Private universities lead in top music and audio degree programs

By Gus Bode

Kaitlin Fahy, a senior from Waterloo studying clarinet performance, plays the bass clarinet Wednesday during a SIUC Wind Ensemble practice at Altgeld Hall. One songs practiced was Blue Shades, composed by Frank Ticheli. The ensemble will perform a joint concert with the Studio Jazz Orchestra Sept. 29 at Shryock Auditorium. €“ Steve Matzker | Daily Egyptian

Private universities have always been recognized for popular names, expensive tuition, their rigorous curriculum and high employment rates post-graduation. Three of these institutions can now add a new title to their resumes: Top university for music degrees.

Princeton University, in Princeton, NJ., makes it a priority to follow trends and evolutions in the music industry. It is from its research that the school of music has created a specialized degree program for undergraduate and graduate students.


“Our undergraduates can have a concentration in a given area of music, however they cannot declare a specific major until after their sophomore year,” said Greg Smith, academic programs manager at Princeton. “It is after they complete their undergraduate studies that they are allotted our specialty degrees.”

Princeton’s list of specialty degrees covers areas such as a Bachelor of Arts in music with a concentration in contemporary, urban and popular music. This program is designed for students who are singers or songwriters interested in performing and creating original music. Other degrees offered include a Bachelors of Arts in instrumental performance in jazz,  audio engineering, music composition in television and film and a degree program with an emphasis on writing lyrical music.

Another institute that has taken music trends and translated them into student ready programs is The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

“What makes our program so unique is that fact that we allow our students to double major with a performance degree and a recording arts degree, something that few schools offer,” said Ed Tetreault, manager of the recording arts department at Johns Hopkins.

Unlike Princeton University, students of the Peabody Institute can be undergraduates and receive a bachelor’s in recording arts, or continue their studies in graduate school.  Tetreault said another factor which adds to their uniqueness is their critical acclaim; their program has been referred to as the counterpart to the European Tonmeister training program, an extensive program for European musicians.

There are reasons, however, why Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University seem to rise above public universities with their detailed music programs.

“It’s all about the location and the money,” said Karen Clayton, SIUC school of music undergraduate adviser . “For example, Princeton University is located in New Jersey, which is very close to New York, a city that houses big companies within the music industry.”


The city in which the university is located could make all the difference as New York City is the largest city in America and has major recording companies such as Sony Music, Jive Records and Virgin Records, as well as venues for students to perform and study. Clark also said Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University have more resources to fund such detailed programs.

Though the three private universities are located in different parts of the country, Illinois houses one of the top performing arts institutions: Columbia College Chicago.

“Columbia is the ideal institute for the creative mind,” said Eric Watkins, an audio arts and acoustics major at Columbia. “We have access to facilities such as our own record label, as well as the first audio and acoustics program in the U.S.”

Coulumbia’s audio arts and acoustics program offers live and recorded sound design and engineering for music, theater, broadcast or multimedia; vibrations and noise measurement and control; architectural acoustics; hearing studies and design . Though public universities don’t offer some of the more specific majors in music, Clark said she feels confident that public universities hold their weight amongst the private schools.

“As far as our school of music, we stay up to date on the many trends in music, and our students enjoy their time here,” Clark said. “There are ways students can build there own majors within music for what is not already offered.”