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Professional Performance Certificate in Music

Career preparation, artistic guidance, and work experience for aspiring professional musicians

Offering excellent performing musicians in their early career stages the opportunity for private study with master teachers at Penn State, with participation in the outstanding ensembles of Penn State’s School of Music.

A One Year Professional Certificate in Performance

This certificate program, administered by the School of Music through Conferences and Institutes (non-credit course CPE 9015), offers excellent performing musicians in their early career stages the opportunity for private study with master teachers, including participation in the outstanding ensembles of Penn State’s School of Music. Participants typically hold an undergraduate degree or demonstrated equivalent musical training. The certificate program provides career preparation, artistic guidance, and work experience for aspiring professional musicians. Applicants for the PPC program must show evidence of completion of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Voice applicants must show evidence of completion of a master’s degree.

The Professional Performance Certificate consists of weekly private lessons for a single academic year of two semesters (fall and spring), during which the musician will participate as directed in the ensembles of the School of Music, or in the case of pianists, accompanying as directed. The full-time load for participants in this program is a minimum of 40 hours/week. This normally includes approximately ten contact hours of instruction with faculty (lessons, studio classes, and directed ensembles, opera, chamber music or other collaborative experiences) plus at least thirty hours of individual practice and preparation. Assignments and distribution of workloads are supervised by the Professional Performance Certificate committee, which reports to the Director of the School of Music. Study in this program is not awarded academic credit. In lieu of credit toward a degree, the musician’s work and study will be evaluated as pass/fail. A certificate will be awarded upon the successful conclusion of the program. International applicants, for whom English is not their first language, may be interested in taking advantage of some of the services provided by Penn State’s English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center (EPPIC.) All services are free to Penn State students and affiliates.

The total fee for the academic year (fall-spring) PPC program is $2,000 for U.S. citizens and $2,500 for international students. Graduate teaching assistantships are not available to musicians pursuing the PPC. Housing and other living expenses are the responsibility of the participant. Program participants are not considered matriculating students at Penn State.

As part of this program, participants may travel with School of Music ensembles – sometimes as a required part of ensemble participation and other times as an optional enrichment activity. College travel policies require that all participants submit emergency contact information including health insurance information. It is strongly recommended that U.S. citizens have a current health insurance plan. International participants are required to enroll in a Penn State student health insurance plan.

Due to stricter controls on visas issued to international visitors/students to the United States, a deadline of April 15 is required for international applications. All complete applications received by that date will be given full consideration for admission. Applications from U.S. citizens are due by June 15th.

For more information regarding application procedures, please contact Beth Nackley at musicppc@psu.edu.


How to Apply

Submit the PPC online application. Once you have submitted the form, someone from the School of Music will contact you to arrange an audition and to discuss supporting materials. A live audition is strongly recommended, but for international students and other applicants who are unable to visit campus, a video recording (single camera) audition is acceptable.

Supporting materials should include:

  • Evidence of prior musical education (bachelor’s degree or equivalent). Photocopies of diplomas are acceptable.
  • Names and contact information of two referees. It is suggested that one reference be your current applied teacher.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must also complete a telephone/Zoom interview.

For PPC audition requirements*, please refer to repertoire requirements (which are the same as those for the master’s degree).

*Special instructions regarding voice applicants: a pre-screening process is required for voice applicants to the Professional Performance Certificate. Please see voice audition requirements for information. The deadline for submission is December 15.

International students must also complete the visa application form.