Applying for a Bachelor of Arts in Music

Application Guidelines and Required Materials


We are delighted that you are considering applying to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to be a music major.  We are proud of our program and pleased that there have been so many students interested in participating in it. Our faculty, staff and students are some of the best in the state. You will have many opportunities to participate in and attend high-quality performances by local, national, and international artists. The following information on this page outlines the process an applicant must follow to apply to Cal Poly as a music major.

Becoming a music major requires two separate applications.

  • First, submit an application to CSU/Cal PolyGo to the Cal Poly Admissions Office Website for more information about applying to Cal Poly. The deadline for submitting this application is Nov. 30.
  • If you meet the CSU/Cal Poly eligibility criteria as determined upon review of your application from the first step above, you will be invited in early January to complete the Music Department’s supplementary application, including the Supplementary Application Form, an audition, interview, optional scholarship form, and a music theory assessment. 

Please read the information and deadlines below carefully. Although qualifying applicants will be invited to submit the online supplemental application around mid-January, it is highly recommended that you begin familiarizing yourself with our supplemental materials now.  Students should not submit materials until they have been invited to do so.

Students applying to the music major begin taking classes on campus during fall quarter only. Lack of any required materials could affect consideration of an applicant’s acceptance. If you have any questions about applying as a music major or about the program in particular, do not hesitate to give us a call at 805-756-2607 or 805-756-2406.

The deadline to submit all materials — including a YouTube link, if you choose not to come for an in-person audition — and to select a preferred audition date (if applicable) is Jan. 27, 2020 .

Submissions can be emailed to the Music Department.


Supplementary Application

  • Supplementary Application Form

    • Complete the Supplementary Application/Scholarship Form very carefully, taking into consideration details that will present your music experience most accurately and most persuasively. A link to the form will be emailed to you in early January.
  • Audition

    • Dates
      • Audition dates are Saturday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.
      • Students will be scheduled for an audition time and should plan on spending a few hours on campus.
    • Students will be scheduled for an audition time and should plan on spending a few hours on campus.
    • Students will be scheduled for an audition time in the morning or afternoon of their requested date. Students should plan to spend approximately four hours on campus (depending on audition time) in order to meet with faculty and students, tour the campus and complete the necessary audition requirements. From 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for morning audition times, and 12-4 p.m. for afternoon times.
    • In-person audition (or YouTube link)
      • An in-person audition is highly recommended and preferable to a digital audition.  If an in-person audition is not possible, the applicant can provide a link to a YouTube video of the student performance that will serve in place of pieces performed at the live audition (see below for guidelines for selecting pieces to perform). If a YouTube link to a video is submitted, the student may be asked to perform an in-person audition at another time.
    • Guidelines for choosing pieces to perform

      • For your audition, you must prepare two pieces of a contrasting nature (i.e. one fast, one slow, or other contrasting characteristics), not to exceed 8 minutes total.  You will be asked to submit copies of the music you will be performing to the faculty hearing your audition (lead sheets and fake book charts are suitable for jazz pieces, as are pieces fully notated, such as etudes, big band parts, etc.).
      • Your performance and the pieces you select should help indicate that you have the potential to successfully participate in one of the Music Department’s major ensembles (orchestra, wind orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz big band, choir, and Arab music ensemble) on the instrument that you play at the audition, or by singing if you audition as a vocalist.
    • Accompaniment

      • If your audition pieces are written with piano accompaniment, please contact the music office to secure a staff accompanist for your audition.  You will be asked to submit the piano music for the accompanist.
      • For students performing a jazz piece at the in-person auditions, lead sheets or fake book charts for the accompanist are NOT acceptable. Instead, you may do any of the following:
        • Bring your own rhythm section play-along recording (on a CD, MP3 player, or smart phone).  The play-along recording can be a commercial one, or homemade, but should be the highest quality.
        • Bring fully notated piano accompaniment for a single accompanist.
        • Play unaccompanied.
      • For students performing a jazz piece on a YouTube video, any accompaniment or backing ensemble is acceptable.
    • Original compositions

      • Original compositions may be submitted as a supplement to — not replacing — your performance audition. They may be submitted as notated scores, lead sheets, or as recordings (performed by either the applicant or by others). Recordings should be of the highest quality.  Applicants may choose their own compositions for their performance audition but should be aware that the performance audition should demonstrate the potential to successfully participate as a performer in one of the music department’s major ensembles.  
    • Interview
      • A brief interview and short musicianship/clapping demonstration will be administered during the audition. Students submitting YouTube videos are required to interview and perform the musicianship/clapping demonstration via Skype or other means, and will be contacted by music faculty for scheduling purposes.
    • Music Theory Assessment
      • A music theory assessment will also be administered on your audition day. At 11 a.m. for auditions that take place until 11 a.m., and at 1 p.m. for auditions scheduled at 1 p.m. and later. Students submitting YouTube videos are required to take the same music theory placement via Skype or other means, and will be contacted by music faculty to schedule the Skype session.
      • Resource links for practicing the fundamentals of music theory and notation
    • Piano Placement
      • A short piano placement will be administered as part of the audition, following the interview. The placement is administered in a separate faculty studio with an acoustic piano. There are several levels of piano classes available to music majors, and the piano placement helps faculty determine the appropriate level for new students. No preparation is required. Students submitting YouTube videos are required to take the piano placement via Skype or other means, and will be contacted by music faculty for scheduling. 

  • Scholarship application
    • If you are applying for a music scholarship, complete the Scholarship Section of our Supplementary Application. In addition, you should go to the Cal Poly Financial Aid Web page for additional scholarship and financial aid information. 
    • If you wish to be considered for a need-based scholarship or any other type of financial aid, you should follow the instructions to download and complete the FAFSA. Please read the instructions carefully on the scholarship application. We strongly recommend that you complete the FAFSA form, as it confirms your eligibility for any kind of need-based scholarship or financial aid.
  • Recommendations
    • Letters of recommendation are strongly recommended, but not required. They can be sent directly to us by the author or student, by regular mail or by email.
    • Letter of recommendation template
  • Transfer applicants
  • Deadline
    • All music application materials are due no later than Jan. 27, 2020 .
  • Acceptance Notifications
    • You will be notified as to whether you are conditionally accepted into the music major at Cal Poly on or before April 1, 2020.
  • Communicating with the Music Department
    • Check the Cal Poly Portal and your email frequently. You will be receiving important emails and reminders with critical information.