About Instrumental Performance

Request Info
Request Info
 Stamps Brass Quintet class of 2020 Group of student musicians perform a quick song as they sit on a wall

The Frost School of Music’s Department of Instrumental Performance (MIP) has programs tailored to meet the needs and interests of students – like you – who aspire to performance careers. Graduates of these programs often pursue careers as symphony musicians, university professors, concert soloists, chamber musicians, or band/orchestra conductors. Many graduates pursue advanced study and graduate degrees for further career preparation.

As an instrumental performance major, you will focus on developing and honing your performance skills on a selected brass, percussion, string, or woodwind instrument with assistance from faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers and performing musicians.

While the curriculum emphasizes technical and musical development, it also includes music theory, music history, literature and teaching methods. In addition, you will develop expertise in contemporary literature and chamber music performance.  All undergraduates are also immersed in the FROST School of Music’s Experiential Curriculum (dubbed by some as the FROST Method) that emphasizes learning music theory and pedagogy through doing, not lecturing.

In addition to piano study, students in the MIP Department are required to perform multiple student recitals, participate in chamber ensembles as well as major large ensembles such as the FROST Symphony Orchestra, the FROST Wind Ensemble, the FROST Symphonic Winds and/or others. Ensemble placement for woodwind, brass and percussion players is determined by the conducting and applied faculty following Student Ensemble Placement Auditions, click the button below for detailed information regarding audition material, procedures, and audition times.   All string players should contact your studio teachers for more audition details.

A highlight of of Chamber Music program is The Bergonzi String Quartet, which in residence and provides a model of excellence in performance and the teaching of chamber music.

In addition to ensembles and chamber music, weekly forums provide performance majors with informal performance opportunities, as well as master classes and performances by faculty and guest artists.

The Miami metropolitan area is home to the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, host to a number of resident companies including the Florida Grand Opera, the Miami City Ballet, and the New World Symphony. These, as well as numerous other professional ensembles, offer Frost School students a wide range of symphony orchestra, opera orchestra, chamber ensemble, and solo performance opportunities.

Department Chair:

Robert Carnochan

Program Directors:

Orchestral Conducting (Graduate only)
Thomas Sleeper

Band Conducting (Graduate only) 
Robert Carnochan

Rick Todd

Rafael Padron

Svet Stoyanov

Ross Harbaugh

Margaret Donaghue

MIP Office Manager

Joanie Chalakani


To learn more about Instrumental Performance Programs, please click here.

Whether woodwinds, percussion, strings, or brass is your bag, an instrumental performance program can provide you with an essential stepping stone in your musical career. Instrumental performance is a degree that allows you to hone the craft of your specific instrument, enabling you to excel in a specific musical area. Instrumental performance programs exist for a full range of genres and instruments.

What is Instrumental Performance?

Instrumental performance is the playing of any instrument in front of an audience. While some music-related degrees focus on teaching music, providing music therapy, or learning about the background of music, instrumental performance puts you on the auditory center stage. Instrumental performers please audiences around the world every day. Whether you work best in an ensemble like an orchestra or as an individual performer, you can rest assured that as an instrumentalist, you are creating an artistic experience for an audience.

A Short History of Instrumental Performance Programs

Instruments have existed for thousands of years. For most of this time, musicians learned their instruments using an apprenticeship model: the more experienced musician would train the novice one-on-one. Eventually, instrumentation became standardized and music began to be notated and scored. The shifting role of education in society meant that many musicians learned to play not with another musician in the community, but at school. Though most musicians still partake in private lessons, the structure of these lessons differs greatly from the apprenticeship approach of yore. Since World War Two, the demand for all kinds of higher education programs has expanded, leaving today’s musicians with more instrumental performance programs than ever before.

How Do I Know If Instrumental Performance is the Right Career Path for Me?

If you are devoted to your instrument and prepared to spend many hours perfecting your craft, a career in instrumental performance may be for you. Instrumentalists are keen problem-solvers who work flexibly in various ensemble iterations. Though the kinds of opportunities that will present themselves depend very much on your instrument, skills like flexibility, collaboration, and communication remain essential no matter your focus.

Job Outlook Predictions in the World of Instrumental Performance

Some performers play in pit orchestras, as studio musicians, or in another capacity behind the scenes. Other alumni of instrumental performance programs spend their time composing new music. Some performers pursue advanced degrees in adjacent music-related fields like music therapy, music education, music engineering, music law, or musicology. You will find instrument performance majors in a range of music-related careers; these opportunities are plentiful.

Top Five Characteristics of The World’s Best Instrumental Performance Programs

When choosing a program to attend, there are several programmatic attributes you may want to consider. The list below comprises just a few of the items that you might want to add to your instrumental performance program checklist:

1. A Focus in the Instrument of Your Choice

  1. Your program will mean little if you do not have instructors highly trained in your specific instrument.

2. Abundant Performance Opportunities

  1. As you improve your skills over time, it’s essential that the school connect you with performance opportunities so that you can practice your new aptitudes on stage.

3. Meaningful Collaborative Opportunities

  1. Making music with others is a major part of instrumental performance. By attending a school that encourages collaboration, you are setting yourself up to learn skills you will use for the duration of your career.

4. Connected Community Opportunities

  1. It’s important to attend a school that is thoroughly connected with community members, alumni, and other institutions in the area. These connections may be extended to you as a student, growing your professional network before you even graduate.

5. A Location That Supports Your Endeavors

  1. Attending a school in a city with multiple musical venues means that you will be able to see (and, perhaps, perform) a wide variety of genres and styles. Living in a vibrant city, such as Miami, while attending school can enhance your whole experience.

The Top Characteristics of Instrumental Performance Program Alumni

Numerous alumni of instrumental performance programs share some of the same positive attributes. Success is not entirely formulaic, but that being said, it is important to learn from those who’ve already reached their goals. Some of the top characteristics of instrumental performance program alumni include the following:

  • A willingness to learn more than one instrument. You will likely specialize in one or two instruments, but you will almost certainly learn the basics of several others. Think about learning how to play additional instruments like cross-training: everything you learn about other instruments informs the playing of your focus instrument.
  • The drive to find time to practice. When you are learning to master an instrument, your time in the music studio may feel endless. Though balance in life is important, an instrumental performance program represents a special time of particularly intense study. You must be able to zero in and focus when it matters the most.
  • A collaborative nature. Masterful musicians know when to say “yes” and are willing to collaborate in a variety of performance situations. Becoming a successful musician involves the willingness to leave your comfort zone and try something new with your collaborators.

What Do I Need to Know Before Applying to a Program in Instrumental Performance?

Many instrumental performance programs require an audition, either in-person or sent in a recording. The faculty associated with admissions will want to know what your musical ability already is so that you can hit the ground running if accepted. Though you do not need to already be an expert in your instrument, you will need to have achieved a certain level of proficiency already. Experience with music theory, performance skills, and other music-related experiences will help your application as well. It’s important to contact each school you’re planning to apply to so that you can figure out what they require specifically.

Finding a Instrumental Performance Program That is the Right Fit For You

When choosing an instrumental performance program, it’s important to choose a school that offers a focus in your area of instrumental specialization. The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami is the only program that uses the unique Frost Method™, an approach to instrumental performance that incorporates hands-on learning, small group instruction, and individual mentoring. Using best practices for learning, The Frost Method™ allows students to push themselves to new heights in the field of instrumental performance.