The Test for Music Majors
As a prospective music student, you will inevitably face the question, “Do you have tests in music?” Unaware friends, family, and peers will almost certainly ask this as you pursue music in college. They wonder what life is like studying music and often run into trouble picturing a test in music. When faced with this question the short answer is yes. You have juries.
Juries are essentially the tests that guide you through much of your musical journey. Finals in aural skills and music theory will assess your musical knowledge, but juries are the most comprehensive test of musicianship in college because they measure a culmination of technique, musical understanding, application and interpretation. You can expect a jury to be a solo performance lasting 8-15 minutes in front of a panel of qualified judges.
When you perform your college juries, you will do so for a panel of judges called jurors. These individuals are there to help assess your musical ability and growth. Panels typically include faculty from the school of music and your lessons professor. They will often write feedback on your performance that can be used to help guide your practice and growth going forward.
Requirements for college juries vary differently between schools. Some students are required to play two pieces of contrasting styles. Some schools require students to play a piece that thoroughly displays their abilities through their instrument, or voice. Repertoire is often influenced by the lessons professor, so do not fret about not knowing what to play. Moreover, your performance is meant to demonstrate musical ability rather than weaknesses.
Jury sheets are an important part of the process that many new music students may not know. They help the performer show the panel what they have accomplished over the course of the semester. This may include scale studies, technique, exercises, compositions, etudes, solos, etc. Make sure to take your time and to pay attention to details. This may be your first impression on the panel. This is your chance to show how much you have accomplished throughout the semester; take advantage!
Unless you are playing piano or only have unaccompanied pieces (which is not common), you will want a piano accompanist for your juries. Music departments will often supply students with lists of available accompanists to contact, but it is wise to do this as soon as possible. Everyone needs an accompanist, so find a collaborator in advance so you can be prepared for your performance.
What if I fail?
If you fail your jury, many schools of music handle the situation differently. At some schools, failing a jury may bring your applied grade down, but not necessarily force you to fail the course. Others may elect to give you a chance to retake the jury. Since it is due to the discretion of the schools, some may choose to mandate that failure of the jury means failing the course. This would mean the student would have to retake the course to proceed. Failure to pass your juries or your barrier, junior standing, qualifying quarter etc. will likely result in a hold being placed on your privilege to take upper divisional courses. This could last until the playing requirements are met to the faculty’s satisfaction.
At the end of the day, college juries are what you make of them. If you see them as a chore that must be accomplished and overcome, that is how they will feel, but if you view them as an opportunity to learn and grow as a performer, you will have a great mind set for furthering your education and beyond as a professional.