Caught in the spotlight

Conservatories provide challenging alternative to a traditional four-year college experience

Rachel Halmrast, Staff Artist
Originally published June 24, 2016

Rachel Halmrast

Rachel Halmrast

As this year’s seniors head off to their next level of education, some may have an idea of what they want to study, and some may not. Part of the excitement of college is being able to take complete control of one’s education for the first time.

However, for those who have found their calling before they’ve even graduated high school, college is an opportunity to go even deeper. This can be an especially important opportunity for those who are interested in the arts. There are hundreds of colleges that are centered around visual art, dance, theater, and other specific art forms.

Those applying to performing arts conservatories often have an audition as part of their application. To showcase their individual abilities, they may be asked to perform a short solo or recite a monologue in front of their future teachers or administrators.

In one of these solo auditions, there’s nothing left to hide behind. The essays have been written and the scores have been submitted, and all that’s left for consideration is you and your art. Not only that, but every hour spent, every sacrifice made, every drop of commitment and passion has to become visible in those few minutes.

I’ve been dancing for six years now, and I know that it’s something I want to pursue in college. Since I’m a junior, I haven’t experienced a college audition yet, but they’re only a matter of months away.

As I’m taking my SAT tests and trying to maintain my GPA, I also have to keep my auditions in the back of my mind, and they’re weighing on me as much as anything else. The idea of being judged based on my art is extremely intimidating, especially since the quality of the art form that I’ve chosen relies solely on my body.

Even if I have the artistic ability to make it into a conservatory, I still have to compete with other applicants for the highest GPA and best SAT scores. For many conservatories that are part of a larger university, applicants must meet the acceptance criteria for the university before they’ll even be considered. This narrows the acceptance rate considerably, and adds yet another layer of pressure to applying.

Conservatories are places where the good become the great, and the great become the best. Regardless of the demanding application process, they offer very important training and experience that students can take with them into their professional lives, especially since the arts can be so difficult to succeed in.