Master's Degree May Draw Musicians

Undergraduate musicians may soon be able to combine their liberal arts education with graduate study under top musicians at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC).

At its biweekly meeting yesterday, the Faculty Council unanimously approved a joint program between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the NEC that would grant students a master’s degree in music just one year after receiving an A.B. from Harvard.

The proposal, which was presented to the Council by Professor of Music Thomas F. Kelly, still requires the approval of the full Faculty. FAS spokesperson Andrea Shen said that it is likely to be discussed at the next Faculty meeting, on April 20.

“I think that program will help people have the best of both worlds,” said violinist Stefan P. Jackiw ’07. “I know several people who had a tough time choosing whether to go to a regular liberal arts school or a conservatory.”

Shen said that students in the program will supplement their undergraduate coursework with an hour of music lessons from NEC faculty each week, but will not be excused from any of Harvard’s graduation requirements. She said that students will fulfill their NEC master’s requirements during their fourth and fifth years.


Shen said that concerns that Harvard might not be attracting students who are interested in music careers drove the decision.

“There’ awareness that there may be musicians who don’t apply to Harvard because they’re very committed to becoming a professional musician,” Shen said.

Cellist Peter L. Anderegg ’04 said that without such a program, the NEC also loses students.

“NEC loses good musicians who are smart and also want to get a liberal education,” said Anderegg, who is applying to begin a two-year master’s program at NEC after he graduates Harvard. “There are certainly people from Harvard who could have gone to a conservatory and chose to go to Harvard instead.”

Council member Mahzarin R. Banaji, Cabot professor of social ethics, said that there was “incredible enthusiasm” about the joint program during the discussion yesterday.

The five-year program is similar to at least a half-dozen programs already in place, including those between the NEC and Tufts University, and between the Juilliard School and Columbia.

Although some five-year programs ask students to apply for their masters’ degree midway through their undergraduate education, Shen said that students studying at Harvard and NEC will apply to both before entering the College.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Council also discussed the planned creation of a film studies track within the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (VES). This track is scheduled to be opened to VES concentrators in September.

The Council also heard a presentation about the possibility of updating the Internet portal, which Shen said is about five years old.

—Laura L. Krug contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Joshua D. Gottlieb can be reached at