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B.A. vs B.M. for composition?

summerbeautysummerbeauty Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
Hi! I'm a sophomore in HS and have been thinking a lot about colleges and stuff lately. I love to write music, and definitely want to pursue it as a career, but i don't have too much resume stuff to back it up:

I write stuff in my free time, and last year i performed a couple of times throughout the year at open houses and stuff, really small things. I also participated and won second place in a (pretty small) composition contest... i am studying with a professor from Rice, both classical piano (which i have been doing for about 10 years now but not nearly as motivated as when i was younger; im pretty bad now) as well as orchestration/composition which i love.

basically i want to go to a good school that will offer a strong music composition program but is also strong in other areas so i can double-degree (have no idea what to do, but want to have a backup plan)...

so my first question is, should i get a B.A. or B.M. for composition? I don't think performance matters nearly as much when youre writing the stuff, but at the same time i know that B.A. is like 25% music related and the rest of it is not, which is pretty small. im also more into contemporary music (id love to pursue either film scoring or songwriting or both - as of now im much stronger in songwriting, as i have been doing it for a while, but i am learning my orchestration!)

also, do you think i could get in a good, if not great, music program even with few resume stuff to put on?

finally, what are some really good schools that offer a good music composition program in CONTEMPORARY music? i know some like carnegie mellon are really classical-oriented which is not what im looking for (i understand that you need to learn it for background and there are great things that can come from that, but i would rather focus on contemporary styles). it would be helpful if those colleges also are good at other areas of study :)

if it helps, i have a 4.0 gpa and will be taking IB curriculum next year, and a few extracurriculars i can add in (but arent that super significant).

thank you so much!!!

Replies to: B.A. vs B.M. for composition?

  • musictechdadmusictechdad Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    It will help us to give suggestions if you clarify a few things. What do you mean by contemporary music? Can you give us some examples of the type of music you are referring to (names of composers or artists that you admire)? Do you have any geographic or financial considerations to take into account? You are studying composition with a professor from Rice, have they suggested schools that might be a good fit? If you are interested in pursuing a double-degree do you have an idea of what second degree you are interested in?

    The question of BA or BM is a very good one. A composer getting a BA is not necessarily at a disadvantage for graduate school admissions in Composition (if that is one of your goals). In fact, depending on how you answer the contemporary music question, a BA in Music might be a very good alternative for you.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,853 Senior Member
    I often recommend this essay on different ways to study music: http://www.peabody.jhu.edu/conservatory/admissions/tips/doubledegree.html

    Your post has a lot of different questions and issues in it, so it is hard to answer.

    1) I would not recommend a double degree in order to have a "backup plan." One, a bachelor's in music, whether BM or BA, is a good degree in itself and opens doors to many types of jobs as well as grad and professional schools, including law, medicine and business. Two, you should be able to focus on music if that is what you want to do (or any other subject for that matter) at the undergrad level. And remember that even in this day and age of nearly vocational college goals, major doesn't always or even often match future work.

    2) There are schools that offer double degrees, if you have genuine interest in subjects other than music. Oberlin, Bard, Lawrence, Tufts/NEC, Harvard/NEC, Peabody/Johns Hopkins and many more. If you mention what part of the country you are interested in, others can suggest some.

    3) For a composer, both BA and BM have value. Again, if you have interests other than music a BA can work well.You can major in music (some schools have composition as a major or at least a composition strand to the music major, others have a general music major) or you can major in anything else and take some composition classes. Some BA programs have 1/3 or even 1/2 music classes. You may have less time to compose in a BA program, for sure. A BM program will be 2/3 to 3/4 music, include studying in a teacher's studio and have regular recitals. You can apply to both BM and BA programs and decide in late senior year. BM programs will require a portfolio for composers, but not all will require an instrumental audition for composers. BA's often do not require auditions but you can send work in as a supplement to common applications.

    4) Can you get into a good or great program without a lot on your resume? Well, there is no need to apply with little on your resume. You are a sophomore. You have plenty of time. Try to get your pieces played and recorded, think about a summer program if you can (financial aid is available a lot of times if relevant), keep working with your teacher, develop a "voice". You will need 3-4 pieces for a portfolio. It is nice to win competitions (look into ASCAP Morton Gould or your state music teachers; organization) but admissions really goes by the music itself.

    5) People on here can recommend schools for contemporary music. Many colleges may fit the bill. In terms of conservatory, I will start the ball rolling by mentioning Berklee in Boston, Belmont in Nashville, USC Thornton School of Music, and a school in Florida that someone else will have to remember for me :)
  • summerbeautysummerbeauty Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    Thank you to both!! :)

    As for contemporary pieces, I absolutely love music by John Williams (Jurassic Park is amazing!!), James Horner, and Nobuo Uematsu!! Basically when i say contemporary, I think of it as music that could easily fit in with a movie, whether it has lyrics or not.

    And about double-degreeing...I don't really know what I want to do yet. like I said, I have a strong academic background but I don't really feel passionate about any certain subject. I just want to be able to support myself - I'm afraid that it will be hard to find a stable career in composition, especially towards the beginning. I want to minimize risks involved, you know?

    Thanks again!!!
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,853 Senior Member
    Most composers have other jobs, often in music or teaching. But that does not mean you have to major in something else or get a double degree. I would say that at the undergrad level for composition the emphasis is more on acquiring a foundation, and developing a "voice" than on vocational goals. USC has a wonderful grad program in film scoring but not at the undergrad level.

    There are undergrad programs that offer film scoring, but others will have to chime in. This has come up before in other threads. You may mean "commercial" rather than "contemporary" music.

    Are you familiar with the term "new music" and any 20th or 21st century "contemporary classical" composers?
  • HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,917 Senior Member
    I would urge you to look at some of the older threads about summer programs in composition for high school students. There are a number of them, and something like that might be very helpful to you.
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