The purpose of this study was to explore the identity work of adult instrumental students negotiating their entry to a prestigious music academy and the professional field of music. Ten classical solo-piano students' accounts of their musical histories and experiences were collected through research interviews. The thematic analyses presented suggest that comparative dynamics between self and other(s) are key mediators of students' musical identity work. The analyses explore how students' identity work was resourced both by the discursive (re)contextualization and harnessing of entrance test results and their accounts of their early experiences of being in the academy. The salience of key musical practices and the significance of listening, as well as being overheard practising, are also considered. In addition, the analyses reveal how constructions of practice 'norms', 'exceptionality' and 'typical' life-courses and trajectories enter into students' identity work.