FAQ - Piano Performance

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Piano performance is a highly sought-after musical skill set that can be applied in a variety of music fields. For many composers, the piano is the basic instrument they begin with before they move on to other instruments. College-level piano performance students work in small groups with other students who have similar goals. They also participate in private lessons with esteemed faculty to work towards their individual piano performance goals. Piano performers may also accompany or play with ensembles. Your area of focus as a piano performance student depends on your areas of interest.

How Competitive is the Field of Piano Performance?

The piano performance field can be very competitive if you are trying to compete on a national or global level. Many students seek out competitions and thrive on fierce ambition as they work to perform on an elite level. Other students have goals that are more related to individual fulfillment: they want to compose their own piano music, perform original music regularly in an ensemble, or teach other students the love of the instrument. The level of competitiveness depends on your goals: if intense competition motivates you, this is a field where that’s easy to find. On the other hand, if you’d rather work parallel to other performers without the strain of intense competition, that option is available as well. The most important thing is to take your goals seriously, whatever they may be.

Do I Really Need to Go to College for Piano Performance?

It’s true: it is possible to learn music in individual lessons or by teaching yourself some of the fundamentals. However, you’ll never be able to attain the full breadth of concentrated experiences that a college degree offers. Going to college for piano performance can offer you the following:

  • Opportunities to finely hone your craft with a variety of world-renowned, seasoned piano performance faculty
  • Dozens of existing ensembles looking for piano performers like you to join them
  • Access to world-class facilities, including excellent pianos and practice and performance spaces with exquisite acoustics
  • A network of professional musician contacts including alumni, visiting musicians, and others in the music industry
  • The chance to learn business skills that are important for musicians such as marketing, promotions, and budgeting
  • Basic legal knowledge that all performers should know about contracts, copyright, etc.

It’s possible to learn some of these skills by trial and error, but there’s no better way to attain a swift and comprehensive course of study than actually pursuing a piano performance degree.

What Kinds of Classes Will I Take During My Piano Performance Degree?

Courses of study vary according to school, but piano performance degrees usually carry many of the same components. Students typically take individual lessons with faculty members each semester as well as participate in ensembles and small group classes. Students may take courses in the following areas:

  • Keyboard literature
  • Accompanying
  • Experiential musicianship
  • Historical music
  • 20th and 21st century piano techniques
  • Keyboard pedagogy
  • Orchestration
  • Classical improvisation
  • Composition as applied improvisation

Typically, students also work to successfully carry out final senior and junior recitals, which provide valuable performance experience as well as show off the skills the student has learned throughout their matriculation. These recitals are a highlight of a music student’s college career. To learn more about the specific classes you will be required to take, it’s recommended that you contact your program directly.

Can a Piano Performance Degree Help Me With Stage Fright, Performance Anxiety, and Other Challenges?

Some of the greatest musicians in the world still struggle with performance anxiety in the days, hours, and minutes before they begin to play for an audience. There’s no way to know if your stage fright will decrease with time, but you can begin to address this challenge by mitigating the causes and symptoms through practice. A piano performance degree gives you plenty of opportunities to begin to address this problem through low-stakes performances (small, friendly audiences, a more frequent presence on the stage, etc.) and mentorship from professional faculty. Becoming more confident in your musical abilities may also alleviate negative feelings surrounding performance. Never fear: some musicians have said that a small amount of performance anxiety proves to actually be healthy. Nervous feelings keep them on their toes and help them do their best once they hit the stage.

What are My Odds of Succeeding in the Field of Piano Performance?

The good news is that there are more opportunities in piano performance-related fields than ever before. Whether you want to perform, teach, compose, accompany, or seek out some combination of these goals, a path of success is possible. One of the great things about pursuing piano performance is that you get to decide what your personal goals are. The faculty are available to help you succeed and play to your strengths. While there’s no way to predict the future accurately all of the time, you can invest your energy into a degree that will help launch you on the right trajectory.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Piano Performance?

Alumni of piano performance programs work in a wide variety of musical contexts, including the following:

  • Professional concert performer with symphonies and other groups
  • University professor, working with undergraduate and graduate music students
  • Music director at a church or other spiritual community
  • Music teacher, offering private lessons or working in schools
  • Entertainment promoter or marketer, helping publicize musical performances
  • Nonprofit professional or arts administrator, creating opportunities to share music widely
  • Community teaching artist, applying the arts to solving community challenges

The best way to learn about what you can do with your piano performance degree is to approach alumni. Every worthy program has a pool of alumni who are eager to share their experiences with you. Contact your program or the admissions office. They can help you connect with alumni.

How Do I Find a Piano Performance Program That is Right for Me?

It’s essential to consider every factor when you think about where you want to apply. Cost, location, and reputation are just a few of the top considerations prospective students need to make. The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami has long been considered a world-class locale for piano performance applicants. The Frost School supports the goals of each individual student, no matter your piano performance goals or prior areas of focus.