5-Year Double Degrees and the New Bard Model

I’m very interested in the new conservatory program at Bard College. Every student who enrolls in the conservatory–which has a first-rate faculty of big east-coast names–is required to be in a five-year double-degree program. A Bard student cannot earn a Bachelor of Music in Performance only–(s)he must also earn a Bachelor of Arts in a liberal arts or sciences subject as well.

I love this paragraph from the program’s overview on the Bard website:

One may ask: For whom is the Conservatory at Bard intended? Is it for the person determined to have a career in music, enriched by the benefits of a liberal arts education? Yes. Is it for the person who seeks a combined career in music and some other field? Yes. Could it be for the person whose career goal lies in a field other than music, but who wishes to study music deeply? Yes. Simply put, the Conservatory is designed for the young person of talent and curiosity in multiple areas who is committed to continuing to learn and develop in these areas. The goal of the Conservatory, with its integration into the College, is precisely to support such students and to encourage them to keep their minds and their options open.

A number of other schools, including my employer, DePauw University, offer such a five-year program as one of many options. As college music faculty ponder the future of classical music in this country, and the ways in which our future graduates can participate in music and make some sort of living, encouraging students to pursue this sort of education seems more and more to be the only ethical course of action.

Yes, there are a very few who will be able to make a living as soloists, chamber musicians, and/or orchestra players. But that is a very few, and as there are more and more extraordinarily well-trained players being produced, while the traditional classical music job market continues to shrink, the competition increases.

We have to develop new models of what it is to be a serious, committed musican working in the classical tradition. We need to embrace models other that than of all-or-nothing professionalism. I’ll be writing more about this. Meanwhile, the integrity of Bard’s program is inspiring.

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