How to gauge quality of music departments

<p>My dd wants to double major in music and a liberal arts field. She doesn't want to go the conservatory route and isn't interested in most of the big-name schools like Indiana, Michigan, etc. She would prefer a LAC where she can get a solid education in both areas.</p>

<p>Some of the schools on her "potential" list are there because of music. Others are there not because of their music programs but because of their strengths in the <em>other</em> areas that interest her. For example, one school might be known for the caliber of its liberal arts education; another seems to be a great fit for her in its social and political atmosphere; a third is known for great merit aid.</p>

<p>What are some ways to gauge the caliber of the music departments in these schools? What are the right questions to ask?</p>

<p>What is her area of music? Start with that, pick places based on the teacher, then compile list of schools based on location and academic offererings. If you tell us the performance area, some of us know the field well enough to chime in!</p>

<p>She is a harpist.</p>

<p>Ah, that sort of complicates things. If she's good, she good be a hot commodity among small music departments. But it is definitely harder to find a good harp teacher than a good piano or violin teacher.
But in addition to making sure that the private instruction will be good (in the case of harp, making sure it will be available at all), do look carefully at the number and breadth of music courses offered, and at the backgrounds of the theory and history faculty. Often audio clips of the student performing ensembles are available on the websites-- that's a good way to hear for yourself whether or not a given school has ensembles your daughter would want to be in.</p>

<p>You definitely want to look for access to a harp teacher. You also want to find schools that have decent orchestras. Not all liberal arts school have orchestra available for students. She may also have to understand that she may not get everything that she wants. She is going to have to prioritize what is most important to her. For example, she may find a school that she likes but hates the location, or one that has a good harp teacher and good academics but is not the social atmosphere she wants.</p>

<p>I know you were not asking about schools. And I have no idea about the harp programs at either of these schools, but I have 2 you might want to look at. Lawrence University in Appleton, WI has a seperate conservatory but has many students who participate in the conservatory who are not music majors. They also have one of the easiest program for allowing folks to do both a performance degree and a liberal arts degree. (However, it is still a 5 year program I think.) The other school that is very strong in music and strong in liberal arts is St. Olaf. The have an excellent orchestra and require all orchestra members to be taking private lessons. They also have merit awards for musicians and you don't have to be a music major to get one, just good on you instrument. I would imagine a good harpist would be in demand in many places. Anyway, just some thoughts. I am sure there are other schools worth looking at as well.</p>

<p>My d wants to do the same as yours. However, it is much easier finding a school with a decent flute teacher than a harp teacher. I'm by no means an expert, but here are a few suggestions.
Other schools to look at are Oberlin and College of Wooster. Peabody has a great website about majoring in music, applicable to anyone interested in majoring in music, not just at Peabody. Search the forum also for info.</p>

<p>Question to ask of every school you consider: is it possible to double major in music and a liberal art major? We found that the larger schools (also the ones most likely to want/need a harpist) are less likely to allow double majors. And if they do allow it, the competition in the music program may make it difficult to find time to pursue a second major. Smaller schools are more flexible, because they need participation from the general student body in order to seat an orchestra in the first place.</p>

<p>When we toured schools, my d would tell them what pieces she played in contests, and where she ranked in our region. Then she asked how she compared to their average freshman and/or music major. I would watch the interviewer if I was in the room, and observe their reaction (we eliminated one school when his eyebrows shot up, and he said wow-none of our freshman can play that!) Also ask what pieces the orchestra's played in recent years and have your d's orchestra director or private teacher evaluate their repertoire. Ask how many all-state musicians are in their orchestra. Ask for a lesson with the harp teacher. Ask about opportunites to play in the community outside the school.</p>

<p>You may have to adjust your priorities in the end. Does she plan on a career in music or does she just want to further her musical education and continue to play? If the second major is important to her, she may have to settle for a slighter lower caliber music program.</p>

<p>I recommend that you call Delaine Fedson (harp instructor) at the University of TX-Austin (<a href=""&gt;;/a>. She seems to have the kind of experience and connections (LAC also) that would give her insight into programs of varying sizes around the country, and would probably be happy to share her knowledge. Teachers who have studied in several places and who teach, lecture, and/or perform at national conferences have over the years become familiar with other teachers and the music programs/departments at schools of varying sizes across the country. </p>

<p>Have you looked at <a href=""&gt;;/a> There may be a few threads there about teachers and schools. The American Harp Society also has a website, but I don't think it has a forum.</p>

<p>I encourage you to make a phone call (or two) and see if you can get some specific suggestions from very knowledgeable folk. Once you make a list of schools with good teachers, then you can focus on the rest of the items one at a time: the music program (performance opportunities with orchestra, etc.), caliber of liberal arts education, social & political atmosphere, merit aid, etc. </p>

<p>If she has a good teacher then half the battle is won, but because her instrument is harp, if she is unhappy with the teacher, she'll have to change schools in order to change teachers. Hopefully she'll find both a teacher and a place that she can feel at home with. Good luck!</p>

<p>You could have her call the orchestra director at schools in which she is interested, ask if they currently have a harpist in school there, ask with whom a harpist would study, etc. If she has her own instrument, and they do not, that would be a plus. If it is a competitive school and they have not harpists, she has a real advantage. Some schools do have someone available, though not a regular part of their faculty, someone on the faculty at another school, but who lives close enough to teach any majors who matriculate. Foglikely seems to have give you some excellent resources to investigate. Good luck.</p>

<p>DD did the same for each college to which she applied. She is an oboe/English horn player who wants to continue playing, but does not want to major in music (may minor though). She got a variety of school does not have an oboe teacher on their faculty BUT if DD matriculates there, they will hire someone to give her lessons. Another school said she can take lessons at no added cost as long as she continues to be in an ensemble. They both have the need for an oboe player in their orchestras next year. DD sent emails to the music department chairs at each school. They sent her contact info for orchestra directors and/or teachers. She will meet them all when she goes for accepted student overnights in April.</p>

<p>Dear lgreen-don't know where you live or where your daughter wants to end up but. University of Redlands (CA) does have a harpist student. I think she is a senior this year. I asked son and she does have a professor. Redlands is usually very good with merit aid.</p>

<p>To the OP - does your daughter favor either the Salzedo or Grandjany method? There are strong proponents of both methods who would only consider teaching or studying with someone of the same persuasion. Of course there are others who are not such purists and take what they find useful from both methods. You need to find out which camp your daughter is in and then find a sympathetic teacher. If possible, take a sample lesson with the teacher before deciding on any school.</p>

<p>To cal0302 - while it may be easier to find a decent teacher for flute than harp, there will be about thirty times as many students looking for flute lessons. The flute teacher at Oberlin is Michel Debost, who is one of the reigning gods in the flute world. The competition to get into his studio is pretty fierce. Congratulations to your daughter if she has a shot at a teacher that good.</p>

<p>As you point out, it is important to find out whether the double major is possible. You need to do this at the level of the individual teachers involved rather than ask the school admissions people. I know that, at Oberlin for example, some teachers are very flexible about scheduling around the needs of their double degree students and others highly discourage their students from participating in it.</p>

As I mentioned in my other post, it might be necessary to adjust priorities, which is what my d did. Her first choice now is a great LAC where double majors are encouraged, there are many all-state players in the band and orchestra, the ensembles play challenging pieces, and the director is very well liked. It's not Peabody or Julliard, but the school is everything she was looking for in all other respects. She recognizes that she will never be a professional musician, but she would like to have a career in something else, so the other "major" has to take priority in school choice. She will still have the opportunity to play and learn music in a college setting. I think she would be happy and challenged there, both in academics and music.
To clarify about double majors, we did ask individual teachers or department heads about double majors- we sometimes had conflicting answers from adcoms.
She didn't apply to Oberlin, because she wasn't interested in what she considered a "conservatory" setting. Although she is very talented, she would have probably been a small fish in their pond.</p>

She may also have to understand that she may not get everything that she wants. She is going to have to prioritize what is most important to her.

I agree. She hasn't found a single school that has <em>all</em> the attributes she wants, so now she has to decide where she's willing to compromise.</p>

If she has her own instrument, and they do not, that would be a plus. If it is a competitive school and they have no harpists, she has a real advantage.

Yes, she has her own harp, and she has competitive credentials on the academic side as well. </p>

One school does not have an oboe teacher on their faculty BUT if DD matriculates there, they will hire someone to give her lessons.

One school has told dd they're interested in starting a harp program and would get a teacher for her. They've even named the harp teacher and listed her credentials. We don't know whether this would be good or bad.</p>

Does your daughter favor either the Salzedo or Grandjany method?

I guess she's open to either method. Her current teacher is Salzedo (studied with Lucile Lawrence). This teacher doesn't reject the Grandjany method, though -- she just says it's different and would require some adjustment. One college on dd's list is definitely Grandjany -- the teacher studied with Marcel Grandjany himself. DD met with this teacher about a year ago and they seemed to hit it off well, although they didn't do a trial lesson. She listened to a recording of the Grandjany teacher and immediately wanted to learn several of the pieces. The recording struck me as softer and more romantic than the bold Salzedo style, but that may have been simply the choice of songs and the individual performer's style.</p>

She didn't apply to Oberlin, because she wasn't interested in what she considered a "conservatory" setting. Although she is very talented, she would have probably been a small fish in their pond.

My dd fears that in the large music programs she might not get enough performance opportunities, since an orchestra typically will use only one or two harps. She likes the idea of being the only harpist on campus, or one of just a handful, so that she can get <em>all</em> the performance opportunities. I tell her that the schools with several harp students must be attracting those students for a reason, and perhaps it's because those schools provide a strong education in harp performance. </p>

<p>At most of the schools on her current list, she would be one of just two or three harpists, or perhaps even the only one. One school that ranks very high on her list, though, has a larger harp program with maybe a dozen students. It undoubtedly has the best music reputation of all the schools she's considering, and she loves the teacher.</p>

<p>Oberlin isn't on her list, either. She would much prefer a politically and socially conservative atmosphere, and our understanding of Oberlin (though we haven't visited) is that it's on the opposite end of that spectrum.</p>

If she has a good teacher then half the battle is won, but because her instrument is harp, if she is unhappy with the teacher, she'll have to change schools in order to change teachers.

Someone on these forums recommended choosing the teacher first, and choosing someone you'd be willing to follow if that teacher decided to change schools. I mentioned this concept to dd, and she immediately chose her current teacher, with whom she has a wonderful relationship. DD was ready to forget about all other applications and apply to only the two schools where this teacher is on staff -- one a reach/match and the other a safety. We had sudden visions of a much more relaxed senior year with only two auditions to schedule, only two campus visits to make, only two application deadlines to meet. The idea of only two applications seems risky, but it might work in this case since one of the two is truly a safety -- an in-state public where she can get a full-ride scholarship based on her academics.</p>

<p>Then she got a recruiting phone call last night from one of the other schools on her list, and she began remembering the reasons she liked that school as well.</p>

<p>She has met briefly with the harp teachers at two or three of her potential schools. I understand how a trial lesson can <em>rule out</em> a teacher that the student immediately dislikes, but it doesn't seem reasonable for a student to decide that this teacher is <em>the one,</em> the teacher she's willing to follow for the next several years, based on a meeting of an hour or two. How can these brief encounters compare with the relationship she's built up with her current teacher over several years?</p>

<p>Southern Methodist has excellent music school, and they are very generous with merit money. It is a more conservative political environment. They are VERY cooperative about double majors there. They used to have a program where if a student presented with certain test scores, they would give them a number of credits, which makes it very possible to do degrees in two different colleges in four years. Good luck.</p>

<p>When considering performance opportunities, you need to look not only at the number of other harpists on campus but also at the number of ensembles that include harpists. If the school has three orchestras, it obviously needs more harps than a school that only has one.</p>

<p>When deciding whether or not to stay with the current teacher, there are a couple of different schools of thought to consider. One says that it is a good idea to change teachers every four or five years to gain new perspectives and keep the student/teacher relationship from getting too comfortable. The other says that there are benefits from having a longer-term association with a particularly good teacher and that one should not switch teachers as long as you feel you are getting what you need in terms of technique, coaching and mentoring. There are people who I highly respect on each side of this debate and, not knowing the particulars of this case, I'm not lobbying one way or the other.</p>

<p>I would be careful about thinking of that state school as a safety unless your daughter is pretty definitely the best on her instrument in the state this year (and that is hard to know even in the relatively small world of harpists.) Students are increasingly wise to the bargains that can exist with the same teacher working at both a more prestigious and expensive private school and at an in-state public. Here in New Jersey, schools like Montclair State and William Paterson have teachers who are also on faculty at schools like Mannes and Manhattan School of Music. As a result, their music programs are better and more competitive than many would expect. If the in-state program you mentioned only needs one new harp this year, there could be serious competition for that spot even though your daughter would be a shoo-in academically.</p>

<p>Oberlin does put the liberal in liberal arts. They have great programs both in the college and conservatory, but they are not everyone's cup of tea. If you have the opportunity to swing by on the way to another visit, you might want to stop for an hour or two to see the place yourself. I enjoyed the conservatory tour there.</p>

<p>I agree that it is often easier to rule out a teacher based on short exposure than it is to decide on a long-term commitment. However, knowing who to rule out is very valuable information, so don't put off sample lessons on that account. At some point, you have to stop all the analysis and trust your instincts which can only be informed by first-hand experience.</p>

<p>I also agree that it is difficult to know that someone is "the one" after meeting one or 2 times. However, that meeting along with information gathered from others about their reputation as a teacher and performer can give you a pretty good idea about whether it will be a good match. I also think there is benefit to changing teachers after 4 or 5 years. My feeling is that it helps to expose students to other techniques and ways of looking at things.</p>