The Common Curriculum is comprised of courses in music history; ear training, score reading, and composition; foreign language study; studio instruction; career workshops; and recital and graduation review.
This four-semester sequence concentrates on major works from the 18th and 19th centuries in the first semester and the 20th and 21st centuries in the second semester, with a focus each week on a particular composer within the larger musical, historical, biographical, and cultural context. The third semester is devoted to the history of opera, from Monteverdi to the present. The fourth-semester course, built around American Symphony Orchestra programs in New York City and at Bard, illuminates the relationship of music history to the sociology of music, particularly that of listening. The course examines shifting attitudes toward public performance; the different contexts of performance: spaces, politics, economics, and social status of musicians; the history of the orchestra; and economics of concert life.
Ear Training, Score Reading, and Composition
Ear training and score reading each occupy one semester of instruction, with a focus on solfège and harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic dictation (ear training), and open score and transposition (score reading).
Composition is taught in a two-semester course. Topics in the first semester include melodic organization and materials; basic counterpoint; motivic development in small forms; composing for strings, winds, brass, chorus, piano, and percussion; examination of nonstandard pitch materials; and analysis of selected repertory, including 20th-century works. Assignments include melodic composition and melodic expansion, a short invention or study using twopart instrumental texture, a piece in free texture for solo instrument (usually piano), and the development of a work for string ensemble or chorus, to be read under the composer’s baton at the conclusion of the first semester.
In the second semester students compose a theme and variations, score for larger ensembles of mixed winds and strings, compose with nontonal pitch materials (either restricted to three- or four-pitch classes, working with a nontonal motive, or using a tone row), and compose a woodwind quintet or choral work with small ensemble, to be read under the composer’s baton. During the second part of the semester, each student starts sketching and drafting ideas for a work of about four minutes’ duration, to be completed and performed as part of the student’s conducting program for the thesis concert.
Foreign Language Study
Two semesters of German or Italian are required.
Orchestral conducting students take weekly private lessons on a string instrument or piano. Choral conducting students take weekly private voice lessons.
A series of workshops with distinguished guest speakers addresses the practical aspects of working as a conductor and/or music director. Topics include creating an ensemble, applying for grants, and developing a board of directors.
Recital and Graduation Review
Each orchestral conducting student concludes study in the program with a 45-minute thesis concert with the Institute Orchestra, at the conclusion of the summer Conductors Institute that follows the end of the second academic year. Concert repertoire is chosen by the student, in consultation with Harold Farberman, and includes a four-minute composition for full orchestra composed by the graduate candidate.
Choral conducting students prepare and conduct a recital during their second year in residence at Bard. The Graduate Committee, made up of the directors of the program, director of the Conservatory, and one additional faculty member, reviews all second-year students to confirm that they have met the program requirements. These include a research paper (for a course in the history sequence), a high level in the graduation recital, and a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher.