On this rainy afternoon in New York City, I’d like to begin a conversation on applying to graduate schools in ethnomusicology. There’s certainly not one way to do this. I’m not an expert or a guidance counselor. All I can offer are my reflections from recently completing the process – a process that moved along more smoothly thanks to the help of those who had already been there.
Our blog has been rather light on comments thus far, but this time especially, I want to hear your thoughts. Anyway, my saga began last spring 2013. I found a guidebook listing all the music graduate schools in the U.S., and checked each of their websites for ethnomusicology programs. Don’t do this. To save yourself lots of drudgery and toil, go directly to the Society for Ethnomusicology’s graduate program guide, a much more direct list of the programs available. In hindsight, the more I sought help with these applications, the easier the process became. My advisor, an ethnomusicologist at Franklin and Marshall College, gave me that help I so desperately needed. We talked over different departments, she gave me a sense of the distinct cultures cultivated in various departments, and we figured out which ones felt like a good fit for me. Ultimately, I chose to apply to eleven schools. What do you think: was eleven crazy, or well-planned?
Either way, whether you’re applying to one program or 27, start in the summer. That is, for those applying to graduate programs while still completing undergraduate school, summer is a great idea. I took care of the easy steps first, like opening accounts on each school’s website, and filling out my name and address a million times. Once finished with the brainless parts, I found the personal statement the most difficult aspect of each application, but surprisingly, I got help from the Marshall Scholarship. Franklin and Marshall College has an incredible post-graduate fellowships advisor, and she worked very closely with me to develop that statement. What I completed for the Marshall served as my basic framework for graduate schools.
Here’s the bottom line of my advice for this afternoon – find someone to work with on your applications. Ideally, find someone with experience in academia. My advisor gave me insights on schools that I never would have gathered from their websites, and helped shape my applications based on what these departments actually look for. Even once I finished college last December 2013, I continued to work with my advisor, sending her a running commentary via email as I did interviews and visited different departments. Just a few weeks ago, I chose University of California Santa Barbara, and felt so much better about the decision knowing a newly tenured ethnomusicologist supports the choice.
For the rest of the week, I’m looking forward to hearing from readers with thoughts of their own. Whether your considering graduate work in ethnomusicology, or are just hearing that strange word for the first time, send along your thoughts. That would brighten up this rainy day.