Whatever it is you are passionate about, make sure it’s available in some form.

Music schools, whether they are stand-alone conservatories or a school within a larger university, tend to be on the smaller side. For some, a larger school provides freedom to explore new things independently and to carve their own path. Others need more individualized attention and ongoing guidance in order to succeed. Think about what would work best for you and see if you can talk to current or former students. They’ll have valuable insight on the things you can’t determine from a quick campus visit, everything from where to live freshman year to whether they feel supported by teachers and administration.

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Is everything pointing one way but your instincts are screaming against it? Listen to them. Nervous that you made the wrong choice? This choice is not the be all end all–plenty of people transfer once they realize that the school they chose does not offer something they are looking for. The best thing you can do is decide what you want (or don’t want), gather all of the information you can to make an informed decision, and go for it.

Congratulations to everyone choosing colleges!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons