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Parents & Guardians

Our students would not be here without the support of those people in their lives who made it possible for them to achieve the high level of excellence that we expect of our students, and we recognize the sacrifices that parents and guardians make.

Professor of Horn Adam Unsworth teaching a lesson.

The first impression that many people have of the University of Michigan is it is a very large institution. While this is true of U-M as a whole, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance is one of the smallest academic units. Our total student body is about 1100 with approximately 150 faculty members. Our incoming class for the Fall of 2017 numbered 212 freshmen, 24 transfer students, and 132 new graduate students – we’re a tight-knit community with members who share similar goals and motivations.

Our faculty strive to create a nurturing atmosphere while challenging students to develop their talents and further their ambitions. Michigan students are surrounded by both peers and teachers who are consistently performing at the highest possible level of excellence. Our graduates rise to this challenge and become leaders in their fields.

We are a professional school for the performing arts with curricula that reflects a commitment to training professional actors, dancers, educators, musicians, and scholars.

In most of our curricula, 75 percent of the coursework is completed by taking courses in SMTD. The remainder is completed in non-SMTD courses, most typically through the College of Literature, Science & the Arts (LSA).  Usually our students will take a number of performing arts courses and one non-SMTD course per semester.

As a university rather than a conservatory, there are a wide variety of ways that Michigan students can broaden their academic options. In addition to the degree programs offered at SMTD, we also have a full range of dual-degree programs that allow students to pursue two concurrent degrees, one at SMTD and one at another U-M college, such as the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, the College of Engineering, or the Ross School of Business (for example, majoring in Performance at SMTD and Neuroscience at LSA). This variety expands the opportunities for our students and is another important reason why a Michigan education is unique and excellent.

Of all the questions asked, this one creates the most anxiety for parents whose children are considering a career in the performing arts. While there are certainly no guarantees to be made regarding your child’s ultimate career path, one of the things of which we are certain is that an education from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance provides students with the solid training they will need to be successful in their chosen disciplines.

Recent graduates have pursued additional studies in the finest graduate programs around the world. Others are faculty members of prestigious schools of music and universities around the country.

Music graduates are also performers with the Metropolitan Opera, Chanticleer, San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, the Corigliano Quartet, and the Cavani Quartet.

Musical Theatre graduates continue to find great success with roles on Broadway or in touring productions of shows such as Avenue Q, Assassins, Beauty and the Beast, Bombay Dreams, Book of Mormon, 42nd Street, Fosse, Gypsy, Hair, Hamilton, Into the Woods, Jersey Boys, Les Misérables, Little Shop of Horrors, Mean Girls, Miss Saigon, Ragtime, Rent, Show Boat, Sunset Boulevard, and Phantom of the Opera.

Theatre graduates are working as performers or behind the scenes with companies such as the National Shakespeare Company, Theatre by the Sea, the Bat Theatre Inc., and many others. On screen, theatre alumni have starred on television in The Americans, The BlacklistBones, GleeGLOWGrimmJustified, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Star Trek, and in films such as Jumanji, the Star Wars saga, and Whiplash.

Dance graduates perform major dance companies like the Alvin Ailey Repertory, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Bella Lewizky, and Mark Morris. They have also pursued careers as dance instructors and in the healthcare profession.

Michigan graduates continue to play a large role in shaping the direction of the performing arts industry.

SMTD offers over 600 concerts and performances each year. These range from student and faculty recitals, to orchestra, band and choir concerts, to opera, musical theatre, theatre, and dance productions. This means that students at SMTD have ample opportunity to express themselves through performance. The training that our students receive from the faculty is the most important factor in their education, but it is also important to note that there are also abundant resources for the performing arts in Ann Arbor.

The University Musical Society, a professional music series, sponsors nearly eighty concerts each year featuring the top professional touring artists in the world. Visiting artists in recent years have included:

  • Anne Sophie Mutter
  • Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Chick Corea
  • Emerson String Quartet
  • Guthrie Theatre Company
  • Joshua Redman
  • New York Philharmonic
  • Orchestra Baobab
  • San Francisco Symphony
  • Suzanne Farrell Ballet
  • Twyla Tharp Dance Studio.
  • Wynton Marsalis & the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
  • Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble

Many of these groups and individuals present master classes and workshops for SMTD students while they are on campus.

The Ann Arbor area as a whole is one that embraces the arts, so our students can supplement their education with numerous professional opportunities in the surrounding communities. This enhances and extends the education that Michigan students receive and plays an important role in developing the skills to make them successful once they graduate.

Applying to a performing arts school is different than applying to a liberal arts college. All applicants to SMTD must complete an audition, interview, or portfolio review before they are offered admission.

The audition/interview process also allows students to experience SMTD firsthand. The audition/interview process is an interactive one where we learn as much about you as you learn about us. 

We are a university program, which means that academics play an important role in the evaluation of our applicants. Every applicant must meet minimum academic criteria in order to be considered for admission.

The evaluation of academic criteria for undergraduate students is a cooperative process. Admissions counselors in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions conduct a preliminary review of a student’s prior academic record (i.e. course curriculum and grades earned), and their scores on either the SAT or ACT. Concurrently, all applications are reviewed by the admissions staff at SMTD. Our counselors will review not only the academic credentials of each applicant, but also their performing arts background. In programs that have pre-screening or portfolio reviews, those materials are forwarded to the constituent faculty for their review.

If all of these reviews are positive, then the student is invited to audition and/or interview. It is this final step that will largely influence the final admission decision.

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