While it is hard to get in, the education is well respected: admission to a German art or music college is dependent on artistic talent and motivation. Studying music in Germany is very popular with students from around the world – around a quarter of students at the 24 state music colleges come from abroad.
Developing one’s own style is the main goal for those studying music or art. Those studying visual arts or design therefore have a great deal of freedom in the organisation of their studies. Some higher education institutions in Germany have a very open approach: first-year students can put their creativity into practice without having to decide immediately on a particular subject area. Others offer specialised degree courses that concentrate on painting, photography or graphic design from the very start. As well as areas of studies where the focus is on producing art, there are also degree courses that address art, music, theatre and film on an academic or pedagogic level. In these times of globalisation and medialization, musicology is defining itself with a clear new orientation. With degree courses such as “Transcultural Music Studies”, music research is increasingly addressing the modern world.
Preparing for the aptitude test
Music and art colleges in Germany have largely switched their degree courses to and degrees. The admission criteria are severe; some colleges rely on course entrance restrictions. Often, aptitude tests are used to decide which students are accepted. In the visual arts, applicants submit a portfolio of their artistic work, while at music colleges they usually prove their ability via written tests and an audition.
The requirements differ depending on the institution. Those interested in studying art or music should therefore obtain information as early as possible. Aptitude tests often take place a year before the course begins.
Studying art: From university to your own studio
Degree courses at the 24 state-approved institutions for the visual arts combine theory (basic subject-specific knowledge in academic subjects such as art history and media science) and practice (crafts such as painting, sculpting and digital design). Free artistic development is highly valued at German art colleges. Students are given plenty of freedom to develop their own ideas and realise artistic projects. This largely independent planning requires that students are disciplined and work under their own initiative.
In 2017, around 7,000 students graduated from German music and art colleges. While some art graduate go and offer works on the free market, others work for galleries or art associations, or (with corresponding additional qualifications) work for art education services or graphic design agencies. Interesting professions for art graduates are developing in the exhibition sector: with digital media and the associated opportunities for the art business, new, interdisciplinary degree courses are being created, e.g. Curatorial Studies, which specifically prepare students for a career as a curator, collector or exhibition designer. There is also a trend towards greater estimation of cross-cultural competence in the globally networked world of art.
Studying music: Traditional careers, creative development
Although professional perspectives are not free from insecurity, more and more first-year students are choosing music. Degree courses in the field of music education are particularly popular, as are instrumental and orchestral music. The focus of education at German music colleges lies on artistic development and specialisation in a particular instrument, the voice or the subjects of composition and conducting. There are also various different Master’s courses, e.g. chamber music, piano accompaniment, early music and contemporary music. With the reduction in the number of permanent positions, a traditional career as a musician or soloist in an orchestra, in a choir or at a music theatre in Germany is becoming increasingly less common. In contrast, musicians are establishing themselves more easily in the free market, e.g. as members of ensembles in stylistic niches.
There is also evidence of positive developments in the fields of concert mediation, music mediation and music management. Especially in elementary music education, new and promising fields of work based outside of schools are developing, e.g. early learning for children or cultural dialogue with children from migrant families. A large number of new courses (often Master's courses) are focusing on the fields of music mediation and concert mediation, the practice of music therapy and training for particular age groups (leading choirs for children and young adults). The skills of musicians and musicologists are also increasingly important in adult education, e.g. the development of cultural programmes for senior citizens.