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Is Amherst really the singing college?

vicariousparentvicariousparent Registered User Posts: 5,940 Senior Member
edited January 2009 in Amherst College
Is this just a historic name for Amherst? My D is a soprano with a serious interest in classical vocal music (opera, choral, oratorio, madrigal, etc). If she comes to Amherst will she find other students like her? Will there be opportunities to sing in auditioned ensembles? Will there be good classical voice teachers?

I read some of the old posts here that led me to links about singing at Amherst but when I followed the links the pages had not been updated in a couple of years. I understand that Smith has some strength in this department that Amherst students may be able to benefit from it too. Any specific and recent information will be appreciated.
Post edited by vicariousparent on

Replies to: Is Amherst really the singing college?

  • ntmnntmn Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    is my D= My dad? Never rally get this, sorry.... it's just frustrating
  • vicariousparentvicariousparent Registered User Posts: 5,940 Senior Member
    Sorry for the ambiguity. D=daughter.

    By the way, soprano=female voice that sings high notes.
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    I don't think Amherst has a particularly good vocal program. Yes, she would be able to take advantage of the music offerings at Smith but traveling takes up a lot of time.

    It's your call.
  • Seachai86442Seachai86442 - Posts: 895 Member
    Are you a music major? Look up schools with strong music programs. Not Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • CatfishCatfish Registered User Posts: 725 Member
    I think the "singing college" label is well-deserved (although Amherst is not the only one that claims it). The vocal department, while not conservatory level, is very strong, and there are no fewer than 6 a capella groups (2 male, 2 female, 2 co-ed), which are very popular. Your daughter won't be the only one with a strong vocal interest. Ensembles she could sing in (all of which require audition if I'm not mistaken) would be choral society, madrigals, women's chorus, or any of 4 a capella groups. She'd also have the opportunity to audition for musicals and give recitals.
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    a serious interest in classical vocal music (opera, choral, oratorio, madrigal, etc). If she comes to Amherst will she find other students like her? Will there be opportunities to sing in auditioned ensembles? Will there be good classical voice teachers?

    Yes to questions 1 and 2; I don't know the answer to #3.

    S=2 double-majored in Music, and was in Amherst Concert Choir all 4 years. It was serious and by audition, rehearsing several times weekly for full concerts 2 or 3 times per year, plus other appearances, as I recall ('05 graduate). In June, they travelled to Japan and Hungary to perform there with other university choirs and for the public. He made many friends from Choir. There's a Men's Choir as well as the Concert Choir which is coed.

    If she's looking for others who love classical music, they are there and findable through these activities. That said, it's not a Conservatory such as at Oberlin, Juliard, New England Conservatory or Eastman, if that's what she seeks.

    I'd describe the Amherst Music Department as small in numbers, but very well focussed, in terms of faculty sophistication, dedication and student participation.
    At graduation, all the departments hold a reception for majors. At the Music Major reception, I met the graduating majors, their families, and faculty. It was a high point of the graduation for us.

    H was a music major and was very impressed at the professional circles the faculty inhabits. As a teacher, I noticed how the faculty knew each student, inside and out. Faculty circulated and spoke warmly with each parent about what each student had done musically during their time at Amherst. The faculty, while communicating their depth and experience to parents, also were very accessible people. Their care for each student was most evident.

    I often came to campus to hear the concerts, which were beautiful. During graduation, I met 12 or 15 graduating senior majors (total senior class at Amherst would number around 180) at a faculty brunch for graduating majors.

    Your D wants to meet others who love music, so the majors is one way. But of course, not every music lover becomes a music major, necessarily. I also knew of many students who majored in something else academic but participated very passionately in one of the formal music groups. It was their main activity outside of coursework.

    Many more students take music courses than major in it, obviously. Music department courses would attract everyone, from majors to music lovers to just someone curious about music. It's a true liberal arts atmosphere, so much cross-fertilization of interests there. Since there are no distribution requirements, you can count on the fact that every person in the class is there because s/he wants to be there, which is meaningful in arts courses. Nobody's just hacking at it to satisfy a distribution requirement in the arts.

    Music can be someone's only major or second major. I'm not sure if they permit a Music Minor; as I recall, not so, but check on that piece.

    Every concert I heard there vocally was of beautiful quality. We never heard the orchestra, unfortunately. The acoustics in the concert hall are stunning. I'd estimate l00 students in Concert Choir, but don't quote me.

    S-1 never took lessons there by private voice teacher, but the choir itself did a fair amount of vocal training during rehearsals. He took semester-long courses in songwriting, composition, music history. Music was his secondary academic interest.

    Choral and Orchestral Concerts were always sold out, and occur on Homecoming/Parents Weekend. It's definitely a pride point of the college, and a huge part of their tradition; hence the scheduling.

    The a cappella groups are marvelous, too. Some are college sponsored, others informal. They are roaringly popular with students. At their concerts. sometimes one group is featured, or there is a small group of selections to hear from all groups in the same evening. I noticed they were treated with rock-star status among students, who pack the halls to hear them and enjoy their humor and style. Lots of fun.

    Orchestral students would constitute another source of friends who love music.
    Most of these folks are not music majors, of course, but participate in Choir, ORchestra or A Cappella.

    I recommend scouring the Music Department's page of the college website for more info. Also, email someone who's faculty advisor to one of these formal groups, for example in the choir it's "Mallory."

    Arts majors at Amherst find encouragement to pursue their art within a liberal arts curriculum (sorry to sound like a course catalogue here). This has a lot of implications for students. It means that if someone majors in the arts, they will find faculty expecting them to have interests in numerous areas, and take many courses in addition to their major. It's truly a liberal arts atmosphere.

    In addition to a handful of music majors, you will find more people who have double majors that sound like this: Physics and Music; History and Music.. So it's all possible, if what she' looking for is other lovers of music.
  • vicariousparentvicariousparent Registered User Posts: 5,940 Senior Member
    ^^ Thank you very much, P3T. That was very comprehensive! Thanks also to other responders. I see your last info is from 2005. Hopefully the tradition continues.

    D is looking first and foremost for strong academics in the humanities, but classical vocal music is a big passion. Oberlin college is on her list but it is perhaps not as strong as Amherst in academics? She is almost certainly not going to go the conservatory route, but ideally she would have access to conservatory-level private voice instruction.
  • CatfishCatfish Registered User Posts: 725 Member
    Unfortunately, a music minor is not an option as Amherst does not offer minors. I'm not sure why that is, other than perhaps that the open curriculum means that pretty much everyone could end up with 2 or 3 minors by the time they graduate without much difficulty.
  • grundoon51grundoon51 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Amherst seems to be set up like a lot of other LAC's--small core music dept faculty who teaches courses and larger numbers of adjuncts, usually working performers, who give private lessons for credit.They likely do a lot of other things as well-professional musicians lead very peripatatic lives and will only be on campus a day a week or so.This is a very different model from a conservatory like Oberlin where the people who give lessons are regular faculty members. The relevent adjuncts are the ones you need to scope out if you can--where they studied, where they've performed, how good they are as teachers, etc. My S's teacher was very helpful in doing this (he's playing the viola at Williams), so I'd talk to your D's teacher and see what s/he suggests
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