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Underclass comprehensive exams

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you so much for your help! Below, I've listed my original request
and a number of answers I received. All the information was very
helpful in getting our faculty going on this project!

With gratitude,

Tammie M. Huntington
Instructor of Music
Grace College
Winona Lake, IN
(574) 372-5100 x.6356


"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."
Psalm 118:14 (NIV)

Dear Colleagues:

We at Grace College are in the process of putting together an evaluation
package for our sophomore music majors that they must adequately pass
before continuing on in their education. I know many universities
already have something like this in place.

Would you be willing to share your procedures? Do you just require a
longer jury, or do you evaluate GPA, etc? Do you do any kind of
Theory/Music History written exam? Do you conduct an oral interview? Do
you require letters of recommendation from the students' Applied Music
instructor? Others?

Thank you in advance for your help!
At MVNU the spring semester jury at the end of the freshman year
determines whether or not the student can move on to the sophomore level
of private study. The student who does not change levels can try again
at the end of the next fall semester. If unable to move up a level,
they will be counselled to reconsider the major.

At the end of the sophomore year the applied music jury is called the
junior standing jury and will determine whether or not the student can
register at the junior level of applied study. The consequences are
more serious at this level because the student who does not pass will
have difficulty planning toward his or her senior recital. The student
can come back in the fall semester and retake the jury to see if he/she

Grades are not used directly. However, the music major is required to
have C or better in all required music courses to graduate.


Hi, Tammie Huntington...

I am responding to your inquiry about a sophomore competency exam. We
are *just* beginning one this year. Actually, it doesn't become
official until next year's sophomores take it, so this year's sophomores
are our "trial-run" group!

I am the chair of the Performing Arts Department at Marian College, a
1300 student Catholic liberal arts college in Indianapolis. We have
approx. 15 music majors (performance and education combined), 1 minor
and 1 associate arts degree candidate.

We refer to the test as the Fourth Semester Qualifying Exam. If a
student is a transfer, we administer the test at a time deemed
appropriate to the faculty. Each student is considered a "pre-Music
Major" until they pass this exam.

The faculty are asked to comment in writing upon the following four

1. The student's academic work
2. The student's performance work
3. The faculty member's assessment regarding the viability of the
student in the world of professional performance or music education. 4.
The faculty member's recommendation: This student should_____ should
not_________ continue as a music major at Marian College. (check one).

Obviously, every faculty member will not have a comment on every point
above. If a faculty member has had the student in class or in a
studio/ensemble environment, they are qualified to comment on the points
above. We do welcome recommendations based on observation in a
performance environment as well.

We will gather this information by 4/30/03 and have a faculty meeting on
that day. We will discuss each student's work in detail and write
recommendations to each student based on this meeting. Currently, we do
not plan to have a meeting between the music faculty and each student,
but we may do that in the future, time permitting.

During the day of board examinations (juries), we will hear each student
perform for 10-15 minutes as their exam. Since previous course work
will have been examined, there will be no theory or history written
test. All results go to the advisor and are placed in the student's
advising portfolio.

No letters of recommendation are required. We do exam GPA in the
faculty meeting.

In a liberal arts environment, this seems like a good plan. We will
continue to finesse and perfect it as time goes on.

Hope this helps!


Dear Tammie,

Our students are not officially accepted as music majors until the end
of their second semester of music theory, which is normally at the end
of the first year unless they were required to take a remedial course
(about one-third of our majors do not enter with enough theory to begin
the regular theory sequence). By the end of the first year majors will
have had two juries on their principal instrument, so we look at those,
and we will have heard most of them play or sing as well. We also know
their progress in written theory, and their final exam in sightsinging
and keyboard harmony is done before the entire department and must be
passed in order to continue in the program. We don't require letters of
recommendation from the applied instructor (since we already have jury
forms in the file), but we do check with instructors on any students who
are borderline.

Those are the requirements for our B.A. students. For our two
professional programs (in music education and church music), students
must additionally submit a written application and undergo an oral

I would be interested in the responses you receive, and I hope you will
post an anonymous compilation.


>From some research i did a few years ago, there are a lot of schools
that have this kind of thing, and a lot of different approaches to it.
In some cases students are not even admitted as music majors until they
have jumped through 2 years of hoops. We do admit Freshmen as music
majors, because they really need 4 full years of growth in music, but we
do restrict admission to upper level courses.

We have a "Continuation Exam" at the end of the sophomore year of study,
which amounts to a bit more than an expanded jury. It amounts to a
mini-recital coupled with questions from the faculty about that music,
the history of their instrument or voice type, and, if they wish, other
musical matters. The student's applied teacher is present and has
input. And faculty who have had the student in theory and history
classes are usually present as well.

The reward for passing Continuation is permission to take upper level
advanced applied music. In the case of music education students, it is
permission to start taking the required music education and education
courses. In the latter case, at least, grades and accomplishment are
examined closely. Composition students must in addition submit a
portfolio. And prospective music education majors will already have
spent 4 semesters in "Lab Band" and chorus in which they are the
ensemble for each other, often playing the secondary instruments they
are studying, and singing whether they can sing or not!

In the past--like the 1980s--the proficiency level of our students was
much lower than it is today, and more of them failed to pass the
Continuation. Some of those who did not pass it turned to a music
education major rather than a performance major--yes, that old bugaboo
that we all hate!--and others tried to get around the requirement by
switching to a designed option degree that did not require upper level
applied study. I'm happy to say that, 20 years later, we have music
education students who consider education their professional goal and
work hard to prepare themselves, and the designed option degrees have
been brought under much tighter control through our departmental
Curriculum Committee's work.

Our present system also reflects our successful efforts to raise the
performance level of all our majors, including composition and music
technology students, so all degrees presently in place for the
professional degree (called a BA but meeting NASM's guidelines for a BM
with 78/120 semester hourse in music) include a strong performance
component. There have been discussions recently about revising the
standards--but not the requirements--of the Continuation to recognize
that for music education a student must be a good performer but not
necessarily as good as a performance major. The whole thing is a
balancing act, and the balancing never stops!

You might find it helpful to download our Student Handbook, which is
available as a PDF file at The
information on Continuation Exams is on p. 6 of the handbook, and some
of the other information may be of interest as well.


All of our students must pass a competency exam after four semesters of
applied study, . The exam includes 1)a short - 6 minute - recital;
2)demonstration of scales, major and all 3 minors picked at random at
the jury
in as many octaves as is appropriate for the instrument; 3) an interview
the music faculty with regard to their GPA, coursework up to that point
they on track for a "normal" collegiate career - hopefully 4 years, but
sometimes 5 - and goals for the future. We used to do only a
jury, but decided it wasn't comprehensive enough. Some students were
through the cracks, i.e. they were wonderful performers but their
progress was not good, or vice versa. We have been doing this for 2
now, and, after working out some kinks, find it suits our purposes.


At Webster University, the students perform two works on their major
instrument, and they are interviewed about their educational progress
and career goals. This is done before the entire music faculty (about 11
full-time profs). It is a chance for those of us who have little or no
contact with some students to get to know them better, and vice versa.
It also adds a tone of seriousness to the student's program, as we do
sometimes table or reject students who otherwise probably thought they
would breeze through with little or no effort. We call it a Candidacy



At the University of Miami, where I'm doing my DMA, I know they have
what they call "barriers" but I don't know what those consist of. At my
undergrad, we had to pass what were called "Junior Qualifyings." For
both singers and instrumentalists, it was essentially a double jury (two
time slots). You knew you would be asked for more of the selections on
your sheet instead of the standard two; instrumentalists had to play
orchestral excerpts, singers had additional ear training. (Ear training
was part of every jury, but at the junior qual level it was more
extended.) There was also the recommendation of your studio teacher,
who was sitting on the jury panel. You could either pass, pass with
reservations, or fail. There weren't any required exams or letters, but
it was a small school and the faculty knew if you had problems in theory
or whatever, and it reflected on your scholarship. I don't think anyone
was ever held back because of academic deficiencies, but they did hold
people back for technical/musical performance deficiencies.