Applying to colleges can be an arduous and lengthy process,
causing even the most unsympathetic person to empathize with
friends, siblings and even strangers going through the process. The
admissions process involves deciding which college best fits
one’s needs, offers the best options for a future and affects
the course of entire lives.

Julie Pannuto
The School of Music offers a variety of courses: Not only does the school provide music education, but it also specializes in theatre and production. (MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily)
Julie Pannuto
MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily
Julie Pannuto
MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily

There are a few among the frantic applicant pool who decide to
pursue their hobbies in their college years. Instead of opting to
enter the routine LSA curriculum, they devote their time to the
department sheltered under what Chair of the Department of Dance
Professor Gay Ann Delanghe describes as the “administrative
umbrella”: the School of Music.

The institution encompasses not just music but also programs in
dance, theatre and musical theatre. Each one of these programs
receive a multitude of applications for a small number of
openings.

It is the school’s “distinguished alum base that
lends credence to the current programs,” Theatre Department
Chairman Erik Fredricksen says.

Additionally, “U of M is extremely fortunate to have on
its faculty many world-renowned artists who bring extraordinary
expertise as well as realistic knowledge of how the profession
operates,” adds Music Dean Karen Wolff. Students are
overwhelmingly drawn to “this equal component of a
prestigious university with excellent academics and strong
pre-professional training in the arts,” notes Delanghe.

Competition over these spots is fierce, with many highly
qualified would-be students vying for admission every year.
Eligibility is demonstrated not just through the traditional
application, which require a transcript displaying at least a B
average in academic courses and similarly strong performance on
standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Auditions, portfolios,
resumes, interviews and a list of studied repertoire carry more
weight in admission to the School of Music.

Freshman Laurel Chartow, who is enrolled both in the Residential
College and Music School as a musicology major, was familiar with
the school after 10 years of instruction in its children’s
piano program, one of the reasons that drew her to apply here.
“I knew the professors, and I felt like it would be easy for
me to further my studies here because I would feel comfortable and
know where I was.” Still, she “knew that the School of
Music has an intense program, so I wasn’t sure that I was
going to stack up, and I knew that they only admit a certain number
of spots for the degree I was going for.”

Her fear may not have been unfounded for, Piano Professor Logan
Shelton points out, “The faculty is good, the students are
good and the reputation of the university is very high. And that
combination of having very high-level intensive professional
musical training with a great university is not very
common.”

As a student, Chartow recognizes that the program “is
demanding. There’s a lot of requirements, but I really enjoy
it because I’m learning about my passion.”

“I wanted to go here because it’s pretty much the
only place that has a major like mine,” recalls Music
sophomore Ross Maddox, who is studying sound engineering. He
constructed a portfolio of two songs — one multi-track with a
mix of three different sources and the other one of him performing
— that he and professors listened to and discussed during his
rather intense admissions interview, which also included an
interview regarding his sound recording experiences.

The work paid off, and he got his wish of participating in the
small program. “I like it a lot — glad I’m here.
I like the combination of the engineering stuff and the music
stuff…to sort of take a mathematical approach to
music.”

Becca Gleckstein, a freshman studying theatre, was unfazed by
the daylong interview/audition she underwent during the admissions
process.

entailing the preparation and performance of two monologues of
contrasting nature in front of a panel of professors and
participation in a number of activities like improvisation
exercises. “A lot of other people said it was, but the thing
is, I sort of applied on a whim, and I didn’t really realize
what I was applying to until I got here,” says
Gleckstein.

According to junior Karenanna Creps, pursuing not only a BFA but
also another degree through the Residential College in Thoughts and
Ideas, the audition “was nerve-wracking, but it was also
really fun. When I left, I felt really good about the whole morning
and afternoon,” despite the fact that she “really went
in without very much in terms of expectations because, other than
forensics and two plays, I hadn’t been formally given any
instruction. I knew I wanted to do an academic, but I also wanted
the experience, so I applied. It was a seriously a couple of months
before [applying] that I thought, ‘I wanna do
this.’”

Now that both are part of the program, they feel that they made
the right decision. Gleckstein believes her program is
“really challenging a lot of the time for me simply because
you come from high school, you’re used to being the top.
Here, everyone’s good. It’s a lot of fun.” Creps
adds, “I feel like it’s really a program of
self-discovery because you have to know yourself before you can go
off and play other people. It’s really, really fun, and
it’s more than I could hope for, it fits me very
well.”

“It seems they’re looking for someone who’s
willing to play, obviously has a vested interest in the theater, is
willing to take instruction and go with it, and be willing to walk
on the edge of planning ahead and then just letting impulse take
over,” says Creps. “They’re looking for the
people they want to work with, basically.”

Philip Kerr, Claribel Baird Halstead Professor of Theatre and
Drama, agrees that “I am especially interested in a student
who is furthering an interest in art training in the context of a
stimulating, diverse and varied liberal education.” It is
this flexibility that attracts many students to the School of
Music, for “unlike a strict conservatory, there is
opportunity to take a variety of classes, do a double major, have
your sensibilities possibly swayed to other fields of endeavor, and
be stimulated by more than one’s own experience and area of
interest.” At the same time, adds John Neville-Andrews,
Professor of Theatre and Head of Performance Department of Theatre
& Drama, the program has a “very competitive, demanding
and rigorous curriculum, one that embodies professional technique,
discipline and confidence, all valuable characteristics for a
successful career in the world of professional theatre. Therefore,
getting work is that much easier for a student who studied with
us.”

Sarah Evans, a junior in the dance program, cites the quality of
the School of Music within the larger university as a main
attraction for her, as “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to
do, so I wanted to have the option to change or do two things, I
just wanted a large, liberal university that would have a lot of
different choices.”

Heather Vaughn-Soughard, a first year in the dance
program’s graduate section, was attracted by the
collaborative opportunities within different departments in the
School of Music and the community, making it easy “to create
work and get work produced within the community” and
establish “professional ties here and start producing work as
a professional while I’m a student.” This includes
“Dances for St. Petersburg,” a program inspired by the
St. Petersburg semester theme that runs from February 6-8 (evening
shows at 8 p.m. and a matinee at 2).

However, the groundwork for their efforts was laid long before,
for, as Delanghe says, “It takes about 10 years to make a
dancer. You can’t do it in four years, and that’s part
of the competitiveness…that you have to have the chops, so
to speak.” This entails that prospective students should not
have a serious injury, an either too full or too skinny figure and
display a reasonable amount of flexibility, as “for dancers,
you have to cultivate your instrument because you can’t go
buy it; you have to make it.” Indeed, all students in the
School of Music turn to their instruments—be it their
violins, piano, their ability to empathize enough with a character
to assume their role in a play, and even their bodies—to
express their passion for their arts, and basically education. As
Fredricksen says, I believe it is not only possible, but today [it
is] essential to get good training and a fine education. One can do
that at the University of Michigan and not always so completely at
many fine conservatories.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *