Monday, January 19, 2009

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: Mount Allison University

At the very centre of the maritimes sits Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. With a capped undergraduate enrollment totalling 2,250 students in arts, science, commerce, fine arts and music, this liberal arts university boasts a tight-knit music community.

Why bother paying attention to this little school in "the middle of no-where"? Because somehow, they have managed to attract faculty that boast MMs and DMAs from some of the most prestigious universities in North America including my Alma mater, the Eastman School of Music.

Here is a list of necessary information for admissions and completion to their undergraduate programs in music:
  1. Degrees: This is directly out of the course calendar: "The Department of Music offers instruction leading to both the Bachelor of Music degree (B.Mus.) and the Bachelor of Arts in Music. The former is professionally oriented, whereas the latter (B.A. Major or Honours in Music) is designed for the student with a more general interest in music. A Minor in Music is available to students in any program. The Bachelor of Music degree is offered without designated majors, and allows the student considerable latitude to put emphasis on any of the subject areas: Music Theory and Composition; Music History and Literature; Music Education and Performance. It is designed to develop well-rounded musicians in practical, theoretical, and historical areas, as well as to provide a sound education in the liberal arts. This versatility of approach is in keeping with the wide-ranging demands which are placed on the musician of today".
  2. Admission: Like all music programs, admission is by audition. Singers are asked for four pieces including one in English representing different styles of music. You will also be interviewed by a member of the faculty and have to complete an entrance assessment exam which includes aural skills and musical skills.
  3. Faculty: As mentioned earlier, this small school has managed to attract some serious scholars including voice teacher and opera workshop director Dr. Helen Pridmore and music historian Dr. Elizabeth Wells both graduate of the Eastman School of Music. In addition to Dr. Pridmore who is full time, the voice faculty is rounded out by part time instructors soprano Monette Gould and baritone Peter Groom.
  4. Degree Requirements: Although Mount Allison does not offer a performance designation with the B.Mus Degree, they do offer a number of classes to support performing including History of Opera, Diction for Singers, Musical Theatre, Collaborative Keyboard (student pianists are paired with student singers and are coached together), and shared and full recital options in fourth year.
  5. Ensembles: There are eight ensembles of which three are dedicated to singers.
  6. Opera: Dr. Pridmore runs the Opera Workshop which performs regular concerts of opera scenes. They perform an annual tour of the maritimes and have created new operas including a Christmas 2008 opera titled "The Tailor of Gloucester".
  7. Scholarships: Although Mount Allison doesn't boast a tonne of scholarships, they do have the massive Bell Scholarship - a renewable $9,000/year or $12,000/year award for top students. Additionally they have the Leta G. Hill Scholarship worth $40,000 over 4 years, and the Confederation Scholarships worth $5,000 annually.
  8. Calendar of Events: One of the other reasons I was excited by the Mount Allison program was their impressive calendar of events. Looking at the 2008-09 academic year boasts an average at least 8 concerts per month including an early music festival, a symposium on the music of Oliver Messiaen, special events for Canada Music Week, a special concert for Convocation Weekend and a whopping 13 faculty recitals!

It is clear that Mount Allison University Department of Music provides an excellent perspective on the music making in North America and has positioned itself as the creative centre of the community. I would love to hear from alumni with your comments or stories of your time at Mount A!

Wednesday, January 21

Since posting this article about Mount A, I have heard from Helen Pridmore. She writes:

...We're proud of our small department -- even the fact that we're so small
makes us special, because it makes for terrific interaction between faculty and

If you felt like adding a bit more info about us, I would love to have included the fact that I specialize in new and experimental music. We have a small new music ensemble here and a group of very active student composers, and we encourage collaboration and experimentation!

Thanks Helen for responding!

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