Our high school senior just won a college music scholarship and here’s how
Our home studio is excited to announce our high school senior won a music scholarship to his favorite university. Once we reminded him to check his email, he discovered he had won the scholarship. Ha ha!
My son’s success was part hard work and part luck. Below I will outline his journey and give seven tips for applying for a music scholarship.
It was luck that I convinced my youngest son to check out a local university and take a tour. He did not want to go on a college tour on a day off school, but I made him. On this tour he was lucky to discover the music department and a degree there that fit just what he wanted to do. And he was lucky to meet with the music department assistant who suggested he set up a short meeting with the head of the degree program.
Hard work followed. It was hard work to keep track of all of the emails and dates and deadlines. And it was hard work to compose original songs and compile the components of the scholarship application.
Applying for a college scholarship takes creativity and hard work
Our student is not interested in the traditional music department education. He does not want to be a classical performer and or music teacher. My young musician wants to go into the business and creative tech side of music. Many colleges have added this type of major to their music departments.
Set up an appointment with the head of the degree program
As suggested by the music department assistant, my son set up an appointment for a Zoom meeting with the head of the degree program. My husband joined my son on the meeting to make sure he asked all of his questions and to provide a second set of ears. Before the meeting they gathered as much information as possible about the school and department. They were able to join the meeting from our home music studio and use it as a backdrop.
The number one outcome of this meeting was that the degree program head did most of the talking. He was selling his program. He also highly encouraged my son to apply for a music scholarship.
Keep good track of scholarship application deadlines and requirements
My eyes usually glaze over when I read instructions for applications and scholarships. I guess this runs in the family. My son was not sure if he could actually pull off completing a good application and submit it on time. And, he was daunted by doing an audition.
My son was really doubting his performance experience. Most of his experience was performing with a group, and he had very little solo experience.
Fortunately, my husband has a background in music and encouraged my son to go for it. With his help, my son was able to very quickly compile the materials for an application.
Carefully read the scholarship applications and make a list of requirements
First, my son had to locate and fill out the online music department scholarship application. It took some digging around on all of the university’s webpages to find it. He even had to exchange several emails with the music department assistant to help him with this.
Part of the application was a requirement for submitting a 10 minute digital recording of a performance. My son composed and recorded three original songs. He and my husband worked on mixing the music and producing a video of him playing to go along with it.
Another music scholarship application checklist
My son, with some tech help, submitted his scholarship application and uploaded his music file. About two weeks later he received a letter in the mail that invited him to an on-campus audition. The letter had another checklist for how to confirm the audition and what to expect on the audition day.
My son somehow confirmed the audition. I am not even sure how he did it. Was it an email, a link somewhere? This is how confusing it all got.
Then he started practicing. He practiced three of his own compositions but then started playing some bossa nova on his electric guitar. He worked out his own version of “The Girl from Ipanema.”
Music scholarship audition setlist
As my son practiced, his setlist evolved. He trusted his instincts and went outside the box. This was a great move.
He ended up with three songs that he would perform for the audition. Two were his own compositions and one was his rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema.” His own songs did not even have names, just numbers. He did end up naming one “Spooky Cowboy” later on because it sounds like, well, a spooky cowboy.
Music scholarship audition day
Six weeks ago my college applicant spent a Saturday interviewing and auditioning for the music scholarship. He received a nice outline of the day but really had no idea of what to expect. He was very nervous and felt like the whole thing was a long-shot. But, he just decided to give it his best effort.
My husband and son got up early on audition day and started loading guitars, an amp, and homemade guitar pedal board. They also had to make a digital file of what songs he would be performing to go with him for the interview. He was also going to have a private music lesson with one of the professors.
Once they arrived at the college music building they unloaded their gear and got it ready for set up. They met the coordinators and some music students and checked in. There were several group presentations and practice time in practice rooms for applicants.
My son and husband met with one of the department heads who helped ease my son’s mind. I arrived right before my son’s audition time and sat with my son in the lobby as he relaxed. We watched as other applicants and their various instruments moved down the long hallway to the music hall.
When my son’s time arrived, I wished him a cool good luck, and he went down the hall. My husband was in a meeting for parents, and I sat in the lobby. I could actually hear my son playing because he was so loud with the amp. I heard “The Girl from Ipanema” and through the door it sounded good.
Then just a few minutes later he was out and appeared very relieved. He thought it went ok but felt he had rushed through the songs a bit. He said the three judges told him he did well and got high scores.
I have no idea how the interview went or who it was with. My son said it was with two professors and one of them was the head of the program that he had met on Zoom. They were very encouraging.
The private lesson
The guitar professor invited my husband and I to the private lesson. He showed us around the bottom of the music building. We looked in practice rooms and classrooms. It all had a very comfortable feel.
The professor talked so much about what to expect in the program and about the various guitar teachers that they never got to the actual lesson. But he did talk guitars, equipment, music industry and the vision of their music business program. He mentioned the fact that my son had picked a bossa nova song to play and that it was very impressive.
Music student panel
Right after the lesson, we were ushered to the current music student panel. That was very informative and positive. There were vocalists and instrumentalists on the panel.
At the end of the panel presentation, the music department assistant introduced my son to one of the panelists who was also a guitarist. He showed my son where he stores some of his equipment and where he jams with his group. The professors had connected him to several jobs, and he explained how he had performed at several local venues on weekends for fun. It was very kind that he took the time to talk to my son and make him excited about this program.
Loading up the music gear
At the end of the day we loaded up the music gear and headed to a local restaurant for a late lunch. We were kind of buzzing about everything that had happened that day. We ended on a high note with a positive vibe.
Music scholarship award
Several weeks later my son was looking at his phone as we were all standing around the kitchen. All of a sudden his eyes widened. Then he got a big smile on his face. He had been awarded one of the music scholarships.
It was a scholarship that stretched out over four years and was generous enough to actually allow him to attend that university. We had thought he may get something, but never thought he would get that nice of a scholarship.
The award notification email said he would receive an award letter in the mail. He had to sign and return the letter to accept the scholarship. We all had to put our heads together and vow to watch for the letter to arrive in the mail and return it on time. Sometimes things get lost and overlooked at our house. But not this.
Sure enough, an award letter arrived in a mail. My son signed it on the spot, my husband made a copy of it, and we got it in the mail the next day. Just so nothing would happen.
Music scholarship gratitude
We advised our son to send a thank you note to the two program people that interviewed him on the audition day. We were not quite sure how to do this, so he sent a thank you email to them once he found out he got the scholarship.
Want some advice on how to win a college music scholarship?
Here are some tips
- Try to meet with the head of the degree program within the music department. A video meeting is great.
- Apply early–as soon as you hear about the scholarship opportunity. Even if it means putting aside homework or a whole weekend to get your application ready.
- Think outside the box. Compose your own songs. Make a music video. Learn more instruments.
- Have a parent or other experienced person help you keep track of the application requirements and due dates. Read and reread the application and checklists and due dates. Write out all the key components on a notebook and keep it in a visible place as a constant reminder. Check items off as you do them. Write key dates on a calendar or enter them in on your digital calendar with reminders and notifications.
- Keep in touch with the music department assistant or student worker. Make yourself known. Make your name known. Ask questions, say thank you, and show appreciation for any information they give you.
- Send a thank you note or thank you email to interviewers.
- Do not be afraid. Just go for it.