The Blair School of Music serves as a focal point at Vanderbilt for the study of music as a human endeavor and as a performing art. The school enrolls students from over thirty-five states and foreign countries.
The bachelor of musical arts degree gives excellent performers and composers the flexibility to combine in-depth music study with a second focus in another field. The degree, which is available in any orchestral instrument, piano, saxophone, euphonium, voice, and composition, includes a broad foundation in the art of music, in addition to a self-designed area of interdisciplinary studies or a specific field outside of music (for example: pre-med, music and the mind, art history, computer science, etc.). This major is ideal for a student who has a strong interest in two fields and/or combining two areas of study into an individually-designed interdisciplinary area. Students interested in Musical Arts apply with the same materials and standards as performance applicants.
All Bachelor of Musical Arts degree candidates complete a standard core of requirements designed to ensure an intense, yet broadly-based understanding of the discipline of music. Students take coursework in music theory, musicianship and keyboard harmony, music literature/history, and conducting while participating in ensembles, chamber music and individual performance instruction. In addition, all music students complete a varied liberal arts core of coursework.
The honors program in music literature and history is designed to afford superior students the opportunity to pursue more intensive work within the field of musicology or ethnomusicology, culminating in the preparation of a senior thesis. The course of study includes seminar work as well as independent study and writing under the supervision of a thesis advisor. Successful completion of the honors program requires an oral defense of the honors thesis before a faculty committee at the end of the spring semester of senior year.
Recent honors theses titles include:
“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”: Constructs of Masculinity in Disney Film Musicals since 1989
Understanding Ethnomusicological Objectivity: An Ethnography of Musical and Cultural Regeneration in Youth Communities in Accra, Ghana
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Sweeney Todd as Open Text
Breaking Down Bluegrass: A New Audience for an Old Music
Students at the Blair School engage in research and creative expression in many different ways. Each summer several are involved in the VU Summer Research Program (VUSRP). Throughout the academic year students can enroll for credit to work one-on-one with faculty mentors in an independent study, a thesis in musicology, a junior thesis in composition, an honors thesis in musicology, a recital, and other collaborative projects in the arts.
Recent student projects include:
- A study of Sondheim’s setting of language to music, and the composition of a new musical theatre work based on the findings
- Researching music and the mind, with a focus on using music to help veterans with PTSD
- Organizing a concert to celebrate the 140th birthday of Charles Ives, featuring Blair faculty and student performers
- Investigating current trends in audience engagement in classical music in order to understand best practices for increasing and expanding engagement
Students may also gain valuable experience by receiving academic credit for an internship. Opportunities are available throughout Nashville in the academic year, or students may intern anywhere in the summer. Students have interned at: Nashville recording studios, National Public Radio, the Nashville Symphony, the National Music Festival, and the Washington National Opera.
The Blair building incorporates innovative developments in acoustical design and engineering. It contains teaching studios, classrooms, practice rooms, library, administrative offices, a large electronic piano lab, instrumental and choral rehearsal halls, the 272-seat Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall, and the 609-seat Ingram Hall which includes full staging capability with orchestra pit, orchestra shell, full lighting/sound systems, and opera scene shop.
The Anne Potter Wilson Music Library is a division of the Jean and Alexander Heard Library system. It is a central gathering place with plentiful spaces for study and contemplation, where researchers collaborate with the music library staff to discuss methods of accessing resources and information in the field of music. The current collections contain over 95,000 items, including scores, recordings, videos, books, journals and numerous online resources.
Other Special Opportunities
Students may participate in a wide variety of large and small ensemble experiences, including Vanderbilt Orchestra, Vanderbilt Wind Symphony, Symphonic Choir, Vanderbilt Chorale, Vanderbilt Opera Theatre, Big Band, Fiddle Ensemble, Steel Drum/Pan Ensemble, Sankofa (African Performing Ensemble), and Percussion Ensemble.
The Blair School of Music sponsors a variety of concert series that offer solo, chamber music, and large ensemble performances to the University community and the Middle Tennessee area. The Blair Concert Series provides exceptional programming through the Faculty Signature Series, BMI Composer-in-Residence Series, Nightcap Series and Music on Film Series. National and international artists and ensembles, the Blair faculty, including resident ensembles and soloists, and student ensembles and performers are all featured. Weekly student recitals, junior and senior solo recitals, and senior composition recitals are free and open to the public. More than 300 concerts are presented at the school each year.
Internationally known performers visit the Blair School frequently to perform and give master classes. Some recent artists include Thomas Hampson, baritone; Emanuel Ax, pianist; the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet; Kim Kashkashian, violist; Laurence Lesser, cellist; and Sō Percussion. The BMI Composer-in-Residence program, sponsored by Broadcast Music, Inc., brings visiting composers to campus every year for a three-day residency. Composers-in-residence have included William Bolcom, George Crumb, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Karel Husa, Joseph Schwantner, Frank Ticheli, Michael Torke, and Joan Tower.
Students with a Musical Arts degree move on to a diverse set of postgraduate careers. Some recent graduates include:
- Samuel Parler, ’09. Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University
- Arreanna Rostosky, ’10. Ph.D. Candidate, U.C.L.A
- Ben Edquist, ’13. Pursuing M.M. in voice performance at Rice University
- Zachary Polson, ’13. Pursuing M.M. in piano performance/pedagogy at Southern Methodist University
- Julia Di Fiore, ’14. Pursuing M.M. in voice performance at Florida State University
- Katherine Walden, ’14. Ph.D. Candidate, University of Iowa
- Kelby Carlson, ’15. Catholic University Law School
Blair School of Music is home to internationally known faculty soloists and ensembles, and Blair’s performers, composers, ethnomusicologists, and musicologists are among the most respected in their fields. Their dedication to teaching and a low student/faculty ratio provide students the personal attention that fosters maximum musical growth and understanding.
For information about faculty, please visit blair.vanderbilt.edu/departments/ and link to the departmental websites.
Contact for Blair Admissions Questions
Thomas Crespo and Molly Jewell
Blair School of Music
2400 Blakemore Ave
Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: (615) 322-6181