Music as a non-major
I'm about to be a senior in high school and I've been looking at what colleges I want to attend next year. For various reasons I've decided I don't want to major in music, but I do want to continue to study music somehow in college. So, I'm curious what advice any of you might have: What were your experiences with music as a non-major in college? What schools have a reputation for good music opportunities for non-majors? Is it "worth it" to minor in music?
Any and all advice is welcome and greatly appreciated :)
(For reference: I'm a violist currently working on the Bartok concerto, I'm looking mostly at liberal arts colleges, and I have a 35 ACT.)
Minors in music may be heavier on music theory and music history and lighter on the applied music (lessons) than you might like. If what you're really interested in is continuing to take lessons and play in orchestra, I'm not sure a minor is what you want.
When I was attending University I was taking a major in Chemistry but luckily I passed my music entrance examination and audition so I was allowed to take a minor in music. However the instrumental part was on my own but I was allowed to pick any theoretical subjects the University had to offer. During that time I played for the University orchestra as well as the local youth orchestra. It was quite challenging trying to navigate between Science subjects and music for few years but I did it and on my University transcript it was indicated my minor was Music. I never felt regret at all. Do I want to do it if I get a chance to turn back the clock? The answer is probably not.
As a computer science major in college, I still took the opportunity to play with my school's wind ensemble and orchestra when I was able to. I also took the Music Department's music history courses to fulfill my general education requirements.
At Mary Ellen's request I will "chime in." At the Baylor University School of Music we have just instituted a Secondary Major in Music. This degree makes it possible for advanced players to continue their interest in music performance while pursuing another career path. This degree is differentiated from a double major in that the academic requirements (music theory, music history, etc.) are substantially reduced. It is also different from a music minor in which the primary emphasis is on academic music classes as Mary Ellen mentioned.
It may not even be necessary to be a music minor, thus avoiding the music department's academic requirements. It is not uncommon to find a private teacher who is within a commuting distance of your school or even find a University that has a relationship with a conservatory. I had friends who commuted to NYC for lessons with Galamian, while maintaining their academic roots in a liberal arts college. Here's someone who majored in political science, and continues to do well as a violist. https://paw.princeton.edu/article/going-solo. There are so many creative ways to keep your musical goals alive, while expanding your worldliness with a liberal arts education.
Experiences vary depending on the school. One advantage of a minor is that you'll get connected to lessons and classes more easily. At some schools, those resources are scarce. Also when researching, ask who the viola teachers on faculty are. Chances are, there's only one at the school. If you want to study with another teacher off-campus, the minor might not allow that.
Baylor's program is a magnificent idea.
Something to keep in mind is that some of the best teachers in the vicinity of a university might not actually be professors there. Often places that have smaller or less recognized music programs will be more welcoming toward non-majors playing in ensembles. On the other hand, you may need to have the minor or major to take the music theory / music history courses, or to use practice rooms.
A few schools will have the Minor in Music Performance, with an emphasis on lessons and ensembles, and less theory and history requirements. The Calif. systems do not have it. I am sure there are a lot of students like the O.P., pianists, singers, and orchestral instruments, with intermediate to advanced skills, that want to do music in college and for the rest of their lives, but, (wisely) do not major in music. If I would do it all over again, I think I should have majored in chemistry and minored in music, instead of the other way around. I worked as a lab. tech. most of my life , with only the lower-division science courses. jq
I know that the University of Georgia allows non-music majors to enroll in lessons just as they would another elective. You don't have to minor or double in music. You can also be a member of the Philharmonic orchestra.
As is my wont, I'll put in a good word for Princeton/Harvard/Stanford. Princeton has a decent orchestra and used to have a solid chamber music program. Their performance certificate entitles you to free lessons within the department and the music culture on campus is strong. Harvard has half a dozen orchestras, as well as operas, G&S, and musical theater programs. Proximity to Longy and other schools of music means good teachers available. Finally, Stanford has a great orchestra with a new conductor who is supposed to be amazing...but what really makes them stand out is their chamber music program, overseen by the phenomenal St Lawrence quartet. The St Lawrence also teach there. I think as long as you can talk lessons and participate in either a good orchestra or chamber music program, you'll continue to improve. A story for inspiration: my brother-in-law started Harvard with a shaky Mendelssohn. He practiced diligently and took lessons throughout undergrad and grad school (while majoring in physics) and finished grad school playing Tchaikovsky, really well, and being embedded in the inner circle of the music community at Stanford. He has achieved a level of proficiency that I'd only dreamed of, and made most of that progress while studying other things intensely. It's possible!
Harvard dual degree with New England Conservatory: https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-process/dual-degree-music-programs
Stan, she said she does not want to be a music major. Why would she want a degree from NEC? It is a good program, but not for Octavia.
Sorry Helen, response was to Katie describing her brother in law's experience at Harvard. (Difficult to indicate as such without quoting or indenting replies.) A family friend with a musically gifted high schooler was thinking about applying there last year and we found out about this program.
Okay Stan. Thanks!
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