Are you thinking about a career in music? The music department at Cornell offers unique opportunities for the interaction of scholarship, performance, and composition through collaborations with fellow students and faculty members alike. Creativity and breadth are encouraged, and graduates from the department point to these traits as influential in their musical development and career pathways.
Patrick Chamberlain, ’13, majored in government, but has established a successful career in arts administration, working at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and now is Director of Artistic Planning with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Chamberlain’s involvement in the Glee Club gave him “invaluable firsthand experience in running a top-level arts organization,” and he says “the courses I took in the music department gave me a broad understanding and appreciation for music theory and musicology – knowledge that I use every day.” At the NJSO, Chamberlain works with Music Director Xian Zhang to plan and program concert seasons, hire guest artists, negotiate fees and contracts, and research and lead public talks about the music.
Similarly, Megan Lemley, a 2003 double major in music and psychology, gained valuable experience in arts administration by taking on leadership roles in the Wind Ensemble and Chorus. After working with the New York Pops upon graduating, Lemley decided to return to school for an MBA at Wharton to gain more management experience to supplement her arts knowledge. She worked for a time as a strategy consultant at Accenture to learn about the for-profit sector and bring that knowledge back to non-profits. She then worked in education and special projects at the New York Philharmonic and is now the Chief Operating Officer with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. She says her successes and failures as a student leader at Cornell provided important experience for her career and encourages current students to “try out that thing that you think is too hard and for which you don’t think you’re qualified…the only way to become so is to dive in and attempt it anyway.”
Music major Jasmine Edison, a 2015 graduate, chose to attend Cornell after getting lost in the music library on her campus visit and subsequently striking up a conversation with a Ph.D. student about C.P.E. Bach: “I decided that these were my people and this was my school,” she says. Edison was involved in a wide range of activities in the department, including Contrapunkt, the Symphony Orchestra, Deixa Sambar, and Percussion Ensemble. She encourages current and prospective students to take advantage of the opportunity to explore: “I tried everything and my ideas completely changed…try things that scare you – I was afraid to do tech-related things, then ended up taking computer music!” This foray into music and technology led Edison to pursue an MFA program at Virginia Tech, where she is working with music’s intersection with numerous other fields, including computer animation, graphic design, and electrical engineering.
Alex Kresovich, ’08, also notes Kevin Ernste’s computer music class as having a big impact on his career, and spoke about his academic and career experience in a recent Cornell Sun article. A communications major with a minor in applied economics and management, Kresovich took classes in music because of his “passion for music and wanting to become a music producer.” He says Ernste “pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and gave some great advice on the music business.” Through networking at Cornell, Kresovich interned for two summers at the Island Def Jam Music Group, and while he worked in a non-musical field immediately after graduation, he was still constantly working to improve his music production skills. After winning a national video game music contest, he has gone on to work with numerous top artists, including Cee Lo Green, the X Ambassadors, and Panic! At the Disco. Kresovich speaks highly of the impact that the Cornell environment had on his outlook: “In class, I got to collaborate with extremely talented students from all different types of backgrounds with different music interests, and it showed me how diversity in music genres and tastes could be incredible and to always be open to all ideas…Meet as many people as you can and do projects together; you never know how many of these people will be lifelong connections for you!”
Rebecca Lomnicky graduated in 2014 with a double major in music and sociocultural anthropology. A Scottish fiddle performer and past winner of the International Scottish Fiddle Championship, Lomnicky spent the year after graduation touring and recording an album with her Scottish music band, The Fire. In the fall of 2015, she returned to academia at the University of California, Berkeley and in 2017 earned a MA in Ethnomusicology. She continues to be a graduate student at Berkeley in the Ethnomusicology Ph.D. program where she studies Scottish traditional music. In addition to her academic work, she actively performs with The Fire and teaches Scottish fiddle and serves as a great example of the combination of musicology and performance available in the Cornell music department.
Demonstrated by the recent alumni above, there are numerous ways to be involved in a musical career, and top tier employers and graduate schools in other sectors also actively recruit students with liberal arts degrees. Employers of recent music department graduates include City Year, Google, Music & Arts, Capital One, Weill Cornell Medical College, Yale University, EA Mobile Games, Capitol Records, International Contemporary Ensemble, Visum Development, and Carnegie Hall. Additionally, recent graduates are enrolled in masters and Ph.D. programs at Rutgers (composition), McGill (library science), Johns Hopkins (biological sciences), Brown (applied mathematics), University of Georgia (music), and more.
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