What’s special about Eastman? – part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series written by Matthew Ardizzone, Eastman’s Associate Dean of Admissions.

In Part One on this topic, I focused on our students and alumni.  As music schools across the country start to grapple with the question of how to best prepare their students for the changing musical landscape of the 21st century, I look at our alumni and observe how we have already been preparing students for the unknown. We have a sense that as a school we need to expand our definition of what a performing artist needs to be able to do. But it’s clear our students are already coming to us with broader visions of how they might engage in a life in music, and they are fulfilling those visions as alumni.

This makes me immensely proud, both as Eastman’s admissions dean and as an alumnus, and leads me to the next thing that makes Eastman special.

Eastman’s tradition of artistic excellence

Artistic excellence remains at the core of everything we do. When I say artistic excellence, that extends beyond the work done on the major instrument. In the words of our Dean, Jamal Rossi:

In order to have something meaningful to say, a musician must lead a rich and interesting life.  Toward that end, we believe in educating the whole student—not just about the techniques of music, but also through the study of humanities, by interdisciplinary pursuits, and by converging music with other arts” (from Dean’s Welcome).

To this end, Eastman boasts its own Humanities department which plays a major role in fostering a vibrant intellectual atmosphere at Eastman, along with top-notch departments of musicology and music theory. Humanities offerings in languages, literature, history, philosophy, film studies, art history, psychology and political science make it possible for Eastman students to complete their minimum humanities requirements (24 credits, or 1 course for each of your 8 semesters) on the Eastman campus. Note that there are no strict distribution, or general education, requirements (those not interested in math read: no math!). And for those whose academic interests expand beyond these offerings, there is the entire course catalog of the College of Arts, Sciences & Engineering to choose from.

Comprehensive curriculum – strong musical core with room to design

Musicianship skills are paramount and are a major focus of our curriculum, with five semesters of aural and written theory that give our students an unmatched grounding in musical fundamentals, an often over-looked area of their previous musical studies. This is supplemented with up to four semesters of keyboard skills (based on each student’s entering proficiency level).

All of our students are experiencing this core education that puts their musicianship and artistry at the center of everything they do. Around that, we provide the opportunity for students to take elective courses in arts entrepreneurship – we’ve been doing that since 1998 and have ‘written the book’ on arts leadership that many other schools are now following. We foster creativity through programs like the Musical Arts major, the e5 Program, Take Five, and the many elective opportunities for performing ‘outside the box’ of the minimum degree requirements. This is something that exists both in the curriculum and in the culture of Eastman. It has led to the development of student-run groups like SoundExchange, Ossia, and others. Our undergraduate viewbook profiles several Eastman students pursuing the bachelor of music degree in distinct ways, and I encourage you to check it out.

And that’s all without getting into some of the most basic components of what we have to offer: exceptional faculty, amazing performance facilities, and one of the world’s preeminent music libraries right here on our campus. Many schools can talk about great teachers and facilities. Eastman’s faculty is not only truly at the top of their respective fields, but, almost more importantly, completely dedicated to their teaching at Eastman. All Eastman students take their lessons with Eastman faculty. The fact that we have an outstanding graduate program means that masters and doctoral students are part of the studio, and sometimes even assist with some extra coaching (technique lessons or warm-up sessions), but Eastman faculty are responsible for teaching all fourteen lessons per semester. So while they are in demand as performers and teachers, any lesson missed must be made up, and they tend to concentrate their travel time in the summers and during school breaks.

When it comes to performance spaces, I never tire of hearing about students and their “Kodak moments” (a reference your parents may more readily appreciate). This is the moment when a prospective student visiting Eastman steps into Kodak Hall and experiences an overwhelming sensation that goes something like, “wow…this is where I want to be.” Kodak is indeed a glorious performance space, and it is complemented by the beautiful Kilbourn Hall (ideal for chamber music, solo piano, voice and smaller opera productions) and the more intimate (and newly built) Hatch Recital Hall, a true gem of a space with amazing (and adjustable) acoustics. But facilities do not make a music school so much as the people that inhabit it. At Eastman we are blessed to have the best of both!

But I know I can’t convince you of how special a place Eastman is through a blog post. The ideal way to experience it is to visit, whether during your sophomore or junior year (or earlier!) or as a senior auditioning in February. Sign up here for a visit. If that’s not possible, contact us by phone or email and keep an eye out for one of our online webinars. Also explore our Summer@Eastman offerings, including the core Music Horizons program. There’s much more to say about what distinguishes Eastman, and, more importantly, what we have to offer that is in line with what you are looking for in your undergraduate education. We look forward to hearing from you with your questions.

In the meantime, happy practicing!