Can Making the All State Choir = $Scholarship$ for College?

We’ve all heard it before: “It’ll look good on college apps” or “I’m doing this for the resume boost” or my most (least) favorite “I just volunteer so I look good when I apply to college!”

But how much does participating in All State choir auditions boost your college cred, either by increasing your chances at admission or upping that scholarship offer….and can it help you whether or not you’re majoring in music?

Being Well-Rounded

This is what most people think of as being a major benefit to listing All State on your resume. I think we all have heard anecdotes about the smartest kid in the class getting college rejections because all he did was study and had nothing else on his resume. Similarly, the conventional wisdom is that you should have a balance to your resume without doing every club in the school. For example, being in Spanish Club and Key Club and Student Council….but also playing guitar in the praise band at church.

Choir can definitely add that unique flair to your resume that shows you spent time in the real world and not just with books. And yes, we are all über impressed that someone who managed to be Valedictorian or get a perfect ACT score also became an All Stater, because they are both time-consuming pursuits and require a wide and varied set of skills and talents. Though, we’ll remind you that, in our experience, All Staters do tend to be high academic achievers as well as talented individuals.

A Recognizable Achievement

I will always remember my first choir audition as a freshman at my tiny college in Illinois. I was one of maybe 5 Texans in the student body, total. My college choir conductor is an absolute genius and a true nurturer and educator but had insanely high standards for us, really put us through the paces in our auditions, and did not give compliments freely. But after the pitch recognition and sight reading he looked up at me with a smile and said “Oh, you’re a TEXAS All Stater!”

See, in Illinois, All State is a big honor, but like I’ve said before….nobody does it like Texas. So for musicians in other states, being a TEXAS All Stater is a big deal because, if they know anything, they know that Texas produces some of the best high school musicians in the country; just ask any conductor who is lucky enough to lead an All State ensemble. Oh, and by the way, I was placed in the top choir, even as a freshman and a soprano (#NotSoHumbleBrag).

Now, if your resume is under the nose of a non-musician, they might not understand the weight of being a Texas All Stater, though, they will no doubt appreciate seeing it there. It’s a recognizable accomplishment in any state, but I’m not sure you’ll get quite as much cred elsewhere, unless you’re dealing with musicians who know how exceptional Texans are.

The Skills though!

Now if you DO want to major or minor in music: what’s going to get you in, and get you $money$, is the skills you learn by taking part in the All State process. It will make your audition that much more musical. It’ll improve your language skills and help you learn your music well, and quickly. It no doubt has helped to shape your vocal technique and taught you how to practice. It has taught you that being a musician is hard work.

Y’all may not realize this but, in your audition, plenty of colleges will hear your pretty songs and then immediately test your ear and make you do sight reading. They don’t want pretty faces or pretty voices with empty heads….they want an all-around good musician.

Where the money at?!

Academics: I always advise my seniors that they shouldn’t count on a dime in talent scholarships. Being a pretty singer is no excuse for not working hard on grades and SAT/ACT testing because that’s where the real money is for the vast majority of college-bound seniors, singer or not. Any talent scholarship you get is just gravy, and sometimes you aren’t even allowed to keep it! Check this out: Some schools don’t let you “stack” scholarships, so if you’re entitled to a $20k Academic Scholarship and a $10k talent scholarship, they may make you choose (the bigger, duh). So when you’re applying, this is a big question to ask each and every school. The takeaway: Sign up for an SAT prep class, STAT.

Ensembles: Many schools, especially smallish ones, will offer scholarships to non-music majors just for singing in their choir. Typically the scholarship is pretty small, and comes with requirements, ie: Sing in this ensemble, get this GPA, and/or take voice lessons. When you look at the math, sometimes the scholarship covers little more than the cost of taking the required classes, but if you were always planning on singing in college choir, why not do it at no cost to you? Caveat: If having the scholarship requires you to take voice lessons it may also mean you have to perform a jury, meaning you have to learn 5-ish songs in a semester and perform them, for a grade, for the faculty. If you’re a consummate choral singer who hates solo performance, take this into account. Also know that credit-hour-wise, voice lessons and choir don’t seem like much of a time committment, but they are, believe me.

Additionally: most giant schools have enough singers clamoring to sing in their choirs that these types of scholarships are few and far between, and most likely to go to rare voice types (I’m looking at you, true basses!)

The Elusive Full-Ride: It will take lots and lots of research on your part to weed out which schools even offer this. Some schools have well known “full-ride” scholarships though even they don’t really advertise it, and it requires a separate application and special audition. Some schools, like my undergrad, it wasn’t necessarily public knowledge, but known among the students, that most years there were two full-rides. I didn’t even know at my audition that I was eligible for it! The Take Away: ask the school, but better yet, ask current students to get the skinny on where the money is!

In the Community: Do a search for music and arts clubs in your area and get out and do competitions. We have a few organizations in Austin that have competitions or even just a simple application for funds. These people will know and appreciate what it means to be an All Stater! Additionally, these scholarships tend to be under-advertised and not many people make the effort, so your odds may be very good. Sometimes they offer you $250, sometimes it’s $2,500….but money is money, man!

When your choir director or voice teacher forwards you scholarship and competition opportunities, take advantage. If they don’t forward stuff, ask them if they’re holding back — sometimes I send stuff to my students knowing they’ll blow it off, but just in case someone does follow through I want to make sure I did my part. Making money for college is your full time job right now, and you get to do it without actually working! All you have to do is send the app and possibly sing the audition.

How to get picked

So do schools pick the most impressive musician of the day for the big money? NOPE. Money is limited, so they spend it where they need it. And unless there’s a named scholarship or endowment for a specific instrument, sometimes that money is all in one pot that all teachers and conductors grab at to better their studio or ensemble. And if they look at their graduating class and realize that what they need next year is an oboe and a Tenor, then all the trumpets and sopranos are out of luck. Though, to be fair, sopranos are almost always out of luck! However, always strive for your best audition just in case.

Also, we firmly believe that personal relationships with faculty are key to earning scholarships. It often comes down to a round-table conversation between faculty and if they have more than your audition tape to refer to, but instead can speak to your character, personality, and work ethic, you may have your own personal advocate speaking up for you. Just don’t be creepy about getting to know the faculty.

Lastly, remember, scholarship offers are often just that, an opening offer. Again, don’t be creepy or gross about it, but feel free to share with your school about other offers you have. They may want to give you more but need to wait for others to turn down offers to free up funds. And even when you’re IN college, those scholarships are negotiable, so ask your faculty advisor yearly if they can put you up for an increase.

As always, let us know if you have any more questions or if you’re interested in college audition consulting!


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