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Music at Public Universities

eh1234eh1234 Registered User Posts: 938 Member
My son is a junior who would like to continue playing bass with private lessons in college (currently undecided about major). It's possible he would pursue music as a double major or double degree, but would probably at least pursue a music minor with a performance focus. I usually see a lot of recommendations for Ivy schools, top tier LACs, and top music programs, but he's not qualified for top schools or top music programs and will likely attend a public university.

Stats: 3.65/3.83 GPA (will go up this year); 1480 SAT (780M/700 EW); will have about 12 honors, 6 AP classes. No ECs outside of music. He would probably do a math-related major but he's still undecided on what he wants to do. He definitely spends more time playing than he does on homework!

1st chair in top school orchestra, regional honors orchestra, one of 30 bassists qualified to audition for all-state early next year. Also plays in jazz ensemble and pit orchestra. Repertoire includes Eccles and Marcello sonatas, working on Dragonetti concert and a movement from one of the Bach cello suites, has made dramatic improvement since 9th grade. So, his passion for the instrument came a little late. There haven't been any summer festivals, youth orchestras, master classes, etc.

Are there any public university music programs where a less accomplished player could still get a good experience as a BA double major or music minor? We're in VA and he would like to stay in the mid-Atlantic or NE. (Ohio and NC would be OK) Just poking around, it seems that some schools don't even have any bass faculty.

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Replies to: Music at Public Universities

  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 883 Member
    Yes you can get a fine music education at many state schools. I have known kids that did UG music degrees at Univ of MN, Madison and Nebraska. A good friend of my D did a BS in business and a BM in music at our state school. He looked at schools with conservatories but decide it may be tough to do both well at a high level....and money mattered. He got a very good scholarship from the business school. He found a good voice teacher at the state school and the music school was accommodating to his dual degree. State schools with good but maybe not top music programs can be a good option for dual degree students. This student is now in grad school at a conservatory. In your case you may need to look closely at the music faculty for state schools of interest. If you find a school with a good teacher you can contact the music school administration to ask questions about dual degrees. Or others on this site may have suggestions in your area or for his instrument.
  • oboemom65oboemom65 Registered User Posts: 176 Junior Member
    UGA has a BA or BM option, so students that don't want to rigor of the BM can still major in music and have room to double in another area.
  • prodesseprodesse Registered User Posts: 1,313 Senior Member
    In Virginia, I would highly recommend George Mason University. Probably the strongest music program in Virginia (except Shenandoah, which is private).
  • Marg532Marg532 Registered User Posts: 448 Member
    I don't know how far North you guys are willing to go but a few of the SUNYs (in NY) have awesome music programs - especially SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Potsdam, although that's with the knowledge of someone who is especially into the vocal side of music. However, Fredonia is supposed to be good for music all around, while I've heard similar things about Potsdam (with their Crane School of Music). Music majors are hard and selective to get into no matter where you're looking, but your son seems like he would be a perfect candidate. I wish him good luck!
  • iamcocoapuffsiamcocoapuffs Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    If we're looking at SUNYs, Purchase and Stony Brook are also worth looking at.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    I think you and your son might benefit from reading the Double Degree Dilemma essay posted closer to the top of this forum. It discusses different ways to study music (not just double degree) and helps clarify priorities.

    Many of the state universities and some state colleges have BM programs, which are performance degrees. In a BM degree, 2/3-3/4 of classes will be in music. These same schools may offer a BA in music, which may or may not have some performance component, and offers 1/4-1/3 classes in music. A BA is often an academic music degree with classes in theory, composition, music theory, technology, ethnomusicology and so on (BM's will have these too of course but much more applied music).

    It may also be possible to major in something else entirely (Math?) and do private lessons and perform in extracurriculars. There is some intersection of computer science and music these days, if that interests.

    One thing to watch out for is that when there is a BM program on campus (conservatory, school of music), the best teachers and opportunities may go to those students. This may be fine. And there are exceptions. But check it out.

    It sounds like your son does quite well in high school and it's wonderful that he wants to continue music in some way. Kids like this can often apply to different schools that represent several different options and decide later in senior year.

    BM's and double degrees usually require prescreening and auditions. BA's usually don't: but a music supplement can be sent. Colleges with BA programs often have auditions in the fall of freshman year for extracurricular performance.

    Double degrees may be available at state schools, and there are also smaller schools like Oberlin, Bard, Lawrence, Ithaca, and others that offer double degrees with their colleges and conservatories. And schools with more flexible curriculums and fewer gen eds can make a double major a little easier.

    Can he join a youth orchestra this year? Or apply to summer programs for next summer? This might help clarify and give him some idea whether he is competitive and he would hear about various schools....and meet teachers and peers.

    ps In our experience Purchase is a great music school but very competitive
  • eh1234eh1234 Registered User Posts: 938 Member
    Thank you for all of the responses! I'll take a look at some of the schools listed above.

    I did read the Double Degree Dilemma essay - I do think the BA would be the better option for my kid (he would want to keep more options open) but I'm having trouble locating a BA program that also seems to have some type of established bass faculty. So far, I haven't come across a B.A. program that doesn't require an audition. Maybe those are at LACs?

    However, my son is more geared towards a B.S. degree than a B.A. (so doing all of the liberal arts distribution requirements, foreign language, etc., would be a turn-off). I think the best-looking option I saw was Case Western's "secondary major" in music but even if he could get in, it would probably be out of reach financially. If there are any other programs like that, I'd love to hear about them!

    @prodesse George Mason is right down the road from us, so we're very familiar! Every music teacher in this area seems to have gone to Mason or JMU!

    My son will likely audition for some one-week summer programs (one at University of Maryland, one with the Richmond orchestra), I'm hoping his all-state audition will give him some idea where he stands too.
  • labrad00dlelabrad00dle Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    University of Delaware. They have a very reputable new bass instructor and performer. The University is terrific, in a great little town with very happy student body. He would have many opportunities for performance in the music department. It's very common for BA majors in music to pursue double majors at this institution.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    It's funny because most of the BA programs we investigated did not have auditions. Not for admission. Maybe for entrance into extracurricular ensembles etc.

    Is the only reason for doing a BS to avoid gen eds? STEM majors are usually BS's as you know. A BS can be intense and combining with another major is sometimes difficult.

    I would think he could pick schools based on the usual factors of location, size, academics and vibe, then talk to the music department. I would not necessarily expect an applied music faculty at all schools, but for lessons, schools will often provide a list of teachers in the area, and some will give credit for lessons and extracurricular music activities.

    So it may not be necessary to eliminate schools that don't list faculty for your son's instrument.

    In a school with a BM program, it may be that the listed faculty will not be available to a BS student. It varies. Sometimes grad students teach and that is what is offered to undergrads.

    Unfortunately you really have to investigate each school and calling or emailing the departments can be helpful.

    ps on this forum I have read that all state is not the best measure of chances for admission, but I could be wrong...maybe he could do a longer summer program if affordable
  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 883 Member
    edited October 2017
    Just an opinion...whereas All State may not be the best indicator for acceptance into a competitive BM program, it may be fine for a BA or even a BM at a mid-level program. And there is nothing wrong with a mid-level program if you can find a good match with the teacher. They can help you grow. You may not have the fish bowl effect of competitive, high-level peers and this could certainly impact progress in ensemble type of work. Still a great match in a teacher should allow the kid to grow. Again I'm assuming the kid is not working solely on a performance degree.....but wanting to continue lessons and keeping options open for the future.

    And...as said above...there is always the possibility of doing lessons with a private teacher as well if the university is a great match but doesn't have the right teacher. However it would be nice to get a "package deal". Calling music depts at schools of interest may be the way to go to get the information you need. And you could ask some of the audition BA programs...do you think a kid who makes All-State would be competitive? You may find out Yes or Maybe or that's not a good indicator. Music admission depts can be helpful most of the time. They know this is an expensive process...so asking for some "down and dirty" information is fine...and you can see how they respond...helpful or not.
  • eh1234eh1234 Registered User Posts: 938 Member
    Thanks again for the replies and helpful info. Just to be clear, I realize that all-state is not a great indicator of anything (although there are literally 8 players in the state in the all-state orchestra). If nothing else, it will give my kid more confidence if he makes it.

    I guess my main concern was whether there are "good enough" music opportunities out there for the kids who haven't taken master classes from Edgar Meyer or played solo recitals at the Kennedy Center. For example, my son's school music director obviously auditioned for and completed a college-level music program. Several of the kids in the top level orchestra who play the same instrument are better than their teacher is.

    @compmom Good point about BS programs being difficult to combine. S19 hates writing papers, foreign language, English, etc.

    University of Delaware sounds like a great suggestion since that is one of the schools already on our list anyway.



  • missjenmissjen Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    If you son is interested in staying in state, I would suggest you look at JMU. The strongest in-state music programs are Shenandoah (private), JMU, GMU and VCU. JMU has the largest music program in the state. JMU has a non-audition Music Minor. VCU also has a minor, but it might require an audition - it's not clear. GMU requires an audition. However, I would not be so sure that your son could not audition - he has some credentials that suggest he could do fine. Also, I know you said public, but take a look at John Hopkins program in recording - they are actively recruiting kids with an interest in music and strong math aptitude - my son got a very fancy and impressive package from them a few weeks ago sent to kids who identified music as an interest and had over a certain score on the math SAT. http://peabody.jhu.edu/academics/instruments-areas-of-study/recording-arts/
  • Midwestmama17Midwestmama17 Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    My son has a close friend who plays bass and wanted to double major. Although quite accomplished in both academics and music, he did not get admitted to most of the schools to which he applied (some mid-Atlantic, some Midwest). I think the programs are small and faculty few, to which you alluded. He did find a decent fit in a good school with a strong conservatory but got more rejections than expected. Just to say that I would seek advice from those in the know as I think the double major programs that might rise up as most appealing if you are seeking a top musical program as well as a strong academic climate may be quite competitive simply due to having very few spots. A minor would be a very different scenario, I would think. Best wishes!
  • eh1234eh1234 Registered User Posts: 938 Member
    Reviving my own thread here!

    S19 is now close to just going all in and considering a B.M. program - the more he thinks about his future, the more he has come to realize that he doesn't have a lot of academic interests and music is what makes him happy. He might be interested in combining performance with another music concentration, but not an entirely different area of study.

    He has a 34 ACT and should have about a 3.75/4.0w after this year. He's going to do BassWorks or the Hinton Bass Institute this summer but that's the extent of the budget. He plans to join AYP for the next season and will be taking AP music theory and piano lessons.

    Currently considering GMU, JMU, Maryland (had a nice visit to the school of music during a university-wide open house), Delaware, maybe Temple (maybe too competitive?), Ohio public schools, since he would qualify for merit based on his scores and decent grades. He realizes that he started playing seriously too late to go to a high-end conservatory so the goal would be to have some money left over in his 529 and hopefully go to a better grad school after a lot of hard work.

    If any respectable mid-level private programs exist that aren't cut-throat competitive to get into, I would love to hear about them (preferably mid-Atlantic, NE or Ohio). I am completely clueless about what would be considered "mid-level."
  • indeestudiosindeestudios Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    Have you looked at The Hartt School at University of Hartford? It sounds like a decent fit. They're also fairly generous with merit.
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