Art and Music: Creative use of opportunities

While it is hard to get in, the training is well respected: admission to a German art or music college is dependent on your 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.

by the Editors

A musician is writing something down on a sheet of music © Lichtenscheidt/DAAD
A musician is writing something down on a sheet of music . © Lichtenscheidt/DAAD

Developing your own artistic style - that's the aim of everyone interested in studying arts or music. 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: as a first-year student, you can put your creativity into practice without having to immediately decide 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. It's exciting to see how these courses are gaining a new orientation in these times of globalisation and medialisation. With degree courses such as “Music and Gender” or “Transcultural Music Studies”, musicology is responding to current developments.

Preparing for the aptitude test

While music colleges in Germany have largely switched their degree courses to Bachelor’s and Master's degrees, at art colleges you will still complete the old German Diplom degree. There is no Numerus Clausus course entrance restriction, but the admission criteria are severe. Aptitude tests are used to decide whether your artistic talent will be accepted by the university. In the visual arts, you submit a portfolio of your artistic work, while at music colleges you usually prove your 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 uni to your own studio

Academic studies at one of the 24 academies and colleges of fine arts that are officially recognised in Germany combine theory and practice: practical methods, such as painting, sculpting or digital design are taught, as well as basic subject-specific knowledge in academic subjects, such as art history and media science. Free artistic development is highly valued at German art colleges. You are given plenty of freedom to develop your own ideas and realise artistic projects. However, this largely independent work and planning requires a lot of initiative and discipline.

In 2015, around 17,000 students graduated from German art colleges – more than ever before. Around every second graduate becomes self-employed and seeks their own clients. 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. A further trend: there is also a trend towards a greater estimation of cross-cultural competence in the globally networked world of art.

Studying music: traditional careers, creative development

The path to an artistic career is not an easy one. Nevertheless, more and more students are choosing to study music in Germany. Degree courses in the field of music education are particularly popular, as are instrumental and orchestral music.  During the training you will normally specialise in a particular instrument, the voice or the subjects of composition and conducting. In the Master courses you can specialise further, for example, in chamber music, piano accompaniment, early or contemporary music. A traditional career as a musician or soloist in an orchestra, in a choir or at a music theatre in Germany is becoming much less common. This is due mainly to the reduction in the number of permanent positions. Musicians are finding it easier to become established in the free market. For example, by developing an original style as soloists or members of a group.

The fields of concert mediation, music mediation and music management are developing and look promising. Especially in elementary music education (EMP), new and promising fields of work based outside of schools are developing. These include early learning for children or cultural dialogue with children from migrant families. Many new courses of study are being developed, often master's degree programmes, with a corresponding focus: In the fields of music mediation and concert mediation, as well as music therapy or training particular age groups (leading choirs for children and young adults). The skills of musicians and musicologists are also increasingly important in adult education. Many of them work on developing cultural programmes for senior citizens.