We know that applying and auditioning for post-secondary music programs is no easy feat. There’s a lot that goes into this process, like researching different programs, filling out application forms, and preparing for auditions. In order to help students who are currently applying to music programs (or thinking about it for the future), we spoke to Rachel Gibbs, someone who’s been through it all and has lots of advice to share.

Rachel is originally from Toronto and currently attends Dalhousie University in Halifax, where she’s working on a science degree with a minor in music. Rachel is a flute student with over eight years of solo and ensemble experience, and is interested in the connection between neuroscience and music. A big thanks to Rachel for taking the time to speak with us about her experience of applying and auditioning for music programs! We’re thrilled to share her tips with you!

Find the Right Fit
Since music had been such a big part of Rachel’s life, it was really important to her to be able to continue studying music, even if it wasn’t going to be her major. Luckily, she found the right fit in Dalhousie’s music minor option! 

Before you fill out those applications, take some time to learn about different music programs to find the one that’s right for you. (You can start by looking through our database of Canadian post-secondary music programs.) 

Moving away from home may not be the right fit for you, but for Rachel it was a chance to get out of her comfort zone and have the unique experience of living in a new place. Although being away from home was part of the appeal of attending Dalhousie, Rachel told us the most important thing was finding a program that matched her needs and a flute teacher she felt comfortable with.

Plan a Campus Visit
Rachel was able to visit Dalhousie and meet with her flute teacher prior to starting her degree. Being able to visit the campus and city where she’d be spending the next four years was an extremely valuable experience.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options and have an idea of what programs you’ll be applying to, schedule a campus tour or visit during an open house day. If possible, schedule a lesson with the private instructor you’re interested in studying with; as Rachel said, it’s really important to feel comfortable with your applied instructor. 

Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’re considering pursuing music at the post-secondary level, chances are you’re already practicing regularly, but preparing for auditions means upping your practice game. When Rachel was preparing for auditions during her Grade 12 year she was practicing flute 1-2 hours every day, in addition to ensemble and chamber group rehearsals. 

Try scheduling your practice sessions, if you don’t already do so. This is something that Rachel continues to do as a post-secondary music student, and she finds it enormously helpful.

Test Your Audition Pieces
One of the most useful things for Rachel was doing a lot of other auditions and performances prior to her university auditions. This gave her the chance to test out her audition pieces and practice channelling the nervous energy that usually comes with performing. 

Once you’ve selected your audition repertoire, sign up for as many local festivals as possible. This will allow you to experience your music outside of the practice room in as close to an audition situation as possible. 

Explore Your Interests
As a musician, and future post-secondary music student, it’s safe to say that music is your passion. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t explore other areas you’re interested in – something that Rachel feels is very important at this stage of life. Choosing a major – even one as demanding as music – doesn’t restrict you from taking classes in other subjects.