Help finding schools for a kid interested in percussion and CS

I would love school suggestions. At the moment, my son is considering a couple of double degree programs (BM and BA in CS) but we suspect a better fit for him is a place with a strong liberal arts education, great opportunities for percussionists (either a BA or strong ensembles or other) and a good comp sci program. For us it is a little easier to figure out if a school is a good fit for him in terms of general academics and comp sci. Music is a different story (especially if we are not talking about BM). I would love to hear from parents who recently went through a similar journey. I posted a question on a different forum and it has been incredibly helpful to hear their stories.

It probably helps if I try to describe my son’s percussion skills. He has been playing classical percussion for 8 years: weekly lessons outside school plus 1-2 hr practice every day. At the place where he studies, they organize several concerts each year for the full percussion ensemble and a few solos. He has also played in summer camp orchestras like Interlochen and YOLA. He does not play drum kit, steel drums, etc. All his work has been on contemporary classical percussion. At school he sings in an auditioned choir but he does not play percussion (so he has never participated in state competitions). He was accepted into a national orchestra run by Carnegie Hall which I understand is pretty competitive. He was also accepted into Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute percussion workshop (unfortunately they are online this year and last year they cancelled on him!). He also performed at NPR’s From The Top last year. He does not care about school size or location and financial aid is not important. He wants to focus on percussion performance and comp sci because those are the two things he loves the most. He does not want to think about jobs right now but he is fully aware of the challenges.

I would also appreciate comments on the schools currently on the list.

Also, what is the difference between a BA in music with no audition requirements vs one that requires an audition? Maybe they focus on an academic study of music? It is hard to imagine an orchestra or even a music theory class where some kids are strong performers and others are not. I imagine it is more fun to play and study with people similar to you. But I am not a musician; I really don’t know.

His list so far:

Boston Univ.
Carnegie Mellon
Case Western
Colorado at Boulder
St Olaf
Tufts?(not sure yet)
UMass Amherst


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I responded elsewhere and also sent you a PM.

Many BA programs do not have auditions for admissions but will have them in the fall to participate in ensembles or orchestra. instead, applicants can submit a music supplement with recording/video, music resume and music letter(s) of recommendation.

Yes a BA in music is often academic and although it may have some performance aspects in theory and composition classes, for instance, and may give credit for lessons and performance, the BA is not, essentially a performance degree at most schools. The liberal arts study of music includes theory, music history, composition, ethnomusicology, music technology, and many schools have diversified curriculum to include several genres beyond Western classical, jazz, and some include the history of rock etc.

If your son applies to schools with progressive contemporary classical percussion, and submits a music resume, he will do very well, regardless of whether he majors in music or not.

I just sent another PM.


B.A. music programs may offer a performance track, which, it seems, would be further intensified through ensemble participation and lessons:


The Hamilton curriculum for a BA in music is along the lines if what I was describing: a liberal arts/humanities major with theory, music history, technology etc. and one credit for performance. Lessons are 0.23- 0.5 credit. This is typical of BA programs. Performance can sometimes be integrated into theory classes or even history classes, but they are not performance-focused the way a BM is.

I don’t actually know of any BA programs with a performance track, and would love to know of some if you can share. UCLA used to have a BA for performance but they changed to a BM, and Oberlin has Musical Studies which has some performance.


The intended point wasn’t to contradict your own, but to offer a different interpretation. Music majors at Hamilton are expected to concentrate to a greater degree in one of three areas: (1) music in historical and cultural contexts, (2) theory and composition, or (3) performance. Of additional interest, a Hamilton graduate won a Pulitzer Prize in music for Concerto for Flute, Strings, and Percussion.


I’m really only knowledgeable about Bard College’s music BA program. They do offer a performance concentration- which informs the moderation and senior project requirements. Classical Instrumental Performance

(But for classical percussion I would recommend the double degree in the Conservatory because of its fabulous dedicated percussion program with professors not also teaching in the college. For other instruments and composition the difference is not as dramatic.)


I believe Duke has a BA with a performance track.

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Bard, like Oberlin, seems to have a “low wall” between conservatory and college. I am interested in knowing about BA programs in schools that do not have a conservatory or school of music, but do have a performance track.
Apparently Duke does. Great info to have!
Undergraduate | Duke Music](Undergraduate | Duke Music)

A school like Princeton has a performance certificate which in my view isn’t different from what many schools offer and not a “performance concentration.”

This is tangentially related to the OP so don’t want to derail the thread but if anyone knows of other schools with a BA performance concentration I would love a PM and if it benefits the OP share it here.

In my experience, most BA’s in music are mainly academic with some performance sprinkled in, possibly with lessons and always with extracurricular performance.


Ok, sorry OP, one more. Here is the “performance track” at Duke. It is really no different from what other colleges offer but they call it a performance track. The rest of the classes in the curriculum are academic, theory, history, world music, history of rock etc. Also for BA music major consists of 1/4-1/3 classes in music versus 2/3-3/4 for a BM:
Duke performance:
Applied Music (minimum of 0.5 credits)
2 semesters of study in an instrument or voice
Ensemble (1 credit)
2 semesters in a departmental ensemble (excluding Music 210-3)

Always check details!

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Compmom, I believe you were looking at Duke’s general music BA. The music BA with a concentration in performance requires at least five semesters of applied instruction, worth a total of at least four credits, as well as at least one full recital (senior recital).

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One thing that still troubles me is that, given his interest in CS, a BA in music makes more sense than a BM (unless he wants a double degree). However when you go from a BM to a BA, in many cases, you get rid of the classes he wants the most. I believe he is less interested in the academic side of music. He wants to improve his technique, he wants to play with ensembles, he wants music theory. He will have to figure that one out by looking at each school. Thanks everyone for the info. It gives him a great starting point.

I have a couple of follow up questions. (I am not sure if I am supposed to start a new thread. All of you seem to know a lot about music majors so maybe it is ok. Sorry, still new to CC).

I have been going over the websites of each place gathering information and I am curious as to what you think of some majors that mix computers with music. On the surface it sounds like a perfect fit. But looking closely, those majors are usually about something very specific: things like sound engineering, acoustics, computer music. While he may find those classes very interesting, I don’t think he wants to have such a narrow CS focus from the start. More importantly, despite having the word “music” on the title, he is not going to learn any music, right? So we would still need to combine those majors with a music degree of some sort or music classes and ensembles?


UCSD’s Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Computer Music and Music Technology: ICAM Major

CMU’s Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts: BCSA Program - BXA Intercollege Degree Programs - Carnegie Mellon University

UIUC’s Computer Science + music

Yale’s Computing and the Arts

Second question. There are two schools that people don’t mention often but they seem fine for a percussionist who wants a double major. Am I missing something?

Vanderbilt seems great. It seems to have a great percussion group: and it offers a Bachelors of Musical Arts major that seems OK for kids interested in performance and interested in double majors: Admissions | Admissions Overview | Blair School of Music | Vanderbilt University

NYU’s Steinhardt: relatively high acceptance rate (42%). It has 4 percussion ensembles, two of which would appeal to him Percussion Ensembles | NYU Steinhardt
Percussion ensembles are open only to percussion majors (ok if he decides to do only music. Not ok the other way around). They offer a BM that claims to mix music and liberal arts. BM, Percussion Studies | NYU Steinhardt
However, I don’t know how complicated would it be to get a double degree from Steinhardt and NYU’s College or A&S (which has a very low acceptance rate).

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Found that thanks…not BM level but more than the usual BA, Sorry OP!

Applied Music (minimum 4 credits)

At least 5 semesters of individual applied instruction (MUS 103-108, 203-208, 401), earning a minimum of 4 full credits (including 2 semesters of MUS 401, culminating in a full recital)

Ensemble (1 credit)
2 semesters in a departmental ensemble (excluding MUS 210-3)


Those programs seem to represent variations within the general scope of digital arts. At their most ambitious level, they develop digital media further, with innovations derived from computer science. Of more immediate practicality, they teach the skills needed to integrate creative arts with technology. As far as I can tell they don’t particularly resemble either a computer science major or a music major. The presence of a digital arts program, however, could allow for the expression of interests that your son might develop.


I’m a student at Blair. I think the BMA+second major program would be a great choice for someone looking to combine music with computer science. Blair also accepts unlimited AP/IB credit, so you could potentially finish the liberal arts core very early that way. With enough pre-freshman credit, you could even reasonably do a BM with a second major.


Vanderbilt and NYU offer excellent programs in music.

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Hi momclassof26,
I would like to chime in and recommend a close look at Vanderbilt (Blair), which I am very familiar with, including the percussion dept. Ji Hye Jung is a wonderful musician and teacher – take a look at her background and maybe some videos of her performing. I don’t know what schools people mention or not, but I can tell you that many of BIair’s enrolling students were accepted into top conservatories and chose Vandy for a variety of reasons (including generous financial aid and scholarships, though I know you mentioned that wasn’t an issue). I can also tell you that Blair students pursuing graduate music programs are routinely accepted into those same top conservatories/music schools. From an academic standpoint, Vanderbilt speaks for itself, and Blair is very supportive of double majors and other types of arrangements. Finally, Nashville is a great town to be in. It might be a fit for you, might not. Could be worth checking out.

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How about Northwestern?

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Thanks! We spent the last week carefully researching schools and we had already noticed everything you said about Vanderbilt. It definitely seems to be double major friendly. Ji Hye Jung is great. Exactly the type of place my son wants.

Thanks @VTquest
We had also looked closely at Northwestern and it is also a great fit. She-e-Wu is fantastic. Good double major options.
Both schools are high reach but it is nice to have an ideal to compare everything else to.


Chiming in here (kind of a bad percussion joke).

When touring schools, we found that Northwestern, Carnegie-Mellon and JSOM (Indiana) seemed to have the most double majoring music students. My percussion kid, in theory, could pretty easily double-major at Temple, but that’s only because he came in with a ton of credits between AP classes and community college courses (taken during Junior/Senior year of high school).

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We had moved CMU to the bottom of the list. We will look at it again. What are your son’s majors at Temple?

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