School of Music to Offer Music Technology Degree Option

Penn State’s School of Music will now offer Music B.A. students a degree option in technology. The new option builds on existing technology classes already available, and allows music majors to graduate with a focus in more technologically-advanced aspects of their art.

“It’s really the same degree as our BA in Music,” Professor of Music Technology Mark Ballora said. But with the new technology addition, the major now has two options: general music studies and music technology. “Music technology is a superset of the general music studies B.A. It has the same core of theory, ear training, history, piano, and ensemble participation.”

What makes a music degree with the technology option stand out, then? Some pretty serious gen eds, to start with. “It mandates gen ed courses in calculus, matrices and vectors, computer programming, and physics. It also has required courses in music production, recording engineering, and software programming,” Ballora said, which bring in the technological emphasis.

As one can imagine, understanding these technological aspects of music production is important for modern music students. “The great majority of music we hear is recorded, not performed live. How music is processed and recorded is vital knowledge for musicians today, whether or not they wish to specialize in how it’s done,” Ballora said. This emphasis on technology is important for students because music majors will probably not find their full-time post-grad job at a career fair in the BJC. “They’ll have to be prepared to make a living in a variety of ways — performing, teaching, writing, etc. This gives them additional tools they can draw from as they embark into professional life.”

But the School of Music wants to make one thing clear: The technology option is not an easy way out for the less musically-inclined. “It is not a ‘school for waywards,’ where weak students who aspire to be DJs can seek an academic haven; and it is not ‘music lite for rock and rollers,’” Ballora said. The skills from the technology option will likely attract students who aspire to music production, television or radio broadcasting, recording, or software programming, to name a few.

Ballora says the demand for such an option has existed at least since he joined Penn State in 2000. The new technology degree option was built piece by piece, adding one class at a time. In 2006, sound design classes from the School of Theatre were added in, and faculty in the School of Music were able to put together a technology-based minor to offer students. By 2013, Ballora said, enough classes were available to fill in music degree elective slots, and the new degree option then went through the typical approval process at the university.

The degree option is currently available for students, and the department expects the first freshmen to enter the program in the Fall 2015 semester. Ballora said he hopes to get about 5-10 students to choose the option each year, but knows it will take about four years for a “critical mass” of technology-option students to develop.

About the Author

Melissa McCleery

Melissa is a senior majoring in Women’s Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. In the little free time she has, Melissa likes to cook, spend all her money at The Phyrst, and add to her collection of blue and white striped clothing. She can be reached via Twitter (@mkmccleery) or email ([email protected]).

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