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Getting a real liberal arts education and a real jazz performance education

InterLokiInterLoki 4 replies4 threads New Member
edited January 8 in Music Major
I'm searching for colleges where you can get a real liberal arts education and a real jazz performance education.

Lawrence University is making a big deal about its new BMA degree, which is offered out of Lawrence's conservatory. According to Lawrence, "Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.), with a Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track, has been added to Lawrence’s degree options, joining Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)." Like a regular BM, the BMA requires performance coursework, but it also seems to require a significant amount of coursework in the liberal arts.

Oberlin's website says that conservatory students "now will be able to complete minors in the college as well." However liberal arts majors still cannot minor in some type of music performance at the conservatory. "College and conservatory faculties are also considering a minor that would allow students in the Arts and Sciences to minor in music." Am I getting this right? In practice, is the Lawrence option different? Without spending five years at Oberlin and earning two degrees, is it going to be possible to get an Oberlin liberal arts education along with an Oberlin jazz education?

Other colleges' websites describe degrees that sound like the Lawrence BMA. What do people know about these liberal-artsy-but-still-performancey degrees?

They seem to exist at Michigan School of Music Theater and Dance and UCLA Alpert School of Music, and maybe some others. If you get a BMA in Jazz Studies at Michigan SMTD, do you still get the benefit of taking classes at Michigan's School of Literature, Science and the Arts? If you get and BA in Global Jazz Studies at UCLA Alpert, do you get the benefit of taking classes at UCLA's School of Letters and Science?

Northwestern offers similar sounding degrees but I'm not sure whether they're really similar. Like many colleges and universities with affiliated conservatories, Northwestern Bienen School of Music offers joint degrees (BM plus BA or BS). Northwestern Bienen also offers "Bachelor of Arts in Music" as well as "Bachelor of Science in Music," but those are described as "nonperformance degrees." Does anybody have any details? How do you study jazz at Bienen while still getting something that approximates a liberal arts education?

As far as I can tell, Miami Frost also offers joint degrees that can include a BM with either of two different kinds of jazz emphases (vocal or instrumental), but Frost does not offer a BMA. Is that right? How do you study jazz at Frost while still getting something that approximates a liberal arts education?

Indiana Jacobs also has something that looks similar but is called something like a "Bachelor of Science in Music and an Outside Field." What's the story with that?

Bard has joint degrees (BM and BA) and also has a BA in the "Bard Music Program." Bard, Lawrence and Oberlin are often described as among the very few liberal arts colleges with attached conservatories. (University of Puget Sound seems to be somewhat similar, but with far fewer jazz classes offered.) How does studying jazz at Bard compare with studying jazz at some of the other ones mentioned?

What about Rochester and Eastman? From what I can see, Eastman students can't do all that much at the main Rochester campus over the course of a four year program because of the extensive requirements for an Eastman BM degree. Is that right?

U Washington has a BA in Music with "Instrumental Option in Jazz Studies." What about that?

Are there any other colleges (Vanderbilt? Columbia? Brown? Harvard? UMass? Whitman? Wesleyan? Amherst? Williams? Skidmore? Tufts? Vassar?) that should be part of this discussion?

From what I have read so far, without visiting anywhere or talking with anyone, I'm thinking that the most promising four-year options for combining a real liberal arts education with a real jazz performance educations are at Lawrence, Michigan and UCLA. But obviously I may be wrong for a zillion reasons and I'd really like to expand that list.
edited January 8
15 replies
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Replies to: Getting a real liberal arts education and a real jazz performance education

  • bridgenailbridgenail 1128 replies5 threads Senior Member
    My D has a BSOF from IU. It's a degree from the conservatory that allows for slightly fewer music credits (a BM has more music credits required). Then you can take classes in another discipline (theater in my D's case). The OF would be more similar to a minor than a second degree.

    A generalization *may* be: BM 3/4 music classes, BS 2/3 music classes, BA 1/2 music classes. Note there is no uniform definition so this is simply "spitting in the wind" and you must check each school for the right mix for you.

    Have you read the music thread on double degrees? That may help you. As you have found out some schools do double degrees, minors, outside fields etc. Still they are all different. So one way to start making choices is to read the double degree thread to get a better handle on the differences amongst BA, BM, BS and full BA/BM requirements. You can also continue to research schools (note: asking for the semester-by-semester curriculum for different degrees - sometimes available on website - can be enlightening and may help you decide which approach is best).

    Here are a few other comments that may be helpful:

    If you wanted a degree in engineering and accounting, which "school" would cut you a break? Probably neither. They will both have "their" requirements and the only break is in very basic requirements (first year English for all students) where they overlap...hence it can take 5+ years to get a BA and a BM (with ALL requirements). Just because the degrees fall on the "arts" side of education...that does not necessarily create a lot of overlap as music degrees have a lot of technical requirements (theory for example). They also have ensemble requirements in most cases which should be checked as ensembles take a lot of time.

    Some schools do try to give you a "break" by offering different options (check semester-by-semester guides). Some of the programs that you have listed above are known to better at this (i.e., Lawrence and Michigan). Where there is a road map, there's more support and a better chance of success. Double degrees are not easy for many reasons...but support from advisers and a road map can make a big difference. Note one of the biggest difficulties is that music requires A LOT of time with ensemble "requirements" in the evenings that conflict directly with labs, evening meetings with peers to work on projects and even classes. My D's schedule had to end at 2:45 most days to be ready for 3:00 rehearsals...so that was another issue (with music theory only offered in the mornings...that was fun to try to cram other classes into that restricted window of time).

    While the schools may support this...not all teachers do. Some highly sought after teachers will only be interested in kids that want to be fully engaged in music. They simply can be picky. Note other teachers are supportive...but be aware of that.

    Finally when we started the process of looking at schools, we assumed that we were the "buyer" and could kind of get what we wanted. It was a bit of a surprise to find out that these large, well-known institutions could have their own opinions of what my D needed. A full music degree is a lot of work and time intensive. Most institutions take their responsibilities to musicians very seriously and feel that there is A LOT to learn...and will want a very large chunk of your kid's time (in exchange for a spot in their coveted program). In the end, my D chose a program that would give some leeway for other interests but still be a conservatory degree. Her teacher was supportive...but definitely tried to direct my D more towards music...and in the end she was right (despite some frustration from my D).

    Again read the double degree thread to learn more.


    Good luck!! And hopefully more people will contribute on their experiences with other programs you have listed above.
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  • brantlybrantly 4081 replies72 threads Senior Member
    edited January 8
    Tufts has a joint degree program with the New England Conservatory of Music.

    Harvard has five-year bachelor's/master's joint program with New England Conservatory.
    edited January 8
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  • compmomcompmom 11147 replies78 threads Senior Member
    Oberlin has changed some things. I am assuming you have seen this:
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  • doschicosdoschicos 22969 replies240 threads Senior Member
    edited January 8
    Check into University of New Hampshire. I know a few musical kids (including Jazz focus) that had it on their lists and some that actually attended. All were out of staters.
    edited January 8
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42378 replies455 threads Senior Member
    Look into St Olaf.
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  • jazzpianodadjazzpianodad 201 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Columbia has an excellent jazz program for a non-music school, and obviously an excellent academic program. It doesn’t have the resources of a music school but there are extensive jazz resources in the city if the student is sufficiently motivated and able to access them. I posted more on my son’s experience at Columbia in this thread:

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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3473 replies173 threads Senior Member
    The Wesleyan music program emphasizes "breadth and diversity" (think, Lin-Manuel Miranda) which may or may not be what someone with conservatory level aspirations is looking for. There's a lot of jazz talent there (Jay Hoggard and MacArthur "Genius" award winner, Tyshawn Sorey, are both teachers and alum of the program), but my sense is that the chief performance outlet is through ensembles:

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  • cellomom2cellomom2 696 replies8 threads Member
    edited January 9
    bridgenail has given you a very thorough summary highlighting many of the issues involved in pursuing studies in music and a non music related field. I am familiar with both UM and Lawrence having had one of each of my children study at these 2 schools. S completed double degrees at UM in music performance and math. It is very difficult to complete double degrees in 4 years, S took 4 1/2 years also taking a few classes in the shorter spring term. It sounds like from your post that you are not necessarily wanting to pursue double degrees but maybe a minor in LSA or just have access to a variety of liberal arts classes at whatever college you end up in? That is certainly possible at UM, just takes discipline as your schedule can be plenty full just with required music classes but LSA is fully accessible to music students.
    Lawrence is known for being encouraging and supportive to multi interested students. My D was not a music student there but had many friends who were. The conservatory is very integrated into the school as a whole there.
    edited January 9
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  • compmomcompmom 11147 replies78 threads Senior Member
    Just want to add that it is possible to attend a school that does not have a conservatory, take lessons and perform as an extracurricular or gig locally throughout. I know a jazz musician who went to Tufts and went through master's level in science but is now a professional musician. He gigged throughout college and is in a band that is pretty well-known. He did not do the double degree with NEC that Tufts offers. Many paths are possible.

    The other route, besides a double degree, might be the programs that are within the college, not the conservatoryy, but offer perforance- such as the one I linked at Oberlin or the one at Bard. BM's are pretty intense and can be hard to combine with another area of study (people have done it but....) so if a BM level of study is desired, a double degree would be bets.

    Wesleyan is excellent for world music. Harvard has enhanced the opportunities for jazz and also has a double degree program with both NEC and with Berklee.
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  • merc81merc81 10948 replies179 threads Senior Member
    This article featuring a jazz artist offers insight on how passion for music can be integrated with a top-notch liberal arts education:

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  • WestOfPCHWestOfPCH 114 replies1 threads Junior Member
    You can get a BA in Jazz at USC Thornton, which would allow you to take tons of gen ed and electives at USC Dornsife (College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences).

    Peabody is part of Johns Hopkins and has a great jazz program which allows you to take humanities electives and open electives at the JHU main campus (I.e. “Homewood”). That said, you can only get a BM in jazz performance (no BA available for that major), so the number of electives you’re able to take at the Homewood campus is very limited (unless you dual degree in something at the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences.
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  • angelcatcherangelcatcher 13 replies0 threads New Member
    My son applied to both UMich SMTD and Bienen/Northwestern as a dual degree candidate for jazz and their liberal arts schools. In all likelihood, he will pursue a music degree in jazz but work towards a double major in a social science (psychology, history or polysci).

    Both information sessions were very supportive and encouraging of students pursuing double majors and if you are willing to do a 5th year, a dual degree. Students of both music programs have access to coursework outside of the music schools.
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  • akapiratequeenakapiratequeen 1171 replies35 threads Senior Member
    My son is a jazz player and did not find the jazz program at Lawrence as strong as at some of the other schools on this list. USC, Oberlin, Columbia, Michigan, UCLA and possibly NYU may be better
    options. It is possible to double
    major at Eastman/Rochester as well, but you are right, the BM requirements make it very tough.
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  • LendleesLendlees 244 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Weighing in here on a couple of schools. When we toured Northwestern, BOTH tour guides were double majors. Same thing at Carnegie Mellon (not sure if they have jazz) so it’s definitely not an outlier at those two schools.

    Another thing to think about is what’s a potential with my kid (disclaimer - he probably won’t do it). Temple took ALL of his APs (where he scored high enough - that’s another discussion) and dual enrollment credits - so he’s essentially done with his general education requirements after freshman year, freeing him up to take classes in anything else that sounds interesting. So while double majors are not ‘advertised’ it’s an easy option for schools that are generous with giving credit for previous work.
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