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University vs. Conservatory

rhodesb68rhodesb68 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
edited June 2010 in Musical Theater Major
Hello all!
Being pretty new to musical theater in general, especially college-wise, I have quite a few questions. The biggest one I have right now is what are the pros and cons of conservatories vs a university? What are the differences and which is best?
Thanks
Post edited by rhodesb68 on

Replies to: University vs. Conservatory

  • thiisismeganthiisismegan Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    I am also an upcoming senior and in response to your question, I think the major consensus that I have gathered here is that the best is going to be what works for you. Whether you want a strong academic background or simply want to focus on training and only training is a decision you will have to make for yourself. To add to that, is it ok to apply to a wide variety of types of schools? I know I would be happy in either a university or conservatory setting and would ultimately base my decision on where i get accepted...is that the right way to be thinking at this point?
  • gc414gc414 Registered User Posts: 267 Junior Member
    also keep in mind that there are universities/colleges that have programs WITH conservatories (which i guess would be the best of both worlds) (hopkins and peabody is the only one that comes to mind but i am positive that there are others)
  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,520 Senior Member
    Peabody doesn't offer musical theater.
  • SDonCCSDonCC Registered User Posts: 2,373 Senior Member
    megan, absolutely apply to different types of schools! Keep your options open. You may regret not having choices come next April, and you also may not get into the BFA program you want, so having a broader range of possibilities will be important.
  • cincopediacincopedia Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    Pros of Conservatory program: you don't have to take non-musical theatre classes.

    Cons of Conservatory program: you don't get to take non-musical theatre classes.

    You get the idea. One of the reasons my D chose Penn State over the conservatory programs she got into is that she wanted to take a wider range of classes--English literature, history, psychology, a foreign language, etc. But that's not for everybody.

    Some of the Gen Ed requirements she just wants to get out of the way. But some she wants to use to take classes that will expand her knowledge outside musical theatre. If that sounds like you, then I would choose a University-based MT program. She's just finished her first year, and is very happy with her choice.

    Either way, it's not a bad idea to apply to both types, which is what she did.
  • nicksmtmomnicksmtmom Registered User Posts: 606 Member
    When my son started this process, we felt we had only two choices: BFA (Conservatory) or BA (University) programs. And there are pros and cons to each one. In our case, having a strong academic student who we knew could handle challenging courses, and also wanting him to graduate as a well-rounded and well-educated young man, we sought out programs with elements of both.

    And there ARE BFA programs out there with strong general ed core-cirriculum requirements. They are harder to find, and it involved many hours of actually researching inside the university course catalogs, but they are out there. In our region...Ball State, Penn State, Michigan, Western Michigan. And Elon is a great one in this area (probably strongest core requirements of all we researched.)

    Look for a strong MT program, and then take the time to examine their four-year schedules (sometimes you can find this on the MT school webpage, and sometimes you have to go to the college's course catalog under your major). Look at the ratio of gen. ed classes required versus the MT requirements, and you will be able to tell the difference. (And really LOOK at the courses: not all gen. ed. requirements are created equally...if you are required to take a history class, but it is the history of live theatre, you are not really getting core outside your major and it is more of a conservatory program.)

    I am not really advocating one or the other. Every kid is different. But this process will help you decide what YOU want out of your schooling, and will open up some good discussions with your parents also.

    Keep in mind, as has been said many times on this forum, double-majoring is probably not an option in any BFA program, so if you want that, you might want to choose a BA. But minoring is a definite, if exhausting, possibility with the type of programs I outlined above; and just being able to have time to take some really interesting classes is a bonus (it won't make you a poor MT performer to have some psychology, religion, history, etc. classes; and when I was in school those were some of my most enjoyable.) There's also a school of thought that says being more well-rounded will help you in your performances.

    Good luck...enjoy the process and know that there is no one right answer. You will get a thousand different responses/opinions on this. Listen to your heart and your head, and you will be fine.
  • beenthereMTdadbeenthereMTdad Registered User Posts: 496 Member
    There are many conservatories in big university settings. Just to name a few:

    Penn State, Cincinnatti, Michigan, Miami, Carnegie Mellon, Syracuse
  • SkwidjymomSkwidjymom Registered User Posts: 304 Member
    My D chose a conservatory, one with a reputation for being very light on gen ed, and she is doing way more intense writing and critical reading than we expected she would. So she's not taking math and science...she had plenty of that in her academicallly rigorous high school...but she is doing a lot more than singing and dancing. I looked at one of her writing assignments on Dante's Inferno and I went cross-eyed.
  • Son of TranquilSon of Tranquil Registered User Posts: 100 Junior Member
    Some of the pros of a university school of a conservatory within a university, are basically that you have a wider ranger of subject to take, you are surround by people who aren't just artists. You also might find a stronger chance of finding extracurriculars or Greek Life if that floats your boat.

    The pros of a conservatory school are that you will generally have time to take more classes and train for longer than if you were at a University School. It should also be noted that many conservatories do have general education requirements, for they are necessary if you wish to receive a BFA. Although, coming for a conservatory, the classes provided are not always the most challenging or most interesting. However, because I only have to take classes in the mornings, I am in class from basically 10am or 11am to 6pm everyday, with crew or rehearsals every night, giving myself a full day of training monday through friday, plus additional rehearsals on Saturdays. Also, being at a conservatory generally means you are part of a larger arts school, which puts you in place to collaborate with various types of artists, from dancers to opera singers to fine artists, to film makers. Some schools even have animation majors that look for actors for voiceovers. However, it should also be noted these majors can be found in some university settings as well.

    If you would really like to fully immerse yourself in acting training to the fullest degree, a conservatory is the right fit for you. But it definitely isn't the right fit for everyone. If you would like to maybe explore other options for majors while at school, or be in a larger setting with people with a wider variety of interests, the University setting oculd be right for you.

    I realized i wanted a conservatory setting after I read Stanislavski's "An Actor Prepares." I didn't even really know what a conservatory was until I read that book. I realized I wanted to be acting ever single day, and I felt that would help me reach what I wanted to achieve. And I still feel that way. Yet the first time I applied to colleges, I applied to all acting schools in university settings, I strayed as far from arts schools and conservatories as I could.

    To sum up this overly long post the best advice is to apply to both schools or at least visit them, and see what atmosphere applies to you most. I feel that the program in many cases is more important than the school.
  • nicksmtmomnicksmtmom Registered User Posts: 606 Member
    BeenThere...when you list these schools as conservatories in a university setting, what do you mean? That they are on a campus where there are majors, rather than, say, Julliard where everyone is studing fine arts? To clarify, I was not talking about the physical presence of the BFA program at a university, but a BFA degree where a student must complete the university's general-ed core cirriculum in addition to their BFA requirements. This means 20-25% of your total credits in general ed. Some are 30% or higher...

    The difference can be significant in the student's experience. For instance, if you look at the MT cirriculums, Michigan and Penn State, and even Syracuse are the types of programs I was talking about; they must complete a good percentage of classes outside their major. But at Carnegie Mellon there are only 6-9 "units" out of 400+ units required that are NOT directly related to the BFA major. So in this case, the classes might be taken AT a university, but there is no time for those kids to take anything other than theatre-related classes...so to me this is strictly a conservatory even tho it is located on the campus of a major university. Same "label"...BFA...but big difference in the actual experiences on campus.

    I thought it was worth clarifying, because this distinction was very important to us as we were researching schools. I was happy to find that there were programs (albeit a lot fewer) that had the positive elements of BOTH the BFA and the BA that we were looking for.
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