Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There are no "undecideds" at Juilliard.

Or at Curtis. These are the two most competitive schools in the country, and not just among music schools. They are the most competitive schools in the country, period, and they are populated with specialists.

A conservatory admissions staff doesn't care whether prospective students were on the debate team, prom committee or jai alai squad. The faculty doesn't have much interest in the number of AP science courses applicants took or the box tops they recycled for charity. They want performers - very, very dedicated performers.

It may be that the performing arts schools are the last bastions of specialization for undergraduates. Just watch your students run from practice to event to committee meeting to social gathering.

There is nothing wrong with being "well-rounded", as the expression goes, nothing at all. There are lots of well-rounded undecideds occupying seats in freshman writing classes across the country. They keep universities in business.

They don't keep conservatories in business.

The current economic situation is, once again, kicking us all in the "arts". Public schools are facing increasingly difficult monetary decisions, and we are certainly feeling the pain here in Pennsylvania. Non-profit musical organizations are struggling to keep their budgets in the black, or in a respectable amount of red.

Supporting the specialists who are taking the path less traveled is going to be up to us, the independent teachers, more than ever. We may be forming the line that connects the dots between a dream and reality. Let's do our best to be up to the challenge, to identify those who are willing to go the extra mile and help them along the way.

Let's also be gently honest with those who are undecided as to how narrow the road to musical success actually is.

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