Last weekend, for the third week in a row, we visited yet another college campus. This time, it was James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
It’s not the best-known or most prestigious of the schools Jon Morgan has applied to, but it is a strong university overall, and it has an excellent music department, with lovely facilities. I think it may actually be one of his very best choices.
In fact, in one respect, JMU ranks second in the country (and first among public schools). The Wall Street Journal/US College Rankings 2020 survey asked undergraduates how likely they would be to recommend their school to others. I was not surprised to hear that JMU was second on the list (first was a small, private, religious school I’d never heard of). Most college students I know will say nice things about their school, but the JMU students I’ve spoken with seem by far the most enthusiastic — including his cousin Annie, who is a sophomore there and one of the student ambassadors who talks with prospective students about JMU.
Jon Morgan’s application cited music as his most likely major (possibly as a double major with something STEM-ish) so he was required to come to campus for an audition. His concentration would be Music Composition, not Performance, but all music students audition, and are asked to complete a piano placement test. As a prospective composition student, he also had an interview scheduled.
I wasn’t sure how he’d do in the audition. On one hand, he is an exceptional pianist. On the other hand, he has been so busy with school and with college applications that he has not practiced much at all in recent weeks. I was wondering if he should have chosen to audition on violin instead. He’s not quite as good on violin as he is on piano, but he is a solid player and has practiced it a lot more lately, due to the frequency of orchestra concerts he’s performed in over the last month or two.
I shouldn’t have doubted him; we sat in the hallway outside during his piano audition, and he sounded great. There was also a sight-reading component; he has always had a real gift for sight-reading, so that was easy for him.
Every student is required to take a brief test in piano and basic music theory for piano, not for admissions decisions, but for placement into the appropriate-level coursework. (I believe that students who do not play piano can opt out of the test by declaring themselves beginners.) He took the test, and scored into the highest group. He’s been taking lessons since he was six or seven and is especially strong in music theory, so I was not surprised.
Jon Morgan often says he isn’t good at talking about his music; I think that is common among high-school students, especially nerdy, introverted boys. But from what he said, the professors he spoke with at his interview did a great job of drawing him out. This was not a portfolio review; faculty will evaluate his compositions later. At this meeting, they told him to brag (that’s the way they put it) about his musical accomplishments. They asked him about his favorite composers, about how he goes about writing music, about his goals for studying composition, and so forth. He has had to answer similar questions at several schools, and on most of his applications, and I think he is getting more comfortable talking about himself. He felt that the interview went well.
And now we wait….