Entrance Auditions

For New Students

All new students must complete an entrance audition in the respective applied area. Entrance auditions are held on select Saturdays in January and February during the Scholarship Auditions. Other audition times are available on an individual basis (contact the School of Music and Dance recruitment office at (408) 924-4643 or musicdancerecruitment@sjsu.edu.)

If travel distance is prohibitive, a high-quality audio or video recording may be substituted. Please see the Recorded Audition Guidelines  for information on how to submit recorded auditions.  Recordings should be received by February 20 and live auditions completed by the last Saturday audition day for students to be considered for scholarship assistance from the School of Music and Dance.

All Freshmen students must complete a Systems/Theory placement exam during the first class meeting of Music 1A or Music 9 course.

For ensemble auditions, consult appropriate directors. Exact dates and times are listed in the current Schedule of Classes.


Bachelor of Music Degree

The Bachelor of Music is a professional degree that is screened by audition only. Students should express interest at the first placement audition and follow instructions given by the  by the respective applied faculty. If approved, students may switch to the B.M. degree at any time but must note that all requirements must be completed for the B. M. degree. See catalog for advisement sheets for concentration requirements in Performance, Composition, and Music Education.

Applied Music Placement Auditions

Each music major must declare, with approval of the appropriate applied committee, a principal performance medium and carry on continuous study in one of the following areas: 

• Bass (acoustic/ electric)

• Euphonium

• Oboe

• Trombone

• Basson

• Flute

• Organ

• Trumpet

• Cello

• French Horn

• Percussion

• Tuba

• Clarinet

• Guitar (acoustic/ electric)

• Piano

• Viola

• Composition

• Harp

• Saxophone

• Violin

• Electro-Acustic

• Harpsichord

• Studio Arts

• Voice


Major Ensemble Auditions

All new and transfer music majors must complete a major ensemble audition in their principal area of study before finalizing registration. Without a placement audition, students cannot be officially accepted as music majors. Auditions in the following areas are held during registration week: 

• Brass
Music Building, Room 270
• Composition/ EA
Music Building, Room 226
• Improvised Studies                   
Music Building, Room 186
• Keyboard
Music Building, Room 112
• Percussion
Music Building, Room 189
• Strings
Music Building, Room 165
• Studio Art
Music Building, Room 102
• Voice
Music Building, Room 176
• Woodwinds
Music Building, Room 253

Performance Level Placement

For transfer students, these auditions will place each student at one of the following levels consistent with the Music program's performance standards:

• Level One                        
Freshman, First Semester
• Level Two
Freshman, Second Semester
• Level Three
Sophomore, First Semester
• Level Four
Sophomore, Second Semester
• Level Five*
Junior, First Semester
• Level Six
Junior, Second Semester
• Level Seven
Senior, First Semester
• Level Eight
Senior, Second Semester
• Level Nine
Graduate Unclassified
• Level Ten
Graduate Classified

Students may be placed at an applied level below their university standing. Once any remediation has been completed, a student may request to be placed at a higher performance level at their regular semester-end applied jury. All students must pass a SJSU Junior Qualifying Jury prior to placement in level five or above.

Suggested Audition Literature

Bachelor of Music

Applicants who wish to pursue the Bachelor of Music degree will prepare a variety of selections, totaling approximately 20 to 30 minutes. In choosing your musical selection, remember it is better to perform a simple selection well then to struggle with a difficult composition.

Here is a list of suggested audition materials. 

Studio Arts Auditions

While a Studio Arts contract may be declared from the freshman year, admission to individual studio arts instruction and permission to advance to upper division standing is predicted upon the following lower division accomplishments:

  • Successful completion of first year requirements in applied lessons on an instrument or voice.
  • Completion of 170A, 170B, and 167 with a grade of B- or better.
  • Presentation of well constructed audio CDs of at least one live ensemble concert and one full studio recording involving multiple instruments, voices, and/or sound effects, each over one half-hour in length.
  • Short projects demonstrating original sound composition and/or combined media techniques.

Major Ensembles

All undergraduate majors must enroll in a major ensemble each semester they are enrolled in the Music Program. All students taking a studio lesson must be enrolled in a major ensemble. Graduate students may apply 3 units of ensemble credit to the graduate requirements of 30 units. For more information on each ensemble, see Performance Ensembles.

Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion

Wind Ensemble/Symphonic Band is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Sign up for an audition time outside the music office (Music Building, Room 179). The Orchestra conductor and the Wind Ensemble director will make Orchestra wind and percussion assignments in consultation with the applied instructors. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read.


Orchestra is the appropriate performing ensemble. Sign-ups for an audition time will be posted outside the Orchestra director's office. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read.

Vocal Majors

Concert Choir is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Sign-up for auditions at the choral office (Music Building, Room 262). Opera Workshop may be available for some upper division students. Please consult with the Director of Choral Activities. Transfer students must enroll in Concert Choir for at least one year. BM students may use Opera Workshop as Major Ensemble in the Junior and Senior year. Non-transfer BA students may substitute Opera Workshop in the second semester of their Senior year.

Jazz Studies

The Jazz Orchestra (Music Building, Room 157) and Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (Music Building, Room 159) are approved major performing ensembles.

Piano Students

Consult with the Director of Keyboard studies for appropriate major ensembles.

Major Ensemble Locations


Music Building, Room 180
Music Building, Room 186
Music Building, Room 253
Music Building, Room 262
Music Building, Room 244

Music Systems Placement Examination

All new and transfer music majors are required to take the Music Systems Placement Examination, which determines the appropriate Music System course for each student. Students who miss this scheduled examination will have to wait until the following semester. The Examination will be given prior to the first week of classes; check the class schedule or contact the music program for times and dates of the System Placement Exam.


School policy requires that incoming freshmen take a general music fundamentals test for placement purposes during the first week of the fall term. Based on results of the test, freshman students will be advised to enroll in the appropriate courses. It is the responsibility of the Systems Area Coordinator to administer the test and determine which course the students should take. In preparation for this exam, students should consult the study material in the most current edition of Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory Complete with Ear Training CD's I-II #17254 ISBN 0-88284-897-6.


School policy requires that all transfer students take a written and aural examination during the first week of the term. Those who do not pass will be advised to enroll in the appropriate theory class as determined by the Systems area coordinator until such time as they are ready to proceed to the next level. It is the responsibility of the area coordinator to administrate the test and to determine which theory courses the student should take or audit. Transfer students should consult the materials outlined in the most current edition of Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music by Gauldin, published by Norton.


Piano Proficiency Exams

All music majors must be enrolled in Music 25A or 25B until they have passed their piano proficiency exam. Instructors will determine student placement in 25A or 25B. For those students with a piano background who feel they are capable of passing the piano proficiency exam prior to enrolling in the class, the exam will be administered once each semester on audition day. If a student has passed the piano proficiency exam, he or she does not need to enroll in 25A or 25B.

We encourage all lower division majors to pass the piano requirement before reading upper division status. Freshman in particular should inquire immediately about 25A, as the skills acquired will help in Music Systems. Upper division transfer music majors must enroll in class piano each semester until their proficiency requirement has been passed.

It is possible to receive a passing grade in 25A or 25B and still not pass the proficiency exam. Often a student will make enormous progress during a given term but still not pass each area of the exam. You must complete the exam even if both 25A or 25B appear on your transcript. The complete piano proficiency exam sheet will be placed in your student file.

All students must be enrolled in 25A or 25B in order to take the proficiency exam. No proficiency exam will be held outside of normal 25A or 25B class time.


Play a composition of intermediate difficulty approved by the instructor. Suggestions include literature comparable to Easier Piano Classics (Hal Leonard Publishing), a Sonatina of Clementi or Kuhlau, a Bach Two Part Invention, or other repertoire approved by the instructor or area coordinator. In order to pass, the student must demonstrate careful execution of the notation (dynamics, articulation, tempo, continuity, etc.), stylistic character, and musicianship. Correct use of the pedal must be demonstrated if appropriate.

Play a choral-style or four-part hymn, a twentieth century composition provided by the instructor, or an accompaniment to a piece in your area (with instructor approval). Your choice should be appropriate with your degree objectives.

Technical Skills

  • Play major and harmonic minor scales, two octaves, ascending and descending, hands together (eighth note = 80) with correct fingering. Speed is not as critical as consistency and continuity. The instructor will choose which scales are executed.
  • Execute natural and melodic forms of a minor scale chosen by the instructor.
  • Play an alternate scale system or mode (one hand is acceptable) such as whole tone, chromatic, octatonic, pentatonic, or mode.
  • Play major and minor chord progressions in keys chosen by instructor: I-IV6/4-I-V6/5-I (two-hand harmony). Instructors will provide handouts.
  • Play above progression in inversions (one hand only, see instructor).

Sight Reading and Harmonization

  • Sight read an elementary level piece.
  • Harmonize a simple melody at sight using I, IV, and V chords in the left hand.


Make-up Auditions

A student who misses his or her performance audition should contact the area coordinator for information on make-up auditions. Make-up auditions might not be scheduled in all areas, in which case the student's audition would be postponed until the following semester. Therefore, students should make every effort to audition during orientation.