Recommended graduate programs in music
  • Recently a student wrote to me the following, and since I am not nearly as well traveled and experienced in these matters as most of you out there, I would like to ask you all for advice that I can collate and pass along:

    "I was referred to you by my sister, *** (currently a
    junior at ***). I am going into my senior year at ***,
    and am interested in pursuing a career in music after I graduate.
    I would like to ask you what options might be open regarding that
    (schools, programs, etc). I have played the violin seriously for
    fourteen years, and while I would like to continue in the general
    field of performance if possible, I am also interested in teaching
    music.

    I have also written music, and I would be interested to hear if you
    think there are any possibilities in the field of composition."

    The *** schools are, to give a hint, liberal arts Great Books colleges, if that helps for context.
  • Let me add, too, that in my teaching at Wyoming Catholic, students frequently ask for advice about which graduate programs to apply to, and we've started an official list of recommended programs in different areas. So the advice you give will be helpful to future WCC students too. Thanks!
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    There are several dimensions to consider here, but I think the most important pre-planning consideration when choosing a graduate program is the difference between the academic study of music (M.A./Ph.D. degree) versus the applied study of music (M.M./D.M.A. degree). For a glance at the difference, consider that Yale University has a School of Music (applied) and a Department Music (academic), each of which offers an entirely different set of degrees. And obviously the two areas have some overlap.

    The graduate institutions that offer one type of program may or may not offer the other. Many large public institutions that focus on applied study (this is the vast majority), for example, nevertheless offer at least a master's-level program in history, theory, or some other academic area. Some institutions that offer the M.A. and Ph.D. do not have any applied graduate degrees.

    When advising a student about options, then, it's very important to know what type of program and career he or she is interested in pursuing.

    I would suggest, too, that the school that pays you to go, rather than the one that you have to pay to attend, is likely the best choice, especially in today's economy!
  • Thanks, Doug, for the initial overview.

    People -- HELP! Is there really no one out there with any advice on music programs (either academic or applied)? Is the question too big? How about CATHOLIC or SACRED MUSIC programs, or schools that seem friendly to more traditional interests?
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,064
    What is a "traditional interest"? Is it not possible to be any more specific? I have recommendations, but without more information, it will be difficult to make them good ones.

    More information would help elicit better responses.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    We can all give shout-outs to our alma maters, I suppose, but that's incredibly subjective. And I don't know that anyone here has a degree in violin. There's this ranking, but I don't know that anything substantiates it. FWIW, I've been told by MANY people that the college I've chosen for grad school is far better than another very high on the list - and yet, mine isn't even on there!

    I say look for the teacher, and go from there.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Sorry, I didn't realize this was an immediate need. I would recommend a hard look at CUA because they offer strong programs in several different areas (academic, applied, etc.).

    The Master of Sacred Music program at Notre Dame has certainly benefited greatly from the recent addition of two leading experts in older liturgical music.

    The MSM program at Boston University is also excellent (disclaimer: the director is a personal friend of mine) but does not necessarily have a Catholic focus. Ditto the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music.

    Beyond those well-known programs any other recommendation is just a roll of the dice on whether or not it would be a good fit for a particular student. Large flagship state universities typically offer the most variety, but it can be hit or miss on whether or not they have a specific church music track.
  • I can attest to a "blending" of the sentiments of Gavin and Doug. When I interviewed with my graduate advisor at a CSU campus, we articulated a course of studies given the catalog requirements, but with a coordinated emphasis upon sacred choral music in the various disciplines, musicology, choral pedagogy, literature and theory. And the culmination was agreed that all documents and recital requirements would adhere to the sacred music discipline. That seemed then, as now, to be the better continuation from the comprehensive undergraduate studies, and necessary were one to pursue the DMA or PhD disciplines.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    There was a session about graduate programs at the colloquium last year; were the talks by representatives of universities recorded?
  • As I recall, RC, the featured programs, Ave Maria/Franciscan Steubenville/Christendom/Notre Dame/Duquesne focused more upon undergrad studies.
  • The Notre Dame MSM program is getting better and better, from what I hear. There are enough orthodox (or at least respectful) faculty members to enable you to complete your liturgy work with good people. If anyone is curious, send me a message and I'll tell you who to avoid at all costs. They have solid organ teaching and a great organ facility. They also took the much needed step of adding a choral conducting professor to the faculty. Plus it's free if you get in!
    As an alum I was more critical of the program, due to the flakiness of some key faculty members in the liturgy department (my program director threatened not to graduate me because I dared to call his beloved 1973 ICEL translation a 'paraphrase' in a paper) - as well as the lack of choral training. However since I left they hired Peter Jeffrey, Margot Fassler, and a conducting professor. I think it's hard to beat for a masters anymore.

    For the specific student in question, though, I'm not sure what to say. She plays violin, but wants a 'general' performance degree? Notre Dame is a good MSM program, but it sounds like what she wants is music education or something. I also don't know of places where you can dabble in composition in a general way - usually the modern American university is not a very wholesome place to study composition. With her skill set, she would need to pick a degree in violin, or music ed, or composition, and then go from there. If she wants to do sacred music, she will have to try a choral/vocal track such as Notre Dame because she is not an organist. Then work through Fux's Gradus like so many composers in training, and skip the post-modern vague composition training we have today.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 985
    You can look down at the bottom of http://music.dierschow.com/2011Colloquium/index.htm - I didn't have time to listen and see if it includes what you want, RC.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,114
    Notre Dame has also added Paul M. Walker to its M.S.M. faculty. He was previously at the University of Virginia where he was in charge of the early music program. I've known Paul since 1992 when I joined his early music choral ensemble, Zephyrus, which he founded and directed for 20 years before moving with his wife to Notre Dame last year (she became the university librarian at Notre Dame). Paul is an early music specialist, organist, counter-tenor, harpsichordist, conductor and author of the award winning book Theories of Fugue from the Age of Josquin to the Age of Bach. His expertise and understanding of early music, both choral and instrumental, goes far beyond his appointment as an associate professor of organ.
  • Thanks for these responses. I suppose the difficulty is that my correspondent (and often enough, my students) are none too clear in their own minds about what they want to do. So I guess I was wondering if there were certain programs for violin or for training as a music teacher that stood out in people's minds -- I think it's a naive question given how many institutions there are!
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    This has sort of already been mentioned, but DON'T go into debt unless you have an actual plan for how you're going to get out of it.
    I know organists who went to out-of-state public schools, with minimal financial aid, and now find themselves with 6-figures of debt...and don't seem to think that's a big deal.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,064
    If all you're looking for is the best programs in the country for violin performance, I would say, in no particular order:

    Juilliard School
    Curtis Institute
    Concertmaster Academy at Cleveland Institute of Music
    -----------------
    The most important consideration, in my opinion, is to go where there is a legitimate possibility of graduating with minimal loans. Full-time jobs in music that will pay off these loans comfortably are few and far between. If you can manage to avoid taking the loans out in the first place, you will be better off.

    I went to a private school for my undergraduate degree, and a large public university for my MM. I had significant scholarships to both institutions and have around $5,000 in student loan debt. This is manageable. $25,000+ would be very challenging.

    Don't go into significant debt in order to pursue a music degree. This is the most important advice I can give.
    Thanked by 1ryand
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,114
    irishtenor, I would add to your list for violin (including baroque violin) studies:

    Peabody Institute

    The Conservatory faculty at the Peabody is absolutely top-notch, with the likes of violinist Victor Danchenko (also on the Curtis Institute faculty), baroque violinist Risa Browder (whom I have known for years), violin pedagogist Rebecca Henry, violinist Elmar Oliveira, as well as viola da gamba player, baroque cellist, and musicologist John Moran (husband of Risa Browder), to mention a few.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    In addition to what others have suggested concerning money, for a degree in violin performance, I would recommend:

    1) staying within the region, especially an in-state public if possible, unless the student is qualified for the top private conservatories

    2) having the student research the private instructors once the field of reasonable possibilities is narrowed.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I also think the student needs to take a good, long, hard look at "how good AM I compared to everyone else?" Meaning; what do you want to do with this degree? University teaching, high school orchestra directing, private teaching, full-time symphony orchestra performing are for the most part all going to require very different degrees, and as a field have VERY different degrees of competition.
    Eg, don't get a degree in violin performance hoping for a job with an orchestra unless you know you are one of the top %0.0001 of violinists in the country, or you are being realistic about what other opportunities that might open. (private teaching, etc.)
    Unfortunately, by the time most kids nowadays have got to high school, they've had "you can be anything you want to be!" so engrained in them, and it's most definitely not true, and 4+ years of college later and tons of job rejection letters isn't the time to find out.
    Be realistic in assessing your skill level and what you can do with it.
  • I was just logging on to ask this question. I teach writing and grammar at CUA, but take voice from a former chair of their voice faculty. The way things work, I walk past Leo Nestor's door almost daily, but never see him and he doesn't do anything that I could get involved with without enrolling in CUA.

    But I make extra money by catering, and I was bartending for a visiting group of Canadian bankers, and ended up chatting with a woman whose son is an undergrad in music and is looking for a grad program in sacred music. Apparently, he is very devout. I could only think of CUA.

    However, what I take away from this discussion is that the student is going to have to bring a lot to it. As the old saying goes, a motivated studentw who finds one or two mentors and uses the library can get a good education almost anywhere. So if the student begins with a strong understanding of what he or she is looking for, that is the key.

    So, how does an 18-year-old who has his socks knocked off the first time he hears Byrd to set about learning what it is that he likes? I would hate to contradict Jeff T, but the forum here is NOT the place. Too many lurkers who want to announce how much they know and how silly your question is. So any place a kid can go to without getting a blast of know-it-all-ness? Any book that would lay it all out for him that does not presuppose a strong knowledge right up front?

    Kenneth
    Thanked by 2chonak CharlesW
  • Also, while I see that Notre Dame is getting better, shouldn't there be some concern about a student ending up with a malevolent theology faculty?

    Kenneth
  • Kenneth,

    There are certainly some malevolent theology people at ND, but there are enough good ones to do your whole degree without having to deal with them. The ND MSM degree includes 4 or 5 liturgy courses, rather than general theology. Cavadini, the chair of the department, is excellent - you could ask him for advice, ask around with other students, or visit several different teachers in the first week of classes before deciding on final enrollment. You should be able to spend 2 years there without any nonsense. I found the Protestant faculty very respectful - and in some ways more Catholic than some of the Catholic faculty. Max Johnson (Lutheran) and Paul Bradshaw (Anglican) were great teachers. David Fagerburg somehow worked a ton of Chesterton and Lewis into his Liturgical theology course, which was wonderful. There is plenty to enjoy at ND - again, if you avoid certain people.
  • Paul F. Ford
    Posts: 798
    Notre Dame and Collegeville
  • JennyJenny
    Posts: 147
    Kenneth,

    My son will be starting at CUA this fall as a freshman. He is also a talented vocalist. He won't be majoring in music but, we are hopeful that he can find some good musical opportunities. Maybe you'll end up correcting his grammar, too!
  • Everyone, thank you very much for the suggestions. I can now make a suitable response to my correspondent, as well as other students who come to me for advice. Would that I were better equipped to give it!
    Peter
  • I was away for a bit. Regarding ND, a good time ago some liberals at ND wanted to get rid of the Protestant ethicist Stanley Hauerwas because he was too faithful to the Creeds, the kind of Protestant who "only" disagrees with the definition of "one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church." He said that they used the pretext of making the program "more" Catholic, but made it less so.
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    Nobody on this thread, thus far, has mentioned the Eastman School of Music. Yet when I had the privilege of visiting that school briefly last February, and talking with various students and professors (both groups specializing in organ studies), I was profoundly impressed.

    Of course not being a string player myself I have no experience of Eastman's violin-teaching. Nevertheless, if it's anything like what I saw of Eastman's organ-teaching, it would be wonderful. So do not overlook Eastman by any means.

    Incidentally I treasure the wisdom of Marajoy's remark: "Unfortunately, by the time most kids nowadays have got to high school, they've had 'you can be anything you want to be!' so engrained in them, and it's most definitely not true, and 4+ years of college later and tons of job rejection letters isn't the time to find out." Alas, that's all too accurate.


  • Mike R
    Posts: 106
    The high-point for dissent in the ND Theology department was the mid-to-late 1980s. While the university as a whole has some issues, Theology has gotten stronger and stronger with great hires under Cavadini's leadership. Some of the old guard are still around (though Richard McBrien finally retired, not that he was a liturgy professor anyway), but the quality of education is so far above and beyond most other places that you'd be pretty crazy not to go there if you could do it for free.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    I know this isn't the place for advertisements at all, but let me just say that I'd be thrilled if anyone might consider the Univ. of Northern Colorado (where I teach music ed.), in Greeley.

    We don't quite have the luster of some of those very fine institutions mentioned above — but our faculty is comprised of many extraordinary graduates of those programs and others (including two of Dr. Mahrt's own students from long ago), and our own graduates do quite well in the field. And our tuition is quite competitive.

    We don't have a sacred music program… but if you're looking to sing in a schola, I can hook you up. ;)
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    Thank you, Mark M. Does the University of Northern Colorado include the organ among the instruments that are taught there?
  • Everything said about Notre Dame in this thread is dead-on. I graduated from the MSM program in 2011. It's not a GREAT program quite yet, but it is unique in its focus and is growing up to be a real powerhouse. The additions of Fassler, Jeffrey and Tellez will do wonders a few years down the road.

    And yes, it's full-tuition-paid! Message me for more details if you're considering the program.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    RJ Stove… short answer is "unfortunately, not anymore, at least not officially." We have an organ in one of our recital halls that isn't played anymore (at least I've never heard it). And no faculty anymore who teach organ, either, although I figure lessons could be arranged if someone wanted it. There are some fine organs in various churches around town.

    There is an organ program up the road at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    Many thanks for these details, Mark M. A shame that the recital hall organ isn't regularly played any more and that the instrument isn't formally taught on the faculty any more.

    It's a similar situation here at my own college: Australia's Monash University, where I have the largely meaningless but impressive-sounding title of "Adjunct Research Associate". There are two organs on campus, but they mostly gather dust and the Monash music school has no organ students in it at present. I'll look up the Colorado State website and see what by way of organ-related stuff I can find there.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,545
    Arizona State University has a strong organ program, and goes all the way up to the doctoral level. The professor was the director of the school of music until she stepped down a month ago, but she is sticking around to teach her organ students. I don't know exactly how large the studio is, but it's always a healthy 5 or more students. There are a lot of fine instruments as well. If you go to the link below and click on "organ hall," there's a lot of info about what they've got.



    It is not a "sacred music" program, per se, although it obviously ties in ... and I know that some of the doctoral students have done thesises (thesi?) on Catholic organ literature. The professor is very open to that.

    It is a very liberal and secular university, so you'd have that to deal with.

    Oh, and the Newman center there is fantastic. Most of the masses don't have the greatest music, but the pastor has reigned in a lot of the raucous stuff that used to go on, and bought a (digital) organ, which does get used if you go to the right mass time. It's bearable, too, because the priests are great. Very much in the mindset of "reform of the reform."

    They also just partnered up with another university to offer some theology courses (at ASU, but credits through another school, I think), so you could enroll in those and sort of piece together your own "sacred music" experience.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    Thank you, ryand. Liberalism and secularism, however extreme, are unlikely to faze any Australian graduate, let alone anyone connected (however vaguely) with the college which was nationally known during the Vietnam War as "the Monash Soviet." (It has been wittily and accurately said that Australia doesn't have 41 universities, but rather, one university with 41 campuses.) Fortunately from my point of view, it would simply never occur to most of my colleagues that I might be any sort of religious believer, let alone that I am a Catholic. I simply mind my own business. But I must say, the Arizona link does look tempting.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    I looked at the Arizona site, and saw that they have two organs that play Baroque music well. Are those instruments of any use for playing any other literature? I know I deliberately studied at a school that didn't have organ reform extremists teaching organ, since I neither like German Baroque instruments, nor the music. I often wonder if the lack of organ students could have something to do with unpleasant sounding North German organ clones, and the one-sidedness of the literature being taught in too many places. Who really knows, but I suspect the unpopularity of the organ may have something to do with the type of instruments being built, and some of the people who are teaching. Our Baroque extremist who teaches at the local university, seems to attract mostly like-minded students. As I said, who knows. One thing is sure, however. The days when halls were packed for organ recitals have passed. Is it the instruments, the literature, the promotion of music that doesn't connect with audiences, playing styles, or something else entirely? A good start for Catholics, I would think, would be acquiring instruments that play chant, historic Catholic music for worship - Romantic literature included, and a wide variety of music styles. We used to call those, "service instruments."
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,545
    R J Stove,
    That's good to hear. I took the same attitude myself and survived. If your faith is threatened, there is always that fantastic Newman center nearby ;)


    Charles,
    All of the organs have a good purpose and get a good amount of use.

    I'm guessing by "North German clones," you are referring to the Fritts? (the large red one, the main organ in the hall). The Fritts is actually very versatile for being a "classical" organ. I played about five centuries of material on it ... Couperin, Bach, Vierne, Pärt, etc. I liked it for all of them. It requires a little bit of creativity on registrations for some material, but it is surprisingly flexible. My only complaint is the lack of a swell box, but then again I tend to "ride" the pedal too much anyway, so maybe that was a good thing!

    The others have more "particular" purposes, but they do get used. The Italian organ (Traeri) is in meantone, so doesn't fit a lot of material, but for certain things its great ... and a unique experience to play on an authentic instrument. I used it for some Frescobaldi material, and it was cool to think of him writing that music on a similar instrument ... stops, action, etc. The vox humana is a beautiful effect! Then there is the little portative, which is usually used for early music ensembles. I did wind up using it a few times for some 20th century compositions though. And there are 3 practice room organs ... nothing fantastic, but they're all actual pipe organs, and serve their purpose (practice).

    RE: material studied, it is quite varied. The professor is very open minded and actually tries to stress a versatile repertoire. I studied with a doctoral student, whose recitals ranged from Frescobaldi to Messiaen ... so I'd say there's a good variety!



    "The days when halls were packed for organ recitals have passed. Is it the instruments, the literature, the promotion of music that doesn't connect with audiences, playing styles, or something else entirely?"


    I'll quote you to answer the quote.

    "Who knows?"


    ASU at least doesn't have problems with:
    -instruments
    -literature
    -playing styles

    Does the music connect with audiences? I don't know. Then again, my elementary students were more aware of Rebecca Black than Johannes Brahms ... what to do?

    Is it something else entirely? "Who knows?"
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    We have this discussion regularly among local AGO members. I wish we had an answer.
    Thanked by 1ryand
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I think one reason that this question doesn't have an easy answer is b/c it takes so much time for a program to get "built up" and especially recognized, so often it happens that over the years as a program is gaining a reputation, by the time a certain student gets there with high expectations, faculty X has gotten old or retired or moved on...and the program isn't what it used to be, but no one knows that yet. And a really great but relatively "new" program won't have the graduates to be able to prove that it's great yet.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    I know of one college that had an excellent program. When the rest of the school's finances dipped, the administration reasoned that there were not that many organ students. Consequently, that would be a good place to start cutting full-time faculty.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,847
    It's difficult for me to understand where CharlesW is coming from. I'm old enough now to understand that available instruments have as much to do with programing as personal pantheons, but when I was young I shied away from organ recitals because they seemed to be frequented not by most musicians I knew but instead by some weird cult where Reger, Sowerby or Widor were more likely to be given the place of honor than JSB. Ironically my latest disappointment came when John Butt, announcing that there were anglophobes spotted in the audience, replaced the advertised Elgar Sonata with Clavierübung III. Fun of course, but I had specifically made the trip to hear an undiscovered piece...

    To put the thread back on track, I can't say nearly enough about ASU's Kimberly Marshall as an outstanding performer and enthusiastic teacher.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    That's all good to know about Marshall. I still could go all day without hearing or playing German Baroque organ music - North German Lutheran, that is. I rather like French literature from that time period. English isn't bad, either. I never got the Sowerby bug.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,545
    Richard Mix,

    Did you study at ASU (and when)?
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,847
    No, I met Kimberly at the Antelope Sweelinck festival last year, and here's proof, sort of. And here's the organ that has put Antelope on the map; the parish children are lined up for 25¢ and the privilege of acting as calcant on Sundays. It lacks the broken G# and F#'s that are almost indispensible for either Couperin, but my dream church could very well get by with this plus a Mustel harmonium rather than any single eclectic instrument. Unless perhaps it had 20 notes per octave...
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    Yes, I noticed that Kimberly Marshall was at ASU. I've read some of her writing and heard some of her recordings, but I have no experience of hearing her in concert.

    The two dust-gathering Monash organs were (like Monash itself, for that matter) products of 1960s-1970s affluence, where the sole principle for antipodean schooling consisted of the magic words "Give us more money." Back then the Orgelbewegung was just beginning to make its presence felt here, and on the "if you build it, they will come" theory, Monash acquired two Orgelbewegung-derived instruments. So far I've seen (and played on) only one of them, which is totally unsuitable for anything composed after 1750.