Where music and liberal arts education meet

Understand the theory, the practical details, and the concrete benefits of the music-liberal arts synergy -

illuminated by Robert Martin’s decades of experience as a cellist, philosopher and founding director of the Bard Conservatory. The book contains a Manifesto arguing that young musicians deserve and need a first class liberal arts education, which has been neglected, historically, for reasons of social class and because of misguided Romantic ideas. Also in the book is the story of the Bard Conservatory, the only conservatory in which all students pursue the double-degree, a case study rich in details of implementation, followed by reflections by twenty eight Bard Conservatory graduates on what their double-degree education has meant to them.
Buy the book →

The skills and attitudes fostered by an education in the liberal arts and sciences are exactly those that will make the difference between technical excellence and genuine artistry.

  • Life will be more interesting for a person with a broad education

  • Career success is more likely for a person with the skills provided by a liberal arts education

  • Musical artistry, imagination, and depth are enhanced as a result of a liberal arts education

The point of the double-degree education is not to provide a safety net - though it does! - but rather to keep doors open. When doors are open you have freedom to choose what is best for you.

But will I have enough time to practice?

Yes, because smart, intense practicing is most valuable.

If the argument is right, why hasn’t the double-degree idea been widely accepted?

Because, historically speaking, musicians and other “entertainers” have been the victims of class prejudice, and some 19th century ideas of “genius” and “intuition” have misled us.

What does a double-degree program actually look like? What do the students think of it, and where are the graduates going?

Read the student's answers, in their own words.

What students are saying:

“After a stubbornly single-minded focus on music in high school, it was exhilarating to discover in college that I was good at something I hadn’t previously known anything about.” Ben Pesetsky, Bard ‘11
“My life was like black and white before, but now I can see colors.” Yue Sun, Bard ‘12
“I found symmetry between Bach’s music and complex math theories. Both are logical, delicate, and full of structured beauty…” Yuan Xu, Bard ‘12
“The critical thinking and communication skills nurtured through discussion- and writing-based classes are more important than ever in today’s society, not least for musicians and artists who need to navigate a time when traditional career paths are increasingly difficult to pursue.” Frances Lee, Bard ‘14

Bard College Conservatory of Music

Five year B. Music + B. Arts program required for all students
Learn more

Columbia Juilliard Program

Five-year B. Arts and M. Music program
Learn more

Harvard College Dual Degree Music Programs (with New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music)

Five-year B. Arts and M. Music program
Learn more

Johns Hopkins University -Peabody Double Degree

Five-year B. Music and B. Arts or B. Sci program
Learn more

Lawrence University

Five year B. Music + B. Arts program
Learn more

Musikhochschule Münster

Planning underway toward a five-year Music+ program specially designed for German Universities
Learn more

Oberlin College and Conservatory

Five year B. Music + B. Arts program
Learn more
“I heard Robert Martin’s talk in Saint Petersburg in 2012 and really liked his ideas. Now that I’m Dean of the Musikhochschule Münster, my colleagues and I are excited about the possibility of introducing a Music+ program, as we call it, that will also keep options open for our students.“
Dr. Stephan Froyleyks
Dean of the Münster University of Music of the Westfälische Wilhems-Universität Münster
Talented young musicians mature into artists through intensive study of their instrument, deepening of their knowledge, and opening of their minds.  These are exactly what a student receives in a double degree approach to the study of music, and I am convinced that it is the best path to creating unique musical voices.
Melvin Chen
Deputy Dean and Professor of Piano, Yale University School of Music

Join our community?

Join the Synergy community to network with performing musicians, educators, students, and all who share your interest in the way that music connects with the rest of life.
Join →
There is no cost, and no requirement except willingness to share your contact information with the members of the Synergy community.