Musicians seek performance track

Seeking more hours in the practice room instead of the library, many Yale music students are clamoring for the addition of a performance track to the music major.

As music majors submit their schedules for the semester this week, many will sacrifice their interest in performance classes in order to take the many courses in history and theory that are required by the department. A number of music majors said they wished the program offered a track geared specifically toward music performance, but faculty in the undergraduate Department of Music said Yale’s broad base of music offerings is appropriate to its liberal arts curriculum.

Music major David Rector ’07 plays the cello. Many music majors want the Department of Music to focus more on performance.
Annie Spokes
Music major David Rector ’07 plays the cello. Many music majors want the Department of Music to focus more on performance.

Students majoring in music are allowed to apply two semesters of private lessons — as well as one 200-level class, a group which includes most of the other performance-based classes — toward the major. Music majors may also count two more semesters of private lessons and other 200-level classes towards the 36-credit Yale College graduation requirement.

Some students said the restrictions on counting performance classes for credit make life difficult for students who hope to pursue careers in performance, though a solution might lie in creating a relevant track within the major akin to those offered by several other departments. In psychology, for instance, students can major in the behavioral neuroscience or philosophy tracks within the standard psychology major.

“If people really wanted to pursue performance, it would be great if you could have a program like a conservatory,” said Daniel Schlosberg ’10 who is majoring in music. “It would be excellent if there could be a music major with a performance track.”

Under such a system, students suggested, more performance classes would count toward the major while the number of history and theory courses would be reduced.

Rebecca Blum ’07, who is double majoring in music and English, said she would like the Department of Music to offer tracks in performance, theory, and composition, though she also recognizes that Yale’s status as a liberal arts college may require the curriculum to have a more academic bent.

“I do agree that if people really wanted performance as their major college experience, they would go to a conservatory,” Blum said. “But … I don’t think it would hurt to have an option to focus on performance.”

Michael Veal, the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Music, said he believes there is already a proper balance in the major between performance, theory and history.

“The major in the Department of Music is oriented towards music history and theory, but the School of Music is essentially a conservatory, and most music majors receive private instruction through the School,” Veal said in an e-mail. “Ultimately, students leave Yale very well-trained in terms of performance, while having an outstanding grounding in music theory and music history.”

Music professor Ian Quinn emphasized the differences between a conservatory and a liberal arts college that would make it inappropriate for Yale to offer a major focused on performance.

“The music major is designed to serve a broad constituency of performers, composers and scholars, and also designed to provide the same level of academic rigor as the other majors at Yale,” Quinn said. “It’s true that an undergraduate can’t pursue an entirely performance-driven program of study to fulfill the music major, since Yale is a liberal arts college and not a conservatory.”

Some students do believe the department offers an adequate menu of performance classes.

Alex Perez ’09, who is majoring in music, said the major has plenty of performance options for those who are interested.

“I’m not formally trained in what I play, so I don’t see myself taking those classes,” Perez said. “A lot of people do take those classes, but it is just an option — it’s available.”

Last year, there were 43 junior and senior music majors at Yale.

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