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Grad school for Ethnomusicology NOT from a BA in Music


cheshirey

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I'm coming from a California State U with a BA in Communication Studies with a minor in Music (if it helps, i have way over the amount needed for a minor). I've been working in the Music industry for 3 years or so (at a record label, then a concert venue and now at a CBS top 40 radio station in San Francisco) and have had private training in voice and piano. My GRE scores were pretty great for Humanities and my GPA is ok.

I recently met with a professor at my dream school nearby. I proposed my idea for my thesis (which is based on music, philosophy and sociology) and she seemed very receptive. She asked me about my musical background and how I made my major focus toward music, which I gladly told her.

Later on I met with the dean of the music department at my school about my minor who, when i told I was applying to music schools for graduate study, exclaimed "Without a BA in Music? Good luck."

Now I'm freaking out. Am I totally screwing myself here by applying to music?

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Later on I met with the dean of the music department at my school about my minor who, when i told I was applying to music schools for graduate study, exclaimed "Without a BA in Music? Good luck."

Now I'm freaking out. Am I totally screwing myself here by applying to music?

Hooray! I'm not alone!

OK, in answer to your question--no, I don't think you're totally screwed. Each school will differ, so I can't speak for all of them, obviously. However, of the 5 of us in my entering MA cohort, 2 do not have music degrees. One was an English major and the other was in social work (but also an experienced blues performer). If you don't have the degree, it's good to have direct, hands-on experience--which you do. I don't know what your dream school prefers, but your conversation sounds encouraging.

I'm actually surprised to hear your dean's response, because in my understanding, ethnoids pride themselves (ourselves) on interdisciplinarity. Of course, not every member of the music department shares this perspective. Being familiar with anthropological theory (and sociological/philosophical theory to a lesser degree) will stand you in very good stead.

Don't despair. Make sure you play up your musical experience and how it relates to your proposed research in your SOP, and don't be afraid to include some references to critical theory. You'll be fine.

May I ask where you plan to apply?

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Hi Cheshirey,

As a person who already has both a BA and MA in music (performance: trombone) including a heavy undergraduate and graduate load of music theory and history coursework, I have to say, if I were on an admissions committee, you'd need to convince me that you have a solid background in music theory and history, as well as a strong plan for integrating your other knowledge and experience into your planned research.

I would say you do NOT NECESSARILY need transcripts to back you up ... (though that would not hurt you, certainly!) ... But you would need, to impress me at least, the ability to discuss in detail: (1) the similarities and differences between traditional western "common practice" harmony and the use or non-use of harmony in music of non-western origin; (2) the relevance or non-relevance of traditional western methods of analysis (Rameau, Schönberg, Piston, Schenker, et. al.) for the kind of work you wish to do; and most importantly (3) a cogent and well-thought-out idea (Statement of Purpose) as to how you expect to approach and integrate your interdisciplinary research. I would be suspicious of dilletantism, and would want to quiz you in depth, to be sure that you can do more than "talk a good line."

This is NOT NOT NOT meant in any way to discourage you. It's only an (incomplete and off-the-top-of-my-head) laundry list of pitfalls to avoid; questions for which you need good solid answers.

Good luck!

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

thanks guys and i'm glad i'm not alone.

my focus right now (as i guess would be for my MA thesis) is American sociomusicology based on the framework of Jacques Attali's Noise and any relations to Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. In other words, very interdisciplinary stuff.

Thanks for your help everyone!

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