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4 Ways Music Boarding Schools Prepare You to Excel in College and Beyond

Students playing the violin in an orchestra.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

It’s never too early to invest in your future—especially if you’re planning to pursue a career in a competitive industry.

That’s why more and more aspiring musicians are choosing to attend music boarding schools during their high school years. Music boarding schools enable you to focus deeply on your craft, building a firm technical, artistic, and personal foundation in areas of study such as Classical Performance, Composition, Popular Performance, Singer-Songwriter, Jazz, Music Production & Engineering, and more that will give you an edge in your college or conservatory auditions and propel you to a successful and fulfilling career.

Below, we share just a few of the ways boarding high schools for music prepare you to excel—wherever your journey takes you next.

1. Guidance from exceptional faculty and staff

At a music boarding high school, you’ll work with an extraordinary team of artistic and academic faculty, as well as a wide range of experienced support staff—all dedicated to your success. 

Instructors with real-world experience

Your instructors are arguably the most important component of your artistic education. That’s why music boarding schools select the very best musicians and educators to join their faculty.

Most instructors are working artists with real-world experience in many sectors and genres of the music industry and have a deep passion for educating the next generation of musicians.

College counselors with music-specific expertise

Guidance counselors at traditional high schools work with students seeking to attend all types of programs. Music school college counselors, however, have spent decades helping young musicians enter elite conservatory programs and are able to offer guidance on everything from choosing a school to finding audition requirements. 

Expert audition advice

College counselors and artistic faculty work in tandem to prepare their students for some of the biggest moments of their lives: their college or conservatory auditions. 

The experience of applying to a boarding school for music, in itself, is an excellent way to prepare for your college auditions, as many music-focused schools require an audition as part of the application process.

Whether you choose to audition in person or submit a video recording, boarding school auditions provide valuable first-hand insight into processes you’re likely to see again during both your college journey and your professional career.

Once on campus, you’ll work closely with both artistic faculty and college counselors to choose appropriate audition material, learn tried-and-true audition strategies, record video pre-screenings (if necessary), and schedule your auditions. 

2. Artistic, academic, and personal preparation

Artistic, academic, and personal preparation is just as critical to your college success as playing the perfect audition. At a music boarding school, you’ll develop the skills you need to thrive both inside and outside the classroom.

Specialized artistic training

From Music Theory 101 to Intro to Music Business, you’ll find a variety of college-level music classes in the course catalog at an arts boarding school. Taking these types of classes at the high school level can give you a jumpstart on your college studies. 

Early exposure to music theory is particularly valuable for college-bound musicians: taking theory classes at the high school level will give you a leg up in college music theory courses, either by placing you in a higher section or by making the college-level courses easier to understand.

You’ll also have regular private lessons with an expert instructor and participate in regular ensemble rehearsals, helping you hone your skills as both a soloist and an ensemble member and master a wide range of repertoire.

5 Must Do's When Applying To Music School

Arts-focused academics

Academics play an important role in your college and career readiness. 

Although your audition and musical résumé are the most important components of your college or conservatory application, don’t neglect your grades. Good grades and test scores are especially important if you’re hoping to attend a liberal arts college, as they generally place greater weight on a student’s academic record than conservatories.

Music schools complement their artistic training with rigorous college-preparatory academics to prepare their students for standardized tests and college-level study. Academic faculty at music schools keep in mind that their students are here to study music and adjust their curriculum accordingly.

This may mean lightening homework loads during peak performance and audition seasons or helping students appreciate the connections between the arts and academics.

Early exposure to communal living

Dorm life is one of the biggest adjustments for college freshmen. As a boarding school student, you’ll learn to live in a communal setting while you’re still in high school, making your transition to college a little bit easier.

Boarding high schools recognize that many of their students are living on their own for the first time and provide social-emotional support and training throughout your time on campus.

Instructors, counselors, and residence life staff at your school will teach you important life skills such as how to do your laundry, manage your time, make travel arrangements for school breaks, and navigate conflicts with your roommate.

3. Access to experiences and resources

At a school dedicated to the arts, you’ll have access to incredible opportunities and resources you won’t find anywhere else. From once-in-a-lifetime tours to state-of-the-art facilities, the possibilities are truly endless.

Frequent touring and performance opportunities

Most music boarding school students enjoy frequent opportunities to perform, both on their school’s campus and beyond. 

For example, music students at Interlochen Arts Academy present more than 60 performances each year, ranging from solo and small ensemble recitals to orchestra concerts to high-energy popular music ensemble shows.

Performances allow you to learn how you respond (both physically and mentally) to the pressure of being on stage, develop strategies for dealing with performance anxiety, and hone your stagecraft skills.

Many music boarding schools emphasize touring at the local, national, and even international level. Beyond the excitement of sharing your music with others, tours look fantastic on your musical résumé and introduce important professional skills such as how to travel with your instrument, how to adjust to the acoustics of an unfamiliar concert hall, or how to cope with life on the road.  

Professional-caliber facilities and equipment

Because of their focus on the arts, music boarding schools often offer facilities and equipment that would be unavailable at traditional high schools, such as less-common instruments, extensive music libraries, and state-of-the-art recording studios.

Access to these types of facilities and resources provides a number of college and career advantages. For example, mastering uncommon instruments related to your primary instrument and practicing diverse repertoire expands your artistic toolkit and makes you a more attractive, well-rounded candidate for competitive conservatory and ensemble positions.

Recording studios enable you to gain familiarity with the music production process or produce a professional-quality demo reel to share with record labels. 

4. Exposure to other young artists

One of the most satisfying aspects of studying at a boarding school for music is forging friendships with other aspiring musicians. Connecting with other young artists provides support, encouragement, and opportunities to collaborate.

Support and encouragement

Studying music takes diligence, perseverance, and long hours in the practice room—which can be difficult for non-musicians to understand. 

Young musicians often feel like they’ve “found their people” when they transfer to a music-focused high school. Your peers can relate to the challenges you face as you consider your next steps and provide support, encouragement, and helpful suggestions. 

Being surrounded by equally talented musicians can also be motivating. Many music students report feeling like the proverbial “big fish in a small pond” in their hometowns; coming to boarding school and meeting other gifted young artists can give you the push you need to take your skills from good to great.

The friendships forged at boarding schools often endure long after graduation, and many former classmates continue to encourage, motivate, and collaborate with each other throughout the course of their college and professional careers.

Opportunities for collaboration

At a music boarding school, your peers are not just classmates, but also potential collaborators.

The most obvious form of collaboration for musicians is, of course, the ensemble. Classical music students can join a wide variety of ensembles, including choirs, orchestras, wind symphonies, and a diverse selection of chamber ensembles.

Outside of class hours, both classical and contemporary students are welcome—and encouraged!—to form their own bands and small ensembles.

Music composition students in particular benefit from being surrounded by musical peers, often tapping their friends to perform their latest works. Access to musicians enables composers to get valuable feedback and create recordings of their works that can be utilized in college and competition applications.

If you choose to attend a boarding school that specializes in several artistic disciplines, you may have the opportunity to collaborate with peers studying other art forms. Interdisciplinary collaborations can open your eyes to new passions or teach you something new about your own discipline.

Although attending a boarding arts high school can seem like a daunting experience, a music-focused school can be the key to achieving your college and career goals.

Whether you play guitar or piano, sing opera, or produce your own music, boarding high schools for musicians provide the expert instruction, college preparation, one-of-a-kind resources, and like-minded peers you need to take the next step on your journey from passion to purpose. 

[[Get Interlochen Arts Academy’s “Eight tips for learning a new piece of music”]]

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