Extracurricular activities are sometimes given as much weight as a student’s academic profile. This is especially true for highly specialized students with unique plans for the future. Colleges and universities will weigh your extracurricular profile more heavily, since your musical talent is just as important as your grades for admission. For students in the arts, depending on the rigor of the program and school you’re applying to, your extracurricular activities will matter even more than your academic record. Read along for the music extracurriculars that could make your application stand out.
1. Youth ensembles. The most obvious extracurricular for young musicians is band, orchestra, or choir—depending on your area of specialization. This is the bare minimum for aspiring music majors. While you should participate in these groups, you should also try to get involved with youth ensembles that are more selective and require auditions. Most states have an All-State orchestra, band, or ensemble for high school students. The audition process is generally competitive, with just a small percentage of students selected to participate. In New York, only 900 out of 6,500 students are chosen for the New York State School Music Association Conference All-State music groups. Additionally, many states have regional ensembles that feed into the state ensemble. Regional ensembles are less selective but still show your dedication to pursuing music. Lastly, many cities offer audition-based youth orchestras, which are similarly selective to regional orchestras. These are a great way to stay involved in music throughout the year.
2. Bands. While you can participate in music extracurriculars like school band, orchestra, or choir, you can also be part of an independent band. This is a great option for students interested in non-traditional instruments and sounds—for example, students who play rock music or R&B music. Starting a band in high school is both time- and energy-intensive. You will need bandmates, a practice space, a marketing strategy, and more. Traditionally, you can start a band with four members: a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, and a singer. If you are interested in a more acoustic/simple sound, you can start with just an acoustic guitar and a singer.
3. Summer programs. Like with other academic disciplines, there are many summer programs offered for students. Music summer programs are often called institutes, intensives, or academies. Some of the more affordable summer programs include:
- Morse Summer Music Academy
- National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America
- The Sphinx Performance Academy
- Stanford Jazz Workshop Jazz Camp
- UNCG Summer Music Camp
4. Self-driven projects. Producing your own music is a great way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Having a track to show is both proof of your dedication to music and proof of your musical talent. This process is long and requires accountability and planning. The goal is to impress admissions officers with your work ethic, dedication, patience, and organization, in addition to your talent.
5. Clubs. Lots of schools offer music extracurriculars in the form of clubs, such as:
- A Capella Club
- Glee Club
- Chamber Orchestra
- Concert Band
- Guitar Club
- Jazz Ensemble
- Marching Band
- Music Composition
- Pep Band
- Percussion Ensemble
- Piano Club
- Pit Orchestra
- String Ensemble
- Ukulele Club
The availability of these clubs will vary from school to school. Starting a music club, holding a leadership position in a music club, or succeeding in competitions with music extracurriculars could help you stand out. Additionally, sprinkling in some more “fun” music clubs could show the extent of your interest in music.
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