UCLA or UC Berkeley music program?
September 17, 2008 1:45 PM   Subscribe

UCLA or UC Berkeley music program?

I am looking to go to either of these schools as a performance major. Which one in your experience is better?
posted by *lostatsea* to Education (14 answers total)
I'm not a musician, but my understanding from friends who went down that path has always been it's who you study with that matters and the school that person teaches at is secondary. I guess access to equipment would matter as well if you require certain things like expensive electronic music facilities, for example.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:02 PM on September 17, 2008

Undergrad? Dunno. Grad? As Mandy said, it is all about the faculty that are there and if you want to work with them.
posted by k8t at 2:09 PM on September 17, 2008

I guess I should clarify that answer was more when I was thinking about what my friends went through when choosing their undergrad institution--whose studio they got into seemed to be a pretty big focus.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:06 PM on September 17, 2008

What instrument do you play? Some schools are stronger in some departments than others. I know little about UC Berkeley, but it seems to me that UCLA has a good, solid all-around music school. It also has one of the best ethnomusicology departments in the country, if that's of interest to you.

(Disclaimer: I go to a "rival" school in LA.)
posted by speicus at 3:09 PM on September 17, 2008

My advice to you would be to email professors in your field at both schools, if you haven't already, and ask lots of questions... in my experience most are happy to talk to prospective students (and if they're not, that tells you something too).
posted by speicus at 3:14 PM on September 17, 2008

I am applying as an undergrad student.
posted by *lostatsea* at 3:57 PM on September 17, 2008

I want to major in either Performance Piano, or Conducting -- haven't decided yet.
posted by *lostatsea* at 4:00 PM on September 17, 2008

what "rival" school do you go to?
posted by *lostatsea* at 4:02 PM on September 17, 2008

Also, isn't Mills well known for their music program? (Very close to Berkeley, if you aren't familiar with it... ) And UC Santa Cruz?

Don't mean to derail, but I've heard intriguing (if vague) things about both of those programs (and I know nothing about Berkeley or UCLA for music).
posted by kristi at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2008

Music student here. Go to the school that has the better piano professor. There aren't many places where you can major in conducting as an undergrad -- if you eventually have hopes of being a conductor, take conducting classes with the music ed students, and start looking at grad programs in your 2nd or 3rd year. If you are majoring in piano, well, find the school with the best teacher.

Really, if you're planning on pursuing a career in this, no one is going to care (on paper) where you went. Your chops will speak for themselves.
posted by rossination at 4:31 PM on September 17, 2008

I'd second checking out UCSC as well. I am not in the field but my impression was the music school there was bigger and more important to the school than Berkeley's is (I went to both UCSC and Cal.)
posted by Large Marge at 6:09 PM on September 17, 2008

*lostatsea*, I'm actually a music professor at one of the CSU campuses, so know the California music landscape fairly well. The advice I give to any aspiring performance major is choose the teacher, not the school. Absolutely, always.

You should contact each school of music and set up a lesson with a member of the piano faculty, and visit each campus in person. A lesson with the applied faculty (which they should not charge you for) combined with an on-site visit will tell you much more than any word of mouth or reputation.

Again, choose the teacher, not the school. In piano, you also need to inquire whether or not you'll study with professors or graduate students--many larger programs use TAs to teach undergrads, though I don't think either UCB or UCLA are large enough to do so.

There is no such thing as an undergraduate major in conducting, those are graduate programs only. (Trust me on this one, I'm a conductor.) One thing to keep in mind about the two schools you mention is that they are very different kinds of music schools--Berkeley has very little going on in the wider performance area, their ensembles (orchestra/band) are comprised mainly of non-majors; their focus is musicology, computer music, and various solo areas like piano. UCLA has a more traditional, comprehensive music school. As a pianist, this would not be a major concern, as you play a solo instrument; but if you have an interest in conducting, the quality of the major instrumental ensembles should be on your mind. An on-site visit where you can sit in rehearsals will go far to giving you good information on this. I also strongly recommend that, if you aspire to conduct, you endeavor as an undergraduate to gain at least a decent proficiency on an ensemble instrument, and play in the orchestra when you're able.

Looking at your profile, it says you live in Michigan--if that's accurate, I'm curious if you've considered either State or U of M? Michigan State's music school continues to make terrific faculty hires, and the graduate students I've known from there are quite good. U of Michigan is of course one of the country's great music schools, and I speak from experience (my master's in conducting is from there) when I say it's a fantastic place to study, the faculty is mind-bogglingly good.

Also, one thought on this:

Really, if you're planning on pursuing a career in this, no one is going to care (on paper) where you went. Your chops will speak for themselves.

This is true, mostly. However, going to a first-rate program lets you make connections that can be significant in your professional career, especially in the early stages. It also really gets you noticed when you do things like apply for grad schools and summer programs like Aspen and such, and clinics, etc. further down the road. Plus, teachers at high profile programs typically have connections everywhere and regularly recommend their students for important continuing steps in the very difficult journey from terrific musician to terrific musician who actually makes a living being a musician.

Good luck, and my email is in my profile if you have any more questions.
posted by LooseFilter at 6:32 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, one final thought: the premier music school in California is USC, no question.
posted by LooseFilter at 6:33 PM on September 17, 2008

Why not study with Aleck Karis at UC San Diego?

Have you been accepted to UCLA or UC Berkeley? Do you have safety schools? How disappointed would you be if you didn't go to one of those schools? What if you ended up in the bay area or LA at another school? What if you went to Juilliard? Are you concerned with what each can offer in terms of general humanities requirements? Lots of questions, without answers from you, that determine our advice.
posted by billtron at 8:14 AM on September 18, 2008

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