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Back on 4/14/05 I put up a short post on my original HTML blog about theory classes. As we are in the midst of auditions this post again came to mind, the target audience being younger undergrad horn majors who aspire to make it on the horn. First, the original post and some additional comments will follow.
A conversation I have with students periodically is about grades in music theory classes. Undergrads, you want to do well in this class. Why? When any college teacher looks at grad applicants in performance one of the things we look at are your college transcripts, and the one grade we are particularly interested to see are your theory grades. Right or wrong, this is at least perceived by many professors to give some indication of how your ear might be and your ability for progress on your instrument. You may have had a theory teacher you didn’t like or the problem may be unrelated to your ear but in any event you do need to try your best to keep those grades up, they can in fact be a deciding factor later on.
The thing is as we hear auditions we are trying to put together the puzzle of why you sound as you do at this point of time, your strengths, weaknesses, how far we think you could progress if we worked with you for a few years based on what we hear. You are a product of your teachers, education, and experiences at any given time but especially at the point of auditions you are a bit of an open book to us. Besides what we hear and see and the things that may be mentioned in reference letters we also can see your grades, and as indicated in the old post I quoted above we really hate to see the theory grades go too low. Fair or not, poor theory grads can be an indicator that you may not have as good an ear as it takes. Do try to keep those grades up, with the bigger picture for any reader being to always work to have the best ear you can.
See also Thoughts on Choosing a School for Advanced Horn Study for more information related to this topic.