Conservatory of Music FAQs


This page contains a section that answers general questions, as well as questions related to auditions.

General FAQ

1. What is the difference between the Conservatory of Music and the Arts & Sciences division of Wheaton College?

The Conservatory offers professional music degrees: Bachelor of Music (BM) and Bachelor of Music Education (BME). The College liberal arts degrees are Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS). Our Conservatory is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and offers professional music degrees, which have at least 55% of the coursework in music. For a listing of all our music degree options, click here.

In the liberal arts side of the College, it's just the opposite. About 80 hours is a core of general education requirements. It is broader based, including natural and social sciences, foreign language, math, etc. There are about 35 majors to choose from including the liberal arts music degree (BA Music). A major requires about 40 hours of courses in the degree subject. The actual music classes would be the same, there are just fewer of them in a Liberal Arts degree. A music minor is 20 hours.

2. What does the word Conservatory mean?

The word Conservatory means to conserve or preserve. Here at Wheaton, it means to preserve the finest traditions of high level music training and performance. Not all conservatories use the word in their name. For example, Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School, and Eastman School of Music are all fine conservatories, but none of them use the word Conservatory in their name. So what is the difference? At Wheaton, we are providing students with a unique combination - exceptional music training, academic excellence, a national reputation, and a Christian community.

3. Can I be in an ensemble if I'm not a Music Major?

Yes. We have about 200 music majors here in the Conservatory, but we need many additional liberal arts students to fill our nine ensembles. Sign up and audition for these ensembles during Orientation Week in August – time slots will be available in the Orientation Welcome Center.  Learn more about our ensembles and how to prepare for the auditions here. We hope you will join us!

4. Can I double major?

Yes. One of our degree options is called Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in an Outside Field. It is still a professional music degree from the Conservatory, but built into the program is a 24-hour track of non-music coursework. There are thirteen options with coursework in these fields:

  • Arts Ministries
  • Biblical and Theological Studies
  • Business
  • Christian Education and Ministry
  • English
  • Math/Computer Science
  • Media
  • Modern Languages (French, German or Spanish)
  • Pre-Law Studies
  • Psychology
  • Sociocultural Studies
  • Theater
  • Third World Studies (including HNGR internship)
  • Alternate Field - design your own.

If you would like to fully double major, you need to add the classes from your desired major to the 24-hour track. See our catalog for details of each major. It is also possible to double major with two music degrees, such as Music Performance and Pedagogy.

5. Do I need to audition if I want to be a Liberal Arts Music Major or Minor?

No. The only students required to audition are those applying to the Conservatory of Music. Please note, however, that a brief music theory assessment is required to enroll in Music Theory 1.

6.  Can I reserve my audition date now, even though I don't have my application finished?

Yes. Sign up online or contact our Admissions Counselor, Becky Peterson. 630-752-5097.

7. Is it better to come in person for my audition?

Yes. On campus auditions are strongly recommended. In fact, they are required if you live within 350 miles of campus. Here are the dates for the upcoming audition season.

8.  What are the extra costs for music classes?

Conservatory of Music fees vary from semester to semester depending on how many music courses a student takes. They include the following:

General Music Fee, per credit hour


Private Lessons

$675 for 1 hour, $451 for 30 minutes

Class Piano I-V


Large Ensemble & Chamber Music


A complete listing of undergraduate costs is in the catalog.

9. Do you have music scholarships? Can I apply for one even if I'm not going to be a Conservatory student?

The Conservatory has merit-based awards (about 20 per year). All applicants to the Conservatory are considered based on outstanding musical and academic achievement. The audition performed for admission to the Conservatory is used for award consideration. At this time only Conservatory students are eligible for merit-based awards.

10. Piano Proficiency- what is it?

All Conservatory majors, as well as minors and BA Music majors, must be able to play piano at a certain level as part of your professional music training. Piano is the number one thing that will help you in theory classes. Please read more about piano proficiency in the Conservatory of Music Handbook (PDF), under the section titled "Piano Proficiency for Instrumental and Vocal Majors."

Audition FAQ’s

1. What should I wear for my audition? 

You should dress professionally.  For men, a dress shirt and tie, dress pants and dress shoes. Jackets are optional. For women, a dress or skirt of appropriate length with dressy blouse or sweater, and dress shoes. Women auditioning on instruments such as bassoon, cello, percussion, etc. are welcome to wear dress pants. 

2. Should my music be memorized? 

Memorization is required for all vocal and piano auditions and recommended for all other instruments.

3. Do I need to provide an accompanist?

A professional accompanist is provided, without charge, for vocal auditions. All instrumental auditions are performed without an accompanist.  Vocalists will have a chance to speak with (but not rehearse with) the professional accompanist for a few minutes to go over tempo, repeats, etc. 

4. Do I need to bring copies of my music?

Multiple copies are not necessary, but you must have originals of your music with you, even if you are using photocopies for your audition.

5. Where can I warm up?

McAlister Conservatory is open from 6 AM until midnight for practice. Pianists may use available rooms on the first or second floor. All others use available rooms on the first floor.

6.  How long is the audition?

Voice auditions are 15 minutes, piano auditions are 20 minutes.  All others vary from 20 to 45 minutes.

7. Will there be any theory testing done on the audition day?

Yes, there is a brief music theory fundamentals test. Its purpose is to determine the readiness of our prospective students to begin our Music Theory and Aural Skills class sequence. The test is pass/fail, and both accuracy and time will be considered in determining the results.  Even if you have taken theory classes before, the test is mandatory for all auditioning students. A study guide is available here. For those auditioning in voice, there will also be some sight singing and rhythm exercises during the audition.

8. When will I be notified of my admissions decision?

Early action applicants will be notified by December 31st.  Regular action applicants will be notified by March 31st.  Please note no one can provide specific information regarding acceptance or possible scholarship awards on audition days.

9. Is there a student I can email? 

Yes! Please feel free to email them now with questions about the ensembles, life as a music major, etc.

Media Center