SEVERAL top music schools in the United States are holding auditions in the Orient, hoping to take advantage of the surge of interest among young Asians in pursuing musical training abroad. Last fall, officials from the Eastman School of Music, the Peabody Conservatory, and the music schools of Oberlin College and the University of Miami formed a coalition and traveled to Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong in search of applicants.
Response was "phenomenal," says Jo Faulmann, coordinator of the trip and director of admissions for the School of Music at the University of Miami. The schools jointly auditioned more than 100 students and turned away half as many.
The "mystique" of the US and the overcrowded conditions in Asian music schools cause teenagers to dream of training in America, students say. "It's hard to get into colleges in Taiwan. If you want to be a musician - there's just not enough space," says 18-year-old violinist Mei-Ann Chen, who came to the US two years ago.
Admissions officials express no qualms about casting their nets in Asia. "I haven't denied a spot for a US kid in favor of an international student," says Robert Annis, dean of enrollment services at New England Conservatory of Music, which has held auditions in Asia for the past three years.
Rather, officials voice concern over the continuing downturn in the number of high-school seniors and over the widespread lack of music education in US schools that grooms children for further study.
"Quality is another issue here," says Ms. Faulmann. Her school found that Asians who came to study unsolicited were "hardworking and serious." Now, in response to the rising number of inquiries from Taiwan, Japan, and Korea coming in, it helps to go over there to provide "more personal contact," she says.