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Thread: Higher Education for Mandolin

  1. #26

    Default Re: Higher Education for Mandolin

    Congratulations Emily! I am a little late to the party here, but you may want to check out Marilynn Mair's webpage (https://www.marilynnmair.com). I have been working my way through one of her books. She teaches mandolin at a university in the northeast (a long way from you) but she may be able to offer you pointers and advice that would be helpful for you. Good luck!

  2. #27
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Higher Education for Mandolin

    Alas, classical mandolin hasn’t found an academic home yet in the USA, although there are some college programs that have been mentioned above that have included mandolin in some way. These programs tend to see “classical” as just another style, rather than as one of the wellsprings from which today’s American mandolin styles evolved. Perhaps before we get a dedicated classical mandolin program, we’ll need existing programs to acknowledge the contributions of classical mandolin to the foundations of American mandolin music.

    But how to get a classical mandolin program started? To some degree, it’s a chicken/egg problem: you’ll need a DMA degree to begin such a program, but there’s no place to earn that degree within our system. (The DMA—the Doctor of Musical Arts—is the credential that acknowledge your expertise as both a performer and a scholar of your instrument). But I can think of possible ways around this dilemma.

    Post #2 above mentioned Alison Stephens’ solution (earn academic credentials in another instrument first). A similar solution was found by Ugo Orlandi, who got his performance degree in trumpet, and with that credential went on to design the mandolin programs in the Italian conservatories. Maybe someone in the North American system will use the Alison/Ugo solution, and earn a DMA in another area first.

    Or, perhaps some enlightened institution could bring in someone with an advanced performance degree from another country to establish the instrumental part of the DMA program, while scholars in other areas guided the DMA student through studying the history and literature of the mandolin. Or, maybe a more immediate solution would be for colleges with established classical guitar programs open their performance degrees to mandolinists (as Chapman is doing for the OP). Perhaps a mandolin program could grow this way, until there’s critical mass to establish a doctoral-level program.

    I think, though, it’s only a matter of time that the broader historical roots of the American mandolin are acknowledged, and incorporated into academic programs.
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

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  4. #28
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Higher Education for Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by SOMorris View Post
    . . . you may want to check out Marilynn Mair's webpage (https://www.marilynnmair.com). I have been working my way through one of her books.
    This raises another interesting point. To my knowledge, Marilynn Mair and Richard Walz are the last two professional-level mandolinists who studied directly through the American system of classical mandolin established by Giuseppe Pettine. It's not too late to study with them, but it's a pity that no academic institution has seen fit to incorporate this tradition before it's gone. Recommendations about where to study classical mandolin usually get around to talking about European programs, but perhaps someone in the next generation will recognize this opportunity, and choose to go outside academia for their studies.
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

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  6. #29
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Higher Education for Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Emily Weerheim View Post
    I did a summer program at Berklee. While it is one of the few schools that advertises their mandolin program, they do not cater at all to the classical player. In fact, most of the classes I took encouraged me not to read music at all.
    I'm sorry to hear that. Since I taught at Berklee for 18 years (ear training, ensembles, string labs) I can tell you that no one graduates without being able to read standard notation, both sight-singing and on their instrument. You might look up John McGann's comments (he started the Berklee mandolin program) in the Cafe discussions; he was a big advocate of learning to read standard notation on mandolin, and the reasons why serious improvising students should transition from tablature. More recently, some of those arguments have shown up in videos like this one. It might help you to know that a lot of music teaching methods focus on ear-first learning, with transition to reading notes later.

    But no, I couldn't recommend Berklee for anyone interested in classical mandolin, since they seem focused on music based in the instrumentís folk roots. And yet, since classical was an essential thread contributing to American mandolin music, I think any young, aspiring mandolinist who wants to be a professional needs to understand the entwined classical/folk traditions of our instrument, and work to gain some fluency in those traditions. BTW, John McGann was also a big advocate of learning music through its traditions, and he used classical music as source material for his own composing and arranging.
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

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    Default Re: Higher Education for Mandolin

    August-

    Thank you for your response. It will be interesting to find out my options for a grad program when the time comes. I hate to speak foul of Berklee, and I will admit that I myself was not ready for such a difficult program at the time. I don't think I was entirely aware of what I was getting myself into, and had not thoroughly examined my strengths at the time (which I now realize is my years of experience playing classical). I am sure that the five week program did not offer as many resources for mandolinists as a full-time student would be offered at the school.

    While classical mandolin seems to be on the rise, I don't think it will be popularized for many reasons. One thing I am running into in my area as a private instructor is a lack of students. This problem I blame on the lack of cheap mandolins available. I am thankful to learn that the store I teach out of just ordered some Ibanez mandolins to sell, so we'll see if having them there will inspire some window shoppers like myself years ago. Even then, it is difficult to encourage students to pursue classical music unless they've been exposed to it in their education system. In primary and secondary school, mandolin is not offered because it doesn't fit into the typical band or orchestra setting. I was lucky enough to go to a performing arts high school at which I nuzzled my way into the classical guitar program like I am at Chapman. This required me to start as a violinist in their orchestras, and it was not until the director of the guitar program noticed me practicing during my breaks that he considered my admission into the guitar program. All of these roadblocks seem like great opportunities for mandolinists to drop their instrument and stick with what is offered.

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