I'm just starting to dig in to the college search with my son, who's a junior. He's a very good French horn player, and would like to go to a place with a strong music program. He's not, however, convinced he wants a conservatory-level commitment, and would prefer to major in something else (computer science is a strong contender), or possibly double major. He's also pretty sure he'd like to go to a liberal arts college. Finally, he's a solid student, but, to be frank, he's not likely to get in to the Williamses and Amhersts of the world.
The music program at St. Olaf looks perfect--tons of kids involved and outstanding quality without having to commit to a conservatory environment, all within a liberal arts college setting with strong academics, particularly in the sciences. Looking around for other schools that match that description, we've come up pretty much empty (I should perhaps add that he's ruling out schools that sound like they're very frat-ish or conservative in terms of campus culture).
Are there other schools out there that meet the particular set of criteria above that St. Olaf seems to fit so perfectly, or is it virtually unique? We thought Oberlin might fit the bill, but I contacted the excellent horn professor there and he flatly stated that you can't study with him or be in his horn choir without being in the conservatory. Looks like the same deal at Bard--it's not clear you can even get private lessons in horn unless you're in the conservatory. Kind of defeats the purpose of being in an environment with amazing music if you can't do any of the cool stuff without joining the Con-club.
Any suggestions? Have I missed some other hidden gems?