The Fable Of The Music Student And The Admissions Office

A high school student was considering enrolling at your university.

Working with your university's admissions office, she scheduled a campus tour.

She brought her parents along and traveled 300 miles to visit your university for a day.

The tour was a success. The student ultimately decided to enroll at your university as a communications major.

It is now that student's junior year.

She decides to join your campus band as a non-music major out of hobby.

You're impressed with the student's playing ability.

As it turns out, this student was very active with band since 5th grade.

She had participated in the all-state band.

She was seriously considering pursuing instrumental music education as a career.

You think, "Why is this student not a music major?"

You wonder, "How are we only meeting this student right now (not 3 years ago!)?"

The ship to recruit this student has long sailed.

The student is already a junior pursuing a completely different career track.

Sadly, you never knew who this student was at any point during the process.

A talented young musician traveled 300 miles to visit your university.

She was on campus all day, but walked right past your music building.

She never met you or any of your music faculty.

She did not even realize this was an option!

Your music department never reached out to this prospective music major.

How could you have??

There was no way for your music department to identify this student.

There was no way to identify the student's musical interests.

There was no way to get in touch.

But at least your admissions office had the student's information.

But whether by accident or by design, this recruit's info was never provided to your music organization.

During that student's campus visit, the admissions rep might not have mentioned your music department at all.

Or maybe they did share some information about being a music major.

In either case, you're frustrated.

You know that your music faculty are the ones best suited to show the benefits of being a music student.

You know there was a missed opportunity.


We hear this exact story all too often. It's a shockingly common occurrence that sheds light on a significant challenge faced by music departments who are looking to grow the quantity and quality of their musicians:

Your university's admissions office simply does not understand the unique nuances of music departments!

Music is not an ordinary academic track. You aren't the mathematics department, or chemistry department, or the english department. You are much more similar to an athletic organization in that you are recruiting for a specific desired caliber of talent. You are connecting music educators to music students who share a common talent area and you need musicians who fit with your culture.

You're peers throughout the university do not often realize this which it is a mistake to solely lean on your university's admissions office to do your recruiting for you.  

One of the most commonly reported recruitment challenges from music directors is that the large student contact lists provided by the admissions office are impressive in quantity, but lacking in quality.

Many of these students are not actually interested in majoring in music (or even playing in an ensemble). Just because a student checks off the box next to "Music" on their SAT exam, does not mean he/she is a quality recruit for your music department.

Many of these contact lists are generated from standardized tests. This means that the students on these lists have never explicitly expressed interest in your music department. There are much better places to identify real prospective music major or ensemble recruits than the SAT exam.

Even if the student is interested, does he or she possess the caliber of talent you are trying to bring in for your studios or ensembles?

A common frustration is that these students have not provided necessary information about themselves for your music department to do anything productive with their data. You have a list of 500 names and email addresses (and that they are "interested" in music), but you do not know:

  • their instrument
  • which ensembles they are interested in
  • playing ability
  • what they aspire to do with a music degree

To effectively recruit music students and ensemble members, you need to show them that they BELONG in your organization and that they will excel in working with your studio professors or ensemble directors. Otherwise, they will choose to pursue music somewhere else. They will choose a different organization that painted a clearer picture in their mind.

How effective is your admissions office at painting this picture in your prospective music recruit's minds?

  • Are they effectively introducing the correct music faculty to your recruit?
  • Are they highlighting the right ensembles and performance opportunities?
  • Are they inviting your recruits to the right events to get familiarized with your music department?
  • Are they doing this in a way that is personalized, engaging, and compelling for the individual student?