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Good non-conservatory schools for viola

Violist4everViolist4ever Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
I'm a violist looking to study music in college, but I'm a few years behind my peers so I know I won't be able to get into a conservatory. I'm applying for Questbridge colleges (don't know if I'm a finalist yet but I'll still submit applications through them). The list is Questbridge colleges (minus a few). I was wondering if someone knew if any of them have viola teachers that stand out.

Amherst College
Bowdoin College
Brown University
Carleton College
Colby College
Colorado College
Columbia University
Dartmouth College
Davidson College
Duke University
Emory University
Haverford College
Northwestern University
Oberlin College
Pomona College
Princeton University
Rice University
Stanford University
Swarthmore College
Tufts University
University of Chicago
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
University of Virginia
Vanderbilt University
Vassar College
Washington and Lee University
Wesleyan University
Williams College
Yale University

I am concerned that if I go to a college that also has a conservatory that I won't be able to compete with the conservatory musicians for lesson spots. Is this a legitimate reason to not go to a school with a conservatory?


Replies to: Good non-conservatory schools for viola

  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    Often yes the best teachers and best performance opportunities go to the BM conservatory students. But there are exceptions. I hope you can ask about this at the schools you do have an interest in.
  • stradmomstradmom Registered User Posts: 4,871 Senior Member
    Bard College - not the conservatory - has a freestanding department of music with (free) lessons available and lots of opportunities for violists. While there's some interaction with conservatory musicians - my nonmusic major violist D played in some ensembles alongside conservatory students when she was there, there's no direct competition.

    I imagine Oberlin has a parallel situation, but don't have first hand knowledge. Your best bet would be to look on the departmental web sites for the music department at the schools you're interested in and check to see what their offerings are (and any audition requirements).
  • glassharmonicaglassharmonica Registered User Posts: 3,240 Senior Member
    My niece did the same as @stradmom 's daughter. She was a nonconservatory double-major in music plus an academic discipline. I went to her senior recital, where she did mostly solo work, but also performed in an ensemble that had one conservatory member. For my niece, Bard was the perfect college because she as able to study music seriously--but she did not want to spend 5 years for her undergraduate degree.
  • iamcocoapuffsiamcocoapuffs Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    edited October 2017
    I'm not completely sure what you mean ... are you saying you want to major in music? If that is true there shouldn't be a huge problem with getting good "lesson spots," especially on our instrument, since there is usually only one or two teachers who only take on as many students as they can actually teach.

    The schools I recognize on that list as really good ones for performance are Northwestern, Oberlin, Rice, Vanderbilt, and Southern California. All of these are among the best music schools in the US, with renowned viola teachers and strong universities/colleges alongside. If you are looking for a dual degree/major NU and Vanderbilt are excellent.

    Don't be discouraged by the fact that you're a "few years behind," and you're not supposed to be able to get into conservatory. The work and love you put can make up for those few years. If you want to go get it, go get it.

    Nevertheless, I would expect you would have the easiest time getting into Vanderbilt, and the toughest getting into Rice. I'll echo StradMom's point that Bard is probably a good idea. As for the others on this list other than the ones I mentined, if you wish to major in music performance, I would not waste time applying to them, especially given that you are a viola player. You will be subjected to way too much fuss and bother on your grades for the kind of instruction you are likely to be getting. My expectation is that you'd get a violin teacher who also does viola, or someone running around between six schools in the area. If you go for one of the real music schools, you will be getting exponentially better quality of instruction from some of the world's best.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,274 Senior Member
    You might look into Lawrence.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    I understand what you are asking, I think. You do not have to continue music studies at a conservatory or on a campus that has a conservatory, in order to progress. Many liberal arts colleges and universities will have faculty for your instrument, or provide access to a teacher locally, and you can major in music for a BA or for that matter major in anything you want, and do private lessons and extracurricular performance. If you go the BA route you usually won't have to audition, but you can submit a music supplement with resume and recording and maybe letters of recommendation from teachers- not required and only if talent justifies it :)

    I would imagine that most of the schools on your list will provide a viola teacher that you could study with. I happen to know that Tufts has a wonderful music department and high participation in music among the student body. That's just one example. Amherst, Williams, Davidson all have good music departments...well as far as I know...all the schools on your list do!

    In general, it may be a concern to attend a campus that has a BM program when you are doing music as a BA music major or as a major in another subject. Bard may be an exception, but yes, this can be an issue. I personally would look at schools on your list that do not have a conservatory, school of music, BM program on campus so you can get the best teachers and performance opportunities.

    One rural liberal arts school offered to find a teacher for my kid, so talk to the departments. Look up each school's website. You might want to apply to schools that appeal to you for a variety of reasons: location, size, academics, "vibe" and filter then, then look up music, since your list is long!! I think you can rest assured that you will have a good viola teacher at any of those schools, but perhaps others know something about individual schools.

    Northwestern, Rice, Yale, Oberlin, USC have BM programs, others may too but those are the ones I know for sure.

    Good luck with Questbridge!!
  • chemusicchemusic Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    We had a wonderful experience with Vassar for undergrad. Vassar has a very strong music program and the orchestra conductor is amazing. There are lots of chamber music options also and a contemporary music group you can join. I also agree with Williams, Amherst and Tufts as good choices but we loved Vassar!
  • astute12astute12 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    Emory has a wonderful music department as do most of the Ivys. We visited Wesleyan and were really impressed. You will be able to study viola and get a great education as well at any school with a solid orchestra program. My son is interested in USC because he can get a BM but also do a math major. UCLA is similar. Go to each school's website and see if they have viola faculty -- then reach out via email and ask questions. Good luck!
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    Just want to note that UCLA does not seem to have an undergrad BM degree....
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    @compmom - UCLA is a special case - their BA is equivalent to a BM elsewhere and is strictly an audition only program to their School of Music. I don't know, however, how easy it is to get the second major:

    "Students in the School of Music who wish to double major or add a minor must meet with an academic advisor in the School of Music to discuss procedures and obtain approval. Adding a second major or minor(s) will not be approved until a student is cleared by the School of Music."

    "UCLA only considers your first choice major in the application process. If you have applied to UCLA under another major and want to participate in the audition selection process required of all Music majors, you must change your first choice major to Music before November 30th.

    If you have already been admitted to UCLA under another major, you may apply to Music as a change of major/double major applicant, and be asked to audition. "
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    Thanks Spirit Manager. I noticed the BA only a couple of months ago and wondered about it, since it is within the Herb Alpert School of Music and no BM is listed.
  • astute12astute12 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    edited November 2017
    thanks for the clarification @SpiritManager. It is a BA at UCLA, but heavy on music classes and the option to double major. At an info session we attended they mentioned that many music majors are double majors and although scheduling can be hard, it is possible.
  • averageviolistaverageviolist Registered User Posts: 89 Junior Member
    Hello, violist and QB alumni here! I applied to several universities and conservatories, no application via Match but I did use the QB application. Let me know if you have any questions!
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