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Information for Parents

MParents provides information on academics, student life, important dates, and much more.

Parent/Guardian Questions

What is it like to be a performing arts student at the University of Michigan?

The first impression that many people have of the University of Michigan is that it is a very large institution. While this is true of the U-M as a whole, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance is one of the smallest schools or colleges within the university. Our total student body is about 1112 with approximately 150 faculty members. Our incoming class for the Fall of 2017 numbers 212 freshmen, 24 transfer students, and 132 new graduate students - we're a small community with members who share similar goals and motivations.

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Concert Band at Hill AuditoriumOur 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.

What makes the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance unique is our comprehensiveness: we strive to maintain a balanced emphasis upon both performance and scholarship while presenting students with the training necessary to excel within their chosen field.


What type of education does the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) offer?

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

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In most of our curricula, 75 percent of the coursework is completed by taking courses in SMTD. The remainder is completed in non-SMTD areas, usually in courses offered 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 each semester.

As a university rather than a conservatory, there are a wide variety of ways that Michigan students can broaden their academic options. We offer interdisciplinary degrees that balance academic and performing arts coursework, and we also offer a full range of dual-degree programs that allow students to pursue two concurrent degree programs. This variety expands the opportunities that our students have available to them, and is another important reason why a Michigan education is unique and excellent.

What will my son or daughter do after graduation?

Of all the questions asked, perhaps this one creates the most anxiety for parents whose children are considering a career in the performing arts. We have all heard the stories of students with music degrees who end up waiting tables for a living. 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.

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commencement candidRecent 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.


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

Dancer at commencementTheatre 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. Personnel of major dance companies like the Alvin Ailey Repertory, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Bella Lewizky, and Mark Morris include former dance graduates.

Michigan graduates continue to play a large role in shaping the direction that the performing arts are taking, both now and in the future.



What additional educational opportunities are available?

SMTD alone 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 Michigan have ample opportunity to express themselves through performance. The training that Michigan students receive from the faculty is the most important factor in their education, but it is also important to note that there are abundant resources for the performing arts in Ann Arbor.

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The University Musical Society, a professional music series, sponsors nearly eighty concerts each year featuring the top professional touring artists in the world. Recent year's series includes artists as diverse as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, Phillip Glass and the Phillip Glass Ensemble, Anne Sophie Mutter, Joshua Redman, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Orchestra Baobab, the American Ballet Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre Company, the Twyla Tharp Dance Studio, and the Emerson String Quartet. Many of these groups and individuals present master classes and workshops for Michigan students while 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.

What is campus life like at Michigan?

The U-M consists of three campuses located throughout the city. SMTD students spend most of their time on the North and Central Campuses. North Campus is home to the E.V. Moore Music Building, the Walgreen Drama Center and Arthur Miller Theatre, the Stearns Building, and the Duderstadt Center. Central Campus houses the Dance department, as well as many major performance venues.

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Students have access to both the U-M's free bus system as well as the Ann Arbor city buses. This makes navigating campus a very simple matter and also makes it possible for students to travel off campus without a car. U-M buses service all of the campus locations, and run very frequently throughout the day. With a number of overlapping routes and a frequent timetable, students rarely have to wait longer than five to ten minutes for a bus. The trip from North to Central Campus is a short one (perhaps six minutes), and classes are scheduled in such a way to make it possible for students to travel between the campuses without worrying about being late.

There is no specific residence hall where SMTD students are required to live. Many choose to live in the North Campus neighborhood in the Bursley/Baits Housing complex. These residences offer easy access to the Moore Building, the Walgreen Drama Center and other North Campus facilities, and are quiet and more removed from the downtown Ann Arbor area. Each neighborhood has its own flavor and personality, so students may find the environment that best suits their expectations of college life. After the first year, about 60 per cent of our students choose to move into off-campus apartments, houses, or co-operative housing, with about 40 per cent staying another year in the residence halls.

Ann Arbor has two police departments, a Department of Public Safety, and many services, such as Safe Ride,, that make the campus safe to travel at all hours.  Each year, the University of Michigan prepares an “Annual Security Report” and publishes it in the Campus Safety Handbook. The report contains detailed information on campus safety and security policies, procedures, and programs, andalso includes statistics concerning crimes on campus. If you would like to receive a complete copy, visit the U-M Department of Public Safety website or call 734.763.3434.

A true college town, the University and the Ann Arbor community coexist and enhance one another beautifully. Downtown Ann Arbor offers a vibrant cultural community with small jazz clubs, small concert halls such as the Ark, art movie houses, bookstores, and numerous coffee shops. Ann Arbor has almost 150 city parks, and students enjoy canoeing down the Huron River, running in the Nichols Arboretum, or exploring downtown.

What is different about applying to a performing arts school?

Applying to a performing arts school is different than applying to a liberal arts college. All applicants to the SMTD must complete an audition, interview, or portfolio review to be considered for admission.

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male cellistThe audition/interview process allows students to experience SMTD firsthand. The audition/interview process is an interactive one; while we are trying to learn about you, you are learning about us.  Whenever possible, go to the campus for the audition and experience this!



How does the application process at the U-M differ from others?

First, we are a University program. Therefore, academics play an important role in the evaluation of the students who apply for admission. Every applicant must meet minimum academic criteria in order to be considered for admission.

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The evaluation of academic criteria for undergraduate students is a cooperative process. Admission 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 the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Our counselors will review not only the academic, but also the performing arts background of each applicant.

If both 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.

How do you apply for scholarships and financial aid available?

Financial support comes in two forms at the U-M: need-based awards and merit-based/need-informed scholarships. Merit-based awards are available to students admitted to any music program or musical theatre, and are administered solely by the SMTD. The Department of Theatre and Drama and the Department of Dance administer their own scholarship programs. Questions regarding scholarships should be directed to the appropriate department.

The University's Office of Financial Aid (OFA), (734.763.6600; email: offers numerous resources for students and families considering the U-M. The aid programs available through OFA include gift aid (grants and scholarships), college work-study, and a variety of loan programs. We strongly encourage all families to apply for need-based financial aid; do so as soon as possible after January 1. Application can be made by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and information regarding the FAFSA can be obtained at Information about these programs and the application process is included in the Undergraduate Admissions Viewbook available on their website (

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The School of Music, Theatre & Dance also offers a wide variety of scholarships for undergraduates to encourage and reward excellence and to enable especially promising students to attend the SMTD. Students will be considered for merit-based scholarship if they apply by December 1 and complete the audition/interview process no later than the February 27 scholarship deadline. (Please note that there is an earlier deadline for recorded auditions.)

Scholarship decisions are based on a combination of the student’s artistic and academic merits in combination with the financial need of the student as indicated by the FAFSA and CSS Profile.  While we are unable to award scholarships to all who apply, we make every effort to assist as many students as possible. Currently, nearly 50% of our undergraduates are receiving scholarship support.


Why are parents and teachers important to us?

At the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, we recognize that none of our students would 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.

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As Quinn Strassel (B.F.A. in Theatre Performance, '01) wrote in his commencement speech,
"Though you knew we were bright enough to become doctors, you allowed us to become artists. . . . Doctors discover new ways of helping us live longer. But artists discover new ways of helping us live better.”

We recognize the sacrifices that parents make. Whether it be the time you devoted to rushing your children from rehearsal to rehearsal, or the amount of money you spent on private teachers, instruments, dance classes, costumes and all the rest, we know that the work of becoming a performing artist is not done alone.

Grad Hartwell & Parent

We also recognize the important role that teachers play in the development of young artists. Without the formal training that teachers provide, our students would not be able to nurture the talents they already possess. Without the advice and support of those mentors, we know our students would have a harder time differentiating between the myriad of choices that face them in the coming year.

So we offer this information in the hope that it will make the application and admission process an easier one for all. We also hope that you can use this information to provide the vital guidance and support that the young artists in your lives will need in what will be a trying year.

And we hope, too, that you will come to recognize that one of the things that makes the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance unique is that we are, in every sense, a community – one that cares about our students and wants them to develop their talents to the fullest.

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower