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Information for Parents

MParents provides information on academics, student life, important dates, and much more.

Parent/Guardian Questions

What is it like to be a performing arts student at the University of Michigan?

The first impression that many people have of the University of Michigan is that it is a very large institution. While this is true of the University as a whole, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance is one of the smallest schools or colleges within the university. Our total student body is about 1100 with approximately 150 faculty members. Our incoming class for the Fall of 2014 numbers 194 freshmen, 25 transfer students, and 125 new graduate students - we're a small community with members who share similar goals and motivations.

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Concert Band at Hill AuditoriumOur faculty strive to create a nurturing atmosphere while challenging students to develop their talents and further their ambitions. Michigan students are surrounded by both peers and teachers who are consistently performing at the highest possible level of excellence. Our graduates rise to this challenge and become leaders in their fields.

What makes the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance unique is our comprehensiveness: we strive to maintain a balanced emphasis upon both performance and scholarship while presenting students with the training necessary to excel within their chosen field.

 

What type of education does the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) offer?

We are a professional school for the performing arts. Just as you would expect curricula in a law or medical school to reflect a commitment to train students to be professionals in those disciplines, so the curricula at the SMTD reflect a commitment to training professional actors, dancers, and musicians.

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In most of our curricula, seventy-five percent of the coursework is completed by taking courses in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance with the remaining coursework completed in non-music areas, most typically in courses offered through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In terms of the semester to semester experience of our students, this balance realistically means that students will take a number of performing arts courses but typically only one academic course each semester.

Of course, because we are a university and not a conservatory program, there are a wide variety of ways that Michigan students can broaden their academic options. We offer interdisciplinary degrees that balance academic and music coursework, and we also offer a full range of dual-degree programs that allow students to pursue two concurrent degree programs. The specific descriptions of all of our degree programs are available on this web site. This variety expands the opportunities that our students have available to them, and is another important reason why a Michigan education is a unique and excellent one.

What will my son or daughter do after graduation?

Of all the questions asked, perhaps this one creates the most anxiety for parents whose children are considering a career in the performing arts. We have all heard the stories of students with music degrees who end up waiting tables for a living. While there are certainly no guarantees to be made regarding your child's ultimate career path, one of the things of which we are certain is that an education from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance provides students with the solid training they will need to be successful in their chosen disciplines.

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commencement candidRecent graduates have pursued additional studies in the finest graduate programs around the world. Others are faculty members of prestigious schools of music and universities around the country.

Musical Theatre graduates continue to find great success with roles on Broadway or in touring productions of shows such as AVENUE Q, ASSASSINS, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, BOMBAY DREAMS, BOOK OF MORMON, 42ND STREET, FOSSE, GYPSY), HAIR, INTO THE WOODS, JERSEY BOYS, LES MISERABLES, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, MISS SAIGON, RAGTIME, RENT, SHOW BOAT, SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and TITANIC.

Graduates are also performers with the Metropolitan Opera, Chanticleer, San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, the Corigliano Quartet, and the Cavani Quartet.

Dancer at commencementTheatre graduates are working as performers or behind the scenes with companies such as the National Shakespeare Company, Theatre by the Sea, the Bat Theatre Inc., and many others. Personnel of major dance companies like the Alvin Ailey Repertory, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Bella Lewizky, and Mark Morris include former dance graduates.

Michigan graduates continue to play a large role in shaping the direction that the performing arts are taking, both now and in the future.

 

 

What additional educational opportunities are available?

Certainly, the training that Michigan students receive from the faculty is the most important factor in their education, but it is also important to note that there are abundant and rich resources for the performing arts in Ann Arbor. The SMTD alone offers over 300 concerts and performances each year. These range from student and faculty recitals, to orchestra, band and choir concerts, to opera, musical theatre, theatre and dance productions. This means that students at Michigan have ample opportunity to express themselves through performance. But this is not the extent of the arts offerings in Ann Arbor.

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The University Musical Society, a professional music series, sponsors nearly eighty concerts each year featuring the top professional touring artists in the world. Recent year's series includes artists as diverse as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Phillip Glass and the Phillip Glass Ensemble, Anne Sophie Mutter, Joshua Redman, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, St. Petersburg String Quartet, Orchestra Baobab, the Guthrie Theatre Company, the Twyla Tharp Dance Studio, and the Emerson String Quartet.  For a complete listing, visit their web site at www.ums.org.

Many of these groups and individuals present master classes and workshops for Michigan students while they are on campus. And the area as a whole is one that embraces the arts, so that our students can supplement their education with numerous professional opportunities in the surrounding communities. This enhances and extends the education that Michigan students receive, and plays an important role in developing the skills to make them successful once they graduate.

What is campus life like at Michigan?

The U-M consists of a number of specific campuses located throughout the city. SMTD students spend most of their time on the North and Central Campuses. North Campus is home to the E.V. Moore Music Building, the Walgreen Drama Center and Arthur Miller Theatre, the Stearns Building, and the Duderstadt Center. Central Campus houses the Dance department, as well as many major performance venues.

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One of the first impressions that many people have of the University is that it is very large. While in some ways this is true, life for a student is not greatly impacted by this geographic separation. Students have access to both the University's free Bus System as well as the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses. This makes navigating campus a very simple matter, and also makes it possible for students to travel off campus without a car. University buses service all of the campus locations, and run very frequently throughout the day. With a number of overlapping routes and a frequent timetable, students rarely have to wait longer than five to ten minutes for a bus. The trip from North to Central Campus is a short one (perhaps six minutes), and University classes are scheduled in such a way to make it possible for students to travel between the campuses without worrying about being late.

There is no specific residence hall where School of Music, Theatre & Dance students are required to live. Many choose to live in the North Campus neighborhood in the Bursley/Baits Housing complex. These residences offer easy access to the Moore Building, the Walgreen Drama Center and other North Campus facilities, and are quiet and more removed from the downtown Ann Arbor area. Others choose to live in the Central Campus neighborhood. Each neighborhood has its own flavor and personality, so students at the University can find the environment that best suits their expectations of college life. After the first year, about 60% of our students choose to move off-campus, into apartments, houses, or co-operative housing, with about 40% staying another year in the residence halls.

Ann Arbor has two police departments, a Department of Public Safety, and many services, such as Safe Walk, that make the campus safe to travel at all hours.  Each year, the University of Michigan prepares an “Annual Security Report” and publishes it in the Campus Safety Handbook. The report, which is issued each October 1, contains detailed information on campus safety and security policies, procedures, and programs, including information on: emergency services, security telephone numbers, sexual assault policy, stalking laws, handling obscene phone calls, sexual harassment policy, dealing with workplace violence and threats, police agencies, health services, counseling services, safe transportation after dark, safety tips, and alcohol and drug policies and programs. The report also includes statistics concerning crimes on campus. If you would like to receive a complete copy, visit the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety web site or call 734. 763.3434.

Downtown Ann Arbor offers a vibrant cultural community with small jazz-clubs like the Firefly, small concert halls such as the Ark, art movie houses, bookstores, and, of course, numerous coffee-houses. Ann Arbor has almost 150 city parks, which very much define its character. Students enjoy canoeing down the Huron River, running in the Nichols Arboretum, or just strolling through downtown. Very much a classic college town, the University and the Ann Arbor community coexist and enhance one another beautifully.

What is different about applying to a performing arts school?

Applying to a performing arts school is very different than applying to a liberal arts college. The first and immediate difference is the audition process. All applicants to the U-M SMTD must complete an audition, interview, or portfolio review before they are offered admission. This adds to the level of commitment that students and families alike must make to the application process. Making reasonable travel arrangements, planning days away from school, preparing audition material; all are part of the challenge of applying to a performing arts school.

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male cellistOn the other hand, the audition/interview process allows students to experience what a particular institution is really like. You can learn a lot about the philosophy of a particular school by how the auditions are conducted. How easy is it for you to make audition arrangements? How do the staff and faculty treat students during the audition? Was it possible to meet current students, observe rehearsals, and ask questions of the admissions staff?

All of these, and many others, are important factors in evaluating how a school works with and values its students. The audition/interview process is an interactive one; while we are trying to learn about you, you are learning about us.  Whenever possible, go to the campus for the audition and experience this!

 

 

How does the application process at the U-M differ from others?

First, we are a University program. Therefore, academics play an important role in the evaluation of the students who apply for admission. Every applicant must meet minimum academic criteria in order to be considered for admission.

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The evaluation of academic criteria for undergraduate students is a cooperative process. Admission counselors in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions conduct a preliminary review of a student's prior academic record (i.e. course curriculum and grades earned), and their scores on either the SAT or ACT. Concurrently, all applications are reviewed by the admissions staff at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Our counselors will review not only the academic, but also the performing arts background of each applicant.

If both of these reviews are positive, then the student is invited to audition and/or interview. It is this final step that will largely influence the final admission decision.

Are scholarships and financial aid available, and how do we apply for them?

Financial support comes in two forms at the University of Michigan: need-based awards and merit-based/need-informed scholarships. Merit-based awards are available to students admitted to any music program or musical theatre, and are administered solely by the SMTD. The Department of Theatre and Drama and the Department of Dance administer their own scholarship programs. Questions regarding scholarships should be directed to the appropriate department.

The University's Office of Financial Aid, (2011 Student Activities Building, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1316; 734/763-6600; email: financial.aid@umich.edu) offers numerous resources for students and families considering the U-M. The aid programs available through the Office of Financial Aid include grants, college work-study, a variety of loan programs, and some scholarships. We strongly encourage all families to apply for need-based financial aid; do so as soon as possible after January 1. Application can be made by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and information regarding the FAFSA can be obtained at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Information about these programs and the application process is included in the Undergraduate Admissions Viewbook available on their website (www.admissions.umich.edu).

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The School of Music, Theatre & Dance also offers a wide variety of scholarships for undergraduates to encourage and reward excellence and to enable especially promising students to attend the SMTD. Students will be considered for merit-based scholarship if they apply by December 1 and complete the audition/interview process no later than the February 27 scholarship deadline. (Please note that there is an earlier deadline for recorded auditions.)

Scholarship decisions are based on a combination of the student’s artistic and academic merits in combination with the financial need of the student as indicated by the FAFSA and CSS Profile.  While we are unable to award scholarships to all who apply, we make every effort to assist as many students as possible. Currently, nearly 50% of our undergraduates are receiving scholarship support.

Does my student need to buy a computer?

We do not require students to supply their own computers, but many students do prefer to purchase one. For more information about computers, software and other equipment, please refer to our Technology page.

Why are parents and teachers important to us?

At the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, we recognize that none of our students would be here without the support of those people in their lives who made it possible for them to achieve the high level of excellence that we expect of our students.

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As Quinn Strassel (B.F.A. in Theatre Performance, '01) wrote in his commencement speech,
"Though you knew we were bright enough to become doctors, you allowed us to become artists. . . . Doctors discover new ways of helping us live longer. But artists discover new ways of helping us live better.”

We recognize the sacrifices that parents make. Whether it be the time you devoted to rushing your children from rehearsal to rehearsal, or the amount of money you spent on private teachers, instruments, dance classes, costumes and all the rest, we know that the work of becoming a performing artist is not done alone.

Grad Hartwell & Parent

We also recognize the important role that teachers play in the development of young artists. Without the formal training that teachers provide, our students would not be able to nurture the talents they already possess. Without the advice and support of those mentors, we know our students would have a harder time differentiating between the myriad of choices that face them in the coming year.

So we offer this information in the hope that it will make the application and admission process an easier one for all. We also hope that you can use this information to provide the vital guidance and support that the young artists in your lives will need in what will be a trying year.

And we hope, too, that you will come to recognize that one of the things that makes the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance unique is that we are, in every sense, a community – one that cares about our students and wants them to develop their talents to the fullest.

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

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