Letter to the Editor: Musicology, Composition and Theory
On behalf of current and future Brandeis students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, parents of students, and our concerned community, we strongly implore you to reconsider the proposed elimination of the Ph.D programs in Musicology and Composition and Theory. Although small, the Ph.D programs in Musicology and Composition and Theory have repeatedly proven themselves to be invaluable to Brandeis’ ethos, and its interdisciplinary contributions to the Brandeis community and beyond, as well as strengthening the liberal arts at Brandeis.
As you know, the Music department and the internal Ph.D Review Team have provided data that show the strengths and contributions of the programs, in comparison to internal and external Ph.D programs within the US and internationally. We have not heard arguments for closure that actively engage with the ample evidence for the excellence of the programs, other than that Brandeis is “simply not in a position to invest in the programs as is needed to sustain and grow them.” As mentioned by many commentators, it is unlikely that the savings from closing our programs would result in more than a trifle of additional funding for the sciences. Conversely, a modest investment in the music programs, which have been operating with very limited resources, could immediately and sustainably contribute to the University’s national and international reputation, both concerning Ph.D recruitment and placement. These modest investments would help position Brandeis University as a bulwark against the trend to eliminate, marginalize, and tokenize the liberal arts in American higher education, especially with respect to the arts and humanities. While there is much debate about the contribution of the arts and humanities to higher education, and while reiterating the arguments is beyond the scope of this letter, we wish to point out some of the ways the Ph.D program in Musicology and Composition and Theory specifically contributes to the University’s mission.
For many of us, Brandeis has supported and nurtured our belief that our work and commitment to social justice is an integral part of our musicological scholarship and compositional output, as well as being fundamental in shaping culture and humanity. Brandeis is one of the few institutions that uniquely enables Ph.D students to pursue a joint master’s degree in Music and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, given the interdisciplinary nature of both programs, as well as Brandeis’s commitment to multi-discipline collaboration and connectivity (as outlined in “The Framework for the Future ”), eliminating our Ph.D programs jeopardizes Brandeis’ unwavering dedication to collaborative modes of knowledge, research, and development.
Composition and Theory has established collaborative platforms for both undergraduate and graduate composers at Brandeis. New Music Brandeis, for example, fosters and explores cutting-edge research in composition and theory, refining sonic ideas. New Music Brandeis also allows students to collaborate with new music performers worldwide through the New Music Brandeis concert series, such as the prestigious Henri Lazarof Annual Concert from the Brand New Music Initiative. These creative opportunities underpin the innovative learning environment that embodies Brandeis’ academic values. This resonates with Brandeis’ visionary emphasis on both “vertical and horizontal connectivity,” transcending the boundaries of higher education in liberal arts and research institutions. Our Ph.D programs realize this through New Music Brandeis and its connected Ph.D program, Brandeis’ teaching assistantships, the Musicology Interdisciplinary Graduate Symposium, and the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts.
Today, music continues to be an integral part of Brandeis’ core curriculum, ethics, history, recruitment, and successes. Despite operating on a historically marginalized budget, the Ph.D students in Composition and Theory and Musicology have continued to contribute to the excellence of Brandeis and its reputation. Current graduate students as well as recent alumni are teaching at a variety of institutions, including Harvard University, the Berklee College of Music, Southern Illinois University, Hunter College, and the University of Georgia. They are additionally giving back to Brandeis by teaching in the University Writing Program and Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. We are also actively participating in scholarly discourse by presenting at national and international conferences, such as the American Musicological Society (AMS), the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for Music Theory, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, among others. We are excelling in our fields by earning accolades like releasing albums with ZOHO, the Charles Ives Scholarship Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Schwarz Fellowship for Research on Music, and the AMS New England Hollace Schafer Memorial Award.
Brandeis has been a beacon of hope for individuals who believe that pursuing higher education in music is important. In abolishing our Ph.D programs, you will deprive future generations of a supportive, trailblazing, and caring environment that nurtures creativity, empathy, critical thinking, research and development, and artistic innovation. Brandeis Musicology and Composition and Theory alumni continue to hold distinguished positions within the field of music, higher education, and other leading careers. By silencing our voices and reallocating our precious resources to the sciences, you are doing a great disservice to Brandeis and the principles by which this institution was founded.
Rather than divesting these programs, the administration needs to nourish a department that has been doing a lot with limited resources by approving more faculty, providing more support to faculty, and continuing to nurture incoming and current Ph.D students.
We sincerely entreat you to reconsider eliminating the Ph.D programs in Musicology and Composition and Theory.
Current Brandeis students