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 music history 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 welcomes you to visit. If you would like to meet with a Shepherd School admissions professional, please see the Visit page.
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? What is your acceptance rate?
The Shepherd School receives over 900 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 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 designate a teacher preference?
Yes, selecting a teacher preference in the area of strings, piano and voice is very important. You will make this selection on your graduate application. Once your application has been submitted, changes to your teacher preference must be made in writing. Please contact Phyllis Smith for specific information. Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion, Organ and Harp all have one faculty. Composition faculty are assigned students based on a rotating studio model. More information is found here.
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 Phyllis Smith, Admissions Administrator directly.
Do I need to submit a TOEFL score?
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 certificates do not suffice as a degree. If your previous degree is from an institution with English instruction, then you do not have to submit a TOEFL score. English speaking countries are identified to be: Anguilla, Antigua, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Fiji Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Liberia, Montserrat, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, South Africa, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, The Bahamas, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Indies, or Zimbabwe.
The Shepherd School of Music requires a score of at least 100 on the iBT, 120 on the Duolingo test of English proficiency for DMA applicants and 90 for MM and AD applicants, 115 on the Duolingo test of English proficiency. For students who choose to take the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) 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.
For Fall, 2023, the following tests will be accepted: TOEFL IBT Home, IELTS Indicator and Duolingo. The TOELF ITP Plus is not accepted. Only the best composite TOEFL score is accepted; my Best scores are not accepted. More information can be found here.
How important are the letters of recommendation?
Reference letters are very important. Your recommenders can receive the email link to submit their recommendation before you have completed your Application. Recommendations are due by December 10. The Shepherd School cannot admit a student without the required number of reference letters in their file.
How important are the AD Statement of Purpose OR the DMA questions and paper?
Both the Statement of Purpose (AD) and DMA Questions and paper are important to the preliminary and final decisions. 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.
What transcripts do I need to complete my application?
A copy of your student record or an unofficial transcript for your current school must be submitted with your graduate application.
The Shepherd School music admissions office needs your official transcripts for all of the post secondary schools that you have attended by February 1. This includes all the colleges/ universities/ conservatories that you have attended since high school. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the institution to our office via email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or mail (The address is listed on the Contact Us page).
Official foreign transcripts submitted to the Shepherd School must include an English translation from either the issuing school or from an accredited translation service. Transcripts must also contain the list of classes with the grades/ evaluation marks earned in each course taken at that institution. Finally, if the degree and conferral date are not listed on the transcript, then a degree certification page indicating both must be included.
An admission decision will not be made until official transcript(s) have been received.
Audition and Financial Aid Questions
How do I schedule my audition?
For an applicant who must submit preliminary files on their application by December 1, the faculty will review and make decisions before the Winter break. The invitations to audition will be emailed with the link to schedule your audition. For harp and MM organ applicants, the music admissions office will schedule your audition before the school closes for Winter Break. 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 our communications with applicants.
What if I am unable to come to The Shepherd School of Music for a live audition?
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 Phyllis Smith, Shepherd School of Music Admissions Administrator.
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.
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 from 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?
The Shepherd School of Music will notify applicants of their admission status by the end of March.
Financial Aid Questions
What forms are required to apply for financial aid?
Financial aid in the form of scholarship and fellowships for Shepherd School Financial Assistance Application 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 for about $4000 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. Merit award considerations apply to all applicants (including international), but international applicants do not qualify for any U.S. need-based financial aid.