My journey of pursuing a music education in Germany

Born in ipoh, Malaysia. XuFei began her piano studies at the age of 4. She achieved her ATCL, LTCL Recital Diploma exam from the Trinity College of London under the join tutelage of Mr. Loo Bang Hean, Ms. Lucy Hiong and Mr. Rickie Oui.

XuFei has taken part actively in varies festivals and masterclasses such as Euro Music Festival in Halle, Germany 2018, AIPAF KOREA 2016, OMWPA 2014 and OMWPA 2016, where she had masterclass and studied with Alexej Gorlatch, Konrad Engel, Gilead Mishory, Alexander Szram, Anthony Hewitt, Murray McLachlan, Nam Yeung just to name a few.

XuFei wants a music education in Germany

Why a music education in Germany?

Affordable tuition fees and enormously high standard of quality in term of teaching and musical training.

The first thing I need to do

Learn German language. For a Bachelor’s degree of Music, the German language proficiency requirement for most of the universities is a Goethe-Zertifikat B2 or equivalent. Some of the universities accept the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 or equivalent.

Frankfurt old town
Frankfurt shopping mall

After learning the language, what’s next?

I participated actively in several summer piano master-classes in Germany. From there, I got to experience how German piano professors teach, how they work with students and of course, I got to experience some Germany culture as well. The most important thing was that I managed to make contact with several piano professors.

Universitaet der Kuenste

Before deciding to apply for German music university

It is better to keep contact with several professors and try to make appointment with them before the audition period. To play for them or have a few sessions of private paid lesson with them so they know your ability or at least can teach you something but this doesn’t guarantee anything for the audition. Some professors charge expensively. It is not compulsory but you could do this.

Hochschule fuer Musik und Tanz
XuFei
Hochschule Musik Freiburg

Application procedures

German university application is the very first hurdle I faced. Every University has its own application method. You need to browse each University’s website to check out their application process. Thus, a good proficiency of German language is essential. Some universities offer online application, all you need to do is just create an account and apply online however some of the universities still prefer postage application. It means that you need to print out the application form from the website, fill in hand-written and post it all the way back to the University Administration Department in Germany.

Important Tips

  1. Always expect delay or postage missing, avoid last minute application.
  2. There are hundreds of applications flooding from all over the world thus checking up regularly with the administration about your application process is vital.
  3. Generally the University will charge €30 to €50 for application fees, make sure you keep the proof of payment in soft copy and hard copy. This is important.

After the application is done

You will get a confirmation or invitation E-mail from the University weeks after your successful application. From here, you can start planning your journey in Germany such as book your accommodation and flight tickets, looking for practice rooms etc.

What if you don’t get the invitation E-mail?

Always check with the University Student Department or Administration Department. Write them email and show them your proof of payment.

Journey Planning

Know the cities of your applied universities. Plan your journey according to the given dates of the audition. Summer audition periods usually starts at the end of May until end of July. In my case, I had applied for 6 universities and my audition tour in 2019 lasted about 2 months.

bike for rent
bus in Germany

Accommodation/Lodging

My way is to pick the city where my professor resides in. For example, I chose Frankfurt as my ‘main-hub’ because I was having private lessons with the professor which I had prior made an appointment with. I chose to stay in hostel, it is cheaper than hotel, around €15 to €20 per night and it is located in city center, surrounded by food, supermarkets and public transports.

Important Tips

Make sure you book your accommodation prior online. Summer in Europe is a peak travel season and you will have a big chance not getting any room to sleep or having to pay an extra cost for a night.

Practice Room

As a music audition candidate, nothing is more important than practicing. Searching for a practice room during audition period is extremely challenging. There will be numerous of candidates from all over the world flooding the same city or town at the same time to prepare for the audition. So there will be time where you cannot find a single available practice room. Make sure you check out the local music instrument shop, music learning centers or any available piano rental service in the city you are auditioning for and make booking as early as you can. There is also this Music Traveller App which I found quite useful, you can search for piano room rental service and it is available in most of the bigger cities in Europe.

Stuttgart
lookout point Stuttgart

Important Tips

  1. Make sure you book the practice room as early as you can.
  2. Make sure you prepare enough cash, some local music centers do not accept credit card as a form of piano room-rental payment.
  3. Generally, as an audition candidate we are not allowed to practice in the University Music practice room except on the audition day.
  4. Price range for a piano practice room is €10-€15/hour for an upright piano, €20-€30/hour for a grand piano.

Auditions

There are usually 2 audition periods per year, summer audition and winter audition. However some university only offers one audition per year. Compared to winter auditions, there are more candidates in summer auditions which make it more competitive and tougher. Music Universities in big cities such as Berlin and Frankfurt have approximately 130 candidates in a day to audition for Bachelor of Music degree program.

Flow or process of the music auditions

Step 1
When you first reach the music department, register yourself and get your document verified or get yourself queued for the audition. After that you will be given your time slot for the preliminary round of the audition. Then you will be allowed to practice or warm up for 30-45 minutes in the practice room of the university.
Step 2
You are required to prepare a full-program which consists of pieces from four different periods plus one virtuosic etude. However, due to the time limit, usually only 6-10 minutes of your playing will be heard. Make sure you choose the pieces that show-off your techniques and skills.
Step 3
The major professors, members of the faculty and Head of department will be the judge panel during the audition. Usually 4-8 of them will listen and judge your performance and stop you in the middle. Questions will be asked, in German.
Step 4
After you finish playing for your audition, wait for the preliminary result. Usually it will be announced at the end of the day or the day after.
Step 5
If you succeed the preliminary round, you will need to perform the entire program in the second round. In my experience, I got into the second round of audition in Stuttgart where there were about 80 candidates in the preliminary round and only 14 of us made it to the next. You will be asked to take a music theory assessment test, all in German language which is equivalent to ABRSM grade8 theory. An aural test is required to test your ability to sight-sing and identify chords. Last but not least, the dictation assessment.
Step 6
If you passed the second round, you will meet the piano faculty and have an interview with them or probably have a lesson with your preferred professor. Unfortunately, I was stopped at the second stage of audition.

Important Tips

  1. Always find or locate your University Music Department prior your audition, because some music department or music building is far away from the main university building.
  2. Make sure you bring all your photocopied music scores, list of repertoire , all the important documents such as application form, photo, ID , proof of payment.
  3. Be there early and never be late for the audition, time is precious.
  4. Get enough rest day before the audition, do not over practice.
  5. You will get the result on the day itself of the day after, do not leave the city before receiving any news about your preliminary result.

What is expected out of me during my audition?

A strong and solid foundation of playing technique is a must. Due to the extremely high standard of the competitive auditioning candidates, not a single mistake will be tolerated. Fully-memorized and diverse audition program with appropriate and well-interpreted pieces in different style and period is required. Natural and musically well-crafted art is expected during the audition and not forget the fluently spoken German language during the short interview session.

Stuttgart Markthalle
Stuttgart Markhalle

Rate of acceptance

In Berlin, out of 130 candidates, only 3 got accepted while in Stuttgart only 8 out of 80 got accepted. It is not impossible but it is really tough. Choose smaller cities to audition for and you might stand a higher chance of getting in.

Unexpected incidents I have encountered in Germany during my auditions

  1. I couldn’t find a single available practice room for 3 days straight in Düsseldorf and it made me so anxious and nervous. I had to travel to Köln which is 45 km away by train to search for practice room.
  2. Some piano practice-room only accepts cash as form of payment and I did not bring enough cash with me. It was a disaster. Having limited cash in Europe is a bad thing even though I have a credit card, because not every shop or restaurant accepts card payment.
  3. One of the University Administration Office made a serious mistake about my application and I ended up not having a chance to audition in that university.

Extra useful tips

  1. Always follow up and double confirm with the University Administration/Student Department for your application process. Make sure you get invited for the audition.
  2. Make sure you are able to communicate and converse/read Deutsch
  3. Always book your accommodation and practice room earlier. Same thing goes to your long-distance train and bus ticket.
  4. A well-prepared program. Be prepared of not getting any practice room and still be able to perform.
  5. Well-planned daily schedules, focus on practicing. Well-planned journey is equally important. Take not of the Jet-lag problem, tiring long-distance travelling or tiring bus/train ride.
  6. Self-discipline is super important. Auditioning in Germany requires high independency because hardly anyone can help you. Everyone is busy and nervous, so taking care of yourself is the least thing you can do.
  7. Studying privately under a professor will not guarantee a place in the university. Hard-work and capability plays the most important role.
  8. Last but not least, good luck in pursuing your music education in Germany!
Stuttgart restaurant
Stuttgart cafe