Carnegie Mellon University

Pre-College Music gives high school students the opportunity to improve as a musician and learn about life in a conservatory-style college curriculum.

Throughout Pre-College Music, students gain valuable experiences; by being immersed in a conservatory style curriculum and in preparing for college auditions, while experiencing what life is like within an internationally-recognized, research university. The program includes six weeks of lessons and coaching that aid in choosing and preparing appropriate repertoire for undergraduate auditions. Pre-College Music also very closely mirrors the first six weeks of the undergraduate first-year curriculum - students take the same coursework, with the same schedule, classrooms, faculty and program rigor as first-year undergraduates.


The Pre-College Music curriculum is comprised 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 the audition recording or on submitted compositions.


Instrumental Performance

Students majoring in a particular instrument participate in classes and music experiences designed to develop them into well-rounded musicians. Instrumental majors receive a private studio lesson each week, participate in the summer orchestra, wind ensemble and chamber music ensembles, and have multiple opportunities to attend master classes throughout the summer.

Vocal Performance

The vocal performance major has a rich curriculum of performance and music support opportunities. Voice majors receive a one-hour private studio lesson (with professional accompanist) and an additional half-hour private vocal coaching session each week through the summer where they work on technique and the preparation and presentation of classical repertoire. Voice majors also take dance, acting and vocal performance classes and perform with the summer Concert Choir and the Summer Opera Workshop.


Composition majors receive a private studio lesson each week and explore several areas of music composition including theory, orchestration and electronic music, both in classes and in individual instruction. Students are encouraged to create music for performance at one of the summer Pre-College concerts. All summer compositions majors will submit original works at the end of the summer to be read and recorded by a professional chamber ensemble.

Students may major in the following areas:

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

Program requirements of all students:

  • Private Studio
  • Music Theory
  • Solfège (Sight-Singing)
  • Eurhythmics
  • Concert Choir
  • Attendance at weekly performances by professional musicians


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.
  • Have a strong interest in music.

Application Requirements

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
  • Response to the following essay prompt (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
  •  Submission of the audition requirements listed below. 
    • Instrumental and vocal performance majors should submit recordings of 2-3 contrasting pieces that demonstrate their musical and technical level of achievement. (Vocalists please note that the School of Music Pre-College program focuses mainly on classical repertoire, rather than musical theater.)

    • Composition majors should submit 2-3 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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

"Work in progress" is most relevant for instrumentalists who might spend months working on a new piece. Vocalists should arrive with a polished song or two and expect to be given a number of new selections over the course of the Pre-College Music experience.

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 not any repertoire requirements for these auditions. Think, "example of my best playing." An excerpt of a movement or an etude would be good options.

All 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. (Note that these students must still be accepted by the university.)

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 in all of 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.

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, view our faculty listing here.

Yes. Please visit the School of Music website and click on "Part-Time Commuter" for information.

Possibly. This is considered on an individual basis. If he/she is playing his/her instrument at a high school level AND is living close enough to commute AND is mature enough to succeed in this environment, it's possible that he/she could be accepted as a Part-Time Commuter. It's not possible for him/her to attend as a resident student or as a Full-Time student. Please visit the School of Music website for information.

No. Only students with a Greater Pittsburgh area permanent address can register for the Part-Time Commuter option. Out of town students need to register as a Full-Time resident.