Audition time

February 4, 2009

It’s audition time at UCLA and many other music schools and departments around the world. Students have their hopes up that they will be beginning careers as world-famous musicians, and that schools should be so lucky to have the opportunity to train such talent. Parents assume that their children will get in, because, after all, they are THEIR children.

Alas, they do not all get in. There are limited vacancies, and, as often happens, a few people just a little better in one way or another, inch to the front of the line, nudging out the others.

It is normal for parents and students to be angry about rejection (such a strong word, but I guess that’s what it is). It is common to want to know what they “did wrong” so that they can be better prepared if they apply again. Schools are normally not in the habit of critiquing every student’s application, and students and parents are angry or frustrated not ever knowing what it was. More often than not, people make up or imagine excuses for why they did not get in, and that helps deal with the blow.

Students that don’t get in need to realize that it was a small group of people — sometimes 2 to 4 individuals — who have ranked the applicants, and made the decision. It does not mean the whole school hates you, or thinks you are stupid, or wishes you ill will, it’s just that there were limited slots, and not enough to accommodate you. Yes, there are sometimes embarassing American Idol moments, where a student has no idea that they have no talent or potential for being a musician. They can either continue to live in delusion, or realize that it would be better looking for a different career. Many times, the responsibility of breaking this news falls to the juries, auditioners, and music schools that have to make that decision. Don’t kill the messenger.

Just as parents are thrilled over their child’s first steps, any inkling of musicality makes them think their child might be the next Horowitz. When parents find out that musicality is common in many people, but doesn’t necessarily mean their child gets to have a career in music, it can be a bitter pill. Both parents and child need to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, take a deep breath, blink a few times, and realize that a rejection notice wasn’t the end of the world.

This is tough for anyone, but essential for moving on and rethinking about what you want to do with your life. Music isn’t going anywhere, so you can keep it in your life forever. It’s just that you won’t be making your living from it. And that’s ok. Being a musician is a tough life, even for outstanding musicians.

So, if you didn’t get into the school you applied to, it’s not the end of the world. In my humble opinion, it is better for a school to be honest about rejecting a students, than to admit any student and fool them into thinking they have a chance for a career in music, when all the school really wanted was the tuition money.

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