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Pre-Conservatory Center of Excellence

Music is your passion.
You want a school that recognizes your dedication and prioritizes your music study while preparing you academically. We believe that students can combine their passion for music with a rigorous college-preparatory academic program.

The Pre-Conservatory Center of Excellence offers serious musicians ample practice time, weekly lessons with Master Teachers, courses in music theory, audio recording, composition, and digital audio production, chamber music ensembles, numerous performance opportunities, master classes with world-renowned guest artists, and access to concerts featuring world-class performers.

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About the Program

Meet Some of Our Program Alumni

Noteworthy Student Achievements

  • 1st place, 2020 Minnesota Orchestra YPSCA
  • Featured Artist and Showcase Artist, MPR’s Minnesota Varsity Competition 2020
  • Performer, Premiere Minnesota Performance Series for Young Musicians 2020
  • 2nd place, “Coda Bow” Prize, Mary West Solo Competition 2020
  • Finalist, 2020 Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony Concerto Competition
  • 1st place, 2018 Dakota Valley Symphony’s Young Artist Competition
  • Honorable Mention, Regional Finals of the MTNA National Music Competition 2018
  • Featured Artists, MPR’s Minnesota Varsity Competition 2018
  • Finalist (harp), 2017 Minnesota Orchestra YPSCA
  • Grand Prize (violin), 2016 Mankato Symphony Concerto Competition
  • First Place (harp), 2016 Rochester Symphony “Playing with the Pros” Competition
  • National winner (piano), 2015 MTNA
  • Regional winner (piano), 2015 MTNA
  • 1st prize (cello), 2015 La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Rising Stars Solo Competition
  • 2nd prize (cello), 2015 La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Rising Stars Solo Competition
  • Two finalists (cello), 2015 Minnesota Orchestra YPSCA
  • Honorable mention (cello), 2015 ASTA Solo Competition
  • Performers, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Salon Se Leve Music Series
  • Grand Prize (cello), 2014 MNSOTA Mary West Solo Competition
  • 2nd prize (violin), 2014 MNSOTA Mary West Solo Competition
  • Violinist, 2014 National High School Orchestra
  • 1st prize, 2014 Rochester Music Guild Competition
  • 1st prizes, 2013 and 2014 Minnesota Sinfonia Competition
  • Five 1st prize wins in five categories, 2013 Bruce P. Carlson Schubert Club Competition
  • Grand Prize (violin), 2012 Young People’s Symphony Concert Association (YPSCA), 2nd place (piano), 3rd place (viola), and 6th place (violin)
  • Top 8 finisher, 2012 Hamamatsu International Piano Competition
  • 1st place, 2011 DePue Brothers International Fiddle Competition
Meet the Director

Dr. Benjamin Downs enjoys a multi-faceted career as educator, scholar, and performer. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of Macalester College, and as an instructor at Stony Brook University, University of Cincinnati, and the University of Illinois. He also has 20 years of experience teaching pre-college piano and music theory. Before coming to Shattuck-St. Mary’s, he was teacher and director of the MacPhail Center for Music’s pre-conservatory program.

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College Matriculation List

Our graduates are accepted into the best music schools in the world. The list below represents some of the schools our alumni have attended or currently attend:

  • The Juilliard School
  • The Eastman School of Music
  • The University of Michigan
  • Yale University
  • The Cleveland Institute
  • The Manhattan School of Music
  • The University of Minnesota
  • The University of Texas-Austin
  • Bard College
  • Rice University
  • The San Francisco Conservatory
  • Mannes School of Music