Letters of recommendation can run the gamut from recommending a high school student to a specialized music school or conservatory, such as Julliard's pre-college program, to a university that offers music majors. In any case, the person writing the letter should follow certain accepted procedures in order to enhance the student's chances for admission to the program or college of his choice.
Before writing a letter of recommendation, ask the student for a resume and a list of important information that you may not know. Be sure the student adds any material devoted to music. Interview the student to be sure you have enough material to put together a cohesive letter. If you do not feel comfortable that you can write a favorable letter, tell the student to find someone else. Instruct the student to give you a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Use your school letterhead. Address the letter to a specific person if at all possible. If not, use "To Whom It May Concern." Be sure to send original copies if you send the same letter to several schools. Do not send photocopies.
Introduce yourself in the first paragraph and tell why you are writing. Use a phrase like, "I highly recommend (student) for admission to your school. For the past three years of his high school career, I was fortunate to be his music teacher and observed how he matured as a student as well as a fine trumpet player." Add a line similar to "I feel that I can appraise his qualifications accurately."
Compare to Other Students
Compare this student both academically and musically to others that you have observed. Discuss how he excels and shows unusual ability in music, such as mastering needed skills. Tell more about his special talents, but do not exaggerate. Be honest in your appraisal, but take advantage of all the student's positive aspects. Mention that he works well with others, is cooperative and self-motivated.
Describe Musical Activities
Describe what types of musical activities in which the student was involved. Mention if he was officer in the band, that he helped other students perfect their instruments or held an important role in the concert the band gave for the school. Tell what leadership abilities he has shown as well as what sets him apart from the others. Be specific and give examples. Be sure the letter is individualized and does not read like one you would send for other pupils.
Make a strong pitch for why the school should accept the student. For example, say, "He is an unusual student who will succeed in whatever musical area he decides to follow. I have full confidence that he will be an asset to your school. I unhesitatingly recommend him for admission to your school."
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