Life at Bard Conservatory

by From the Top alum Shawn Moore

shawnmooreNinety miles up the Hudson valley from New York City near the quaint towns of Red Hook and Tivoli, the Bard College Conservatory of Music lies on a quiet bank of the Hudson River. I’m now in my third year of the school’s unusual program, in which all conservatory students are obligated to select an academic major in addition to their instrumental studies.

Students are given five years to complete the program, and graduate with performance and liberal arts degrees. It might sound like a tall order suitable only for incurable bookworms, but with the right organization it is entirely workable. The key ingredient to managing all of this daily hustle and bustle without giving up your life is, of course, time management! College dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of binders, pocket calendars, and post-it notes. Organization and clear daily goals throughout the semester became űber-important for avoiding disastrous procrastination.

When I applied for school, I wanted to be a musician, but my other interests were wide ranging and I knew I couldn’t lock myself up in a practice room all day. I decided the solution was to supplement music with an academic education, as opposed to going to, say, Juilliard, where I might have wasted a lot of time that is now better applied toward towards becoming acquainted with the world outside of music. Of course, the time to practice eight hours a day does not exist here, but if you accept that musical creation doesn’t come from a vacuum in the practice room, then the double degree is an opportunity not to be missed. For all those who love to explore the realms of science, literature, history and any others that have over the years inspired composers to create their works of genius, it is a chance to reaffirm that relationship, which of late has languished. A typical day might find me dashing from a class on modern logic to rehearse a Shostokovich quartet, then on to Chinese language tutorial. The worlds of academia and music here are inextricably linked. Of course, everything does at times become rather crazy, rushing to finish a paper or memorize the last movement of a concerto with no time to spare, but despite the stress this wild and rich atmosphere also supplies a constant stream of inspiring cross-pollination that I’ve found invaluable to my music. 

When applying:

• Try and figure out exactly what you want out of your education! Or at least, if you really are completely clueless, choose a school that leaves plenty of options.

• Know as much as possible about the teacher! Talk to their students, and research online. The message boards on the Internet are goldmines of information!

• Performance opportunities at school. This topic needs much more emphasis, as it is extremely important to a budding musician. The only way to get used to performing, is, well, by performing! You don’t want to be a wallflower at school simply sitting in the practice room.

Click here to hear Shawn’s performance on From the Top’s radio show when he was 18.

How about you? We’d love to hear your experience with choosing a college or conservatory or attending one yourself. Send us your story.