Help Poodus find a University...
April 29, 2008 8:58 AM   Subscribe

My younger brother is starting to look into colleges. He has a knack for (and interest in) math and engineering. However, he is also a skilled musician(QT) and photographer. What universities or educational paths would best combine these two interests?
posted by fake to Education (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Carnegie Mellon University has excellent programs in music and math. They offer a Bachelor of Science and Arts interdisciplinary degree which he might be interested in. I was a humanities and arts student and it worked out very well for me.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:18 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: My alma mater, RPI, has the Experimental Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) B.S. It's supposed to be about joining the arts and technology into some sort of harmony.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:22 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Music, in my experience, is a lot harder than photography. And harder to learn. Photography is something that it's quite possible to teach yourself. Not quite so much with music, at least not on a high level. So if he's serious about music, I might put my energy mainly towards that.

I went to conservatory and I would absolutely NOT recomend that he does that, unless he's sure that he'll never want to do anything but play music. Sounds like not the place for him anyway, but I'd really recomend as diverse a program as he can find at a good university...wish I'd done the same.
posted by sully75 at 9:29 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: partial to Texas A&M but either A&M or Texas would be great places for him to check out for both his interests.
posted by doorsfan at 9:31 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Hey, I'm an Aggie, but if he wants to have a real focus on music, A&M isn't the school for him. The music major here has only been available for a few years, and the program is very much in its infancy. However, Texas A&M's engineering school is top notch, so he could certainly come here and major in engineering with a minor in music or something, and come out alright.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: Speaking on his behalf, I think an interdisciplinary degree as mentioned above, or a minor in music would suit him.
posted by fake at 9:54 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Check out Georgia Tech. He can get a really well-respected math/engineering undergrad degree (at state school prices), and then consider the MS in Music Technology for graduate work. He can also get involved with WREK student radio (which was just voted best non-commercial radio station in Atlanta) and, more importantly, the Atlanta music scene. Tech in particular, and Atlanta in general, is chock full of creative and interesting nerds. It will be one of the best bouts of culture shock that he'll ever experience in his life.

If Tech seems attractive, get him to look into the President's Scholarship Program. It's a scholarship program that actively seeks smart kids that seek to do positive, creative, beneficial work above and beyond their degree. By your description, your brother seems to fit the bill pretty well. Good luck!
posted by JohnFredra at 9:59 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Hey, I went to a conservatory for music, and now I'm in math. As ludwig mentioned, there are some schools that do offer interdisciplinary degrees, such as Oberlin I also believe that if you attend the New England Conservatory you can take classes at Boston U. As I'm sure you know, though, a lot of music schools do not offer this kind of flexibility, and even if they do, the academics can be sub-par, especially when they're offered through the conservatory itself and not an affiliated university. The other problem with this is that it's really tough to split yourself in two. I know - I tried. It's certainly possible to pursue the more academic-oriented aspects of a music degree (ex. theory and history), but if he's interested in performance, he will find it very difficult to devote enough time to practicing while having enough time to think about and complete his non-music work. I would seriously caution against this path as it can lead to feeling inadequate in both fields.

For what it's worth, I don't think he should pursue music as his main focus, but it sounds like he doesn't really want to anyway. From that short clip, he sounds like a reasonably talented guy (and I don't know if he plays anything else), but there are just way too many classical guitarists in music programs across North America.
posted by asparagrass at 10:12 AM on April 29, 2008

Oh, as a side note, he may be able to use his music to get a scholarship, especially if he's willing to play in ensembles, and especially at a school that's good academically but may not have the best music program.
posted by asparagrass at 10:13 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: IMHO the best thing is to start out with a double major in science and art. He'll either a) realize very quickly if he wants to drop one, or b) take the extra classes necessary for a double major during the summer, or c) drop one of them and get a summer internship at someplace (maybe Bose?).
posted by proj08 at 10:15 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Gotta give a shout-out to my alma mater, Hampshire College. Pure, uncut interdisciplinary education, self-directed learning, great arts community AND great nerdy community. It's not for everyone, but I think it deserves a look by anyone with interests as diverse as your brother's. It's a great place to explore multiple paths and figure out your own way to combine them.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: The University of Rochester has dual-degree programs where students spend five years and study at the University's Eastman School of Music and in the regular college programs and get a B.Mus. and a B.A. or B.S. at the end. The B.A. music program is also good (and students can double major or dual degree in music and engineering or science) and students in the College have pretty open access to the courses at the Eastman School of Music.

The Rochester Institute of Technology has strong fine arts programs including photography (though not music as far as I know) and excellent science and engineering.
posted by Jahaza at 11:29 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: UMass Lowell has a lot of funding going into the engineering departments in the last couple of years, as well as an intense music program (performance, music ed, music business, and sound recording technology). I'm pretty sure there's some combination of electrical engineering/SRT, if that's something he'd be interested in.
posted by lisawin at 11:42 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Seconding Carnegie Mellon. They have top-notch programs in engineering, math, music and the arts. They're also very big on interdisciplinarity - it's a really big part of their identity.
posted by I Said, I've Got A Big Stick at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: These are some awesome recommendations. I think generally, he isn't looking for a music performance education, and he's willing to continue pursuit of the art stuff into graduate studies. Also, thanks asparagrass for the caution on classical guitar plentitude.
posted by fake at 12:50 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: CMU, Williams (if he's awesome)

Sigh, the two schools I got rejected by.
posted by tmcw at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: My alma mater, Olin College, is a really good engineering school, and while that's all you can major in there, we have an incredibly active music and arts community. We have several band/orchestral groups within the school and with neighboring schools, many students play in regional orchestras, and there is are multiple dedicated music practice rooms on the very small campus. There is some coursework from engineering professors (one an EE who also teaches at Julliard, and one BioE who is a "published" artist) for both music and art (lots of photography), and the music classes occasionally intertwine with engineering concepts -- signals and systems, in particular.
posted by olinerd at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: I went to Oberlin College and left with a Computer Science degree. I considered trying to double major out of the Conservatory, but didn't care for the instruction on my instrument. The college has a very flexible degree program. While I was there, one of my classmates got a Bachelor's degree in Humor (IIRC). The math department was super. There is no real engineering department last I checked.

I loved the freedom to choose course across disciplines and ended up with a solid, competitive CS degree and a potpourri of other things including ethnomusicology, religion, physics, astronomy, and so on.

Be aware that Oberlin only grants arts degrees. Early on in my career, in interviews I was required to defend that I had a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. No big deal to do, but the first time caught me by surprise.
posted by plinth at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: MIT.
posted by phrontist at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: These are some great answers- I feel like they'll give him a good starting point. Thanks everyone, and more are always welcome.
posted by fake at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Your brother may be my clone. I'm an alum of two of the schools mentioned above (MIT and New England Conservatory) and teach at a third (electronics @ Hampshire), so I have to chime in even though I'm late to the party.

Of the musicians I know, hardly anybody who started at a "normal" (non-conservatory) school regrets it. On the other hand, plenty of people who start at a conservatory end up regretting having pigeonholed their training so early in life. This is due in part, unfortunately, to the realities of working as a musician -- while there is a job out there waiting for the average student from an average law school, musicians in professional orchestras were not only the best, say, oboist at their conservatory but were likely the best the school had seen in years.

He should be wary of claims made by single-focus schools about the opportunity for cross-enrollment. In some places (NEC) it's a mirage, because hardly anybody does it. Getting actual facts (how many students in the arts division are double-majors, or are pursuing advanced training at some other part of the college, etc) is critical. This is ultimately what made me decline admission to Caltech: I went for a tour, asked my guide about their orchestra, and he delivered a completely blank stare and asked, "Why would you do that?" -- at that moment it was clear that even if I somehow kept my motivation, I'd be alone.

Perhaps most importantly, schools can really surprise you once you start looking. I ended up going to MIT for undergrad because it had the best music program of any of the super-nerd schools I got into. And even though it's a school so nerd-tacular that even the few buildings with names are referred to by number, for four years I got to study with musicians from the Boston Symphony (the same people I would have studied with at conservatory). There is nothing about MIT's public image that would make you think this is possible. I'm certain there are a ton of schools out there that defy expectations in this way, it just takes some hunting.
posted by range at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2008

Hey fake - search "slashbot" on youtube. there's a bunch of videos from senior engineering students at Texas A&M who created a guitar hero robot for their senior project. Actually some time this or next week the robot is on display and taking challengers in the engineering building.

Of course this could happen anywhere but I thought your bro might be entertained.
posted by doorsfan at 10:50 AM on April 30, 2008

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