Applying for college as a double major

January 28, 2012 at 08:53 PM · Wandering if anybody can provide some insight. My daughter is a high school junior and we are starting to look at colleges. She's been playing the violin for most of her life and even though she would like to pursue a music career we feel that a double degree would give her more choices later on. Since she also has a strong interest in sciences we are looking at schools with very strong academics and also music deprtments. Among the options we are considering are Columbia, Princeton, Johns Hopkins/ Peabody, Carnegie Mellon, Boston University, Bucknell, Rochester university/ Eastman, Bard College. So far we are geting ready to visit BU and are trying to get as much information as posible about the music environment there, teachers, studios, general campus atmosphere. We live around Philadelphia and my daughter likes the big city feel, also not being too far from home...hence limited options. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.

Replies (34)

January 28, 2012 at 11:35 PM ·

January 29, 2012 at 12:47 AM · When I went to Johns Hopkins/Peabody their dual degree program was not that well coordinated - I graduated 12 years ago so I imagine that it's better now, but bussing between the campuses is still a challenge, and Baltimore is not a very safe city, particularly at night-time. That said the teachers at Peabody and the academics at Hopkins are both very high quality.

January 30, 2012 at 03:34 PM · Thank you for the input. Anybody has any specific information about Boston University- teachers, campus life, double degrees there?

January 30, 2012 at 03:53 PM · It has a great location in downtown Boston. It is a good school in terms of traditional academics and music. I do not have anything specific about the music department. It is also a place with some merit money. Good luck!

January 30, 2012 at 04:39 PM ·

January 30, 2012 at 04:57 PM · Does NEC still have an affiliation with Tufts? I had a friend who went to NEC and was a double major in English at Tufts, back in the 80s.

January 30, 2012 at 06:11 PM · Is Montreal also an option? Its not that far. I know less of the music progrm though I know of outstanding graduates - but sciences are very strong. Do you know which science she is likely to be interested in?

January 30, 2012 at 11:38 PM · I would second the Eastman/U of Roch idea, I went there and while I was not a double major (though I took several classes at the main) we had Cello/Biochemistry double majors like it was going out of style, and all of them had a lot of good things to say about doing the dual program.

But Brian is right, the downtown area where the music school is located is an empty wasteland.

I can't speak to BU's campus, program, etc. but I have worked with David Hoose before, and he is AMAZING.

January 31, 2012 at 01:37 AM ·

January 31, 2012 at 05:49 AM · I think they have double degree with Tufts, a 5 year program for two degrees. I'm not sure, but I remember meeting people who did the program

However, they complained about the long bus rides between campuses

February 1, 2012 at 01:52 AM · Thank you all for the interesting facts and advice. We will also be looking at NEC when we visit Boston, they have dual degrees with both Harvard and Tufts. My concern is with the fact that one needs to get admitted to each school separately and coordinate courses and schedules plus the distance between campuses could be a problem. So we thought that getting into ONE school and working out the curicullum for two degress might be a little easier to handle. Anybody knows about Carnegie Mellon or NYU?

February 1, 2012 at 02:02 AM · Elise, thank you for the answer. My daughter set herself a limit of six hours driving from home. She would have made it a lot closer if it wasn't for Eastman/ U Rochester and BU, schools in which she is very interested. Her other interests are neurobiology and physics. She wants to do research regarding music and brain function, specially in dementia and autism patients. She got interested in this by doing volunteering/music programs at a nursing home and seeing how well patients there respond to music.

February 1, 2012 at 02:38 AM · Your daughter sounds like a remarkable person. Congratulations on that. I get the sense that you're aware of how well you've done raising her up (which is a good thing), and that you're prepared to trust her instincts and perceptions upon visiting several places. With the schools you've listed I don't think you can really go wrong. Honestly I hope to have your "problem" in several years time. :)

February 1, 2012 at 02:38 AM ·

February 1, 2012 at 04:05 PM · I have also attended CMU. They had an okay program when I was there. I found the private teachers/coaches most excellent, Cardenes, Forough, Toby Appel, Anne Martindale Williams, Jeff Turner, all amazing to work with. The eurhythmics program was also top notch, and I think should be required study in more conservatory programs. The audio engineering/recording classes were also very good. The rest of the program wasn't so hot. The theory dept. was a total travesty. They have about a 1/4 of the number of practice rooms they actually need for the size of the program, and that is endlessly frustrating. They've had some shifts in personnel in the past few years, and it looks as though the trend is going to continue.

February 2, 2012 at 03:41 AM · Hello,

Currently I'm a jr. in highschool as well and am also looking to dual degree in Viola performance and psychology. Over the time I've gathered a lot of info about dual degrees, so here's what i've learned:

Eastman/U of R: Most likely the best place for a dual degree student. Academics are amazing and the music is astounding. The do a program called "take five" where if you dual degree, you're fifth year tuition will be paid by the school (I'm fairly sure on that)

Oberlin: again, both college and music are great

NEC+Harvard or Tufts: this is a conjunction program. NEC is not PART of harvard or tufts, but is affiliated, allowing for students to major at the schools.

Northwestern of IL: Pending on the major, the school will allow dual degree!

Julliard + Columbia: I'm not sure if this is a dual degree program, or you're just allowed to take classes at Columbia while you're at Julliard.

Indiana University and Jacobs School of Music: Dual degree is allowed, but not too often. They have a similar program where the requirements are lowered on the two degrees and it's kinda like an "immersion program" where you just get to taste the majors.

Peabody+Johns Hopkins: Both very reputable schools

I think Rice and Shepard school of music allow for dual degrees, but I haven't looked deep enough. I'm interested in hearing other people's opinion on other schools, or personal opinions on the programs.



February 2, 2012 at 03:42 AM · Sorry forgot Cleveland institute of Music and Case Western Reserve!

February 2, 2012 at 03:53 AM ·

February 2, 2012 at 04:19 AM · Brian: I'm trying to get into the California Summer music festival specifically to be taught from her. University of Rochester is my dream school and I would do anything to get into it!! My grades seem fairly rock solid and I THINK i can get into the university. I just hope that I can get into Eastman!! Any tips?

February 2, 2012 at 02:54 PM ·

February 2, 2012 at 05:26 PM · Thank you all for responses. We also looked at Columbia/ Juilliard. Columbia doesn't have a performance major, but if you get accepted into the joint program you basically get an undergraduate academic degree from Columbia and a master in violin performance from Juilliard, completing five years of school.. For us Columbia would be within reach, but Julliard seems a bit high. This program requires individual admission at each school. Separate tuitions too. The last 1.5 years would be at Juilliard. My daughter worked with Mr. Castelman at the Quartet Program last summer. She loved it and plans to go back for 7 weeks this summer. There were lots of happy Eastman students in the program and that is why she is considering the school strongly. Academically we have no concerns, she has excellent test scores and GPA, but I know Eastman is very competitive. So is Peabody....That's why we decided to also consider Boston, NYU, Carnegie Mellon.

February 2, 2012 at 05:28 PM · Paul, thank you for the nice comments. Yes, she is a wonderful young woman and we are very proud to be her parents.

February 2, 2012 at 08:06 PM · Hello,

Columbia is reasonable for financial aid (all need-based, so you know, as per Ivy League policy), based on what I hear from my fellow students (I go to Columbia, am not part of the exchange, and am placed out of financial aid by my parents' incomes). There is a $5000 or so per year lesson fee for the Juilliard students that is sometimes covered by merit scholarship given to them when they are admitted to Juilliard (I'm not entirely sure about the details though).

Academically, the BCJ kids are full-time Columbia students who still manage to make 4+ish hours a day to practice and go to Juilliard for lessons and chamber coachings(and sometimes orchestra, though most often not until they are full-time Juilliard students). Many of the students, unsurprisingly, are stupendously good at managing time and manage to do multiple majors/concentrations or graduate early, but she shouldn't feel intimidated if that happens not to be quite the case with her. Practice space at Columbia is somewhat limited during the day, so she'll practice in her room during the day (usually not a problem since most students are in class), chance it with the fewer than 15 practice rooms we have over the entire campus, or will have to wait till after classes end (~9 or 10pm)to practice in the music building.

Like I said, I'm not in the exchange, but I'm friends with several of the members, so if you have specific questions, I can help glean information.


February 3, 2012 at 12:34 AM · Oberlin has been great in that the campus is so small you really can devote your time to study and practicing, but like any other double degree the requirements are strenuous. The broad general education requirements are much easier to fulfill than they would have been if they were all specific. The only difficulty introduced by the double degree (for me as a science major) is that no music course counts as humanities unless you have completed the entire conservatory requirement first.

I think Bard has now quite an impressive double program as well now. It may have some advantage over others as I think the college major is actually required of all conservatory students meaning it's built into the major unlike at most schools where the burden of dealing with two very different requirements falls entirely on you.

March 8, 2012 at 12:21 AM · We have a son (HS senior) who plans to dual major, and has looked at/applied to some of the same schools being discussed.

First, if a conservatory (integrated or affiliated) are involved, your daughter needs to have serious discussions with the prospective professors whose studio she would apply to. Not every one of them will be supportive of a dual major, and slots in the top studios are rare resources. You can understand that the professors who have those studios want to allocate them to students who will make the best use of their time. A dual-major automatically raises a question, especially if it's in the natural sciences, i.e., something that may be very time consuming, have inflexible lab hours that conflict with equally inflexible orchestra/chamber/studio schedules, etc. Scheduling tends to only get worse as you get into upper level courses because they may only get offered once/year. What happens if a required course for graduation in both degrees has a conflict?

With that said, there are schools that have dual degree programs. Last year (Spring break week), we met with students in the Tufts-NEC program. They conceded the travel time is significant, and largely unproductive, but they seemed to think it was worth it. (We met one of the students again last summer at Heifetz, and he was doing well, obviously, and planning to continue.)

Schools that have integrated conservatories are going to be easiest on time and likely have more students who attempt that path. But, to repeat myself, the studio professor needs to be supportive, even of that. Some schools will require you to wait until the 2nd year before declaring a 2nd major, too, so find out how that works at each school you visit or are interested in. A school that accepts AP credit can be a big help if you want to minimize some of the scheduling conflicts, e.g., by being able to skip a lot of the freshman courses in the 2nd major, and maybe keep your costs down by finishing earlier.

FWIW, the Harvard-NEC program (5yr BA + MM) is really designed more for people who, frankly, don't need a BM, i.e., someone who may already be on the verge (or in the middle) of a performance career. That's why they state clearly that you can get accepted to both schools and not get into the dual program. I suspect Columbia-Julliard is similar (not on our list).

Finally, there are people who attend a university and don't major in music, but keep their interest and skills growing. (The Harvard-NEC program was, apparently, designed for those kinds of students, like Yo-Yo Ma, et al.) Just this past year, the young woman who won the Houston Symphony young artist competition is a Columbia-only student, and we've heard of many other high-performing student-musicians that are not performance majors. It may be something to consider.

Good luck!

March 8, 2012 at 08:03 AM · Cyrus Forough is indeed planning to leave. He wasn't a stellar teacher, though (he taught at the conservatory I took lessons at when I was a pre-teen).

If your daughter's definitely going for violin performance as a career, then I'd recommend Jacobs in Indiana. Northwestern does have a music program but most of its graduates only perform locally, and hardly anyone gets into CSO from there. Columbia/Julliard is a tough program, not because of Columbia's academic rigour but because of Julliard, not to mention I don't recall any pedagogues being there at the moment.

One way to know is to listen to the university orchestras. Most have websites or some form of digital media upload.

Good luck!

March 8, 2012 at 01:00 PM · I agree that IU Jacobs would be a good place to check out. I'm not sure what the poster above me meant in terms of there not being pedagogues at Juilliard/Columbia. As for the J/C program, what happens it that you are a Columbia student who takes lessons at Juilliard, with an option to do ensembles, although it is hard to schedule. You have to re-auition for the 5th year, a Master's program.

March 8, 2012 at 01:21 PM · [deleted]

March 9, 2012 at 03:15 PM · I don't know if I can be of any help selecting a school, as I am Canadian and did my double degree at the University of Toronto. But, yes, the idea of a double can be very useful. I did music and modern languages, and currently own both a translation business and a violin studio. Curiously enough, I got the idea from my violin teacher while still at Conservatory (prior to university); she told me about one of her other students who had gone the very route I eventually opted for myself. Of course, if your daughter wants to try life north of the border for a few years, we do have some advantages up here! Good luck to her in her studies.

April 16, 2012 at 03:47 AM · As Professor Forough's studio assistant, I can assure you that he will be staying at Carnegie Mellon, and is quite happy to be doing so. On a more personal note, as someone who was actually a student at Eastman during Professor Forough's two semesters there (for Kopelman and Krysa) I did not get the impression that Forough was disliked at all. In fact, judging from the number of Eastman undergrads who have gone on to apply to/enroll in Carnegie Mellon for grad school, I would say that he was actually quite well received.

April 16, 2012 at 05:02 AM ·

April 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM · Brian, on behalf of everyone here I'm hoping you'll tell us some of those stories. The more scandalous and salacious, the better, of course.

April 16, 2012 at 10:36 PM ·

May 7, 2012 at 11:57 PM · Hi,

I pursued and earned two degrees simultaneously. One was a Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Music Education (with a speciality in violin), the other a Bachelor of Science with a major in Mathematics. I intentionally wanted an Arts degree and a Science degree. It took five years combined for both degrees, and I would do it all over again if I had the choice.

The key for me was that the university I attended (Western Michigan) had a music school that I found simply outstanding (especially the orchestra conductor - Herbert Butler), and a math program that was the envy of the world in certain specialities (such as graph theory). WMU allowed a person to earn two simultaneous degrees if they successfully completed an additional 30 semester hours for a total of 152 hours, and that's what I was going to earn anyway, so I applied for and earned the two degrees at the same time. I always thought that any university would do that, but apparently WMU's philosophy is not as universal as I expected.

Of course it was a ton of work. I was on the university math competition team, and in the university orchestra, I was a math tutor and working on audition material in private lessons. You get the drift. Tons and tons of work. Anyone who says it can not be done hasn't done it. Anyone who says it sacrifices one (or both) just didn't have the drive to do it. If you (or your children) really want it, you'll move heaven and earth do do it. I was unbelievably fortunate to have the support of both departments, lots of cross-fertilization (such as working with a music history professor to come up with a mathematical model of the entrances in The Well Tempered Klavier), and I'd do it all again if I had a fair chance. If the person I am now could talk to the person I was at 17 or 18, I'd say follow the same path - it's incredibly difficult, but shapes a person in the most amazing ways, and has allowed me to make contributions to others that would have otherwise been impossible.

Russ Conte

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