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Number of music majors as opportunity indicator for non-con LACs?

iasetteriasetter Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
My D is looking for LACs with great academics and great music, and she's very strong in both. We've researched (and visited) universities and LACs with conservatories, and while those are options, she understands and values the LAC concept as a way to explore interests and expand horizons. If she were accepted to and could afford an Oberlin or UMich for example (both high on her list), she feels that approach largely necessitates and "all-in" music focus from day one.

Her academic stats would be competitive anywhere (realizing at the highest levels its pretty much a lottery), and so she's been looking through the lists of great academic LACs trying to figure out the music opportunities there. Yes they're mostly BA not BM, and that's fine as at a non-con LAC she'd likely be double majoring (as opposed to the much more intense double degree in other arenas). Her musical talents/interests include classical voice and piano, MT (a bit less accomplished), and also she is IMHO a very good songwriter/performer in her own right (yes she's looked at Berklee and other "contemporary" or "commercial" programs too).

I understand there isn't one single ranking of music at non-con LACs, and I've seen a very wide array of LACs mentioned here. It seems one measure with at least some meaning could be the number of music major grads. When I look at that data on collegenavigator, I get perplexed that schools like Williams and Swarthmore are often mentioned as LACs with great music but have 1-3 music major grads/year, while schools like Macalaster and Colorado College are mentioned much less often yet have 7-12 music major grads/year.

So I'm taking all the stats (and rankings!) with a grain of salt, I'm still very interested in your thoughts on the significance of number of music majors as an indicator of LAC music program, and place in campus community.

Replies to: Number of music majors as opportunity indicator for non-con LACs?

  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    edited September 2016
    I can't speak to LACs at all BUT, for what it's worth, we live in Ann Arbor and three of my son's high school combo-mates from the last two years are attending UMich and double-majoring, music and a non-music major. One is double-majoring with computer science. One, I suspect, may not maintain his music major but, at least for now, he's participating in the school of music programs. So, it's possible at UMich.

    At Oberlin, one of the music admissions officers told us that 30% of the Conservatory students double-major. Not sure what percentage of that involves double-majoring with the University, but she implied that it's a pretty common occurrence.
  • cellomom2cellomom2 Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    I can't really offer any insight as to why one LAC might have more music majors than another, but from the perspective of my S who got a double degree recently from UM and is now getting his masters in performance at CIM I can say that the types of LACs that you mention in your post were not really on his radar for pursuing a music degree. He wanted to be at a conservatory or conservatory like SOM at a university that would be all in from a music perspective. At UM he had orchestra rehearsals 3x per week, weekly lessons, studio and techinique classes with his professor, was in multiple chamber groups and was surrounded by other music students who were looking for performance partners. Also grad students looking for students to play their compositions and play on their recitals. I don't think he would have gotten that immersion at an LAC that has a strong music program but doesn't have a conservatory. I know there are exceptions to that, musicians who go to Harvard or Columbia and create similar experiences because of the numerous opportunities available in cities like Boston and NY but, and this is just speculation in response to your post, I think most students who are looking to major in music are seeking that atmosphere of immersion in a music school experience. Whereas the typical student looking to continue music at an academically strong LAC is looking to do music as an extracurricular. This is purely speculation and anecdotal on my part :)
  • CompdadCompdad Registered User Posts: 470 Member
    That Oberlin "double major" percentage sounds more like the percentage for Dual Degree students. The only way an Oberlin Conservatory student can have a major in the the College is to have been admitted to the Dual Degree program. There are some conservatory students who double major within the Conservatory. They had to audition for each major.
  • iasetteriasetter Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    @ScreenName48105 that's great to hear about your son's friends double majoring in music at UMich, b/c it's been very tough to figure out how much opportunity there is for that approach at universities, and that's one of the reasons by D has been winnowing out most of them from her list. I assume both majors are within the LSA then? Do you know if they're able to take classes or participate in ensembles within the MTD?

    My D loved it, but we would be OOS, and I don't think legacy helps there, unfortunately! If she applies, she's still unsure whether she'd apply to both LSA and MTD (including audition) or just LSA and go from there.
  • cellomom2cellomom2 Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    @iasetter my S just finished getting a double degree at UM, in cello performance, BM, from the SOM and math, BA from LSA. It is difficult for students at UM to participate in the SOM, ensembles and productions if they are not accepted into the SMTD. There are just so many music majors at UM and so much competition. There are however lots of opportunities for students interested in music to participate in groups that are for non music majors. I know more about the ensembles for instrumentalists, but I believe there are choral groups for non music majors as well and there are lots of acapella groups if she has any interest in those. My S played in the pit orchestra for a student run musical that was very well done.
    If your D wants to be able to really participate in the SMTD at UM she would probably want to be a music major and audition. If she does not want to pursue dual degrees she should look carefully at what would be available to her as a non music major. There are lots of opportunities, they just won't likely be in the music school.
  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    @iasetter, to answer your question:
    I assume both majors are within the LSA then? Do you know if they're able to take classes or participate in ensembles within the MTD?
    No, they're enrolled in both SMTD and LSA. For UMich, that requires you to apply to both schools. As far as I know, there are no music majors outside of SMTD.
  • iasetteriasetter Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    Good to know. UMich web site does show an LSA music major (non-professional), but it certainly seems preferable to be in SMTD if possible but ... are they double majoring or double degree?
  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    UMich web site does show an LSA music major (non-professional), but it certainly seems preferable to be in SMTD if possible but ... are they double majoring or double degree?
    Interesting... shows you how much I know! :) I'm going to assume they're dual-degree because the focus of the music major in LSA doesn't fit any of the three I mentioned. Have you seen this?
  • cellomom2cellomom2 Registered User Posts: 603 Member
    My understanding is that you can do a dual major if the major programs are in the same school, such as math and english- both majors in LSA. The degree would be BA with dual major. Or a BM in music ed and music performance, both in the SMTD. Dual degree is 2 majors in different schools like what my son did, math- a BA from LSA and BM from SMTD.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    The confusion here is between dual degree and dual major, they are very different. A dual major is when you are in an academic school, and you get bachelors in two different areas (like a bs in computer science and a ba in history). A dual degree usually refers, in the music context, to getting a BM (performance degree) from the music school and BA/BS from the academic side. The reason it is dual degree is because the BM track is very, very different from a BA track on the academic side, whereas if you get two ba's let's say, much is common between the two, some of the requirements might be the same for both tracks so you can save time, etc.

    One of the things to be careful about is what a music degree is. Keep in mind that music major can also mean someone majoring in composition, music theory, music history,ethnomusic, etc, it isn't necessarily a performance degree. Many schools offer degrees in those kind of subjects, but don't offer a BM at all, some programs you can get a BA on an instrument.

    It is very difficult to do a BM dual degree program, it is doable, but difficult, because the BM is pretty intense. Bard college conservatory forces its kids to do a dual degree, and the program is 5 years (many dual degree kids take that long). Other kids go to the elite universities (like the Ivies) that don't have BM degrees but have strong music programs and actively recruit strong musicians to fill out their orchestra and ensembles (they also often pay for lessons as part of your tuition), kids will do that kind of music, get a degree in something, and then go on for an MM....

    I know it isn't easy, but if you look through the threads on here, do a search on 'dual degree', for example, you will see a lot, this has been discussed a lot over the past X years I have been on here.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,850 Senior Member
    Just fyi Harvard has a dual degree with NEC that is a BA/MM (Tufts has BA/BM).

    For a kid who wants to continue music, and also has academic interests, there is a wide range of options. Honestly, she can probably make many situations work for her. I think it is also helpful to keep in mind the factors all kids think about when applying, since so many situations can work: size, location, academics, extracurriculars, finances, and "vibe." Keep in mind that some large universities have ways to break the experience down in small units, the honors college or themed dorms, or the house system at Harvard and Yale, for instance.

    There are students who attend, say, an Ivy, who continue lessons, practice and performance (on or off campus) and then go on the grad school in music, or go on to work or professional schools like nursing, med or law school. The decision about how deep to go into music can be delayed quite awhile.

    A general music major for a BA often doesn't have a large performance component. This should be researched at each and every school. Performance can be embedded in some classes. Check to see if teachers are available and if your daughter wants to study with them, of course. Check if credit is given for lessons and performance (Harvard added this a few years ago; Princeton has a performance certificate, LAC's will vary) and if it is funded. Check performance opportunities (yes a city can be good in many ways) A BA in music will include theory and aural skills, composition, ethnomusicology, technology, music history (as will a conservatory). A student can major in music and have access to many professions and grad schools, and it is well respected for the discipline involved.

    But it sounds like your daughter most likely would not follow this path- just from the little you have written.If she is not sure, she can apply to all the options and decide in late April!

    So,she can do:
    BM at a conservatory
    BA general music major
    double major for a BA (music and something else)
    double major in a conservatory (voice and piano)
    double degree (5 years) either BA/BM or BA/MM
    major in something else entirely for a BA and do music with lessons and performance

    Did I leave one out?! Anyway, in terms of your original question (sorry for the tangent), I would not go by the number of majors who graduate, no. I personally would go by the overall quality of the experience, the opportunities in music for both major and non-majors, the location, size and, yes, vibe. Going to concerts can be helpful.

    What are your daughter's other interests and how do they factor into her choices? For those, looking at curriculum, faculty and actual courses helps.

    In some ways, if she doesn't want conservatory, I would consider staying away from schools with conservatories, since opportunities may go to conservatory students. But check that out because there are exceptions.

    For a multi-faceted musician who doesn't want to focus on one type of performance or musical area (voice, piano, songwriting) the choices are very different than someone who has focused on, say, violin, for many years. Berklee would be great if she wanted to do music. If not, there are many schools that would fit the bill. Check out outliers like Bennington and Sarah Lawrence, Vassar as well.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 38,820 Senior Member
    St Olaf is superb for music, sciences, and math.
    Lawrence has a conservatory but look into it.
    Seconding Vassar.
  • iasetteriasetter Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    @compmom yes thanks, that's a good summary that meshes pretty well with our understanding so far. Except it seems I've also read about (probably on this forum) non-con LACs that also offer a BM, which I assume is more performance focused than a BA, though in many cases it's also geared towards music ed.

    As we have moved through this learning process, it appeared for a while that the 5-year dual degree programs could be a good option for my D. But the closer we look, the more those appear appropriate for a student with strong professional focus on one instrument, and a similarly strong focus on one non-music academic pursuit, and less appropriate for a multi-faceted musician (no matter how talented) who also wants to explore various non-music academic areas.

    So on the one hand conservatories - whether in dual degree or stand-alone - are good for students with a clear intent to pursue one instrument professionally, and on the other hand plenty of "great-music" LACs are good for students that just want to keep music in their life but not likely pursue it professionally. Then there are still many students in the middle however, like my D, with significant talents but still exploring the idea of music-related career and not even sure if she did, WHAT instrument or variation of classical/contemporary/commercial it would look like.

    Yes, we have also visited Berklee, and she was thrilled, very much in her element for the singer-songwriter in her. But, Berklee is most likely entirely unaffordable (they don't even pretend to meet need), and she does also have a strong tug toward the exploratory opportunities of a LAC in her (runs in the family). We haven't yet found the right combo of Berklee-conservatory-LAC that would allow a year or two of exploration, feedback from peers and mentors, and then focus ... but that's pie in the sky or better yet, just LIFE! I think she'll be fine and find her way wherever, but the process can be agonizing and decisions do have to be made over dinner.
  • LadyMeowMeowLadyMeowMeow Registered User Posts: 265 Junior Member
    Also FYI, Oberlin has a musical studies major within the college of liberal arts.


  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    @iasetter - many professionals in music have BA's in music as undergrads, or even just took it as an elective. It will not limit her future as a professional if that's what she decides she wants to do. She can go on to grad school, or even just strike out on her own right out of school. Plenty do. It's a rare school which has not got its share of singer-songwriters.
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