Blair students take part in multiple performances throughout the year. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)
Blair students take part in multiple performances throughout the year. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Road to Blair

A look into how applying to college as a music student is unique

September 15, 2019

(Photo courtesy Sophie Heinz)

My name is Sophie Heinz, and I’m a first-year vocal performance major at the Blair School of Music. Whenever I tell people my major in regular conversation, there’s almost always this look of surprise and excitement in their eyes, and in some cases, confusion. I think that sometimes people forget that there are people here studying music, which makes sense because we’re hardly ever around main campus and we’re by far the smallest college within the university with only 220 students. These things make Blair students somewhat of an enigma on campus. My goal with this column is to fix that. 

Throughout the year I’m going to write about my experience as a Blair student and what makes my college experience atypical from a “normal” one. Before I get into all of that, I want to start at the very beginning: college applications.

It all starts out similar to the regular process most students experience. However, another decision music students have to face is what type of education they want. It comes down to whether they want a conservatory education (music-only schools, like Juilliard), a liberal arts school that most likely only has undergraduate music students as well as the ability to study subjects outside of music (like Vanderbilt) or a state school with a larger music program and graduate level students as well as undergraduates (like University of Michigan). 

I knew I wanted an undergrad-only program so I could explore subjects outside of music. This detail is what put Blair at the top of my list. Getting into Blair would be the next obstacle. In addition to the regular Vanderbilt application, applying to Blair has quite a few more steps. 

First you have to prepare a pre-screening video of yourself performing, which differs depending on your instrument. I had to submit videos of myself singing three songs (one in a foreign language, one 20th or 21st century art song and another of my choice) as well as a monologue. Once these are reviewed by the faculty for your specific instrument, a portion of applicants are invited to a live audition on campus. My mom and I flew to Nashville for the late February audition weekend. While Blair did a great job of trying to create a supportive environment for this live audition weekend, doing things like taking us to dinner and giving tours, it was still one of the most stressful weekends I’ve experienced. This weekend consisted of auditioning in front of the voice faculty, sitting in interviews, taking a pass/fail theory placement test (which, for a person like me with no prior theory experience, was very daunting) and having a lesson with a faculty member. That’s where I met my current voice teacher, Professor Amy Jarman. She’s definitely the reason I’m here. She is not only a great teacher, but she’s supportive in every way I need her to be. 

Once I found out I had been accepted, Jarman was the first person to reach out to me to discuss what I was thinking. I was extremely shocked but also excited. This had been my dream school for so long, but I never really imagined it coming true.

While I was very close with Jarman, I also had relationships with the teachers from the schools I rejected. When I turned down an offer from a school, I had to face a person who I had been speaking with for months and getting to know. 

But, after one month of being here I know I made the right decision. The vibrancy that Nashville offers and the excellent education I’ve been given at Vanderbilt so far is above anything I could have gotten at another school. I’m excited to continue to improve my voice, learn more about music from all over the world and explore other areas of study at Vandy.