Graduate frequently asked questions

Application Questions
Audition Questions
Financial Aid Questions

Application Questions

What is unique about the Shepherd School admission process?
Each year we assemble a team of musicians based upon very specific ensemble needs. For orchestral instrumentalists, we populate two orchestras with a specific number of students for each section. For vocalists, we need specific voice types in our vocal program. Admission for instrumentalists, vocalists, composers and musicologists is also decided by reviewing studio attrition and how vacant studio slots can best be filled.

How may I tour The Shepherd School of Music?
The Shepherd School of Music does not offer formal tours, but prospective students are invited to attend Shepherd School classes and rehearsals at their leisure. If you would like to schedule a meeting with a Shepherd School admission professional, please click here to fill out that request.

What are Houston and the Rice campus like?
As the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest in Texas, Houston offers the diversity and richness found only in world-class urban centers. The city's population totals 1.9 million, while the greater metropolitan area covers 8,778 square miles and has a population of 4.7 million. Economic vitality spans the energy, healthcare, space, high-tech, and chemical industries. Houstonians support more than 500 cultural, visual, and performing arts organizations; 75 art galleries; five major museums; resident companies in opera, theater, symphony, and ballet; and four major league sports franchises. More than 90 languages are spoken in the Houston area.

How many graduate applications do you receive annually and what is your acceptance rate?
The Shepherd School receives around 800 graduate applications annually and our acceptance rate is typically around 10% - 15%.

May I take trial lessons from faculty members?
Individual lessons are scheduled directly with the faculty members and are subject to faculty availability.

What performance opportunities are there outside of the Shepherd School?
Many of the professional ensembles throughout greater Houston frequently employ Shepherd School students. Churches, synagogues, museums, private parties, and weddings are just a few of the “gigging” opportunities.

When are applications due?
Applications, the preliminary submission, resumes and all other required documents are due December 1.

Am I allowed to select my teacher preference?
Yes, with the execption of composition, musicology, percussion, and trumpet, all applicants must select a teacher preference on either their Acceptd profile or Audition Profile Form. Once your Acceptd profile or Audition Profile Form have been submitted, changes to your teacher preference must be made in writing. Please contact Geoffrey Scott for specific information.

Am I allowed to apply to two majors or two degrees?
Graduate applicants who wish to apply to more than one major or degree program must complete a separate application and follow the application/audition procedures for each. Please note that you will need to use a separate email address for each application.

What are the special instructions for current students?
Currently enrolled Rice University Shepherd School of Music students who wish to reapply for a new degree program at the Shepherd School should contact Geoffrey Scott, Director of Music Admissions or Phyllis Smith, Admissions Coordinator directly.

Do I need to submit a TOEFL score?
Currently enrolled Rice University Shepherd School of Music students who wish to reapply for a new degree program at the Shepherd School You are required to submit a TOEFL score if your previous degree is not from a U.S. institution or your native language is not English. Performance diplomas or ceritificates do not suffice as a degree. The Shepherd School of Music requires a score of at least 100 on the iBT for DMA applicants and 90 for MM and AD applicants, 250 on the computer-based TOEFL, or 600 on the paper-based TOEFL. For students who choose to take the IELTS (International English Language Testing Systerm) in lieu of the TOEFL, the minimum score is 7.0. Please arrange to have your scores sent to The Shepherd School of Music. Rice Institution Code is 6609.

How important are the letters of recommendations?
Reference letters are very important. Your recommenders receive an email link to submit their recommendation after you have completed, paid and certified your Application. Recommendations are due by December 20. The Shepherd School cannot admit a student without the required number of reference letters in their file.

How important are the DMA questions and papers?
These are both important parts of the preliminary and final decision. The faculty review these documents along with the online preliminary submission to select the applicants they would like to hear for a live audition. These documents are also vital for admission decisions.

Audition Questions

How do I schedule my audition?
All online preliminary submissions must be completed by December 1 which will then be reviewed by the faculty. The invitations to audition will be emailed with the link to schedule your audition. For an applicant who does not have to submit the preliminary recording, your submission of the Graduate Profile form will allow you to give your preferences for your audition. Audition dates and requirements may be found here.

IMPORTANT! Please set your email filter to accept rice.edu emails since this is our primary source of communications with applicants.

What if I am unable to come to The Shepherd School of Music for a live audition?
Most of our faculty members require a live audition before accepting someone into their studio. We do not conduct regional auditions in order to encourage serious applicants to visit the campus and experience our faculty, ensembles, and campus first hand. If you have extreme circumstances that warrant a recorded audition, you must contact Geoffrey Scott, Shepherd School of Music Admissions Director.

Where should I stay for my audition?
Rice University provides a map of local hotels.

What are audition days like for applicants?
Prior to your arrival on campus, you will receive an audition confirmation email listing the date, time, and room location of your scheduled audition. We offer morning orientation sessions for applicants and their families on our busiest audition days, and we encourage all to tour the music building and general campus at their leisure. We also encourage instrumental applicants to attend part or all of an orchestra rehearsal, and vocal students to attend studio classes.

Should I bring an accompanist to my audition?
Most MM auditions are conducted without accompanists. A pianist is provided for voice, AD and DMA auditions.

How do I make a change in my audition repertoire?
If there is a change in your audition repertoire, please bring multiple copies of your new list to your audition for the faculty.

How long are auditions?
Most auditions run approximately 10 – 15 minutes long, except for DMA auditions, which are 30 minutes long.

What if the weather affects my travel for my audition?
If Houston is experiencing challenging weather, we will post a notice on the home page. If your travel is affected by difficult weather, please call us as soon as you are aware of this so we can re-schedule your audition for later in the day or on another audition day. We count on you to let us know so we can notify the faculty and their schedules can be adjusted.

When will I know the results of my audition?
Students should be notified of their status by April 1.

Financial Aid Questions

What forms are required to apply for financial aid?
Financial aid in the form of scholarships and fellowships for Shepherd School graduate students is administered entirely by the Shepherd School. The submission of the Shepherd School Financial Assistance Application is required for consideration of all types of assistance offered by The Shepherd School of Music. After you have been accepted, and if you are a U.S. citizen, you may also apply for student loans to cover any portion of your tuition that is not covered by scholarship, plus living expenses of about $4,000 each semester. Please visit our Costs and Financial Aid page for more information.

Do you offer special Shepherd School scholarships for international students?
No special international scholarships are offered. Assistance considerations apply to all applicants (including international), but international applicants do not qualify for any U.S. need-based financial aid.