Edited: February 12, 2021, 11:24 AM · Hello,

Does anybody here know anything about or have experience with the music school at the University of Maryland, College Park?
How does it compare to conservatories in the United States?

It is still quite early for me to be thinking about college, but I am curious. I think that I want to pursue a double degree if possible, (a BM in piano performance and something else, probably mathematics-related).

I know that this is a violin forum, but I thought that some of you might have information.

Thank you!

Replies (20)

Edited: February 12, 2021, 11:22 AM · I don't know about that program specifically. University of Maryland is a large, comprehensive, state-funded university that probably has a sizeable music department. The only name I recognized immediately among their violin professors is David Salness, who was formerly a violinist with the Audubon Quartet, which operated out of the town where I live (Blacksburg VA). Looking at their violin audition requirements, I see that they require a concerto movement (not otherwise specified -- so presumably Mozart is okay or even Haydn), a movement of solo Bach, and an etude or salon piece. From this description, I infer that their entrance threshold is not at the same level as the better-known conservatories such as Curtis, Peabody, Juilliard, Jacobs, Northwestern, Thornton, etc.
February 12, 2021, 12:09 PM · Since you said "math-related," I'd like to encourage you to consider Virginia Tech, which is where I teach. I teach chemistry. We have really good piano teachers here, I've met them all because I'm a pianist too. Our music department also does a lot with electronic music, which might interest you if you are into computers. Plus, we have a really cool undergraduate degree program that might interest you, called "Computational Modeling and Data Analytics" (CMDA) which is blend of math, comp sci, and stats. Our CMDA seniors often do very well in the top-level modeling competitions. There are a lot of international students in the program, and there's a really strong sense of community among the students.

The math department also has some applied-math options, I believe. Blacksburg is 450 km southwest of Washington.

Edited: February 13, 2021, 8:06 AM · UMD is a credible music school, much better than it was when I was looking at colleges 40+ years ago. One of my colleagues did her undergrad in violin there and went on to Rice for her MM. But you really need to look at who the individual teachers are.

At this stage, I would suggest looking at a wide range of schools including but not limited to UMD. Sometimes a private or (less often) an out-of-state school can offer enough scholarship money to be competitive with in-state public. The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University offers a BS in music with an additional concentration in another field; Oberlin of course offers a double degree program (BM/BA). Both of these schools can be generous with scholarships (particularly IU). Closer to home, Peabody is associated with Johns Hopkins.

Edited: February 13, 2021, 9:16 AM · You might not get a "full ride" to one of the schools Mary Ellen mentioned, but what you really need is a scholarship that will bring it into the same ballpark as your in-state school, which is already a fairly hefty award. My gut tells me that the private colleges are hurting right now and will not be especially generous with financial aid. Normally I would advise against taking out large loans for music college, but if you can find a place where you can get a serious music education AND a degree in some area of applied math, then you'll have a secure basis for repaying your loans. With a double major like that, having a job during college to help pay the bills is going to cut into your academic performance big-time.
Edited: February 13, 2021, 10:07 AM · Thank you for your input, Mr. Paul Deck and Mrs. Mary Ellen Goree! I am not fully assured that I will pursue music/math yet, but I will look at the schools that have been mentioned.

What is a BS in music, and how does it differ from a BM or BA?

For those of you that have done a dual degree or double major, did you find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a high level in both areas?

Edited: February 13, 2021, 11:19 AM · I double majored in 2 sciences and finished in 5 years, going to summer school for some of my core curriculum courses such as anthropology and geography (we had a core curriculum of a class in every subject and I had trouble finding a laboratory science that wasn't part of my majors and ended up taking meteorology). There was also a writing component to each class. For example in a chemistry class I was given a paper without an abstract and was instructed to write an abstract. I graduated summa cum laude but I had considered myself a full time student and worked at the school work for about 40 hours a week. Due to cognate requirements I was short just one class each of a double minor in math and physics.

By the way, I took class piano I for my studio art core.

Edited: February 13, 2021, 12:31 PM · The BS in music at IU indicates a less intense focus on music than one would get with a BM in performance.

I did not maintain an equally high level in both of my majors. My heart was in violin performance. I got the math degree as a safety net and because it eased my parents’ minds and made them happy. I was basically a B+ student in math, not because I couldn’t have done better, but because it was just not that high on my priority list. I do know of other people who excelled in both.

I agree with Paul that it is really really hard to do well in a double degree, even a double major program, if you also need to work while you are a student. Start looking now for private scholarships for which you might qualify - there are books and websites out that catalog those. And do as much preparation as you can for the PSAT. Your junior year PSAT score can qualify you as a National Merit semi finalist if you score high enough. My oldest was a National Merit Scholar and got a huge scholarship from the University of Oklahoma. His four years there cost us less than half as much as our younger son’s four years at the University of Texas – Austin, which was in state public for us.

Edited: February 13, 2021, 12:56 PM · There are also specialized scholarships available from some schools, to just make one up for an example, for children of firefighters.

My school waived tuition if you were on the dean's list so if you could pay for the first semester and got on the dean's list then it was a lot easier.

Edited: February 13, 2021, 9:31 PM · I majored in chemistry and I had minors in math and physics. I started college as a pre-med but learned that I hated biology (despite winning an award for it), and I decided that I didn't have the right personality to be a physician. But fortunately I really loved organic chemistry and thought I could make a career in that, which I did.

I wanted to do physics as a double major, and I was only a couple of classes short of that, but one of those classes was "advanced lab" which was widely reputed to be enormously time-consuming, and I wanted time to study for the GRE exams and for music. So, no double-major for me.

I was lucky to have a National Merit Scholarship in college. They are much harder to get now. My daughter did not get one, and she was a much more diligent and accomplished high school student than I ever was. I never considered a fifth year in college. In those days that was much less common. During the summers I worked as a lab tech, for excellent wages, because my dad had connections in the Detroit-area chemical industry.

All my music-making in college was on the piano. I had a little scholarship to play in the jazz ensemble and I worked for the music department as an accompanist for lessons and recitals at approximately twice the minimum wage. All my charges were voice students. Accompanying voice students in college is dead easy because most of them are beginners -- their instrument having only existed for a year or two prior. My parents paid all tuition and room-and-board for myself and my two brothers to attend private colleges. They accomplished this by saving ruthlessly and investing wisely. However, that was also the 1980s -- before educational costs started to spiral out of control. Unless one is coming from a very wealthy family, these days the choice of college will always be influenced by costs, scholarship, and so forth.

February 14, 2021, 12:05 PM · UMD College Park is an excellent state university. The three violin profs are James Stern, David Salness, and Irina Muresanu. Salness and Muresanu have good reputations but I don't know anyone personally who studied with them. I do know people who studied with James Stern back in his U of the Pacific days. (I know very little about the piano faculty there, though I have friends who got piano performance degrees there.)

The math program at UMD is outstanding. Computer science (a closely related discipline) is also quite good. Math is an extremely well-paid career these days if you go into quantitative finance.

I always question the value of a dual degree in music + an unrelated subject, unless the other subject is for backup purposes (as in Mary Ellen's case). A career as a pianist is quite difficult to achieve, and in my opinion, anyone who is going to pursue that ought to be good enough to get a full-ride scholarship at a top conservatory.

Pianists mostly make their living through teaching, where they compete with practically every other instrumental (and voice) teacher on the planet because almost every professional musician is forced by their training to learn to play the piano at a reasonable level of proficiency and many of them teach piano lessons in addition to whatever their "primary" instrument is.

If you're interested in being a mathematician, major in math (or a related discipline) at a school that has great piano profs that will accept nonmajor students. UMD offers a music performance minor that might suit your needs.

Edited: February 15, 2021, 3:22 PM · Thank you for your input, everyone!

"I always question the value of a dual degree in music + an unrelated subject, unless the other subject is for backup purposes."
Yes, I hope to study music with something else as a backup.

Edited: February 15, 2021, 4:01 PM · Your backup should be, in my opinion, something that has readily-accessible jobs that can be done part-time as a sideline to a music career, or as a flexible "day job".

Thus if you're math-inclined I think computer science is a better alternative to an applied math degree. Information systems. operations management, or quantitative (all in the business school) are similarly good choices for the math-minded, though you'd expect the related jobs to all be full-time.

One of the dangers of a double-major is that you're not necessarily putting enough time into either major to be outstanding in that major. That's not just time spent on coursework or on rehearsals/practicing but it also involves what you do with your summers. A summer spent at a music festival is a summer that you're not getting vital internship experience in your "backup" profession.

(Though to judge by my friends who went into quantitative finance, the better path there seems to be: study math, become a quant, retire in 10 years with plenty of money, start music career.)

February 15, 2021, 8:22 PM · My backup plan was to teach high school math. Plenty of those jobs available.
February 15, 2021, 10:45 PM · Out of curiosity, Mary Ellen, does that mean you would have preferred teaching high school math to teaching high school strings? (I think the two jobs pay similarly, or at least they used to; these days, AFAIK, some districts offer bonuses to math teachers.)
Edited: February 16, 2021, 9:30 AM · Yes, absolutely, if I were teaching high school, it would be math.

First, there is a huge gulf between a performance degree (which I have) and a music education degree, and it would require three or four semesters extra to become qualified to teach orchestra. I never took a conducting class, for example, or a string method class, not to mention winds, brass, or percussion (in Texas, the certificate is for instrumental music K-12 so all would be required—there is no strings only certificate).

Second, math teachers are in such short supply that if necessary, I could likely be in a classroom this fall on an emergency cert, and tidy up the relatively minimal requirements later.

Third, I would lose my mind trying to teach strings in a group setting, unable to fix things the way I do one-on-one.

February 16, 2021, 12:27 PM · I think I agree with Lydia, if you get some sort of math degree at a place like UMD or VT, also get a comp sci certificate. At NCSU (very similar school in my area, limited music though) it would be 6 classes in addition to things you already would have taken. I'd also add a database course if not included. In pretty much any major metropolitan area, after just a couple of years the salary will be six figures easily.
Edited: February 16, 2021, 12:42 PM · Lydia wrote, "I always question the value of a dual degree in music + an unrelated subject, unless the other subject is for backup purposes (as in Mary Ellen's case)," and "One of the dangers of a double-major is that you're not necessarily putting enough time into either major to be outstanding in that major. That's not just time spent on coursework or on rehearsals/practicing but it also involves what you do with your summers."

There is tremendous wisdom distilled into those statements. One of the things that is very different now from when I went to college is the level of competition that is out there, which I believe is much higher in every field. It's not enough any more to be "good" at what you do. You have to be fantastic.

But those are generalizations. The success or failure of your undergraduate program depends on you. It depends how smart, hard-working, forward-thinking, and organized you are. It depends on your ability to find help from classmates, friends, and professors when you need it -- so you have to be a "people person" and a "team player" too. And don't forget that as you are doing all of that you have to maintain your health and fitness too. Time must be saved for that.

February 16, 2021, 12:48 PM · You may want to consider taking summer courses if you are pursuing a double degree. I thought of that when watching a documentary on Michael Jordan. He took summer courses at UNC to complete his degree in Geography a year after he had turned professional.
Edited: February 16, 2021, 7:21 PM · Mary Ellen's answer is an interesting answer, indirectly, to the question of why people who get performance degrees but want a safety net don't necessarily considering getting a BME qualification"just in case". (I have to say that I, at least, cannot remember even a fraction of the math I took in college -- almost enough for a math minor -- or for that matter, much of what I learned in my undergrad years, period!)

To Stan's point: One of the advantages to getting an undergrad qualification in computer science is that these days, the salaries often start in the six figures, if you get a job at a good tech company. Then again, quantitative finance jobs generally pay at least twice that. (AFAIK, it's not unusual for a first-year to make $300k in salary + bonus.)

The disadvantage to doing courses in the summer is that you miss out on music festival and job internship opportunities, which you really shouldn't miss if you intend to build a competitive resume for your first job or for grad school.

Edited: February 17, 2021, 11:23 AM · Lydia, The disadvantage to a six figure salary is the overtime that is expected. The higher the salary the more of your personal life is owned by your employer. This is what "exempt employee" means.

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