Respected / Quality Christian Conservatories?
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:
Texas Christian University
Any insight on how these school's music programs are and / or any suggestions on other Christian conservatories to consider?
So you will probably have to decide: ideology or quality.
Don't want to learn the Devil's trill, huh?
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) https://www.juilliard.edu/campus-life/student-services/student-affairs
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.
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?
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 ;) ).
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 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.
There aren't any, and while probably none of us want to say it aloud, there is a reason for that.
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.
@Susan - Amen.
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 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
@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.
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.
Well, isn't this an interesting thread.
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.
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
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.
There's Harvard Divinity School, which can pair with their own music program or with dual-degree programs at NEC or Berklee.
I hope you find a suitable institution.
One last thing --- What Lyndon said.
If you didn't read Paul Smith's perspective on this please do. Hard data ....
Thank you all for the thoughts and insight! I really appreciate all of your perspectives - some great things to consider here.
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!)
Baylor has a very strong Greek (fraternity/sorority) culture, which would have been a dealbreaker for me but YMMV.
For us Brits fraternities are the matter of bad taste comedy movies. I think I'd hate it if they were compulsory.
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.
Agree with most of the above.
Religions are a subset of cults.
Although that definition is true in certain circumstances, cult is typically used pejoratively.
I'm not using the word cult pejoratively.
Apologies for being so verbose on this thread but I feel like I need to say one more thing.
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.
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.
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...
I had completely forgotten about Wheaton but I think Lydia has hit the nail on the head in every respect.
You're not trying to avoid Budhists are you?
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.
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.
Lydia thanks for that. Informative and a bit challenging too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)"
Exactly why I suggested finding a high-level violin teacher who is a practicing Christian.
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?
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.
Be sure to find a school that doesn't allow playing tritones.
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.
I'm curious what Mary Ellen feels a practicing Christian would do differently in lessons than someone who wasn't.
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.
Steven, I synpathize with your situation. I do hope that things get better.
Lydia, I don’t think a practicing Christian would do anything different in lessons from any other high-level teacher.
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).
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.
Southern Methodist university has a pretty good string program. Not sure how “methodist” it is.
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.
At least there not run by right wing nut jobs like some people I know! Jesus was one of those "progressives".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Comfort is not the issue-- mostly it comes to defining terms. Then looking at exceptions and acceptable compromises.
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.
@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.
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.
I’m with Elise in being confused. But to give the OP the benefit of the doubt:
It can be difficult to understand someone else's perspective, as we naturally formulate in our own terms.
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.
+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.)
@ Paul - Amen!
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.
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.
Pepperdine University in Southern California might be a good fit.
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
Raymond here's a quote from Bach which suggests he also appreciated music for the individual.
@Emma - I hope you will let us know what you decide and maybe why. Good luck! Thanks.
@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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