Founded in 1921, the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music is doing its best to reverse that trend. Eastman is generous with its financial support, totaling $16 million in financial aid given to students in 2021.
And that’s only one of the ways that Eastman helps its students be first-class musicians. The school features some of the finest resources of any music school.
That includes the historic Eastman Theater, which opened in 1922. Thanks to a massive renovation project in 2010, the 3,094-seat theatre hosts the premier performances on campus and serves as the primary venue for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Eastman also boasts North America’s largest academic music library in the Sibley Music Library. With over 750,000 items held within its 45,000 square foot space, Sibley features materials that can inform and inspire serious music students, including the original drafts of Debussy’s work, “La Mer.”
From this description, it’s clear that most music students would be thrilled to study at Eastman. But is it the right school for you?
Eastman School of Music Acceptance Rate
The acceptance rate into Eastman is a little less than 20%.
At first glance, Eastman’s 20% acceptance rate sounds pretty easy. After all, that’s much higher than the very low 2% acceptance rate at the Curtis Institute or the 7% acceptance rate from The Julliard School. Even the Colburn School’s 10% acceptance rate is just half of Eastman’s.
But those numbers need to be understood in context. A 20% acceptance rate is better than those offered by other elite music schools, but that still means that every eight out of ten applicants will be rejected. Only a tiny handful will actually make it in.
While that’s a harsh truth to accept, it really is good news for those who do get accepted.
With a low acceptance rate, music schools can better use their resources. Rather than ask their expert music teachers to get to know the styles and struggles of one hundred students, they can focus their attention on a dozen or so.
Even better, a small acceptance rate ensures that only the best possible students make it in. Thus, Eastman students get to learn their instruments alongside some of the most outstanding young musicians in the world. They get to share their talent with one another and learn from each other, improving their skills together.
Eastman School of Music GPA
While Eastman does not publish any minimum required GPA, it is likely that, upon showcasing a successful audition, application, and potential interview, Eastman would accept students with a GPA as low as 3.0.
Eastman is indeed attached to the University of Rochester, a GPA-competitive school ranked annually among the top universities by US News.
That being said, Eastman’s admissions policies are sufficiently different than that of its parent university.
Some musicians reading this will not be surprised that Eastman doesn’t publish its minimum GPA requirements. From their perspective, classes like English or math have nothing to do with playing an instrument, so why would a music school care about them?
To be sure, there’s some truth to this perspective. No one prepping to go to Eastman should focus on their grades so much that they ignore their daily instrument practice or fail to prep a strong audition.
However, hopeful students shouldn’t ignore their grades either because that may send the wrong message to admissions counselors. A low GPA may suggest a low work ethic.
Work ethic is important to Eastman because of the expectations the school has for its students. One glance at Eastman’s curriculum reveals high expectations for its students. They want to bring in those who can meet those expectations and succeed in the program.
Anyone who can maintain a strong GPA while still keeping up on their instrument practice has the work ethic that Eastman is looking for. So while potential students shouldn’t make grades their first priority, they shouldn’t ignore their GPA either.
What Is Eastman’s Ranking? Is Eastman a good college/conservatory?
Eastman School of Music is among the best music schools in the entire world.
While going through the trouble of applying, one might wonder how Eastman can have such high demands for its students. The short and honest answer is that Eastman expects the best because it is one of the best.
According to the QS Ranking of Top Universities for Performing Arts, Eastman comes in at number 24 worldwide, sitting alongside Oxford University in England and Finland’s Sibelius University of the Arts.
The school earns this ranking thanks to its incredibly low faculty-to-student ratio and diverse faculty body, ensuring a rich educational experience for all attending.
Among schools in the United States, Prepscholar.com puts Eastman in the top five. At this ranking, Eastman beats out even impressive institutions such as the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music.
A range of attributes earns this impressive showing for Eastman, including the facilities it offers students and the support available to future musicians. But one of the most important is the quality faculty who train these young performers.
Teachers include pianist Natalya Antonova, who debuted with the Leningrad Philharmonic at just 16 years old. Later, Antonova became the Leningrad Conservatory’s youngest professor before going on to play on stages worldwide.
Notable Alumni of Eastman
While Eastman is unquestionably proud of its rankings and offerings, the surest sign of the school’s quality is the success enjoyed by its alumni.
Eastman meant so much to cellist Guy Johnston that he has returned to the school since graduating and continues to serve as Associate Professor of Cello.
Additionally, Johnston was named Young Musician of the Year by the BBC in 2000, one of many honors awarded to him. When not teaching, Johnston plays with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and others.
After studying at Eastman, trumpeter Christopher Martin earned a fellowship with the New World Symphony and then became associate principal trumpet with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Currently, Martin serves as principal trumpet in the New York Philharmonic, a position he has held since 2016. Additionally, Martin has performed with the Chicago and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras, as well as part of the quintet High Bridge Brass.
With just a small sampling of Eastman’s outstanding graduates, it’s easy to see why the school is recognized as one of the best in the world.
What Are the Available Music Majors at Eastman?
Anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of these amazing musicians will find plenty of opportunities at Eastman. No matter your plans, you’ll find a major to prepare you for your future career.
Through the wind, brass, and percussion program, students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in applied music performance or graduate degrees in performance and literature.
In the former, students train to achieve the highest level of mastery over their instrument. With a curriculum that ranges from participation in chamber music groups and ensembles to solo recitals and studio classes, the program provides students with everything they need to perfect their skills.
Students in the program accomplish their goals thanks to the studios Eastman offers.
For example, the Percussion Studio builds on a century of history to offer weekly studio classes involving lectures and solo performances. In addition to pedagogy and percussion literature courses, students also participate in one of the school’s ensembles.
Those who want to not only play but also write the best in contemporary music might consider Eastman’s composition major.
Embracing both the time-honored tradition of concert composition and the technological advancements of computer composition, the major equips students with the skills they need to follow their artistic pursuits.
Taking advantage of the Eastman Audio Research Studio (EARS), students learn to make the music in their minds into a reality.
Should You Apply to the Eastman School of Music?
Even with a relatively high acceptance rate of 20%, the Eastman School of Music is highly selective. The majority of those who apply, even the very good musicians who try to study at Eastman, get rejected.
When one considers the demands Eastman places on applicants, one might reasonably wonder if it’s even worth it.
When making that decision, you need to remember that Eastman graduates have gone on to illustrious careers, serving as primary chairs in orchestras and ensembles across the country.
They have written and conducted pieces of music that will be performed for decades yet to come. Even those who do not reach those heights go on to satisfying careers as teachers and academics.
Eastman alumni enjoy such success because they learn from the best, including working musicians in New York’s best orchestras. Within the school’s first-class facilities, students learn from master musicians and time-tested players, picking up skills developed over decades of playing.
Is that enough of a reason to take the risk and apply? Not everyone would say yes, but for most serious musicians, it’s hard to say no.