I’ve applied to a graduate program! What now?

By Katherine Evans, Admissions Manager

Congratulations to all those who have pressed submit on their application for graduate study at UBC Music!  Our faculty are looking forward to reading the materials you have provided, and excited to hear performance applicants audition in person or via video upload. Below is a quick reminder of some deadlines, and a few tips.  

Dec. 1st: Application deadline. If you are interested in a late application, please contact Juliet at music.gradadmissions@ubc.ca.

Dec. 15th: Submission of additional documents:  If documents were requested of you in your application that you haven’t uploaded yet (i.e. transcripts or English proficiency scores) you can upload them to your application by December 15th by logging into your UBC Student Service Centre.  When you log in, you will be able to see a list of the possible documents you can upload.  If you know you have not submitted a specific document, but it isn’t on the list as possible to upload, please contact Juliet; she may be able to help.

Jan. 3rd: deadlines for references, either eReferences or the arrival of hard-copy letters upload of video auditions for performance applicants submission of composition portfolios: hard-copy scores must have arrived at the School of Music and audio/video of the associated recordings must be uploaded into CLAS. 

If you have trouble uploading into CLAS, please contact me at katherine.evans@ubc.ca

*Reminder about references: a reference MUST use an institutional email address in order to use the eReference system.  If you need to change one of your references’ email addresses, please email Juliet and she will update it so that an eReference link can be sent out to them.

Jan. 13th/14th: is the in-person audition weekend for instrumental and voice applicants.  You will receive an audition date and time via email with instructions. If you have questions about audition requirements or specific selections, you can contact us.

Maestro in the Making (Part One)

Note: Jaelem Bhate is a student in the School of Music’s graduate conducting program. This is the first in a series of posts about his experiences as a ‘maestro in the making’ under the tutelage of UBC’s Director of Orchestras, Dr. Jonathan Girard.

 By Jaelem Bhate

And just like that, I’m 25% done a masters degree. So at the quarter mark, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on a great three months. As stressful and anxious as they were, they were also supremely rewarding, full of new insights, and packed with more growth than I thought possible. Gladly, none of that growth was directed to my waistband.  The craziest part of this first term though was not what I learned, but how I learned. Sometimes, you have to quit the stress, take stock, and believe in the process of your hard work. For me, it was only when I became so tired of conducting in a constant state of stress that I loosened up, that real progress happened, culminating in my UBCSO debut last Saturday with Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies I &III, orch. Claude Debussy.

WATCH: Graduate assistant conductor Jaelem Bhate conducts Erik Satie's Gymnopédie I & III.

The whole idea with the Satie was to forget about technique, and focus on the intangibles of conducting. How to elicit sound with your facial expressions, how to make every movement mean something beyond beat placement and patterns. That is to say, whether you move left or right on beat two is not the point, it’s how you arrive to the beat, and the way in which you move to the next beat placement. Needless to say, with a degree in percussion and my strengths lying in technical, complex music, this was not my strong suit. When I’m learning something new, I dive straight into the details. I spend hours working on fundamental skills, gathering as much info as I can from as many sources as I can find, and progress as quickly as I can through constant self-reflection and criticism.

The challenge with conducting, though, is that there really is no codified technique to show the above musical elements. The finer points of conducting—the concepts that I was weakest with coming into this degree—cannot be studied or distilled or written down in a textbook, and cannot be learned in the same manner that I have worked my whole life. They cannot be rushed, and not even practiced without an orchestra. Sure, you can stand in front of a mirror for hours on end as I was a few weeks ago, and critique your every movement, right down to how your blinking might affect the sound. But there is no substitute for standing in front of an orchestra made up of dynamic and versatile musicians who have their own feelings, thoughts, and ideas, and finding a way to bring everyone on board with your own artistic vision. This is what makes training as a conductor so difficult — you have to figure out how to improve, how to demonstrate your vision, without wasting precious podium time.

On this same program was another favourite work of mine, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. From the start of this cycle, I felt more comfortable with Firebird, despite its being a much more complicated and complex piece of music. I felt that I could rely on my beats and all of the technique I had accumulated, and that I could translate what I wanted much more efficiently by simply being accurate in my patterns. Two weeks ago, Dr. Girard was guest conducting in Hawaii (as one does), and I was left alone with the orchestra. “SWEET!” I thought to myself. “I get a whole 90 minutes on Firebird. I’m going to be so intense and I’m going to use so much space in the finale I’ll look like a soaring eagle and it’ll be great!” 

The rehearsal came and went, and it was a deeply depressing to realize, upon reviewing the video afterwards, that it was probably my worst conducting of the term. I was out of position, my baton unfocused and my lower body all over the podium. I looked like a flailing seal. All of the expression and technical prowess I had wanted to show had been diluted by my lack of trust in myself and my musicianship, hindered by my inability and fear to go beyond technique alone.

Through the entire term, I’d been fighting with myself to get my baton under control and to push as hard as I could to get better as quickly as I could. But through all of that work, I had never stopped to consider the bigger questions. How does this make me feel? What am I trying to say through my movements here? Most importantly, am I actually showing music, or am I just showing patterns?

In the week after that rehearsal, I learned more about myself as a conductor, as a musician, and honestly as a person, than I did in the first three months of my degree. I learned how to learn. I learned that I need to relax, look at the big picture, not get too caught up with the details, and not freak out when things don’t go exactly as planned. To still do all the hard work, but to also go with the flow in the moment. The Satie performance ended up going quite well, and the requisite accoutrements that accompanied the whole experience did make the evening special, I have to admit. The long black tails, my black bow tie replaced with a white one, and the orchestra that I’ve spent four years playing with standing upon my entrance did leave a lasting impression that is hard to forget, as with any debut with a high-level orchestra.

However, the concert isn’t the main thing that will stick with me from this semester. It’s how this piece taught me to trust myself, and trust in the music. What a crazy idea then, to consider applying this to my life and career. Work hard, but do not lose sight of the bigger picture. Worry about the details, but don’t forget what the details make when put together. Relax, have fun, and let your preparation and passion carry you through to success.

Thinking about applying to a graduate program? Here are some tips ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline

By Katherine Evans, Admissions Manager

Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC

Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC

The graduate application deadline is approaching! Dec. 1st is the last day to submit your application to the UBC School of Music for MMus, MA, PhD or DMA programs.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to apply — if, for example, you’re not sure you’ll be ready to audition in time, don’t know your prospective advisor well enough, and so on — I encourage you to reach out to us!

You can contact me and I can help you get in touch with faculty members if you have program-specific questions. We want to help you know that you are well matched with a program here and make sure that you have all the information you need.

Our graduate admissions system is generally very quick and reliable, but as with any system, there are occasionally quirks that can cause confusion for a few applicants each year. Below are a few things to be aware of:

References: “Why hasn’t my reference received a notification to fill out a reference form and letter for me?”

There are a few reasons why that could be the case. The most common reason is this: the graduate application system will ask you for the email addresses of three references. Those email addresses cannot be free email services like Gmail or Hotmail. In order for your references to be able to submit their letters online, the email address you give for them has to be from a paid service — an address hosted by their university, company of employment, or a company like Shaw or Telus. If a reference only has a free email address, they can post a hard-copy reference form directly to the School of Music (see our address in the website footer) to be received by Jan. 3rd (which is also the eReference deadline).

Here are the detailed requirements for both forms of reference. Please note that for a hard-copy reference the envelope has to be “sealed and endorsed.”

If your reference has an institutional email address, but still has not received their invitation to fill out a reference for you, please contact our Graduate Admissions Secretary, Juliet O’Keefe.

Supporting documents: “Why is there a document deadline of Dec. 15, separate from the application deadline, and what documents do I need to submit by that date?”

I am so glad you asked! Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, you can upload transcripts and English proficiency test scores. The admissions system will send you an automatic checklist of any items missing from the UBC graduate application system, but might not remind you about program-specific requirements such as repertoire lists, academic writing samples, etc.  Those need to be uploaded with your application by Dec. 1st. (If, however, you realize that you omitted something from your application and have already submitted it, there is still hope!  Contact Juliet. She can upload most documents into your application after the deadline).

Video auditions: “How can I submit my video audition and what is the deadline? I see different deadlines on the web site.”

If you are applying into a performance program and cannot audition in person, you will need to upload video files of your audition onto the CLAS platform. Our CLAS platfrom here at UBC ensures that your video audition materials can be submitted securely. Please note that ALL applicants to the Composition program must submit their portfolio online as video or audio files. 

The audition/portfolio submission deadline is Jan. 3 for most programs, but for applicants into any of the Conducting programs, the deadline is Dec. 1. Extensions are sometimes possible. Upload instructions will be sent to Composition and video-audition Performance applicants between now and Dec. 4.  If you run into any technical issues when submitting, please contact me directly.

Thanks and good luck! 

Meet Julia Lockhart, Adjunct Professor of Bassoon

The Admissions blog is the place to meet School of Music faculty and go behind the scenes in their studios. First up is Julia Lockhart, Adjunct Professor of Bassoon, Principal Bassoonist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra:

Our faculty compose music regularly heard on the world’s stages, perform around the globe, publish in top journals, jury international music competitions, and record critically acclaimed and best-selling recordings

Why study at the UBC School of Music?


By Katherine Evans, Admissions Manager

Hello and thanks for visiting the School of Music's new Admissions Blog!

We’re delighted that you're here. If you are a prospective student, this is the space to find out everything you need to know about applying to, and studying at, the UBC School of Music — from the different undergraduate and graduate programs we offer, to our fantastic ensembles, to our internationally renowned (and friendly!) faculty.  

Over the coming weeks and months, we'll share tips on how to navigate the application process and prepare for your audition, and we'll take you inside the School to see what it's like to be a part of our community of scholars, composers, and performers. We'll remind you about deadlines and answer some common applicant questions. So please stay tuned!

In the meantime, let's kick things off with a quick tour of the School and what we have to offer.

The University of British Columbia is a big, diverse institution, with every imaginable academic program and a student body of over 60,000. Within UBC, the School of Music gives you the experience of studying at a small school — we are a community of about 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate students — with the resources of a big, top-ranked university.

Our degree programs

For undergrads, we offer a four-year course of study leading to the Bachelor of Music (B.Mus) and — with the Faculty of Arts — the Bachelor of Arts, Major in Music. For students whose first love is music but who are committed to studying science, arts, education, or business, we also offer dual degreesdouble majorsminorsdiploma programs.

For grad students, we offer Master's and doctoral degrees in three broad fields of specialization: performance, composition, and music scholarship.

Career development — while you study!

As much as possible, the School of Music helps students to explore and develop different career opportunities while still studying. That's because unlike law, medicine or engineering, there is no single path for musicians and music scholars, post-degree. So whether you plan to pursue a career as an orchestral musician, a scholar, an educator, or a producer, you can get a head start by:

Check out our huge concert archive to get a sense of just how good our students are. For starters, here's a clip of UBC Symphony Orchestra and Choirs performing the finale of Mahler's Symphony No. 2

Dedicated, award-winning faculty 

All School of Music students, whether performers or scholars, work closely with our award-winning faculty. Our faculty compose music regularly heard on the world’s stages, perform around the globe, publish in top journals, jury international music competitions, and record critically acclaimed and best-selling recordings. Whatever your interests or instrument, our faculty is friendly and engaged in your learning experience.  Here’s just a short list: 

  • Eric Wilson, cellist and founding member of the Emerson String Quartet

  • Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinetist and chamber musician, hailed by the New York Times for his “technical wizardry and tireless enthusiasm"
  • Alexander Fisher, musicologist and author of Music, Piety, and Propaganda
  • J. Patrick Raftery, tenor and performer with the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Royal Covent Garden
  • Dorothy Chang, composer whose works have premiered with the Seattle Symphony, VSO, Pittsburgh Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra 

In the coming weeks, we'll introduce you to more faculty and take you inside the studios where much of your musical education will happen.

Come visit us and attend a free concert!

Katherine Evans

Katherine Evans

Prospective students can meet faculty members by attending any number of concerts on campus from now until April. We invite you to attend our large ensemble concerts, performed by the UBC Choirs, Bands, and Orchestra, Opera productions held in the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the Old Auditorium.

Feel free to contact me for free tickets for certain events. A lot of our chamber music, divisional recitals, and student recitals are already free — just come and see!  If you’re applying from a distance, check out our concerts on Livestream and imagine yourself here!


Do you have questions about the application process? You are not alone! Sometimes the application process can seem complicated. If you'd like to talk to someone about the graduate or undergraduate programs here at the School of Music, please do get in touch. 

Juliet O’Keefe, our Graduate Admissions Secretary, is the point person for graduate program information, and I am your primary contact for the undergraduate (B.Mus. and Diploma) programs. Robert Ablenas is our Music Advisor and can give detailed information about certain programs.