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.

Eligible applicants will provided with an upload link for submissions of music, YouTube links, letters of recommendation, and other supporting materials, which must be submitted by the Jan. 29, 2024, deadline.


Supplementary Application

  • Supplementary Application Form

    • Complete the Supplementary Application/Scholarship Form 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 January.
  • Audition

    • Dates
      • Audition dates are Saturday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, March 2, 2024.
    • Students will be scheduled for an audition time in the morning or afternoon of their requested date. Be sure to indicate your preference in the email survey you receive. Students should plan to spend at least a few hours on campus — depending on audition time — to meet with faculty and students, tour the campus and complete the necessary audition requirements. A recommended timeframe is from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for morning audition times, and 12-4 p.m. for afternoon audition times.
    • In-person audition
      • An in-person audition is highly recommended and preferable to a digital video audition.
    • Video audition
      • If an in-person audition is not possible, the applicant can provide a video of a performance to serve in place of pieces performed at the live audition. Be sure to announce in the recording your name and works to be performed.
    • Guidelines for choosing audition pieces

      • Vocal and Instrumental applicants: For your audition, prepare two pieces of a contrasting nature (i.e., one fast, one slow, or other contrasting characteristics), not to exceed eight minutes total. If the music is notated, you will be asked to submit the scores as PDFs (lead sheets and fake book charts are suitable for jazz pieces, as are fully notated pieces, such as études, big band parts, etc.) by the deadline.
      • Music Technology and Composition applicants: Prepare two contrasting pieces not to exceed 8 minutes total. One piece should be performed on your primary instrument or voice if possible. If you perform live with a MIDI controller or laptop, that can be considered your instrument. This can be an original composition or a performance of an existing work. The other piece can be either a live performance of an original composition or a stereo audio file for play in the audition room (recordings or MIDI is acceptable). Please clearly state your role in the work, whether it is performance, composition or production. One of these pieces should be a notated score if that is part of your practice.
      • 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 (symphony orchestra, wind orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz big band, choir, electronic music ensemble, vocal jazz, 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, then you should perform your audition with an accompanist, and request an accompanist in the application. The department has a staff accompanist who will perform non-jazz works with you free of charge. You will need to upload PDFs of the piano music for the accompanist.
      • For students performing a jazz piece at the in-person auditions, you may do any of the following:
        • Bring your own rhythm-section play-along recording (on a CD, MP3 player, or smart phone). This recording can be a commercial one, or homemade.
        • Bring fully notated piano accompaniment for a single accompanist.
        • Play unaccompanied.
        • For students auditioning virtually, 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
      • In-person auditions will include a brief interview and musicianship assessment. Virtual applicants will be asked to respond to a short video musicianship assessment.
      • Resource links for practicing the fundamentals of music theory and notation
  • 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, visit the Financial Aid website.  

  • Recommendations
    • Letters of recommendation are strongly recommended, but not required. Letters can be uploaded by the student, or sent directly to us by the by regular mail or by email.
    • Letter of recommendation template
  • Transfer applicants
  • Deadline
    • Jan. 29, 2024, is the deadline to upload all materials — including the Supplementary Application and essay (link will be provided in email):
      • PDF of Audition Music
      • PDF of Piano Music for Accompanist (if applicable)
      • Original Compositions (if applicable)
      • Letter(s) of Recommendation (recommended, not required)
      • Video Audition Link (if unable to attend an in-person audition)
  • 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, 2024.
  • Communicating with the Music Department