So You Want to Major in Music?

I have witnessed many students who have gone onto careers in music.  In an effort to make sure that our students leave EHS with the necessary set of skills to not only survive, but excel in the field of music, this page has been developed to provide them with information on what they need to be doing at the high school level.

  • Practice, practice, practice! Being the best on your instrument is really important. You might be one of the best here, but it is a whole different environment when you get to the collegiate level. You will be competing with others who were the best at their schools, too!
  • Embrace fundamentals! Play long tones, lip slurs, tonguing exercises, overtones, rudiments (percussionists), scales, etc. and practice them daily. It will help get you into honor bands...and the college that you want to attend!
  • Take private lessons on your primary instrument. You get a good foundation in ensembles and lessons here at Elgin, but it is no substitute for studying with a specialist on YOUR instrument.
  • Audition for honor bands. While we have a wonderful high school music program, it is integral to your success to perform in as many higher level ensembles as possible.
  • Perform, perform, perform. Play in as many ensembles as you can. You never know what experiences you may need.
  • Learn to play the piano. All music majors have to pass piano proficiency exams. Find someone to give you private lessons. The earlier you learn to play piano, the easier it is.
  • Sing, sing, sing! Sing in chorus, sight sing, take vocal lessons, sing solfege. You will use it in college and beyond. This is great for ear training. You don’t have to sing well, you just need to be able to match pitch.
  • Pay attention in band class when it comes to music theory. Understand the “why” behind music. Do some independent study on music notation, rhythms, chord structure, etc. They will teach this to you in college but if you already have some knowledge in this area, it will help.
  • Learn an alternate instrument. Play it in another ensemble like marching band, jazz band or a small ensemble. 
  • Learn music technology. Learn as many music programs as you can. Music technology is the wave of the future.  
  • Listen to professionals perform. Listen to recordings, go to performances. Take master classes at local colleges if they offer them.
  • Record yourself and then listen to yourself. It will sound different! Have teachers and non-musicians critique your playing. Don't be afraid to hear criticism...embrace it because it will make you a better musician.
  • Learn the standard repertoire for your instrument. You will be able to use it for your auditions.
  • Get a step-up (intermediate level) instrument or professional level instrument. Think of this as an investment. Quality products are made with quality tools.
  • Do practice auditions with as many people as you can. It will help you conquer audition jitters.
  • Help with the elementary and middle school ensembles. It is amazing how much you learn when you are on the other side of the instrument!
  • When getting ready for your college audition, be prepared to play at least two pieces (sometimes three) of contrasting styles, sight read a piece, and play scales. Percussionists should be ready to demonstrate skill on timpani, mallet instruments, rudimental percussion and auxiliary percussion instruments.
You may be thinking of going into music because you had the time of your life in marching band, concert band or jazz band. You made lifelong memories going to contests and performances and you want this to continue into college. It can! However, when you major in music it is much, much more. It is a full time job that extends way beyond playing in band. If you love music/band, a music career is a great life but it’s a lot of work! You should understand that it is not easy, nor is it very lucrative. THE PROFESSION NEEDS SMART, HARD-WORKING, YOUNG PEOPLE to continue cultivating music education, music development, music ideas, and just plain creating good MUSIC. If you’re serious about a future in music, feel free to visit with Mr. Palmer about what you need to do to make it a reality.