14 Best Colleges for Performing and Liberal Arts

14 Best Colleges for Performing and Liberal Arts

Written by: Sushma Sharma and Pavita Singh 

College is an incredible opportunity to get a well-rounded education in a variety of subjects. This is especially helpful if you’re not sure exactly what you want to pursue after graduation. Many incoming college students have an interest in the performing arts and want it to be part of their course of study, but may not be sure if they want to make a career out of it. Luckily there are several colleges that offer performing arts programs along with a well-rounded liberal arts education. If you’re considering going down this route, you might take a look at these 14 colleges.

  1.  University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom:
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    Oxford University

    Oxford has a stellar music department—one of the largest and liveliest in the UK. Excellent for musicologists, performers, and composers, you can study anything from 13th century motet to hip-hop to music psychology. Oxford is home to the celebrated Bate Collection—a collection of over 2000 woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments from throughout European history. Students have the opportunity to work with local professional ensembles, including the Orchestra in the Age of the Enlightenment and the Cavaleri String Quartet. Oxford is also full of theater spaces where students from all majors can put on productions. There is a full-time University Drama Officer who helps students plan, program, and publicize their productions and organizes workshops and talks for theater lovers across the university.

  1. New York University, New York, NY:
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    Tisch Gala

    One of the most vibrant schools in the world, NYU is home to the famous Tisch School of the Arts, which offers programs in performing and media arts. Out of all of the schools at NYU, Tisch has the most rigorous admissions process. The curriculum at Tisch combines conservatory training with the liberal arts. Students are required to take science and humanities classes in addition to their performing arts classes, making Tisch (and NYU as a whole) a hub of creativity and intellect. Notable NYU Tisch graduates and attendees include James Franco, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Adam Sandler, Rainn Wilson, Lady Gaga, and M. Night Shyamalan.

  1. Yale University, New Haven, CT:
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    Yale University

    Yale offers BA programs in music and theater studies for undergraduates. Both of these majors require students to combine studio and practical work with academic coursework. Faculty in the theater studies department are affiliated with other departments as well, highlighting the department’s interdisciplinarity. It is highly advised that students in both departments also take foreign language courses to be able to obtain a reading level.

  1. Fordham University, New York, NY:
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    Theatre Performance

    Fordham has a BA program in theater where students participate as members of the Fordham University Theatre Company. Theater majors can concentrate in performance, design and production, directing, or playwriting. All theater students are also required to complete the university’s core curriculum, which includes classes in the arts, social sciences, literature, philosophy, theology, history, and languages. Students can also take academic electives and pursue double majors.

  1. University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:
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    University of California, Berkeley

    The Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) at Berkeley produces excellent performers and scholars. Students are required to take courses in history, literature, culture, and theory in addition to their performance classes. Berkeley is especially well known for its productions related to social action. For example, this past semester, the department hosted a series of events and performances to commemorate the anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. While not required, all seniors in the department have the option of completing an honors thesis. UC Berkeley also has a Department of Music that emphasizes the importance of a liberal education. There are a number of double-majors in the department, including TDPS, molecular and cell biology, physics, political science, English, and business administration.

  1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA:
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    Cinematic Arts

    USC has the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, the School of Dramatic Arts, the School of Cinematic Arts, and the Thornton School of Music. The School of Cinematic Arts offers programs in animation and digital arts, cinema and media studies, film and television production, interactive media and games, media arts and practice, producing, and writing for screen and television. It is the only media school in the world that teaches all the major disciplines of cinematic arts. Regardless of concentration, students are required to take courses in each of these divisions. All of the performing arts schools emphasize the importance of a solid understanding of the human condition and society in order to be a successful and effective performer. USC performing arts students get the full academic experience along with their conservatory training.

  1. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA:
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    Film Production

    UCLA offers an undergraduate major in World Arts and Cultures/Dance. As part of this major, students learn a variety of dance techniques from around the world. These performance courses are complemented with courses in other departments, such as education, gender studies, cultural studies, and disability studies. Graduates find themselves in diverse fields, such as the arts, public service, education, performance and production, urban planning, law, environmental activism, public health, and medicine. The School of Theater, Film, and Television offers classes in acting, directing, writing, producing, animation, cinematography, lighting design, set design, costume design, sound design, and Moving Image Archive Studies. One of the school’s values is social and civic responsibility, and this is reflected in its courses and programs. For example, the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment is the first center of its kind dedicated to research and public programming to advance the power of entertainment and performing arts to inspire social change. The Herb Alpert School of Music offers undergraduate programs in performance, composition, and music education all of which combine artistic and academic study.

  1. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York:
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    Bard College Performing Arts Center

    Performing arts concentrations within the Division of Arts at Bard College include dance, music, and theater and performance. Bard’s small size allows students the opportunity to spend quality time with their advisors to create a curriculum plan that suits their goals. All first-year students at Bard take a common curriculum, which comprises the Citizen Science Program, the Language and Thinking Program, and a first-year seminar. Performing arts students are required to take classes in technique, context, and creative practice and research.

  1. Bennington College, Bennington, VT:
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    Bennington is special in that it gives students a lot of liberty in designing their course of study. They work closely with the faculty to create the content, structure, and sequence of their curriculum, known as “The Plan.” The performing arts programs at Bennington include dance, drama, and music. According to its website, “Bennington College has an enduring commitment to dance as a vital, serious art form integral to a liberal arts education.” In addition to practicing their craft, performing arts students grapple with questions such as “How can theater and poetry be of service to political and environmental goals?” Students are encouraged to try their hand at every aspect of the production process in their performing arts courses.

  1. Boston University, Boston, MA:
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    TV Production

    BU offers a wealth of performing arts courses and degree programs. The Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at BU follows a carefully designed array of classes in acting, movement, speech and voice, and dramatic literature. BFA students are also required to take at least 7 liberal arts courses from across any of the university’s 16 colleges. Students in the BFA program can choose to pursue a concentration in Music Theatre. The Bachelor of Science Program in Film & Television focuses on studies, screenwriting, production, and management/producing. Though this department is housed in the College of Communication, students are also required to take at least 3 courses in the College of Arts & Sciences. Students in this program have the option of doing a semester-long internship in Los Angeles. Students wishing to pursue music can do the Bachelor of Arts in Music offered through the College of Arts & Sciences or a Bachelor of Music in the College of Fine Arts. The BA is more academic in nature while the BM is more performance-based, but there are aspects of both in both programs.

  1. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY:
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    Vassar College offers performing arts majors in drama and music. The mission of the Drama Department is to “balance the practice of theater-making with the study of theater history, theory, and dramatic literature.” Drama students engage with a variety of disciplines, including politics, social sciences, and philosophy. There is a lot of collaboration between the Drama Department and other departments, such as Music, Dance, and Greek and Roman Studies. The Department of Music allows students to explore performance, composition, history, and theory, giving them depth and breadth in all of these subject areas. This is a small department with an average class size of 15 and a student to teacher ration of 11 to 1, which gives students ample support to reach their full potential. On Monday afternoons, there are student recitals on campus. In addition, there are a number of a cappella and other singing groups that students from any major can join.

  1.  Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY:
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    Dance theory, technique, and production

    Skidmore students can pursue a BS in Dance, a BA in music, a BS in theater, or a combination of any of these. The dance program focuses on theory, technique, and workshop/production. Students in the music department must take courses on Western and non-Western music traditions, take three semesters of private music instruction in one area of performance, and three semesters of ensemble performance. Theater students are required to take a series of core courses and are encouraged to take one class each in acting, directing, and design and technical theater. Students in each of these performing arts majors are also required to complete a writing component.

  1. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL:
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    Music Technology

    The list of performing arts majors that you can pursue at Northwestern is extensive. The dance major, housed in the School of Communication, is centered around contemporary modern dance. Students get in-depth choreography training while they are challenged to write, research, and analyze the field of dance. Potential career paths could include performance, dance writing, education, choreography, dance therapy, and administration. Music Performance students can choose to major in brass, percussion, piano, strings, voice and opera, and woodwinds, and Music Composition students can major in composition and music technology, music education, musicology, and music theory and cognition. The Department of Performance Studies allows students to explore such issues as literature through solo performance; adaptation and staging of poetic, narrative, and nonfiction texts; intercultural performance; cultural studies and performance ethnography; performance theory and criticism; and performance art. The Radio/Television/Film major gives students training in the creation, editing, and production of films, computer animation, and video installations as they study the social, economic, and political dimensions of radio, television, and film. Student productions regularly win awards in national and international competitions. Finally, theater majors can study music theater, playwriting, acting, and design and stage management as they develop skills in research, writing, group discussion, oral presentation, performance, and production.

  1. Stanford University, Stanford, CA:
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    Music Composition

    Stanford’s performing arts majors are music and theater and performance studies (TAPS). Music majors take core classes in music theory and musicianship and can concentrate in performance; composition; conducting; history, theory, and ethnography; or music, science, and technology. The TAPS department combines the study and practice of performance within the context of a liberal arts curriculum. Students gain an understanding of the historical, cultural, and practical contexts in which performance develops and take practice-based courses in acting, directing, writing, dance, devised theater, stage management, performance theory, and cultural studies. All TAPS students are required to complete a capstone project during their senior year.

If any of these colleges or majors are of interest to you, you can connect with and talk to current students and alumni of these colleges and programs, as well as, performing artists from all focuses on Konversai—a knowledge-sharing social conversation platform that enables one-on-one live video conversations between anyone, anywhere, about anything. Konversai is a space for knowledge providers and knowledge seekers to come together and have conversations about topics of mutual interest. You don’t have to be an expert; any and all knowledge and experiences you’re able to share have value on the platform. Knowledge providers also have the option of charging for their conversations with seekers. If they don’t need they money, they can donate their earnings to charity or hold conversations for free. The best way to learn about any topic is to talk to other people who are knowledgeable about and have experience with it—people who can answer your questions with your unique needs in mind in a way that college guidebooks cannot. If you’d like to learn more about double-majoring in one of the performing arts a non-performing-arts subject, stay tuned for one of our forthcoming blogs. Join Konversai today and start having meaningful and insightful conversations that will help you make better life decisions.

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