PLU Questions and Answers

Can I afford PLU?

If you can afford college, you can probably afford PLU. The most important thing is to do your research before you pass us over. 97 percent of PLU students receive financial aid. If you contact our Financial Aid office, they will do one-on-one counseling to help you complete the FAFSA and find financial aid sources that make attending PLU comparable to public universities. Aid packages and scholarships are based on need as well as achievement. Some of the scholarships and other aid don’t even require repayment. And remember, the worse a state’s economy, the more tuition at public universities goes up. That’s not going to turn around anytime soon. Speaking of hard times, if your family’s income has been drastically reduced recently, you can complete a Letter of Special Circumstances detailing your unique situation. Finally, remember that “value” is more than low price. Value is what you get for your money (see the next question).

What are some distinct advantages of PLU?

First of all, PLU is in an urban environment, the midpoint of the Interstate 5 corridor megalopolis that runs from Olympia to Seattle and Everett, Washington. You are thirty minutes to an hour from major arts, sports, recreational, and intellectual venues. There are more job opportunities due to the more dense population and businesses. Next, PLU is largely an undergraduate school; therefore, undergrads RULE at PLU! As an undergraduate, you’ll get much more access to high-end academics, prominent positions on sports teams and music ensembles than you would at a university dominated by graduate students. We’re smaller for another reason. We have a teacher/student ratio of about 1 to 15. You will have greater access to the top-end professors, and not warehoused to a gigantic class taught by graduate assistants. You will have an academic advisor for your entire career at PLU, not just your freshman year or until you declare a major. The academic advising staff and your personal faculty advisor in your major area have your back!

Do I have to be Lutheran or Scandinavian to attend PLU?

No. Our name reflects the people who founded the school in 1895, but it does not wholly describe our students, teachers, or curriculum. Lutheranism (Protestantism) was born in a university by a university professor, Martin Luther, and the legacy of “thoughtful inquiry” pervades our blend of liberal arts and professional studies. We have chapel and religion classes, and opportunities to investigate the Lutheran heritage and Christianity, but it isn’t mandatory.

Blend of liberal arts of professional studies? Hmm. Shouldn't I use college to learn a marketable skill rather than something "weird"?

Learning to think and involving yourself in a life-changing experience is pretty marketable. Popular actress Rashida Jones, daughter of music composer and producer Quincy Jones, is seen on NBC’s comedy shows Parks and Recreation and The Office and appeared in films such as The Social Network, Celeste and Jess Forever, and the remake of The Muppets. She went to Harvard, and although she was involved in acting and music, she majored in religion and philosophy. How did that happen? “I don’t know, I um. . .” she laughed. “I think that’s the whole point of a liberal arts education, is you study something that you would never get the opportunity to study that has nothing to do with what you actually end up doing in your real life.”

Music Department Questions and Answers

How do I get a music scholarship and how competitive is it to get one?

You can come to campus or send in a recorded audition any time you’d like, but it is strongly suggested that you come to PLU for a live audition during our scholarship audition weekend in early February. That weekend doesn’t give you preferential treatment, but provides you and your family with a wonderful opportunity to experience the campus and music faculty and ask questions of us when we’re asking questions of you. Scholarships are given on the basis of individual ability and our need for the instrument you play. Music scholarships range in amount quite a bit. Our “named” scholarships are quite generous and, in some cases, can be combined with other university financial aid. Your obligation as a music scholarship recipient is to maintain a respectable GPA, to play in a scholarship-fulfilling music ensemble, and to take private instruction on the instrument your auditioned on. By the way, you can audition in more than one medium, you just have to do a separate audition for each instrument (or voice).

Special Note For Jazz Guitarists, Pianists, Bassists, and Drum Set Players: For you audition medium, you can specify “Jazz Rhythm,” an instrumental category that we use for electric guitar, electric bass, jazz piano, and drum set. Your audition will be evaluated on the basis of your talent and usefulness in the jazz area. For details on what to prepare for this type of scholarship audition, see “How should I prepare a jazz piece for a scholarship audition” below.

How should I prepare a jazz piece for a scholarship audition?

Audition performances for music scholarships are only five minutes long, whether you perform live at PLU or submit a recording.

If you are performing a jazz piece for your scholarship audition, here are some guidelines:

  • Whether you are a jazz vocalist or instrumentalist, you should prepare a jazz “standard,” defined as a jazz composition (ex.: “Blues Bossa”) or a piece from the Great American Songbook commonly used as a vehicle for jazz (ex.: “All of Me”). These are readily available in commercially sold jazz “fake books” such as The New Real Book, published by Sher Music Co.
  • Do not use as your audition piece a portion of your part from a big band arrangement (ex.: Letter B from the third trumpet part).
  • For your presentation, sing or play through the composed melody for one chorus, then improvise for a chorus if you are able.
  • Jazz bassists should play a chorus of melody, play an accompanying bass line for a chorus, then improvise for a chorus.
  • Drummers, rather than playing a jazz piece, should be prepared to demonstrate a few bars of different styles: swing, jazz waltz, Latin (samba, bossa nova, Afro-Cuban 6/8), ballad (using brushes), and funk/rock styles. You will also be asked to improvise a brief solo in a style of your choice.
  • Jazz pianists should either present an unaccompanied jazz solo piece or you may bring a playback device with an accompaniment track, such as an mp3 player or a device with iReal Pro software.

The Director of Jazz Studies is a professional jazz pianist and will be happy to accompany you if needed (at a live audition on campus). Bring along a copy of the fake book lead sheet in case he doesn’t know the song you have chosen.

Do music majors get preferential treatment as far as scholarships and auditions?

Absolutely not! Of the over 600 PLU students involved in music, only about 180 are music majors. Our scholarships and audition results are based on need and artistic merit alone. You never need to worry about being a second-class citizen in PLU music activities because you are majoring in something else. If you are a talented musician, we want you.

I have a lot of musical interests and talents. Am I limited to one music ensemble?

Absolutely not again! We encourage participation in multiple ensembles as long as you don’t overburden yourself. We schedule our rehearsals, concerts, and tours to ensure that you don’t have conflicts between the ensembles you are participating in. Those on music scholarships must play in at least one large scholarship-fulfilling ensemble and take private lessons on their declared instrument of concentration.

What is the audition procedure for instrumental ensembles?

Auditions for instrumental ensembles (saxophones, trumpets, trombones) are held the weekend before the first week of classes. You will play a five-minute audition for all the instrumental ensemble directors (orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz, pep band). Play a brief prepared piece and then you will be asked to sightread a passage from band, orchestra, or jazz literature (depending on the ensembles you indicate you are interested in). You will usually see the posted results of the auditions by Monday morning.

Audition for rhythm section instruments (guitar, piano, bass, and drums) are held on Wednesday of the first week of classes. For the first part of the audition, you will play a piece with the big band where you will be evaluated for your reading, skill on the instrument, and knowledge of various jazz styles. In the second portion, we will have a “jam session” where you will further demonstrate your sense of style, timekeeping, knowledge of chords and comping, and your ability to improvise. You do not need a prepared piece. Bass players, upright bass is not a requirement but strongly desired in addition to electric.

Do you have instruments I can use?

Yes. We have a large inventory of instruments that you can check out for use in our ensembles. You may have to share an instrument with someone who uses it in another ensemble, but that’s easily coordinated.

Are there opportunities for music jobs ("gigs") at PLU?

There sure are. The music office gets calls all the time for musicians to teach lessons and to perform for all sorts of private and public functions. We invite all our student musicians to fill out a “gig card” that we keep on file in the office. We use that information to refer clients to you. Of course, we expect that you will make us proud and be professional in your dealings with the clients we point to you.

How do I know if a music major is right for me?

The simplest answer is that a degree in music is right for you if you can’t see yourself doing anything else. If you really want to learn music on a high level, we’ll give you what you need.

What can I do with a music degree?

The same thing you do with any other degree. The main thing to remember is that you will have a degree from an accredited university, just like the business and science majors. You will be a certified educated person. You will be prepared to join the work force, go on to graduate school, and do what all graduated students do. It’s your degree. Do something you love. It’s better to be a good music major than a bad chemistry major. Is a music career risky? Maybe, but then how many people do you know that are out of work right now that aren’t musicians? There are many music-related jobs other than performing and teaching, too. A music degree is more viable than you may think. Again, do what you love and where your heart leads.

I want to get a degree in music but being a classical concert soloist probably isn't for me. Are there other options?

Yes, there are. If you do aspire to be a high-level performer, aiming toward advanced degrees in music or a performing career, you can get a Bachelor of Music degree, culminating in a senior recital on your instrument or voice. If you love music, but have an equally intense interest in another area, you can get a Bachelor of Musical Arts or Bachelor of Arts degree. These music degrees combine music with a “related field.” Instead of a senior recital, you’ll do a “capstone” presentation showing synthesis between music and your other area of interest. The basic music core curriculum is required but overall there are less hours of music. You can also get a degree in music education, which will equip and certify you to teach K-12 music, instrumental or choral.

PLU Jazz Questions and Answers

What does jazz at PLU offer compared to other colleges and universities in the South Sound area?

PLU has a full-time, tenured full professor heading jazz studies that has been in the music department since 2000. Other colleges in the area use part-time jazz faculty and have had a comparatively high rate of turnover. PLU has private studio instruction in jazz guitar, piano, bass, drums, and voice, plus an advanced jazz improvisation class for all instruments. Unlike other area colleges, our jazz band regularly tours, including an international tour every four years. We also offer a beginning jazz theory course for all music majors.

Is there a jazz concentration in the music degree?

No, there is not. There is a specialized concentration in the music MINOR, but not a jazz degree per se. Nevertheless, there is plenty of opportunity to play in the big band, combos, and learn improvisation and jazz styles. If you want to zero in on jazz, a BMA or BA degree rather than the more “classical”-oriented BM degree would be the way to go.

What are you uniquely looking for in the jazz band audition?

The ability to play your instrument well. Your ability to play swing phrasing, read syncopated rhythms usually associated with jazz, and your ability to improvise. NOTE: You don’t HAVE to improvise in your audition, but will be invited to do so if you have that in your tool box. If you’re a saxophonist, do you have a jazz sound? Do you double on flute or clarinet? If you’re a trumpet player, do you have a strong upper range (for the lead trumpet chair)?

Is there a vocal jazz ensemble or jazz voice studies at PLU?

No and yes. We do not have a vocal jazz ensemble, but there are student-run “clubs” at PLU. The male vocal group is the PLUtonics and the female group is the Gold Rush. These groups are not jazz groups per se, but more along the lines of the popular vocal group Straight, No Chaser and other a capella pop vocal groups. However, we do have private jazz vocal soloist lessons available, where students can learn jazz vocal stylings and repertoire, skills for the real world of vocal jazz gigging.