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Master in Contemporary Performance

Introduction

Take your passion and talent for performing to a completely new level. As a master's student in contemporary performance, you'll hone yourconcert performance skills in a variety of styles with other advanced, highly proficient instrumentalists and vocalists. Students will also learn to master the unique demands performers face when working in a 21st-century studio, as well as the technological and entrepreneurial skills that are essential for the contemporary performer. Through study of music business and production, students will develop strategies for producing and marketing their performance projects.

This program is distinct from a jazz studies or contemporary performance degree in its approach: students are not limited to studying jazz or contemporary art music, but will work with master musicians in a variety of genres, such as salsa, rock, Afro-Cuban jazz, and bluegrass. Through applied lessons, small ensembles, master classes, and directed studies, students will deepen their understanding of the harmonic and stylistic practices associated with their chosen area of performance.

Students will perform, record, and develop adigital promotional packageof their own music. This project may take a variety of forms: a recording project, a lecture/demonstration, a grant proposal, a website marketing plan, or another option of the student’s devising.

Contemporary studio performance is a three-semester master's program focusing on concert performance in a variety of styles and the professional production of performance projects in a variety of media with a sub-specialization in either music business or music technology. This program offers advanced studies to instrumentalists and vocalists who demonstrate excellent musical proficiency and desire to develop their performance career in any style. Students accepted into the program will perform frequently in a wide array of projects, including an emphasis on studio recording sessions. The goal of this program is to ensure that students have a well-rounded knowledge of performing, producing, and marketing their performance projects in a variety of media from the concert stage to various digital audiences. The final stage of this master of music degree is a concert and a digital promotional package of this performance.

Who Are We Looking for?

We seek focused, motivated, creative candidates with excellent academic and professional backgrounds who can contribute skills that will benefit the program. Instrumentalists and vocalists must demonstrate excellent musical proficiency and a desire to develop their performance career in any style, with a proven track record of academic excellence. Students who want to learn about marketing and producing their music while continuing to develop as performers will highly benefit from this program.

Courses

Fall Semester 2013-2014

Production Concepts for the Contemporary Musician

The course is a project-based, experiential learning exercise that will arm students with powerful tools and strategies in music production. Artist identity, vision and intention will provide direction for a recording project that will give students first-hand experience in the pre-production, recording and mixing process. Recording sessions will take place in a variety of venues, from professional recording studios with a large-format console, to project studios, to home recording set ups. Students explore the ways that the recording process can best serve their own professional and artistic goals, while collaborating with musicians and engineers.
Masters Performance Forum

This is a performance workshop in which students learn interdisciplinary approaches to music-making. Students also explore various concepts of aesthetics, with a focus on developing their own aesthetic philosophy. Students learn to critique each other as they present their own musical projects to the class for feedback and advice. Joining this discussion with students will be guest lecturers and artists- in-residence from a variety of diverse backgrounds.
Private Instruction/Recording Projects

The private lesson fosters close collaboration between student and instructor. Together, the student and private teacher develop a plan for enhancing the student’s musical vocabulary and deepening his/her understanding of a particular genre of music (e.g. Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, bluegrass). Under the guidance of his/her private teacher, the student will complete a variety of assignments that will hone his/her interpretative skills. Students will be asked to:

  • Play standard repertoire for his/her instrument or voice
  • Transcribe and analyze recordings by acknowledged masters of the style
  • Memorize and perform complex melodic and rhythmic patterns
  • Improvise over a variety of style-specific chord progressions
  • Arrange songs for small ensembles
  • Experiment with tuning systems

Assignments are tailored to the needs of the contemporary musician, with particular emphasis on interpretation in the recording studio. Additionally, with guidance from their private instructor, students will complete a recording project.

Contemporary Studio Ensemble

This course enables students to enhance their ensemble-playing skills, deepen their knowledge of a particular style and its associated repertory, and develop their individual performance identities. Students develop their ability to create and perform music in a particular style. Working under the direction of a senior faculty member, students complete exercises that enhance their intonation, articulation, and improvisational skills in an ensemble context. Students learn to maintain stylistic integrity by developing their awareness of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic practices associated with a particular repertory.
One Elective

Choose one elective from below.

Spring Semester 2013-2014

Masters Advanced Performance Forum

PS-622 continues the learning that began in PS-619, Masters Performance Forum. In this performance workshop, students continue to learn interdisciplinary approaches to music-making. They explore various concepts of aesthetics, with a focus on developing their own aesthetic philosophy as they critique each other. The course provides a platform for students in the contemporary performance master’s program to launch the execution phase of their culminating experience project. The course also provides a framework for project management, including planned milestones, visiting artists, and material strategies to incorporate students’ projects into tangible career opportunities.
Performing Musicians in the Global Economy

This course prepares musicians for a career in the global marketplace. Students explore three stages of engagement: before, during, and after the music is played and performed. Students learn to form music companies, procure intellectual property rights, promote concerts, and gauge long-term collections. Students also explore diverse readings and case studies regarding the role and function of performing musicians in the contemporary global economy. By the end of the course, students will have developed a proposal for their thesis project.
Private Instruction/Recording Projects

The private lesson fosters close collaboration between student and instructor. Together, the student and private teacher develop a plan for enhancing the student’s musical vocabulary and deepening his/her understanding of a particular genre of music (e.g. Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, bluegrass). Under the guidance of his/her private teacher, the student will complete a variety of assignments that will hone his/her interpretative skills. Students will be asked to:

  • Play standard repertoire for his/her instrument or voice
  • Transcribe and analyze recordings by acknowledged masters of the style
  • Memorize and perform complex melodic and rhythmic patterns
  • Improvise over a variety of style-specific chord progressions
  • Arrange songs for small ensembles
  • Experiment with tuning systems

Assignments are tailored to the needs of the contemporary musician, with particular emphasis on interpretation in the recording studio. Additionally, with guidance from their private instructor, students will complete a recording project.

Contemporary Studio Ensemble

This course enables students to enhance their ensemble-playing skills, deepen their knowledge of a particular style and its associated repertory, and develop their individual performance identities. Students develop their ability to create and perform music in a particular style. Working under the direction of a senior faculty member, students complete exercises that enhance their intonation, articulation, and improvisational skills in an ensemble context. Students learn to maintain stylistic integrity by developing their awareness of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic practices associated with a particular repertory.
One Elective

Choose one elective from below.

Summer Semester 2013-2014

Private Instruction/Recording Projects

The private lesson fosters close collaboration between student and instructor. Together, the student and private teacher develop a plan for enhancing the student’s musical vocabulary and deepening his/her understanding of a particular genre of music (e.g. Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, bluegrass). Under the guidance of his/her private teacher, the student will complete a variety of assignments that will hone his/her interpretative skills. Students will be asked to:

  • Play standard repertoire for his/her instrument or voice
  • Transcribe and analyze recordings by acknowledged masters of the style
  • Memorize and perform complex melodic and rhythmic patterns
  • Improvise over a variety of style-specific chord progressions
  • Arrange songs for small ensembles
  • Experiment with tuning systems

Assignments are tailored to the needs of the contemporary musician, with particular emphasis on interpretation in the recording studio. Additionally, with guidance from their private instructor, students will complete a recording project.

Contemporary Studio Ensemble

This course enables students to enhance their ensemble-playing skills, deepen their knowledge of a particular style and its associated repertory, and develop their individual performance identities. Students develop their ability to create and perform music in a particular style. Working under the direction of a senior faculty member, students complete exercises that enhance their intonation, articulation, and improvisational skills in an ensemble context. Students learn to maintain stylistic integrity by developing their awareness of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic practices associated with a particular repertory.
Culminating Experience/Thesis

Working in close consultation with their advisor, students develop a creative, artistic, and/or research project that includes making a contribution to and gaining a presence in the music industry. In this sense, research can be understood very broadly to include artistic research. This may take many different forms, such as a documented set of rehearsals that end with the creation of a music ensemble, or the exploration of the capabilities of an instrument. Students are encouraged to be as creative as possible in the design of their projects. Projects may include, among other elements, a music performance, production, and marketing plan for a recording of their own music. Students also complete a promotional package, to consist of a recording of their music and supporting materials. Those supporting materials may take a variety of forms: a student might build a website to promote a recording, for example, or draft a grant proposal for a public performance of his/her music, using a recording project to supplement the grant proposal application. Students are expected to meet with their advisors on a weekly basis to assess their progress. The final package must be defended before a faculty committee chaired by the student’s advisor.

Electives 2013-2014

Contemporary Arranging

In this course, students explore the musical concepts of melody, rhythm, harmony and form as applied to the principles and techniques of writing and arranging for the rhythm section (drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, basic percussion) and a lead-line in a solo instrument, two horns (trumpet, alto or tenor sax) or voice. Students learn about the conceptualization process of combining individual components to create a musically satisfying arrangement. Students also learn various contemporary musical styles and the musical concepts that comprise them, including writing from the "bottom up" (groove-driven) and "top down" (working with a melody in a lead instrument or voice). Students will complete writing assignments that incorporate combinations of acoustic, electronic and/or MIDI instruments.
Advanced Ear Training

In this course, students will strengthen their command of rhythm and tonal, modal, and chromatic melody and harmony through singing, movement, recognition, dictation, and transcription. They will survey and experience a variety of ear training techniques and practices drawn from a variety of traditions, including Western classical music, jazz and blues, and West African and Indian musical cultures. Students will explore applications of ear training skills to vocal and instrumental performance including improvisation, interpretation, ensemble rehearsal, and music teaching. Each week’s classes will include singing and dictation practice, rhythmic performance and movement, guided dictation and recognition activities, and discussion of methods, problems and solutions. Notated and recorded music examples used in class will come from a variety of styles, genres, cultures, and eras. Students complete ten singing and rhythm performance practice assignments, ten online and CD dictation and recognition practice assignments, two transcription projects, and two multi-track home recording projects.
Contemporary Harmony

This course is a study of the pervasive harmonic language and techniques of popular American song. The goal of this course is to foster an understanding of the harmonic ideas that have carried American music through the latter half of the last century, and to discover harmonic alternatives to the traditional tonal systems that pervade American popular music of this time. Students come to understand the contextual relationship between melody and harmony through observation of different song forms from different styles of popular music, including show tunes, jazz standards, blues, rock/pop/r&b, and through-composed works in the jazz idiom. Harmonic options, both diatonic and otherwise, will be observed through study of the scale(s) that relate to the chord/tonality of the moment.
Online and Social Media Management

This course provides a comprehensive analysis of online and social media options available for the promotion of entertainment products and services. Students review the plethora of online tools for marketing, including online advertising, social media campaigns, social media etiquette, and games and contests. Students learn to create a total branding plan for an entertainment asset. The capstone of the course requires students to create an integrated online media plan for the promotion of a new entertainment product or services.
Music Technology for the Writer

In this course, students learn to utilize digital technology and MIDI to create musical arrangements of either original or existing thematic material using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Students focus on the musical use of technology and production aspects of a project, including the MIDI standard, signal flow of a MIDI and recording workstation, utilizing sound processing equipment, choosing appropriate sounds and combining elements from software synthesizers, and alternate approaches to quantifying and refining rhythmic grooves. Students learn aspects of mixing and production through practical applications of tools and techniques such as equalizers, reverbs, delays, flangers, and choruses, and dynamic processing units—compressors, noise gates, and limiters. Students learn ways to enhance writing in recording and mixing through the effective use of sound processing equipment. In addition to class meetings, students will be expected to schedule individual hands-on time for practice and assignments in the lab.
Topics in Improvisation

Topics in Improvisation is a course tailored to various musical styles, including rock, pop, blues, and more. Students explore the melodic styles and content of improvised solos through history, listening, ear training, shared student transcriptions and analyses, practice assignments, and creative performance projects. Students increase their knowledge of the musical choices, issues, and possibilities they face as improvisers. They learn the historical context of their own original work. Students improve their musical ear and the connections among their musical imagination (inner hearing), aural perception, musical notation, and instrumental performance. They develop their skills in transcription and analysis, with the goal of gaining a greater command of musical materials for use in their own music. They experience ways in which the work of improvisers in the past can inspire their contemporary creative work in the present.
The Triadic Chromatic Approach for the Performer

In this hands-on seminar, students enrich their musical vocabulary by exploring alternatives to traditional improvisational techniques (i.e., playing inside the changes). Through analysis and performance exercises, students learn how to improvise a free melodic line over structured harmonic continuity. Instruction focuses on the triad—major, minor, augmented, and diminished—as the building block for fluid, nonrepetitive chromatic lines. Students also learn to transcribe improvisations in an extended tonal context.
Stage Performance Workshop

In this workshop, musicians develop and perfect the skills necessary for live performance. They explore the concept that good performances involve not only excellent musicianship but also a high level of stage presence and audience interaction. Students explore the different kinds of stage performance techniques that are appropriate in different settings. They investigate concepts of musical and artistic interaction with the audience, and explore different kinds of audiences. They also explore performance as communication. They evaluate strategies to communicate musically through their music and their body. Additionally, students synthesize concepts of acting and persona creation that are part of every performance. In-class performances are recorded and critiqued for effectiveness in movement, presentation, and overall performance. Students learn skills and strategies for microphone and rehearsal techniques, lead sheet preparation, stage presence, programming, audience interaction, persona development, and more. Students also learn strategies for effective auditioning. Students give special consideration to the technical aspects of performance (e.g., acoustics, achieving an appropriate mix for the venue, and recording live performances).

*Course content is subject to change.

Program Purposes and Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  1. Synthesize the harmonic and stylistic practices associated with their chosen area of performance
  2. Synthesize the skills required of performers in a variety of contemporary music settings
  3. Perform contemporary musical styles 4. Create and improvise music
  4. Develop strategies for producing and marketing their performance projects
  5. Apply technology to recording and distributing their music
  6. Record and develop a digital promotional package of their own music
  7. Write grant proposals

Download the 2013/2014 Graduate Studies Bulletin

Academic Calendar

The master's program runs from September to August. To see the academic calendar for the current academic year, click here.

Career Paths

These are some examples of the career paths graduates can pursue:

  • Concert artist
  • Performer/producer
  • Performing artist/teacher
  • Performing artist/composer
  • Performing artist/songwriter
  • Performing artist/entrepreneur
  • Music entrepreneur

Learn more about careers in Music Performance.

FAQs


Q: Is the GRE or the GMAT required to apply for this program?

The GRE or the GMAT is not required to apply for this program.
Q: Can I transfer credits from another institution?

Credits may not be transferred to this program.