Finals are always the dreaded part of every semester for college students. But music majors dread finals for a different reason — music juries.

A music jury is a final performance by a collegiate music student for a panel of jurors. The jurors are usually made up of the faculty and instructors from the music department. Juries happen for both vocal and instrumental musicians, and they can be pretty overwhelming for a lot of students. After all, juries happen on top of all of the finals from other classes and any end-of-semester ensemble performances. Juries are essentially tests, designed to assess your work and progress from an entire semester of work. If you have any performance anxiety, they can be pretty scary!

But don’t worry; we’re here to help! We’re going to explain the whole jury process so that you can be ready and give you a couple of tips along the way!

How do music juries work?

Throughout the semester, music students take private lessons, learning a handful of pieces. For your music jury, you will then select a few pieces to perform for your jury. Depending on the music program at your school, the selection process may look a few different ways.

  • You might be asked to choose only one piece, while your jury chooses the other piece after you perform your choice.
  • You might be asked to choose multiple pieces of contrasting styles.
  • Your teacher may choose the piece(s) for you.
  • You may choose your piece(s) with your teacher.

Another component to consider is your type of music major. For example, performance majors are typically asked to prepare more (or longer) pieces compared to a conducting or music business major.

Once you’ve chosen your piece(s), you’ll have to sign up for a time slot for your performance. Some schools assign times for you, and they’re usually on Saturdays to avoid conflicting with other finals.

And finally, you’ll show up for your jury, perform, and leave! Simple! There is no interacting with the jurors while you’re performing, which can feel a little awkward. They typically ask you what you’ll be playing or singing and then let you perform. As you’re performing, they’ll be filling out their judging sheets and writing down notes.

Don’t feel bad if they don’t say anything to you as you leave. It doesn’t mean anything about your performance, and it’s typically against policy to give any feedback on the spot. Just like you wouldn’t receive a score directly after a written test, you won’t know how you did on your jury right away either. It will probably take a few days or a week to hear back with your results.

What should I wear to my jury?

You’ll likely need to dress up for your music jury, but we’re not talking tuxes and ballgowns. Dress like you would dress if you were attending a classical music concert. Think dress shoes, dress pants, skirts, dresses, button-up shirts, and blazers. If you’re still not sure, run your outfit choice by your teacher and they’ll be able to tell you if it’s appropriate or not.

What am I being judged on in my jury?

In almost every case, your music is expected to be memorized. This will be a big judging point for both vocalists and instrumentalists. And when we say “memorized,” we mean the notes, lyrics (for vocalists), dynamics, key signatures, time signatures, and any other annotations listed in your music.

If you’re in a vocal jury, you’ll be judged on things like intonation, diction, vowels, breath support, and pronunciation (if you’re singing in a foreign language). You’ll also be judged on your facial expressions, gestures, and ability to communicate the message of the song, so you’ll have to go all out in your performance.

For instrumentalists, you’ll be judged on things like intonation, vibrato, fluidity, tempo, and expression. Of course, it will vary from instrument to instrument, as the piano is very different from the violin. But don’t be afraid to ask your private instructor about what things you should be paying attention to when you’re preparing for your jury.

How can I be successful?

One of the most challenging things to overcome with juries is nervousness. It’s hard to walk into a room and perform for only a few people as they write notes about you the entire time. Check out our article, “How to Calm Your Nerves Before Your Music Audition,” if you struggle with performance anxiety. Auditions are very similar to juries, and we’ve written about how to overcome both mental and physical nerves in this article.

In addition to dealing with nervousness, we have a few other tips that we believe will be very helpful.

  • Choose your “peak performance” time.  

If you’re allowed to choose your time slot for your jury, we suggest choosing it as soon as possible. Trust us; the slots will fill up fast! Think about what time of day you’ll perform your best. If you’re a voice student and you’re typically a little tired in the morning, you may want to avoid the 8:00 am slot! If you’re a pianist and you tend to feel sleepy in the afternoon, you might want to go in the morning while you’re feeling energized.

  • Schedule 30 minutes – 1 hour before your jury to warm-up and practice.

You’re likely going to be a little jittery before your jury, so make sure to schedule some time to run through your piece a few times and get thoroughly warmed up. If you have an accompanist to consider, make sure you coordinate your time with them so that they can join you ahead of time.

  • Extra practice with your accompanist.

If you have an accompanist, you will likely get to perform your jury with the same person you’ve been studying with all semester. While this is excellent news, your accompanist probably has several other students they’re also playing for. So, getting some extra practice outside of your regular lessons can be very helpful. Use these times to polish up your piece(s), so that when jury day comes, you’re not worried at all about being on the same page.

  • Consider your other finals.

Like we said before, juries usually happen at the same time as the rest of your finals. But unlike some finals you might be able to cram for, it doesn’t work the same way for music. Plan your finals week out in advance and work in when you can fit in some practice time. The last thing you want is to exhaust yourself or blow out your voice right before juries from over practicing.

  • Prioritize your sleep and health.

Finals week can take a lot of time and energy away from you. But lack of sleep and attention to health can be detrimental for musicians, especially vocalists. You don’t want to be coughing or straining your way through your jury, so make sure to be extra health-conscious leading up to your jury!

Now that you know how music juries work and we’ve given you our favorite tips, you’re officially ready to conquer yours! Remember, as intimidating as juries are, your jury of teachers wants you to do well. Also, they will understand nervousness and performance anxiety, so if you feel a little shaky, don’t beat yourself up about it. At one time, most of the jurors themselves were in your very shoes, and they understand the pressure of juries.

After you’ve done a jury or two, you’ll start to feel a little more comfortable, and realize that juries aren’t meant to be scary at all. So don’t worry; you’ve got this!

For more tips on being a music major, check out our article: Preparing to be a Music Major: 6 Things You Should Expect. And don’t forget to grab your favorite sheet music arrangements at!

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