Carnegie Mellon University

Nearly 70 Years of Preparing Young Musicians for Excellence


Pre-College Music immerses high school students in a world-class conservatory experience within an internationally recognized university. The program mirrors the first weeks of Carnegie Mellon’s first-year undergraduate School of Music curriculum. In Pre-College Music, you will improve as a musician while experiencing the life of a college student studying and living in a university setting. If you are thinking of taking the next step in your musical studies, this program is for you.

Curriculum Overview

The Pre-College Music curriculum consists of private studio lessons, major performing ensembles, and music support courses. Additionally, students are encouraged to take advantage of the many minor studios and electives offered every summer. Acceptance into each course is contingent on demonstrated performance level either by an audition recording or on a submitted portfolio.

Your Pre-College Music experience and level of growth will depend on which Pre-College Music option you choose. We recommend the Residential 6-week option for the most enriching experience producing the greatest results. However, we understand this level of commitment is not possible for all students. For that reason, we offer additional options.

Pre-College Music Program Options:

Residential: Full-time
3-week and 6-week options

A rich, immersive residential university experience with rigorous instruction and extracurricular opportunities to help high school musicians discover their potential for a career in music.

Classes include:
  • Private Studio Lessons
  • Music Theory
  • Solfège (Sight-Singing)
  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics
  • Performing Ensembles
  • Music History Seminar
  • Convocation
  • Major-required courses
In addition, students have access to extracurricular activities and events through Pre-College Student Affairs.
Commuter: Full-time
3-week and 6-week options

A rich, immersive university experience with rigorous instruction and extracurricular opportunities to help high school musicians discover their potential for a career in music.

Classes include:
  • Private Studio Lessons
  • Music Theory
  • Solfège (Sight-Singing)
  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics
  • Performing Ensembles
  • Music History Seminar
  • Convocation
  • Major-required courses
In addition, students have access to extracurricular activities and events through Pre-College Student Affairs.
Commuter: Part-time

Supplemental instruction for students looking to expand and maintain musical study over the summer. This option is highly flexible and allows for local students with limited availability to participate in lessons and to perform in ensembles.

Classes include:
  • Private Studio Lessons
  • Music Theory, Solfège, or Dalcroze Eurhythmics (choose one)
  • Any/All Performing Ensemble(s) (Millennium Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Choir, Jazz Choir, Brass Ensemble, etc.)

Students participating as a Commuter: Part-time student may also add on minor studios and/or elective music courses. Additional fees apply.

*Please note: The application fee is waived for Commuter: Part-time applicants.

Please note:

  • For specific program dates, see the home page.

  • In order to be eligible as a commuter student, the parent or legal guardian must have a permanent residence within approximately 30 miles of campus or within Allegheny County. Families who relocate temporarily to the Pittsburgh area are not eligible for commuter status. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Need to talk through your options? Pre-College Music is happy to help! Contact music-precollege@andrew.cmu.edu.

All Full-Time Pre-College Music students in the Residential or Commuter 3 -or 6-week options choose a Major Studio and are required to take:

  • Private Studio

  • Music Theory

  • Solfège (Sight-Singing)

  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics

  • Choir

  • Music History Seminar

  • Convocation (Includes performances by professional groups, admissions info sessions, and Q&A with faculty and current college students)

  • Major-required courses (Acting, Recording Techniques, Composers’ Forum, etc. See below.)

Students perform on several concerts culminating in Concert Week, which includes festival-style performances of chamber music, opera scenes, choir, jazz ensembles, and more.

Major Studios

Students majoring in Instrumental Performance participate in classes and music experiences designed to develop them into well-rounded musicians.

Instrumental Performance Majors receive private studio lessons each week and participate in seminars to explore concepts and techniques of performance, discussing topics relevant to their concentration.

Summer Ensembles include Chamber Music groups, the Millennium Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, and others.
The Vocal Performance Major has a rich curriculum of performance and music support opportunities.

Voice Majors receive a one-hour private studio lesson and an additional half-hour private vocal coaching session (with a professional accompanist) each week. In these sessions, students will work on technique as well as the preparation and presentation of classical repertoire.

Voice majors also take Acting Class and Voice Class as well as perform in the choir, in recital, and in the Opera Workshop. Students may also join the Jazz Choir.
Composition Majors receive private studio lessons each week and explore several areas of music composition through both classroom and individual instruction. Areas of exploration include theory, orchestration, and electronic music.

All Composition Majors meet in Composers’ Forum to hear lectures, participate in discussion, and present student works or works-in-progress.

Composition Majors may audition for any summer instrumental ensemble to develop collaborative playing. Ensembles include the Millennium Symphony Orchestra, the Summer Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Ensemble, and others.
Music Technology/Electronic Music Majors take private studio lessons focused on recording techniques, sound synthesis, and/or other skills related to their specific interests and goals.

All Music Technology/Electronic Music Majors meet in the Music Tech Forum to hear lectures, participate in discussion, and present student works or works-in-progress. In Recording Techniques, students learn how to work in the cutting-edge Vlahakis Recording Studio.

Music Technology/Electronic Music Majors may audition for any summer instrumental ensemble to develop collaborative playing. Ensembles include the Millennium Symphony Orchestra, the Summer Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Ensemble, and others.

Students may major in the following areas:

  • Bagpipe               
  • Bassoon              
  • Cello     
  • Clarinet Composition     
  • Double Bass
  • Electronic Music     
  • Euphonium       
  • Flute     
  • Guitar 
  • Harp     
  • Horn            
  • Music Technology       
  • Oboe   
  • Percussion         
  • Piano   
  • Saxophone       
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet             
  • Tuba     
  • Viola     
  • Violin   
  • Voice    

Through the Minor Studio options, students may take introductory or advanced lessons on any of the major instruments listed here with the addition of Songwriting, Jazz Piano, Jazz Voice, and/or Conducting.

  • Bagpipe
  • Bassoon
  • Cello
  • Clarinet
  • Composition
  • Conducting
  • Double Bass
  • Electronic Music
  • Euphonium
  • Flute
  • Guitar
  • Harp
  • Horn
  • Jazz Piano
  • Music Technology
  • Oboe
  • Percussion
  • Piano
  • Saxophone
  • Songwriting
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet
  • Tuba
  • Viola
  • Violin
  • Voice

Eligibility and Application Requirements

To be eligible for the Pre-College Music program, students must:
  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school at the time of application submission.
  • Have a strong interest in music.
The complete application for the Pre-College Music program consists of the following:
  • Completed online application
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Responses to essay prompts
  • Submission of the following audition requirements:
    • Instrumental and Vocal Performance Majors should submit recordings of two to three contrasting pieces that demonstrate their musical and technical level of achievement. (Vocalists: Please note that Pre-College Music focuses mainly on classical repertoire, rather than musical theater.)
    • Composition Majors should submit two to three manuscripts of original compositions showing their range in genre, training, and ability. If possible, include an audio recording of each of the submitted compositions. An electronically generated recording is acceptable.
    • Music Technology/Electronic Music Majors should submit a portfolio containing samples of their creative work. This may include audio recordings of performances or compositions that you engineered, video recordings of performances or compositions that you produced or edited, and/or screenshots of your software or other creative work. If this is not possible, please provide a written statement that outlines your specific interests and experience with music technology or electronic music.
Essays required for the following prompts (300-500 words each):
  • What do you hope to gain from participating in Carnegie Mellon’s Pre-College Programs?
Are scholarships available?
  • Yes, but only to students in the Residential 6-week option.
I have a family member who lives in Pittsburgh. If I live with them for the summer, can I register for the Commuter Part-time option?
  • No. To be eligible as a Commuter student, the parent or legal guardian must have a permanent residence within approximately 30 miles of campus or within Allegheny County. There are no exceptions to this policy.
  • Families who relocate temporarily to the Pittsburgh area are not eligible for commuter status.
What will I have to play for orchestra, wind ensemble, or chamber music placement auditions?
  • You should arrive with an example of your best playing to present to the directors of the different ensembles. We are asking for these auditions for placement purposes only. This is not a ‘get-admitted-into-the-conservatory’ audition. The attitude is casual and relaxed. There are no repertoire requirements for these auditions. Think ‘example of my best playing.’ An excerpt of a movement or an etude would be good option.
What is the end-of-summer conservatory auditions?
  • All full-time music students participate in mandatory end-of-summer conservatory auditions. The audition experience is a valuable component of the summer, allowing the individual student the opportunity to go through the paces of a conservatory audition.
  • At the end of the summer program, every student will receive written comments from their private studio, coursework, and advice for future development in the profession. Your summer Pre-College Private Studio faculty will prepare you for the audition experience. As a result of these mock auditions, exceptional students may have their Carnegie Mellon pre-screening auditions waived or be accepted into the School of Music outright. *Important note: these students must still be accepted into the university.
Will I receive a transcript?
  • No. All courses are offered for enrichment only. Pre-College Music does not produce official Carnegie Mellon grades or transcripts.
Who are the classroom faculty?
  • The Pre-College Music faculty is made up of professors, conductors, instructors, and staff from its world-class conservatory program. Additional friends and alumni are brought in to complete our summer faculty. For specific faculty information, please contact us.
I'll be on campus this summer in a program other than Music. Can I sign up for private lessons? May I take a music elective? May I play in one of the ensembles?

  • Pre-College Music is happy to include students from other programs into our classes and ensembles.
  • The first concern is scheduling. Most students from other programs do not have the room in their schedule to take other courses, so you should first compare the music schedule and your own program schedule. Private lessons and chamber music are scheduled individually, so they are realistic options for most non-music majors. Placement auditions would be required for orchestra, wind ensemble, and chamber music. Elective fees will apply to all these options.

NOTE: Musical Theater students typically prefer private singing lesson options within the Pre-College Drama program since private voice lessons with Pre-College Music focus on classical repertoire.
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