Ask Almost Anything About UR!

Hey everyone, I’m a UR math/CS student (class of 2018) heavily involved in the performing arts (specifically music). I’m also a Richmond Scholar for music.

I thought I would create an Ask Me Anything type thread where members of the UR community (parents, alumni, students, staff) can answer general questions you might have.

Examples include:
-Student life
-Specific Departments
-Performing Arts
-Richmond Scholars Program and perks

This is not meant to be a single user “Ask Me Anything”. Anyone from the UR community can answer questions! Please don’t use this for chance me threads. Also, as Richmond Scholars deadline approaches and the semifinalists are notified in December, please make a new thread for the class of 2020 to discuss that process in more detail as to not flood this thread with questions that will not pertain to the majority of students. Questions about the Richmond Scholars program, however, are still welcome here.

Is there a more casual band/orchestra a student can join than the one majors might be in?

The orchestra and band are very casual, since the music department is small (we have about 20-30 majors and minors combined total). Both have “auditions”, but they are only for seating. The band and orchestra are community ensembles, meaning that there are music students (majors and minors), non-music students, professors (non-music and music), and outside community members who are not affiliated with the university that are in the ensembles.

What were the key determining factors in your decision to attend UR? Where else were you accepted? Thanks, Londondad

@londondad, I can shed some light on this question, as I stumbled upon @guineagirl96’s thread from her 2014 application season here:

Thanks @lots2do for sharing my previous thread, which I shared a lot about my choices in schools and where I got accepted. There were a couple additional key factors that I didn’t mention in that thread, however, that I’m happy to share.

With the Richmond Scholar and my outside scholarship from my dad’s work, UR was actually cheaper for me than George Mason (which I was in-state for). I also didn’t mention that I really liked the perks that went with the Richmond Scholar, as well. The $3000 stipend was something I liked and I actually just used it this summer to take Italian at Mason. We also get free tickets to all Modlin Center events and concerts, including the ones held downtown at the Carpenter Theater, which I’ve taken advantage of, because I’m really into the performing arts.

I fell in love with the campus because of the amazing food (seriously, best college campus food I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve been to a lot between music events and events with my older brother), the very small class sizes, and the way the professors treat the students. It’s very personal and feels like a community. My biggest class I’ve ever taken is actually this semester and its less than 35 people (one of my CS courses).

Probably the biggest factor for me, though, was I liked the idea of being a “big fish in a small pond”. In high school, I was definitely was a “small fish in a big pond” academically because it is such a rigorous school (its consistently ranked in the top 10 schools in the country, #1 quite a few times). Because my high school was so rigorous, I’m in math and CS classes with primarily upperclassmen. At Case, I would have still been a small fish and would probably not have been as accelerated compared to my peers, since it’s a well known engineering school.

Thanks for the helpful answers. My son will definitely apply.

Hi, my d also into performing arts, up until the summer she was thinking UR for VP AND BIO, then started thinking straight Musical Theater. She still likes UR wondering about a theater major. I asked this on a different thread before I saw this one, but are there musicals? Can you talk about the theater department? Do music and theater majors work together?

@lake4 I’d be happy to talk a little about the theater department and opportunities at UR! Besides being a music minor, I’m also considering a dance minor and am a member of University Players (I’ll explain what this is later), so I’m involved in the Department of Theatre and Dance. It’s a great community and program!

Dance and Theatre are one department, which creates an interesting dynamic. Students that are a member of University Dancers (UD), which is the audition-based department Dance Company (carries academic credit, which counts towards dance major/minor), have to put in hours to the department working on theatre shows, such as working in the costume shop. And of course, theatre students help crew the UD performance in the spring. University Players and Dancers are actually paired together and do many events together. There’s actually only one email list between the two.

There is a big focus in the theatre department on not just acting (although there is plenty of that built into the curriculum!), but everything that goes into production (sound/lights, set design, costuming, stage makeup, etc). All theatre majors have to complete the two-year Production Studies course sequence, culminating in Productions Studies III, where the class as a group produces a major theatre production from start to finish (selecting the play, researching, budget and fundraising, designing, helping with casting, running rehearsals, publicity, etc) performed in the first half of the spring semester .

In terms of acting, there is whatever coursework you complete, as well as two major department theatre productions each semester. These productions are audition-based and open to any student at UR (you do not have to be a theatre major or minor to participate). If you are acting in a department production or you are crewing (light/sound, costume, etc) you get academic credit, though they are practicum credits, so they don’t count towards the units needed for the major or minor. In the spring semester, the second show is always done with a large cast and this year, we’re doing Shakespeare. Last semester, we did a big musical (Funny Girl), which we do every other year (although the music director last semester told me they are planning on changing to doing a musical every year). Last year was unique in that we also had a smaller musical in the fall (it was a premiere of a new work), but it was more hip-hop and involved a live DJ. The large spring musicals have student pits, which I was in last year, but that is about as much official involvement that the music department has with theater. There are, however, many music majors and minors who participate actively in the theatre department, particularly vocalists who are also interested in acting.

We also have University Players, which I mentioned above. It is the department theatre group that anyone can join. You have to pay dues ($6 a semester or $10 a year) and complete hours to be a member. Hours can be completed by acting or crewing (set, lights/sound, costume, makeup, stage managing, etc) department or Players productions, any productions sponsored by the two (so select student productions), or participating in All-Calls and All-Strikes for different productions. Basically, it’s a way for any students interested in theatre to learn different aspects of production if they would like and also give back to the theatre department. I’m currently Co-Head of Makeup and Costume (focus on makeup; my Co-Head works in the costume shop, so she is focused on that) as part of the design team for Players’ Haunted House this year and it’s a lot of fun!

There is also Alpha Psi Omega (APO) which is the theatre honor society on campus and they sponsor different shows and events too. APO has some similar duties to Players and also sponsors student productions and events, the biggest of which is the fall New Faces, which they produce, direct, and cast. New Faces is cast, rehearsed, and performed in the first two weeks of the fall semester and is open to any student who has not been in a department theatre production; most of the cast is freshmen. It’s kind of like a mini broadway/theatre revue and has a mix of scenes, musical numbers, and monologues. I was in the cast of this year’s production (called “Fifty Shades of Play”) and some of our songs included “Wilkommen” from Cabaret, “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent, and “Everybody Say Yeah” from Kinky Boots.

And of course, there are always student productions that there are casting calls for. Two years ago (spring 2014), there was a student production of a musical that one of the music majors wrote (he’s now working on a masters in musical theatre writing at NYU Tisch).

Sorry for the lengthy post, but the theater department has many different aspects that I wanted to be sure to cover!

Thanks so much, I’ll share this information with her. It sounds as if there is a lot to offer and an active group of theater kids. I like the idea of a musical every year. If she could apply for the arts scholarship, I’m sure she would have the opportunity to meet the Theater and Vocal Faculty, which would ultimately help her decide what direction to head.

No Problem!

We’ll have to see if the musical every year happens or not, but let’s just say for the foreseeable future once every other year is the minimum amount of musicals. The theatre department’s planning for next year and beyond got a little sidetracked because our main theatre (jepson) flooded over the summer and was severely damage, so we’ve been dealing with that. It’s made some logistical problems, but we’re managing (we have a few other performance spaces). They’re hoping to have the repairs finished by spring semester though!

I would definitely recommend her applying by the Richmond Scholars deadline! All finalists for the artist scholar are required to come to campus for a live audition and interview. It’s Tues-Thurs one week in March and there’s events as part of that, plus students can “shadow” current artist scholars and attend classes with them. Auditioning as musical theatre for finalists is completely alright, although I’m not entirely sure what the requirements are for that. If you’re a music scholar, you have to minor in music, and if you’re a theatre scholar, you have to minor in theatre. I did have a friend that was a finalist for Artist Scholar and does musical theatre, but he’s planning on majoring in voice anyways.

Would you say the academic environment at Richmond is more laid back as opposed to being cutthroat? Some schools, especially the good ones, are known for their competitive environment.

My 2 daughters would probably say it is something in between. They are both at UR majoring in the sciences and generally seem to find courses challenging, yet manageable, occasionally overwhelming or incredibly easy. They have both liked almost all of their professors so far, but do feel that a couple were over the top with expectations/demands. I have never heard either of them express any concerns about competing with other students, but they both have very high GPAs.

UR isn’t cutthroat at all. Yes, there are some professors that are particularly difficult (I’ve had one twice in the CS department, and one from the anthro department), but the focus at UR is on community and working together. Students want their peers to succeed and will often help each other to make sure they do.

The professors also want their students to succeed, even the difficult ones. Professors are often in their offices outside their office hours and, as long as their door is open, they’re more than happy to help you. Since we have small class sizes (my largest class is this semester and I believe its 35 people- one of the largest classes in the entire university), professors really get to know their students and give individual attention. They care about your well being. Because of the collaborative nature of class, attendance is generally mandatory and taken into account in your grade (you can fail based on poor attendance). Last fall as a freshman, I overslept one day and missed my linear algebra class. I woke up 20 minutes before my CS lab started and had to literally run to make it on time (if we’re more than 5 minutes late to lab, we get a 0 on that lab). I emailed my linear prof from the CS lab and apologized and asked if there was a way I could still turn in the hw. She told me to come to her office right after my lab. When I got there and told her what happened, she was more concerned about whether I had made it to lab on time and calming me down, making sure I knew that everything was alright. We ended up going over the hw together, which she had luckily not collected that day, and when I told her I had to go to my dance class across campus, she asked if I had eaten and when I said no, she reached into her desk and gave me a Luna bar. She is not unique in her care for her students.

These are some of the benefits of being at a small LAC.

Thank you for your responses. I am really impressed by the professors’ attitude towards their students. Richmond sounds like a wonderful close knit community.

What is campus life and the surrounding environment like? Being that it’s in the South, I have some (probably unfounded) concerns about racism there, and just whether I’d fit in as a Yankee.

Even though Virginia is considered a “Southern” state, that really does not apply to the whole state. I’m from Northern Virginia (NoVa) and where I live is way different than southern Virginia. Richmond, as a city, is interesting because it is sort of a dividing point between North and South.

The school itself does not have a southern feel, since the majority of students are not from the south. I’ve found that it feels more like NoVa. We’re not actually located in the city, but just outside of it. Racism is not tolerated on campus at all. The school is fairly liberal and has policies in place against racism and discrimination in general (especially against LGBTQ+ and minorities).

Being a small school, there’s a big focus on community and I think that’s reflected in our campus life. There are many student organizations that host events that are open to everyone. People are really encouraging towards each other and want you to try new things.

There is quite a large population of students from New England here. The school population is quite diverse. You can see the geography of the class of 2019 here:

If you click on the view larger map button and look through the related maps you can see the geography from all the current classes (2016-2019).

I second @guineagirl96 , my 2 daughters at UR don’t feel out of place in the least and our family lives in northern Delaware. My husband and I are from Massachusetts. We all really love the Richmond area, people are very friendly, and Richmond is a very fun city, lots to see and do, a real foodie place with a vibrant arts scene too. Neither daughter has experencied any southern culture clash issues on campus. There are students from all over the country and many international students, so many different points of view to learn about.

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What are the opportunities to participate in instrumental music, such as student orchestras, for non-Music Majors?

@londondad all department music ensembles are open to anyone on campus. The majority of ensembles do not truly have auditions, but many have placement auditions.
The orchestra and band both have auditions just for seating purposes, although orchestra occasionally may have to turn away wind players (example if 12 flutes audition, but the director will make sure you have the opportunity to play in a ensemble and might recommend those he cannot take to join band). As I mentioned at the beginning of this thread, both these ensembles are community ensembles, meaning they having both music and non-music students, both music and non-music professors, and outside richmond community members playing in the group. We are a very small department and have less than 30 majors and minors combine across all four class years, with the majority of those being minors. Because of this, the vast majority of the members of the department ensembles are not music majors or minors.

Ensembles in the department include: a mixed and a women’s choir, orchestra, band, jazz ensemble, 3 jazz combos, chamber ensemble, Brazilian combo, blue grass ensemble, African drumming, taiko drumming, and ukulele ensemble.
We also have a gamelan ensemble on campus.

In addition, any student may apply to take private lessons for credit. Generally, these are granted no problem. Voice and piano have studio placement auditions, however. We have quite a wide variety of lessons offered, with all the traditional orchestra and band instruments of course and Jazz, but also some more unique instruments like sitar.