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BA in Music Questions

nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
My son wants to attend a Liberal Arts College and earn a double major in CS and Music. Well, he thought he did. He recently asked me if he would be able to take classes in Music Composition and Music Recording within a BA in Music? We both started looking more into it, but I honestly am not certain. It appears to vary from school to school as to which programs have more performance and composition courses versus academic courses (Music History & Theory). My question is, can anyone point us in the right direction for programs he should be looking into? He is still definitely interested in CS, but I just think is having reservations and thinking the BA in Music may not be quite what he is envisioning. He expects to take academic music courses, but really still wants opportunity to perfect his musical skills, and even dabble more in composing and recording. Are both possible within the context of a BA in Music?
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Replies to: BA in Music Questions

  • compmomcompmom 10830 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited September 1

    Yes it is possible.
    Has he read the Double Degree Dilemma essay posted closer to the top of this forum? It can be helpful. Has he considered a double degree (BM and BA) or a double major? We don't really know how his academics are so it is hard to suggest schools.

    Does he want to continue with an instrument? Does he currently have a composition teacher? Has he done any summer programs yet?

    The hard part about searching for BA programs is that there is a lot that is hidden, and informal or extracurricular. Some schools will have a general music major, some will have a composition strand, but that does not always mean the latter is a better choice.

    Look for high level extracurricular music, which is often very important. Who teaches undergrad composers, if anyone? Grad students or professors? Are there undergrad composer concerts? Lessons for credit with funding? Credit for performance?

    Look at gen eds and see if there are a lot required or more freedom to choose courses (Brown and Amherst are good with this, as are schools like Sarah Lawrence, and Bennington).

    Often production work is also done outside of class, once students have taken a course in it they often have access to the studio.

    Brown and Carnegie Mellon come to mind, but there are so many schools that would meet his needs. He could start with size, location and "vibe" like so many others.

    CS and composition intersect in many ways.

    Websites are helpful but visits or questions really help a lot too. You have to kind of dig deep. Programs aren't always what they seem! (Often the experience is better than expected.)

    Remember for grad school you just need 3-4 pieces, and there are many ways to accomplish that.



    edited September 1
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    Thank you!

    Yes, we have both read the double major dilemma post. He knows he doesn’t want music alone. We were somewhat reassured when we came across some composition courses on a few of the schools web sites.
    His stats are:

    1420 SAT (730 math/690 verbal)
    32 ACT,
    4.0 unweighted GPA
    Cofounded 2 bands outside of school—play for both community service events, as well as for paid jobs.
    He’s released an album with one band
    Percussionist
    Pianist
    Tenor vocal
    He’s earned top honors with NYSSMA for both vocal and drums—grade 6 pieces—scores of 100 (which I’m aware is common)

    Schools he’s currently looking at:
    Vassar
    Hamilton
    Colgate
    Williams
    Skidmore
    Ithaca
    Cornell
    Haverford
    Wesleyan
    Bates
    Tufts
    Oberlin
    Bard
    *He recently decided to eliminate Amherst (Now, not sure that was a good idea), Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Colby, and is still trying to narrow more. He has many schools that are reaches and matches, but I also know it’s competitive for most of the schools he’s looking at.

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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    Also, I’d be lying if I said he isn’t looking at some of the other Ivy schools, but we are well aware that they are all reach schools. I am also concerned that, entering his senior year, he only has 1 AP under his belt, and the school just changed the courses to no longer be identified as AP, but college level, and allowing students who wish to take the AP at the end of the year, do so.
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  • merc81merc81 10514 replies163 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2
    As a suggestion, your son may want to take the closest initial looks at Hamilton, Skidmore, Ithaca, Wesleyan, Oberlin and Bard. These schools represent different enough approaches from each other so that he'll be likely to develop an affinity for some over others. He may then want to rank them, and then eliminate his weakest preference. He could then use this group of, say, five schools to compare and contrast to his other potential choices. In the end, he'll find a winner.
    edited September 2
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  • techmom99techmom99 3475 replies6 threads Senior Member
    Since you are apparently in NY, why don't you look at some of the SUNY's?
    My S17 is at Fredonia, which is known for its music and composition programs. It has CS, but I know nothing about that program.
    My son has a friend at Albany, who is brilliant in math and CS and loves music. He is studying informatics and music and is playing out and learning tons. He is incredibly happy there. This is a kid who struggled to fit in in middle and HS and is thriving at college.
    I know there are other SUNYs that are good for CS and/or music, but none of my kids has the slightest interest in CS, so I have never looked into it.
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  • compmomcompmom 10830 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Ithaca has a conservatory, so make sure to check that doesn't mean the non-conservatory students have fewer opportunities . Ditto any other school (like a SUNY_ that has a school of music/conservatory on campus.

    I still think Brown and Carnegie Mellon might be good additions. Tufts has a nice music dept. and composition prof, as well as excellent CD (or would he consider software engineering?

    Lots of reaches here. Clark U. has a good music dept. and is one of the Colleges that Change Lives. You might want to check that website.

    He is, I'm sure, submitting a music supplement to his application with recording (video or audio), music resume, and letters of recommendation from teacher/director.

    Most schools will have composition courses. I know this sounds strange but honestly, it isn't about someone teaching you to compose. Teachers are good for bouncing ideas off or helping with technical problems. Having pieces read or played really helps development. It takes time. I would not rely only on lists of courses in evaluating programs :)
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all for the feedback. We are looking at several SUNY schools, including UB and New Paltz. We are still unsure about Amherst and still exploring Tuft’s. He is looking at Bates in Maine, as has heard it’s an artsy school, but we really have no idea if we are considering the right schools? It’s good to know we should keep Bard and Oberlin. Somewhere I read to look at Lafayette and Gettysburg, but again not sure if either are reputable programs? Is the music program at either Amherst and Bates very large?
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    compmom wrote: »
    Ithaca has a conservatory, so make sure to check that doesn't mean the non-conservatory students have fewer opportunities . Ditto any other school (like a SUNY_ that has a school of music/conservatory on campus.

    I still think Brown and Carnegie Mellon might be good additions. Tufts has a nice music dept. and composition prof, as well as excellent CD (or would he consider software engineering?

    Lots of reaches here. Clark U. has a good music dept. and is one of the Colleges that Change Lives. You might want to check that website.

    He is, I'm sure, submitting a music supplement to his application with recording (video or audio), music resume, and letters of recommendation from teacher/director.

    Most schools will have composition courses. I know this sounds strange but honestly, it isn't about someone teaching you to compose. Teachers are good for bouncing ideas off or helping with technical problems. Having pieces read or played really helps development. It takes time. I would not rely only on lists of courses in evaluating programs :)

    Is Brown a big reach for my son? I suppose, at this point, many are feeling extremely competitive. Regarding Carnegie Mellon, is the CS more science based, or is it a liberal arts? Finally, for Tuft’s, any idea if he decides to do Music and Computer Science, if he would have to do so on 2 different campuses?
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  • merc81merc81 10514 replies163 threads Senior Member
    If you are looking for new avenues to explore, consider BU and BC in the Boston area, Bucknell in Pennsylvania and Miami in Ohio. All offer strong music programs. SUNY Geneseo would be good for music, but I'm not sure what they offer in CS.

    Regarding Bates, it's not notably artsy in the way that Skidmore, Bard and Vassar are, and its CS program is quite young.
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    merc81 wrote: »
    If you are looking for new avenues to explore, consider BU and BC in the Boston area, Bucknell in Pennsylvania and Miami in Ohio. All offer strong music programs. SUNY Geneseo would be good for music, but I'm not sure what they offer in CS.

    Regarding Bates, it's not notably artsy in the way that Skidmore, Bard and Vassar are, and its CS program is quite young.

    Thanks so much! I have heard of Buckner and we are familiar with the two in Boston. We did look into Geneseo, but it doesn’t have a CS program. Do the other Maine schools, Bowdoin and Colby, have music programs?
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  • compmomcompmom 10830 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Brown is a reach for everyone and admissions tends to be quirky. A composer would probably have an edge. It depends on what he is writing I suppose.

    If you do a BA/BS at Tufts for music and CS, it would all be on one campus. If you do a BA/BM at Tufts/NEC then it is two campuses. It would be possible to study music and CS on campus without the conservatory experience. The Tufts music program is, as I said, really active and the faculty and facilities are excellent.

    BU has a School of Music, so I would avoid studying music outside the conservatory. I have never heard BC mentioned as having a great music program (and I am a Bostonian) but you learn something every day so maybe....

    The SUNY's have conservatories so it is, again, possible that the best opportunities go to those students. There are exceptions but it sounds like your son might want to focus on schools without a school of music, unless he wants to do a double degree. SUNY Purchase is probably the best for composition.

    There are sooo many schools where a composer can attend, study music as a liberal arts along with something else, or even study something else and take lessons, have pieces performed, and develop enough for grad school.

    I think he can start with location, size, cost and the "vibe" he wants and then look at music departments. Visit, attend composer concerts, listen to faculty works.

    I am going with your original post about your son studying music as a liberal art, with CS, as a double major. But I just reread it and your son wants more performance and less "academic" music. So maybe he DOES want a BM or a double degree????? In a liberal arts context, much of the performance will be extracurricular. In fact, in that context, he could just major in CS and do composition through lessons and extracurricular performance (plus summer programs) if he wanted. But if he wants to focus on music performance in an immersive way, he needs to think about a BM or double degree.

    Don't forget that most BA programs have gen ed requirements.Not Brown or Amherst though. Their relative freedom from distribution requirements would make them a good choice.

    Finally, Oberlin and Bard would be great choices because a composer could study in either the college or the conservatory, and move from one to the other if needed. Just be aware Bard would require a double degree if in the conservatory.

    Sorry for all the typos in my last post! I need to find my glasses in the morning!
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  • CompdadCompdad 469 replies4 threads Member
    I certainly second Oberlin. The refinement of the music programs in both the College and the Conservatory plays well for those wanting to study music in the College more so than in the past. Also I would like to add Brandeis University to the list of colleges worth a look. It has a strong BA with a composition track program which could be combined with CS. I believe Brandeis is too often overlooked for students interested in BA composition studies. It has a strong history in Composition. Another addition would be the University of Chicago. While it known more for its Graduate school composition studies, an undergraduate interested in composition can do well there. Philip Glass received his AB from U of C.
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    merc81 wrote: »
    If you are looking for new avenues to explore, consider BU and BC in the Boston area, Bucknell in Pennsylvania and Miami in Ohio. All offer strong music programs. SUNY Geneseo would be good for music, but I'm not sure what they offer in CS.

    Regarding Bates, it's not notably artsy in the way that Skidmore, Bard and Vassar are, and its CS program is quite young.

    Thanks so much! I have heard of Buckner and we are familiar with the two in Boston. We did look into Geneseo, but it doesn’t have a CS program. Do the other Maine schools, Bowdoin and Colby, have music programs?

    Sorry for the typo. I meant Bicknell.

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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    compmom wrote: »
    Brown is a reach for everyone and admissions tends to be quirky. A composer would probably have an edge. It depends on what he is writing I suppose.

    If you do a BA/BS at Tufts for music and CS, it would all be on one campus. If you do a BA/BM at Tufts/NEC then it is two campuses. It would be possible to study music and CS on campus without the conservatory experience. The Tufts music program is, as I said, really active and the faculty and facilities are excellent.

    BU has a School of Music, so I would avoid studying music outside the conservatory. I have never heard BC mentioned as having a great music program (and I am a Bostonian) but you learn something every day so maybe....

    The SUNY's have conservatories so it is, again, possible that the best opportunities go to those students. There are exceptions but it sounds like your son might want to focus on schools without a school of music, unless he wants to do a double degree. SUNY Purchase is probably the best for composition.

    There are sooo many schools where a composer can attend, study music as a liberal arts along with something else, or even study something else and take lessons, have pieces performed, and develop enough for grad school.

    I think he can start with location, size, cost and the "vibe" he wants and then look at music departments. Visit, attend composer concerts, listen to faculty works.

    I am going with your original post about your son studying music as a liberal art, with CS, as a double major. But I just reread it and your son wants more performance and less "academic" music. So maybe he DOES want a BM or a double degree????? In a liberal arts context, much of the performance will be extracurricular. In fact, in that context, he could just major in CS and do composition through lessons and extracurricular performance (plus summer programs) if he wanted. But if he wants to focus on music performance in an immersive way, he needs to think about a BM or double degree.

    Don't forget that most BA programs have gen ed requirements.Not Brown or Amherst though. Their relative freedom from distribution requirements would make them a good choice.

    Finally, Oberlin and Bard would be great choices because a composer could study in either the college or the conservatory, and move from one to the other if needed. Just be aware Bard would require a double degree if in the conservatory.

    Sorry for all the typos in my last post! I need to find my glasses in the morning!

    We did discuss a BM in Music or double degree at length. He definitely does want a CS degree and I think is relieved to hear that he will be able to take some classes and participate in ensembles, even if just as an extracurricular. I think we were both concerned that a BA in Music meant 100% academic courses, like Music Theory and History. He wants to take those classes, but also wants the opportunity to play and continue developing his writing skills. It appears after reading the feedback that he will be able to do that.

    He has been looking at smaller, liberal arts schools, but he definitely likes the idea of an open curriculum, like Amherst or Brown.

    We have only done 4 college visits—Vassar, Hamilton, Colgate and Cornell, and definitely need to plan another trip to see some more. I regret we didn’t visit Bard when we are at Vassar.
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  • nextstepcollegenextstepcollege 113 replies15 threads Junior Member
    Compdad wrote: »
    I certainly second Oberlin. The refinement of the music programs in both the College and the Conservatory plays well for those wanting to study music in the College more so than in the past. Also I would like to add Brandeis University to the list of colleges worth a look. It has a strong BA with a composition track program which could be combined with CS. I believe Brandeis is too often overlooked for students interested in BA composition studies. It has a strong history in Composition. Another addition would be the University of Chicago. While it known more for its Graduate school composition studies, an undergraduate interested in composition can do well there. Philip Glass received his AB from U of C.


    Thank you! I have heard of Brandeis. We will take another look at that one.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12996 replies244 threads Senior Member
  • chemusicchemusic 663 replies4 threads Member
    Vassar has only a couple distribution requirements so it was easier for S1 and S2 to double major in music and a science. Vassar featured student composer's at concerts. See my other posts and PM me if you have questions. Also consider Hamilton, Tufts and Skidmore.
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  • SuzeViolinSuzeViolin 77 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I agree with @Compdad that Brandeis is worth looking at. My daughter is there as a performance major, specifically because of her teacher, and because she wants the liberal arts opportunities and the ability to integrate music with other interests. Brandeis has a long history of being strong in the areas of music theory and composition. Regarding the distribution requirements, they can be met in any number of ways, it is very flexible.
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