Respected / Quality Christian Conservatories?

August 16, 2023, 8:20 AM · I'm looking at conservatories for next fall, and would like to attend a Christian school if possible. However - I want to make sure that the school I choose to attend has a legitimately high quality music program and is respected / has prestige among the music world.

My teachers want me to apply for IU, Cleveland, McDuffie, etc. - but a Christian school would align with my values, and this is as important to me as the music program quality is. As far as my level goes, I just performed the Carmen Fantasy (1st-3rd movement only) and just started the Tchaikovsky concerto.

Some specific schools I found were:
Baylor University
Texas Christian University

Any insight on how these school's music programs are and / or any suggestions on other Christian conservatories to consider?

Thank you!

Replies (90)

August 16, 2023, 9:19 AM · So you will probably have to decide: ideology or quality.
August 16, 2023, 9:36 AM · Don't want to learn the Devil's trill, huh?
Edited: August 16, 2023, 9:54 AM · I agree with Stephan, I think you are going to have to decide between quality and ideology. Baylor and TCU have solid music programs but are certainly not at the level of IU or CIM. Furthermore, Baylor and TCU are large universities and have all the variety of students on campus that you will find at pretty much any large school. They aren’t shelters. And you can find Christian students at any major music school in the US, including Juilliard (scroll down to see information about the Juilliard Christian Fellowship)

Incidentally, the McDuffie Center for Strings is located at Mercer University, which has a historic Baptist affiliation.

What is your goal with regard to playing the violin?

Editing to add a link you may find of interest:

August 16, 2023, 10:01 AM · Instead of being so limited in the schools considered, based on religious affiliation, I wonder if you could instead identify candidate schools by the actual music programs and then research what christian communities can be found on or near their campus? Also, although you would first need a bachelor's degree, so thinking more long term...the Institute for Sacred Music at Yale might be a mid-range goal.
August 16, 2023, 11:50 AM · I think your teachers' advice is solid. I can understand wanting to go to a school where I was confident that most/all the people around me shared my values (I mean, we all do this to some regard – very natural human trait). But I think Mary Ellen is right when she says that you'll find variety anywhere (lots of people's parents make them go to Christian schools, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee true adherence once they're there – and I knew plenty of extremely devout Christians at my small, secular university. They found each other and stuck together.) Plus, if you really want to pursue music out of the context of church, at some point you're going to need to take the plunge and figure out how to navigate the increasingly secular world. It's hard enough to be a professional violinist without adding additional constraints, right?
August 16, 2023, 12:01 PM · Reading these replies with interest, some great advice but I think they skirt round the question "why is this segregation so important to you?". The obvious reason is that you want to hang around with people that share your values. And as Katie said, that is rather natural and we all do it (though perhaps the world would be a better place if we did the opposite ;) ).
The other possibility, however, needs to at least be asked: is it so that you don't have to associate with groups that have different - or even antagonistic values? This may seem a bit like two sides of the same coin but the driving force is important and may help you make good career choices at this time.
August 16, 2023, 12:17 PM · Being more sympathetic to Emma, it may be that she is 18 and is about to leave her local community for the first time in her life and finds it a scary proposition, so she seeks a similar community away from home. This is understandable, although, as others have pointed out, it won't be as bad as Emma thinks.
I remember when I was looking at university prospectuses for London colleges, I was most interested in the size of the halls of residence, to the amusement of my head of studies.
Edited: August 16, 2023, 12:41 PM · I have an odd angle on this issue, which does deal with the question "why is this segregation so important to you?". I taught a world music course for decades--a general education course for all students at the university where I taught. Eventually, a visiting accreditation team told the department that they needed to provide world music curriculum to the music majors, and so I began teaching world music to music majors.

I was not prepared for the backlash. Since most of my colleagues were very conservative and mostly ignorant of music outside the European classical tradition, they were supportive of students who began complaining that learning about other religious musical traditions upset their delicate sensibilities. When I showed Yoruba priests becoming egungun (ancestors) and communicating to the living through dance, students actually complained that I was promoting Satanic worship. I covered Sufism, Korean shamans, and Hindu devotional music, and they behaved as if I were showing pornography. Of course, since every religion makes use of music and other arts, it is impossible not to cover topics that conflict with Christian doctrine and provide the professional educational service for which I was contracted. Honestly, it was ridiculous, and I was embarrassed that my colleagues agreed with students on this, but they were not very well educated outside of their narrow focus on European classical music. In fact, they were comfortable in their bigotry.

When I was covering the extensive influence of Islam on European music, I actually had a student proclaim that Islam COULDN'T have influenced Christian European music... because he said Islam was a Satanic cult!!

I think one of the most important points of education is to challenge your beliefs and ideas, to deal with people different than you, and figure out how to live in a world with a wide diversity of cultures, traditions, and beliefs. Otherwise, you're just putting your fingers in your ears and chanting neh-neh-neh-neh.

August 16, 2023, 1:02 PM · There aren't any, and while probably none of us want to say it aloud, there is a reason for that.

Creation of art and sharing of art is not something that thrives in sheltered, segregated environments. Personal faith is of course totally fine -- there are many very religious musicians and you will find them at every single conservatory. In fact, most conservatories we visited had Christian organizations, so you will definitely be able to find people like you.

But what helps musicians to grow is playing WITH others and playing FOR others. When you restrict who you are playing with and who you are playing for, you are restricting the growth of art. You are missing out on learning from different types of people and all types of musicians and music. That's why top musicians, no matter how religious, don't typically attend religious institutions.

You will find your people no matter where you go. Go for the quality of the conservatory.

August 16, 2023, 1:14 PM · ***applause*** Susan!

I should add that my violin professor at Oberlin, the late Stephen Clapp, was a committed and devout Christian his entire life. He was the faculty sponsor of the Oberlin Christian Fellowship (the other violin professor at the time was, I believe, the faculty sponsor of the Newman Fellowship - Catholic student organization, so there was an extremely devout violin faculty at a school not known in any way shape or form for religious observance). Stephen Clapp’s own training was at Oberlin and Juilliard, and after about 15 years at Oberlin he spent the rest of his career teaching at Juilliard.

August 16, 2023, 1:29 PM · It looks like you're getting some good advice. Consider that the mustard seed doesn't have eyes to ever truly know the soil it's in. You might be surprised at the different options to challenge and grow your faith in all kinds of places.
August 16, 2023, 1:50 PM · @Susan - Amen.
@Emma - When you say a Christian school "would align with my values," what exactly do you mean, and how do you imagine that would work? While I can imagine that it may be important to you to be part of a Christian community while studying music, I am not sure what exactly it is that you are looking for. As has been pointed out, at almost any good music school/university, you will find devout Christians with whom you can bond and associate.
I think you also need to try to articulate what it is you seek to do with your music. Why do you want to study music, and how does being exclusively (or almost) among Christians make a difference for that goal?

Good luck finding what you want!

Edited: August 16, 2023, 7:34 PM · I'm an atheist teaching chemistry at a large public university. Some of my most cherished colleagues are very devout Christians. We didn't lead off our professional or personal relationships with arguments about religion -- we led off with teaching, research, hobbies (poker, woodworking, barbecue, music), and family. Eventually we did have "that" conversation but only when we were ready for it.

I'm sure there are rude atheists out there who will try to make you feel inferior. But in my experience they are pretty rare in civilized institutions.

Big public institutions have lots of student groups of every persuasion. Just off campus (like right across the street) at my university (Virginia Tech) you will find repurposed houses that are marked as student centers for Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Latter-Day Saints, and so on. How many churches would you expect to find in a town of 30000? It's a useful skill to learn how to "find your people" no matter where you go.

One possibility for you, Emma, is something Mary Ellen has already hinted at, even if she didn't mean to: You can find a violin *teacher* at a good conservatory who shares your faith and values, at least nominally, even if the institution is secular. That person can help you curate some of the faith-based opportunities on and off campus.

August 16, 2023, 5:39 PM · I think you may be looking for something like Trump University, not sure what happened to them. Then there's Jerry Falwell Jr's Liberty University, but he was having 3 ways with the pool boy, I hardly think attending a Christian University is going to protect you from anything other than getting an education
August 16, 2023, 5:59 PM · Hi all,

Thanks for the great feedback - appreciate all of your insight! To answer some questions:

@Mary Ellen Goree - my goals with playing violin are to get to the level where I can at least teach at some smaller music festivals, be invited to play at chamber music concerts, perhaps sub or play in a smaller professional orchestra. I'm not looking to be a major orchestra violinist or even do music full-time - but I would like to be at the level where I'm good enough to play with professionals, teach at a high level, etc.

@Elise, Tom, Paul, and others - the main reason why I'm looking into Christian colleges is because I'd like to learn music from that perspective - where I can be immersed in music from a viewpoint that aligns with my values (with teachers, students, etc.). I do understand that there are like-minded people everywhere and 100% agree that "Christian" colleges are not shelters - but I do think that there may be more people there and classes taught from that perspective - but I also do see the value of getting a variety of perspectives, so thanks for pointing that out! And thanks all for the suggestions on teachers, etc. - these are all great points.

Any feedback on those two colleges specifically - Baylor and TCU? I know Mary Ellen mentioned they have decent music programs - how respected are these in the music world, and do you think they are "worth it" in any way? Do decent graduates who have music careers come out of these schools that you know of?

August 16, 2023, 7:01 PM · @Emma - Thank you for clarifying for us what you are seeking. I guess the question is what would the "viewpoint that aligns with my values" consist of and bring to the study of your instrument and the music. Most of music study, i.e., instrument playing technique, theory, and the like, does not fit into any value system, Christian or otherwise. You could study sacred or religious music, or which there is a great deal (Bach, for example, wrote an enormous amount of it). You can also bring a Christian perspective to the study of non-sacred music, for whatever insight it brings. However, you can do that at any of the best music schools.

I suppose you might feel more comfortable doing this in a music program at a Christian-affliiated school, but I suspect that you will not find the music instruction much different at those schools. However, you need to look at this really closely to see if it would really be worth your while to forsake the very best schools on the basis you state. Just my $0.02. And, good luck!

August 16, 2023, 7:22 PM · If going to a school with strong Christian values and aren’t intending to make music your major, you could also consider picking a school you like philosophically first and taking lessons with a good teacher at a good music school that’s close or with someone who teaches at a good school but has a private studio as well. If making music a part of your diploma is something that’s important, I think you just have to look for the best teachers and go wherever they are.
August 16, 2023, 7:58 PM · Well, isn't this an interesting thread.

There are those who would come with pitchforks and torches at the mention of religion.

In the usa, many things are viewed as independent. Many would say that the study of music is a thing in and of itself, and is independent of other things, such as religion.

Religion can be a great source of inspiration, and help a person direct their life. It should be obvious that these things are important in music.

In terms of the question of the status of music programs at Christian schools, I suspect that the instructors will not be as proficient or well connected as those in other institutions. Look at the faculty, are they or have they performed at rhe level that you wish to achieve?

Edited: August 16, 2023, 8:38 PM · Baylor and TCU are solid 2nd tier music schools in my opinion although Susan might reasonably describe them as third-tier from her family’s perspective. Some good musicians have come out of those schools, but the musical education is in no way equivalent to the education you would get at Indiana University or Cleveland Institute of Music. The theory and history classes, perhaps, but there is no substitute for being surrounded by students who are very much better than you are. I don’t know how to be more blunt than that.

If you want professional credentials, you should go to the best school you can get into and your family can afford. If your teacher thinks you are Cleveland Institute of Music material, that suggests you should be looking at the top schools. You definitely do not want to go to a school where you’d be the best violinist there as a freshman.

Violin lessons and student orchestras don’t differ much in their nature from school to school, only in their quality. This is not to cast aspersions on the violin faculty at Baylor and TCU, who are excellent, but the overall student level is not equivalent to CIM or IU, and it isn’t close. I heard the Baylor Orchestra a few years ago, and I was not blown away by the violins.

Incidentally, had my parents thought about their education the way you seem to be thinking about yours, I would not exist. Committed Christians both, they met as grad students at Northwestern University….in the student group at a local church.

Edited: August 16, 2023, 8:16 PM · Emma, there's another way to look at this, one that you may not have considered. Don't you feel a responsibility to make the best of the talents with which you have been endowed, and the investment that your family has made in your musical education? If so, then maybe the way to go is to set aside the need for an ideologically homogeneous environment for a few years, and go to the school that's going to help you learn to play the violin as well as you possibly can, and that will prepare you for the kind of career that you want. Then, once you have maximized your skill and musicality, then you can apply them to your work and to your religious life. Every part of what you do as a musician can only benefit from having the best possible skills as a violinist.
August 16, 2023, 9:39 PM · One last thing -- you can spend summers at programs like Credo, which is the only reasonably high quality Christian-oriented summer program that I am aware of. Look at the teachers and students in that program and see where they teach or attend school. They also have some sort of year-round adjunct program to support what I think you feel you might miss at a regular conservatory. That pairing might be a good way to meet all of your needs. I don't have any personal experience with the program (my last name should be a giveaway on how not Christian my family is), but we have had several friends attend and enjoy it.
Edited: August 16, 2023, 11:07 PM · There's Harvard Divinity School, which can pair with their own music program or with dual-degree programs at NEC or Berklee.

August 17, 2023, 1:21 AM · I hope you find a suitable institution.
Edited: August 17, 2023, 1:30 AM · One last thing --- What Lyndon said.
Edited: August 17, 2023, 4:48 AM · Hello Emma,
Having recently retired from teaching violin and chamber music for over 25 years at Baylor, I would be happy to give you info if you email me privately at
Just briefly: My teachers were Josef Gingold, Ivan Galamian, and Dorothy Delay and I have a doctorate from Juilliard. Although Baylor was established as a Baptist university, there is a large population of Catholics and a wide range of ethnic groups.
Many of my better students had significant or full music scholarships.

Dr. Bruce Berg
Emeritus Professor of Violin
Baylor Uniersity

August 17, 2023, 6:51 AM · If you didn't read Paul Smith's perspective on this please do. Hard data ....
August 17, 2023, 7:56 AM · Thank you all for the thoughts and insight! I really appreciate all of your perspectives - some great things to consider here.

@ Mary Ellen Goree - how interesting on your parents' story, thanks for sharing!

@ Susan - thanks for sharing about Credo - I was not aware.

@ Paul, Elise, Tom, and others - yes, very good points and definitely something to consider - thanks for the perspectives.

@Bruce Berg - thank you so much for the offer! I just sent you an email - let me know if you don't receive it!

August 17, 2023, 10:56 AM · Also, really take a close look at the culture of the university. Just because it is labeled Christian doesn't mean the atmosphere is going to be particularly Christian. I know a couple of people at each of the schools you mentioned. None of them are devout; frankly, some are sporty frat party people. At least at the conservatories people are usually dedicated and not spending all their time partying. (Well, mostly. No comment on the brass and percussion players!)
Edited: August 17, 2023, 11:28 AM · Baylor has a very strong Greek (fraternity/sorority) culture, which would have been a dealbreaker for me but YMMV.

It’s worth noting that the faculty at both Credo and Masterworks got their training at the sort of internationally respected top schools that your teacher wants you to consider.

August 17, 2023, 11:24 AM · For us Brits fraternities are the matter of bad taste comedy movies. I think I'd hate it if they were compulsory.
August 17, 2023, 11:24 AM · The counterpoint to Paul Smith's perspective that such schools are segregated, is that other schools may lack an environemt that is conducive to spiritual development. They also may lack competent instruction in religion as it pertains to various disciplines.

There is much more to religion than reciting facts or doctrine. Practitioners spend years developing. Being around such people and learning from them may not be possible at a school that does not focus on religion.

August 17, 2023, 12:35 PM · Agree with most of the above.

Not to belabor the point, it's also the case that Christian labels don't always mean supporting a young Christian student effectively. As one example, there was a brilliant American teacher who recently died, and was ostentatiously Christian. But also had a habit of getting to know the women in his studio way too well.

August 17, 2023, 2:00 PM · Religions are a subset of cults.
August 17, 2023, 3:43 PM · Although that definition is true in certain circumstances, cult is typically used pejoratively.

Religions have many things in common with societies. In many instances it is far better than anarchy or chaos.

There are plenty of examples of religions gone bad, so to speak. There are equally many examples of society doing so. (And science gone bad too.)

We complain about religious people being prejudiced, and then we ourselves are prejudiced about religion. The irony.

August 17, 2023, 3:53 PM · I'm not using the word cult pejoratively.
Edited: August 17, 2023, 4:53 PM · Apologies for being so verbose on this thread but I feel like I need to say one more thing.

If the OP chooses to attend Baylor because she wants to work with a particular teacher, I think that’s great. If she chooses to attend Baylor because they make her a financial offer that works with her family’s circumstances, I think that is also great.

If she chooses to attend Baylor because she is seeking a Christian bubble in which to spend four more years while honing her skills, I think she is going to be disappointed. I have known a lot of past and some current Baylor students. I have not noticed any increased level of devoutness among them. Some are, many aren’t. It’s in many respects a typical private university. I assume TCU is the same.

My honest opinion is that if the OP is as good as her teacher seems to think she is, she will be happier in the long run by attending a top-tier music school and finding a group of like-minded students there to spend time with. I don’t think either Baylor or TCU will provide the cocoon she may be looking for.

I am coming from the perspective of someone who has been active in progressive Christian churches my entire life.

Edited: August 18, 2023, 11:06 AM · My childhood teacher, Lee Joiner, is the chair of strings at Wheaton College in Illinois, a decent-quality conservatory in suburban Chicago. He was a pupil of Dorothy DeLay and Sylvia Rosenberg (Juilliard and Eastman background), and an excellent very well-connected teacher. Others on these forums have spoken very highly of Paul Zafer at Wheaton, although mostly for technical remediation.

I think Wheaton is about as good as you're going to get for an explicitly Christian institution -- Baylor may have a religious heritage but it's not a religious school in the same sense. Wheaton is the kind of place where you have to go to chapel four out of five weekdays, the dorm floors are single-sex, and drinking is 100% prohibited.

However, the conservatory peers there aren't going to be first-rate. As a Tchaikovsky-playing student, you will probably be at or near the top of the undergrads and likely competitive with many of the grad students as well -- their concerto competitions are available on YouTube, and that'll give you a pretty good idea of the level.

I think given your ambitions, Wheaton would be just fine for you from the perspective of an adequate education -- and being at the top might give you opportunities to lead that you might not get elsewhere. But it would undoubtedly be subpar to the opportunities you'd have elsewhere.

Most conservatory students are going to be too busy to party constantly, but partying behavior also generally declines the better the institution. Don't underestimate how much formerly sheltered students can cut loose once they get out of their potentially repressive homes or communities.

If you want a religious school because you want to avoid LGBTQ+ students and faculty, though (i.e. that's what you mean by "shares my values"), you'll find Wheaton, which essentially follows a don't-ask-don't-tell policy, to be too liberal for you. (And you will find that this attitude, if you have it, will not go over well professionally among other musicians, so it's going to have to be something you learn to conceal. There are tons of LGBTQ+ musicians and hateful attitudes won't be tolerated.)

August 17, 2023, 9:51 PM · Many people have mentioned that you would be best off at a top tier school, as opposed to an explicitly Christian one. I tend to agree. However, there was mention of the yale institute of sacred music. Augustin Hadelich teaches violin at yale. The institute would allow you to approach music from a religious perspective. I would think it would be a school to seriously consider.
Edited: August 17, 2023, 10:10 PM · Just out of curiosity, is Augustin Hadelich actually a good teacher?I suspect he might be, but wonder if anyone has actually had that experience? Just because someone is pretty much the best violinist on the planet doesn't necessarily morph into an actuall 'teachng' (as opposed to 'coaching') role. Also, I suspect he may be quite busy...

August 17, 2023, 10:12 PM · I had completely forgotten about Wheaton but I think Lydia has hit the nail on the head in every respect.

I thought the Yale Institute for Sacred Music was aimed at grad students, and I am 100% confident that Hadelich takes only the most serious and committed full-time violin students. I really don’t think Yale is an option for the OP, certainly not as an undergrad.

August 18, 2023, 1:42 AM · You're not trying to avoid Budhists are you?
August 18, 2023, 8:48 AM · Hadelich is at the Yale School of Music. I do know one of his students, and he was already a good professional when he was an undergrad.

When I was doing a master's there at another of their trade schools, I knew an undergrad who studied with Erick Friedman, so YSOM is not completely off bounds to the college. But access is carefully doled out.

August 18, 2023, 10:13 AM · I am progressive but have some family in the evangelical world, and Wheaton is often at the top of the list for evangelicals. OP might also just go through a list of schools in their preferred tradition (Southern Baptist, nondenominational evangelical, Catholic, etc.) and look at potential teachers. Don't be shy about writing faculty--they might be able to suggest peer schools or tell you where else to apply or to give you an idea of how good of match things would be. The advice here is also good to at least include a few traditional programs in your search.

For readers, I'd view this as a niche request, similar to someone looking for a good violin program at an all women's university, HBCU, upper midwest liberal arts college, UC campus, etc.

August 18, 2023, 10:25 AM · Lydia thanks for that. Informative and a bit challenging too.
August 18, 2023, 11:31 AM · Wheaton (where I spent a year of college, played in the orchestra, etc.) has always had a reputation for being liberal, compared to other Evangelical schools. It is definitely no Oral Roberts or Liberty U or the like. Academic quality is high and in general, the student body is going to look much like the student body of other competitive SLACs.

But because academic quality is high, so is the spirit of open inquiry. Wheaton does not allow students taking biology courses to opt out of teaching on evolution, for instance -- skipping class is permitted, but the material is on the test, so if you choose not to learn it, there's no mercy. Wheaton's required freshman Bible course is legendarily pitiless in its examination of what is and isn't actually written; for decades, freshman have often come away from that with their faith shaken to the core, if not shattered entirely.

Memorably, I took a writing seminar course on great novels, taught by the chair of the English department (an ordained Episcopalian priest who preferred to be addressed as Father). The course had a huge emphasis on transgressive literature, including things like examining the question of whether it was right for Christian authors to write pornographic or obscene material (and we were required to read and engage thoughtfully with such material).

In other words, don't assume that a Christian institution won't force you to challenge your belief system. (This is also why some in the Evangelical community cringe a bit at Wheaton, admittedly.)

But also don't assume that by studying music at such an institution, sacred music will be a meaningful element of the teaching. I can't recall my teacher ever explicitly assigning sacred music of any sort. I can't recall performing it in orchestra. I don't recall it appearing in coursework, even though the Bach chorales that everyone works through in first-year music theory would seem like an ideal opportunity to highlight the spiritual element of the work rather than treating it just as a dry exercise.

By the way, both of the teachers I've studied with in my current home city of DC teach at explicitly Catholic universities -- and neither of them is Catholic. (Both are Jewish.) You'll have to look at faculty hiring requirements and code of conducts to see how seriously a school takes faculty adherence to its affiliated religion, and therefore what attitudes will be present in the classroom.

Edited: August 18, 2023, 2:14 PM · To be fair, there is nothing in the original post about preferring to study sacred music. The OP seems to be on a very standard course of violin progression. It is other posters who have introduced the idea of sacred music study.

Personally, I think the OP is far more likely to find what she is looking for if she can find a high-level violin teacher at a top institution who is a practicing Christian than she is if she goes to a school like Baylor in the mistaken belief that she will be surrounded by like-minded people there. It is true, however, that labels cannot be taken at face value and some very “Christian” teachers have behaved in some very unchristian ways towards their female students. Stephen S mentions one who recently passed away. I can think of another one who is facing 5 years of prison.

At some point it is necessary for all young people to figure out who they are, and how they will live in a world that is full of people who are not necessarily like them.

Edited: August 19, 2023, 11:00 AM · My own feeling is that the most respect will convey to you as a person of faith at the most selective institutions. If you go to a place like CIM or NEC you're going to encounter very liberal people, but they're not going to be the folks who call your religion a cult because they weren't brought up that way. They were brought up to know how to engage in respectful, civilized discussion with other adults, and to be prudent when conversing with younger people or anyone who might be at a relative disadvantage in some way.

It's impossible to appreciate the fullness of someone's situation from a paragraph on a blog. Over the years I have known young people whose choice of college, major curriculum, etc., were greatly constrained by their parents. I knew a young person who was quite talented on the violin whose parents restricted her choices so severely that she ended up trying to study the violin at an extremely conservative Christian college (in the same general category as Bob Jones University or Regent University). She lasted a year there. Often such a young person will say that the choice was entirely theirs, and at that point it is impossible to know what is really true, and it is altogether pointless (not to mention rude and inappropriate) to probe further, especially when the individual and her parents are casual acquaintances at best.

August 19, 2023, 6:03 PM · When you're at college and you want to read quartets on a Saturday night (and yes, this actually happens), do you want it to be with people who can keep up with you musically or with people who share your beliefs? It may be one or the other. I'd certainly choose the former. I've met people who spent 4 years as the only first rate player in their school and that is not super fun.

Edited: August 20, 2023, 4:02 PM · One doesn’t need to give up a religious community by attending Indiana or CIM. There are Christian fellowships at their parent or affiliated universities. What about reaching out to students involved in the school’s Christian fellowships and talking to them about their experiences?

As a note, your conservatory years may be the only time you can easily find peers who match you in skill, availability, and commitment, along with a built-in audience and the support of an institution. Others can speak more about this, but it’s pretty much impossible to replicate the conservatory experience on your own as a working adult, unless you're one of the rare people who become a full-time performer. And even then, the logistics can still be challenging.

Another possibility is to go TCU/Baylor (or Wheaton or Oral Roberts) and then pursue a master’s degree at a conservatory. However, master’s degrees are only two years, with less time to explore.

Edited: August 20, 2023, 4:25 PM ·

Perhaps one of the conventional music schools/conservatory has an on campus, Christian community? It would seem like a Dean of Students Office would know.

Good luck finding what you seek. I suspect that, if you can find both, your college experience will be greatly enhanced. At the same time, college can be excellent at expanding one's perspectives and horizons. So, don't rule out those possibilities.

August 20, 2023, 4:18 PM · I'd be astonished if any went without one. Even New England Conservatory does, and you wouldn't think of that as a breeding ground for evangelists.
August 20, 2023, 5:32 PM · I think is important to keep in mind what the op stated: "the main reason why I'm looking into Christian colleges is because I'd like to learn music from that perspective - where I can be immersed in music from a viewpoint that aligns with my values (with teachers, students, etc.)"

It is not about finding a Christian community on campus, but rather approaching the study from that perspective.

August 20, 2023, 5:52 PM · Exactly why I suggested finding a high-level violin teacher who is a practicing Christian.
Edited: August 20, 2023, 6:07 PM · Do you understand that Mark? Seems to me that other than music written specifically for a particular religion music is just music. For example, how do you study Bach from a Jewish perspective? Isn't that like tasting wine from an auditory one? Or do you discuss how Bach never really wrote music for the synagogue?
I don't mean to make light of it but I really don't understand - perhaps the OP could help?
August 20, 2023, 7:28 PM · Music is created and performed by human beings. It is an expression of our experiences and beliefs. My understanding of the Ops statement is she wants to learn about this. Not just the notes and how to play them.
August 20, 2023, 8:19 PM · Be sure to find a school that doesn't allow playing tritones.
Edited: August 20, 2023, 8:29 PM · Greetings,
It has long been established that I am a shallow, uncultured moron, so take it with a pinch of salt but, I have never -consciously- approached the violin as an expression of my experiences and beliefs.
Should I bore you with my beliefs? I do actually belief in ‘Einstein’s God’ or what the Stoics called ‘logos.’ I have come to believe that our fundamental reason to exist is to be kind to other people. Not much else for me. I am totally unable to relate this to violin playing in any way, shape or form whatsoever. On the other hand, for the last few years I have been experiencing a level of grief and suffering at about the deepest level one can get. Has this manifested itself in my sound and interpretation? Actually yes. To a surprising degree. Do I consciously aim for this?. -Absolutely not in the slightest. - On the contrary, I play the violin as a temporary means of relief by being fully present with what I am doing.
We should certainly be informed about the experiences and beliefs of the composer and factor them into our interpretation, but apart from that the onus is on us to play as perfectly as possible and just don’t get in the way of the music (as Milstein noted when talking about Bach in a Zuckerman interview) The audience has no interest in your beliefs and experiences which is, dare I say it, a classic example of art reflecting life.
This is why so many on this thread have wisely suggested the OP just get the best possible teacher while the rest can take care of itself to a large extent.
Warmest regards,
August 20, 2023, 8:48 PM · To set up a life where you only meet people who share your own beliefs seems the opposite of the example set by the major figure of your religion. Living in the world, being an example, seems more like following his model. But, not for me to say.
The advice given seems best, to find a teacher that suits, at a school that challenges, nearly all schools will have communities of faith, whether student centered or community based.
From a non-believer parent's perspective, I have noticed a pretty strong presence of families of religious backgrounds in the classical music community.
Also alluded to before, and if you watch the news, there are good people and bad people- it has little relation to the religion or lack of one they profess.
Edited: August 21, 2023, 1:14 AM · I'm curious what Mary Ellen feels a practicing Christian would do differently in lessons than someone who wasn't.

Having spent years of my childhood studying violin with a deeply religious professor at an explicitly Evangelical institution, I cannot say that this was any different than studying with any other teacher. His bookshelves were filled with music-related and science-related books, for the most part. I can't recall ever seeing any theology, though a Bible was displayed. When he assigned reading (which he did often), it was the great pedagogues and musicians, without any apparent lean towards more religious perspectives.

By contrast, I've had several Jewish teachers for whom their background explicitly informed the way that they looked at certain pieces of music, but I think this related more to their cultural than religious Jewishness.

I'm curious, too, what "Christian values" mean in this case. Does this mean a focus on a life spent in self-sacrificial service to others? A significant amount of time spent in contemplative religious study? Lots of time reserved for volunteer work? Choosing kindness and humility instead of competitiveness? Effort to discover a personal calling? The opportunity to do missions work and/or community outreach?

Or do you mean conservative values? Limiting your exposure to people who aren't straight, Christian, Republican, or White? Being surrounded by people who share a belief in individual freedom and limited government? Living under strict campus rules that would reduce your temptation to sin (view 'sinful' media, commit sexual sins, drink, smoke, use drugs, etc.)? A focus on personal fiscal responsibility and success through the Prosperity Gospel?

People attend explicitly religious institutions for many reasons. Your particular interpretation of "Christian values" will probably have a large impact on where you'd feel comfortable.

August 21, 2023, 1:57 AM · I've had quite a bit of personal success furiously 'playing the gay away', myself, but I still wonder what Lydia wonders. I also have to get this chunk of rosin removed from my appendix that stubbornly refused to transubstantiate, and my whole 'playing in tongues' never quite evoked Kogan, but as a staunch party member, I can see his spirit not dabbling in religious stuff.

I think that for someone steeped in some very particular ideology, it can actually be quite traumatic to leave the support and structure of that community and live in a community with a very different ideology; how do you make friends who live a different 'lifestyle', and can you really straddle both worlds rather than just having to make a clean break with one to enter the other?

Just leaving the family structure is difficult enough for a teen. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself at that age (still not entirely sure...), so I wouldn't really expect Emma to have fully formulated answers to very complicated questions. I take Emma's wish as a broader one to not overcomplicate her life as she moves into a much bigger world to suddenly take in.

Emma, the thing you want might not exist, but there are some quite coherent paths forward and some tradeoffs for any of them.

August 21, 2023, 4:31 AM · Steven, I synpathize with your situation. I do hope that things get better.

I do disagree with your statement that "We should certainly be informed about the experiences and beliefs of the composer and factor them into our interpretation, but apart from that the onus is on us to play as perfectly as possible and just don’t get in the way of the music (as Milstein noted when talking about Bach in a Zuckerman interview) The audience has no interest in your beliefs and experiences which is, dare I say it, a classic example of art reflecting life."

As you stated earlier in your post, your grief manifested in your playing. From my perspective that us not something to try to avoid. You are not a record player. Playing th3 violin is an expression of who you are. That is valid. It is not as if there is only one correct interpretation of a work.

In terms of what Emma means by Christiam values, I am not certain.

To comment more on what Steven said, religious experience is personal. It does not matter if a listener cares. However, this being said, I do think that religious experience can influence the music, in much the same way that Steven says grief has manifested in his playing. Who we are influences our music. It is more subtle that having rosin transubstantiate Christian.

August 21, 2023, 6:04 AM · Hi Mark,
Possibly we are in agreement on this. It is absolutely true that whatever comes out of the instrument is ultimately going to be a bi product of your experiences and beliefs. Actually I think those are pretty much the same thing. My point is mostly that approaching the violin from the outside and trying to impose artificial values on the whole business (not saying the OP is doing that) tend sto just set up something asking to a false consciousness. The whole business of playing the violin really is about getting out of the way. When you do that, the real you will emerge in all it’s glory.
Edited: August 21, 2023, 7:23 AM · Lydia, I don’t think a practicing Christian would do anything different in lessons from any other high-level teacher.

I am trying to come up with a solution that satisfies the OP’s perceived wishes while enabling her to continue to make excellent progress and get the best possible musical education. I don’t think that what she appears to be looking for (CIM-level teaching at an Oral Roberts--type campus) actually exists. I do think Wheaton is likely to come closer than Baylor, though.

Editing to add that I think Christian’s thoughtful response bears consideration (after the first paragraph, anyway),

Edited: August 21, 2023, 9:35 AM · Emma, have you seen anything like "Whose World" by A N Triton (A N Triton was the pen-name of Oliver Barclay, who was General Secretary of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Christian Unions last century)? In it, he distinguishes between good works that are creational and those that are gospel. I think musicmaking is firmly in the first category, and, therefore, belongs to believers and unbelievers alike (as does, we came to realise, helping in our Churches' Soup Kitchen or, even more important, a local food bank).

The younger members of the Annie Moses Band are Juilliard trained. Why not look them up?

You might go to a Christian conservatory and find them so compromised with worldly values (or worse - I get Roys Report emails) that you might as well have gone to a purely secular institution and received the best violin teaching available.

My own, exemplarily patient teacher, otherwise a Professor at the RAM, was a Christian, just how fruitfully so I only discovered later.

Edited: August 21, 2023, 9:32 AM · Mark, I agree that this is more subtle than the rosin in my belly, as I am a Lutheran, and ours doesn't do that. We all have to find our personal way to our belief. I just think that Emma's response about learning violin in an environment of Christian values is fine, but ultimately more about the community she would find herself in than about some Nicene violin method.

And I think Mary Ellen is trying to take that seriously by trying to bridge the gap or find some kind of solution, or speak more closely to what the root of Emma's question is, and that Lydia also gets the dynamic. If we look around at a divided society, we see all kinds of contradictory and opposing ways of viewing the world that aren't easy to reconcile, and I wouldn't expect a teenager to go off to school somewhere where she doesn't have an expectation that there's a community waiting for her.

This might be a particularly American cultural artifact that could be quite unintuitive to people in other countries.

(Sorry Mary Ellen, the devil made me do it!)

August 21, 2023, 12:31 PM · Southern Methodist university has a pretty good string program. Not sure how “methodist” it is.
August 21, 2023, 1:01 PM · If this were 1950s--1960s I would suggest USC. It was, still is, a major league music school, with a performance emphasis, and when I was there I thought it had a conservative culture. This was where Los Angeles Old Money would send their children. The current reality is that all college liberal arts, humanities, soft social sciences department faculties and administration are dominated by "progressives". The remnant conservative faculty have learned to keep quiet, self-censor. To survive, today's college students should carefully research their choice of school, major, required courses, and the specific faculty that teach those courses.
Edited: August 21, 2023, 2:11 PM · At least there not run by right wing nut jobs like some people I know! Jesus was one of those "progressives".
August 21, 2023, 2:40 PM · Christian wrote:'This might be a particularly American cultural artifact that could be quite unintuitive to people in other countries.' From a European perspective that certainly is true, and I haven't really understood or enjoyed the more vitriolic posts. Lydia and others offered some mature and sympathetic input. However, the worries and anxieties expressed by the OP on facing the next stage of education are essentially universal. I hope it works out well for her, and that she finds great musical education, secure community, and a wider world 'charged with the grandeur of God,' if I may borrow words from the great Gerard Manley Hopkins.
August 22, 2023, 7:06 AM · I agree with Frieda about the specialness of those few years of conservatory study before the ordinary adult years of the world of work. As an adult learner entangled in the rigors and commitments of work and a son, I yearn for the freedom of retirement just so I can have time to play more. I can only hope the market will bring me enough money then so I can go back to school and get a bachelor's degree in music. Not for the degree, since I have enough of those stupid things already, but for the fullness of musical study with peers also immersed, in context of ensembles and teachers and total music culture. So my advice to Emma is to get into the best music program you can, and don't worry about the religious identity of the institution. You will be able to find Christian community anywhere.
August 22, 2023, 1:47 PM ·
Edited: August 22, 2023, 3:21 PM · 71 posts and I still have no idea what 'from a Christian perspective' means. :( I truly was hoping to learn something since I actually think learning things from a new or different perspective is generally a very constructive thing to do, especially music. Thus, to approach classical music from a jazz perspective (or vice versa) - gives you Gerswin and Nina Simone.

At the very least I wanted to be assured that it did not mean something intolerant and worse. The lack of an explanation and more distressing, the lack of mention of these possibilities is making me depressed. Is this topic really to find a safe haven from fine musicians because of THEIR personal beliefs or nature? Please tell me I am wrong.

How about an extreme to illustrate? [Just to be clear, I stress this is an analogy and has no intended relevance to this topic]. If someone posted that they wanted to find a school where they could study 'from Caucasian perspective' would we all tiptoe round it so carefully without at least some explanation?

Edited: August 22, 2023, 3:23 PM · I am not sure why you are depressed just because it's a topic that you are unfamiliar with or maybe dislike. That almost sounds intolerant in itself. Noone is forced to participate in the discussion and so far the OP hasn't said anything that's clearly intolerant or discriminatory against others.

If the question was rephrased to simply "what are some top Christian music schools" would that make people feel more comfortable?

August 22, 2023, 3:50 PM · Comfort is not the issue-- mostly it comes to defining terms. Then looking at exceptions and acceptable compromises.
August 22, 2023, 4:10 PM · Elise is correct that "learning music from a Christian perspective" does not make sense. It is almost a grammatically incorrect phrase. However, let's leave the poor OP alone. She has learned a lot in the meantime, I hope.
August 22, 2023, 4:30 PM · @Jean - I agree with you that we should leave the poor OP alone at this point. Because I am not a Christian (I am Jewish), I am not in a position to really understand whatever it is she seeks beyond being in a school with others who are observant/practicing Christians. And from a musical point of view, I have no idea what that would bring to her understanding of or appreciation for her instrument or the music. So, 70+ responses later, I am still at sea.

What I can offer as a Jew is the following: many, and maybe most, of the great violinists of the 20th and 21st century were/are Jewish. Does their background somehow give them some sort of understanding of the violin and the music? Who knows?

August 22, 2023, 5:17 PM · Menuhin had some vague, hand-waving endorsements of that idea. It lay behind his endorsement of all the Japanese and Korean fiddlers who worked their way west.

And there can be odd intersections. Mischa Elman recorded what is probably the most Jewish Ave Maria (Schubert) you will ever hear.

Edited: August 22, 2023, 6:09 PM · I’m with Elise in being confused. But to give the OP the benefit of the doubt:

Maybe the student wants her teacher to pray with her during lessons.

Maybe the student is worried about negotiating rehearsals that conflict with observing the Sabbath. An observant teacher can coach them through that situation.

Maybe she needs a teacher who is supportive of her spending a lot of time with Bible study and church activities. There are those conservatory teachers who demand total commitment to the violin. If they already give students a hard time for doing extracurriculars or working a part-time job, they aren’t going to be very nice about Bible study.

Or maybe it’s as bad as some of us fear, and it’s about wanting to complain to a teacher about Tchaikovsky’s personal life.

It’s hard to say if a teacher at a Christian college would be a better fit than an empathetic teacher at a regular conservatory. Not every Christian teacher communicates in ways a student hopes.

I think the OP should keep an open mind: take trial lessons with teachers and talk to Christian students at different schools, and then go from there.

August 22, 2023, 7:33 PM · It can be difficult to understand someone else's perspective, as we naturally formulate in our own terms.

Certainly there has been more effort at poking fun, or being prejudicial than trying to understand.

We would not talk about a scientific perspective in terms of using a slide rule, writing with chalk, etc. But we think the above description of religion is accurate?

music is not primarily approached from a scientific perspective. Ask your violin teacher about the wave equation, or Youngs modulus of elasticity.

In fact, it is not usually approached based on reason, psychology, etc. Again, ask a violin teacher about modus ponens.

However, here we are with the mention of religion, which may be considered close to music in terms of some of its philosophy, and we are confused at best.

There is some interesting Christian philosophy regarding knowledge which is relevant here.

August 22, 2023, 7:39 PM · I have to say that I agree with Elise. I've tried to be respectful toward the OP because she is a young person on the cusp of adulthood, and because we live in a pluralistic society after all. But I also can't shake the frustration that defining "Christian perspective" and "shares my values" are undefined to the point where one wonders if they are code language or dog whistles.

As a practical matter I second Frieda's suggestion to reach out to Christian students when visiting the usual top (secular) programs.

Edited: August 22, 2023, 7:45 PM · +1 to Frieda's suggestion. I also think that OP is just a kid, and she's probably working within constraints that we may not see (e.g. parental preferences that don't align with her teacher's hopes for her). It feels a little extra to push her to justify her belief system or explain it. And I didn't see anything in her post indicating that the issue is discomfort with LGBTQ+ folks (yes, it's a hallmark of many more orthodox Christian religions, but I think it's unfair to assume that is the case with OP unless she states it outright.)

Two stories that this thread reminded me of:

1) When looking for an apartment-share in Boston in my early 20s, I remember opting NOT to move in with a couple of evangelical women, even though they were super friendly – because I assumed they'd be uncomfortable if my boyfriend slept over (and probably also worried they'd try to recruit me or something). When they asked why I decided not to move in – and I responded honestly – one woman told me that she wished I'd checked out my assumptions with them before making my decision, that she had no interest in forcing her views on me, and that she thought we'd have gotten along well. (The two people I did choose to room with, despite educational/religious backgrounds similar to mine, turned out to be HORRIBLE roommates.)

2) more germane to OP's question: I remember two of my Brevard cabin mates came from very conservative Christian families. They abstained from going to the campus dance, faithfully attended church every Sunday, and argued passionately about scripture. Being Christian was absolutely central to their identities, in a way that I hadn't experienced before. They were also two of the most gifted musicians there – section leaders, finalists in the concerto competition. One of them went on to a solid conservatory and won a seat in the Detroit Symphony at age 21. (she's now the Associate Concertmaster.) The other studied music at Bob Jones University (which was less competitive/intense musically but a more homogenous faith community) and then headed to a conventional music conservatory Europe for graduate work. She has had a different sort of musical career – more regional, more varied – but I believe she's been very satisfied with that life. Both are still actively Christian, although I think both have probably evolved a bit from the orthodoxy of their youth. Both married people in their faith, whom they met in non-Christian musical settings.

TLDR: there are many paths up the musical mountain. Not all are likely to lead to the summit – at least not without some serious bushwhacking.

August 22, 2023, 7:45 PM · @ Paul - Amen!
@Frida, @Paul - I third the suggestion.
August 23, 2023, 4:19 AM · We've spent some time at Notre Dame for competitions the last few years, and walked the nearby St. Mary's campus several times between rounds to unwind. Even though I am atheist and even though Notre Dame is a diverse and mainstream research university, I feel a subtle but strong spiritual connection when I am there, and over 80% of the student population is Catholic. I can't fault the OP for wanting some sort of connection between personal faith, where they will attend university, and with the student body.
Edited: August 23, 2023, 7:46 AM · Stan, when I interviewed for a job there, in 1995, the department chairperson came right out and asked me if I was Catholic. I remember it clearly -- we were just boarding an elevator. I said I wasn't, and he said he didn't care, but I still found the question inappropriate and discomfiting. The whole interview went very poorly in more than one way, but that was mostly just me being a newbie. However, I benefited tremendously from the experience. After reporting back to my mentors and retooling, my next interview, at Virginia Tech, yielded a tenure-stream appointment for me (with a generous setup package) and a permanent non-tenure-stream appointment for my wife (-to-be, at the time), which is what she wanted. Dow Chemical Company easily bested VT's salary offer but could (would) not solve the two-body problem, as we were not yet married, only engaged. And I have to admit that the guy they hired at Notre Dame was really good; they chose well.
August 28, 2023, 1:14 PM · Pepperdine University in Southern California might be a good fit.

I don’t believe the New Testament has much to say about music in general, at least in comparison to the Old Testament. Music itself has been associated with pride, worldliness and sophistication - qualities that would have been frowned upon by the early Christians. Similar to other art forms, music has an important moral dimension. I think a Christian perspective may share JS Bach’s sentiment that music was for God alone, as opposed to the individual or the entertainment and approval of one’s contemporaries.

August 28, 2023, 2:26 PM · The use of, and understanding of music in Biblical times (i.e. Bronze Age and Iron Age) was very different. Music was one of the few forms of entertainment available, but it was to a large extent a form of participatory entertainment. But it also had many uses not related to entertainment. It was integral to the communication of knowledge, since setting things to a tune aids in the memorization of the words. It was sometimes integral to work (like pulling objects or rowing a boat), the way a modern jody call is used to get soldiers to run in step with one another.
August 28, 2023, 3:34 PM · Raymond here's a quote from Bach which suggests he also appreciated music for the individual.

"The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul."

August 28, 2023, 6:45 PM · @Emma - I hope you will let us know what you decide and maybe why. Good luck! Thanks.
August 28, 2023, 7:15 PM ·
Edited: August 29, 2023, 2:22 AM · @Gabriel - according to Bing, Bach's quote goes on "Where this is not observed there will be no music, but only a devilish hubbub". Yup, been there a few times. Quite enjoyed it actually.

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