University of New Mexico offers new multiple woodwinds degree

The University of New Mexico is now offering a masters degree program in multiple woodwinds.

unm-multiple-woodwinds
Click for flyer (PDF)

A few items of interest from the degree requirements (also see an update in the comments):

  • It is a 4-instrument degree, with one “primary” and three “secondary” instruments. Two semesters of study are required on the primary instrument, and one semester each on the secondaries.
  • The audition must include at least two instruments (one of them must be the primary instrument).
  • The single required degree recital appears to be a recital on the primary instrument only. Personally, I’m not a fan of this—to me it doesn’t make much sense to study one instrument for performance and three more just to play in the practice room. But it may be a good option for a doubler who intends to have a single “main” instrument.

I am always glad to see new multiple woodwinds programs. I have added UNM’s to my list of multiple woodwinds degree programs. The list is intended to be comprehensive but likely has some gaps, so please let me know if you are aware of any others. In particular, I have been hearing from doublers outside the US who are looking for programs in their respective parts of the world, so be sure to send those along if you know they exist.

For more information about the program at UNM, please contact them directly using the email addresses in the flyer.

FAQ on multiple woodwinds degrees

I get to hear fairly often from aspiring woodwind doublers who are considering the option of a college degree in multiple woodwinds. Here are some of the questions I answer most often.

What school should I go to?

There are a few options for undergraduates, more at the masters degree level, and a few for doctoral students. I maintain a list that is meant to be comprehensive but probably isn’t; please let me know if there’s anything missing or erroneous.

Mostly, the schools that have multiple woodwinds degrees are ones that have large and reputable music programs. I personally did one multiple woodwinds degree at a music school that is widely regarded as one the best; this was an excellent experience but I found my opportunities limited in terms of professors’ attention and ensemble placement. I did a second multiple woodwinds degree at an excellent but less-famous music school, and got many more opportunities. Your mileage may vary.

Will I need to be able to play all the instruments well before I start the degree?

Most multiple woodwinds programs seem to be for either three instruments of your choice or for all five major/modern woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone). In most cases you will need to enter with some level of proficiency on each instrument that is covered in the degree, and will need to be well-accomplished on at least one of them. By “proficiency” I mean evidence of a disciplined and serious approach to the instrument over a non-trivial period of time, preferably under the guidance of a good teacher. I entered my masters degree program with an undergraduate degree in saxophone, several serious summers’ worth of flute and clarinet lessons plus some experience playing those instruments in university ensembles, and a semester’s study each on oboe and bassoon.

Will I need to own all the instruments? Continue reading “FAQ on multiple woodwinds degrees”

Reader email: doubling opportunities

woodwinds
Photo, fantail media

A reader emailed me to ask this question (edited):

I was wondering if you could give me some information on what kind of opportunities being a doubler has opened up for you. I am beginning to consider options for graduate school and am looking into multiple woodwinds degrees. Thanks!

I do consider myself to be at the beginning of a hopefully long career, but doubling has already given me some opportunities that I surely wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Doubling isn’t a career that typically leads to fame outside the music business, but within the industry many of the best and best-known doublers are working in Broadway pit orchestras, in the Los Angeles recording studios, or on the road with touring jazz or pop acts.

I haven’t had any of those jobs, nor do I anticipate pursuing any of them at this point. But here are a few things doubling has done for me:

Doubling gigs. These are gigs where I am actually hired to perform on multiple instruments. Most reasonably large cities in the US seem to have at least a few community or school musical theater productions with large enough budgets to pay a professional or semi-pro orchestra, and woodwind doublers are generally in demand (bonus points for double reed players or “low reeds” players). Doubling gigs can also include being hired as a local to play behind a touring show or artist who is passing through town, or being a sort of utility woodwind player for local orchestras, churches, and so forth. Often for me these have been sort of write-your-own-job-description situations, where I’m hired to play one instrument, and later re-hired because I’m able and willing to cover some other parts, too. Continue reading “Reader email: doubling opportunities”

University of Northern Iowa offers new multiple woodwinds degree

The University of Northern Iowa is now offering a Master of Music degree with a multiple woodwinds (3-instrument) emphasis. A few points of interest, according to degree information from their website:

  • Students take 6 credit hours of study on a “primary” instrument, and 4 hours on a “secondary” instrument, and must “demonstrate proficiency” on a third. Presumably the third instrument must either be at a suitable proficiency level upon entering the program, or the student must study the instrument without the additional credit hours counting toward degree completion.
  • Students using oboe or bassoon as one of their three instruments must take an appropriate reedmaking course. This, I guess, means that students choosing both oboe and bassoon must take both reedmaking courses. And the reedmaking course must be completed even for the “demonstrate proficiency” instrument, which might not be part of the student’s coursework.
  • Students choosing flute or clarinet as primary or secondary instruments must take an instrument-specific pedagogy course, or presumably both if flute and clarinet are the primary and secondary (or vice versa).
  • There does not appear to be any special requirement (such as pedagogy or reedmaking) if saxophone is chosen as one of the three instruments.
  • The degree recital must include performances on at least two “of the five” woodwinds. Oddly, it is not specified that these must be the primary and secondary instruments.
  • Audition information from elsewhere on the UNI Music website does not make clear what is required for admission to the program.

See my hopefully-comprehensive list for more North American university/conservatory degree programs in multiple woodwind performance. (And please contact me if you see anything that needs to be added, removed, or updated!)

Reader email: multiple woodwinds degree or single-instrument degree?

photo, bobtravis

I get email on a pretty regular basis from people who are considering multiple woodwinds degree programs. They usually have excellent questions for which there are no real answers, but I’m always happy to try to offer whatever perspective I’ve got.

I heard recently from one of my readers who is working on a bachelor’s degree at a very large and well-respected university music department. They are currently enrolled as a double major in jazz studies (playing primarily saxophone) and flute performance, and have some skills in additional woodwinds.

The question was whether this person should continue on that track, or switch to a double major in jazz studies with a 5-instrument multiple woodwinds degree.

I like the idea of getting just a flute degree, because it makes it sound like I’m a REAL flute player. The woodwind degree also makes it sound like I can play any double—but I’m afraid it still kind of sounds like I’m just a “doubler.” (Not really an EXPERT at any of them).

The work I’d like to do after school is anything that utilizes woodwind doublers – playing in shows, playing on cruise ships, playing in big bands, playing in recording studios (dream job!).

What would you suggest I do?

Here’s the best advice I was able to come up with. (All quotes here are somewhat edited.) Continue reading “Reader email: multiple woodwinds degree or single-instrument degree?”

More thoughts on multiple woodwinds degrees

I often get email from people who are considering pursuing a college or conservatory degree in multiple woodwinds. Now that I’ve completed two of them myself, here are a few thoughts.

If you want to enter a multiple woodwinds degree program, you should already have at least a basic technical command of each instrument to be included on the degree. This really should include a background of good private instruction on each instrument. In my experience, self-taught players on any instrument are rarely very well prepared for the rigors of college-level study.

Bachelor’s-level programs are rare, and I think that’s with good reason. For most woodwind players, I think, diving right into college-level study of three or more instruments is ill-advised. You will do much better to spend those years focusing on your strongest instrument, developing your musicianship, learning good practicing techniques, and hopefully racking up some achievements like contest awards or high placement in top university ensembles. All of those things benefited me very much (my bachelor’s degree is in saxophone performance), and it’s likely I wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much if I had been dividing my practice hours between multiple instruments (plus completing music coursework AND general education coursework). Continue reading “More thoughts on multiple woodwinds degrees”

Auditioning for a multiple woodwinds degree program

I had an exchange by email with someone today, that I thought might be of use to all you hordes of prospective multiple woodwinds majors out there.

Hi Mr. Pimentel,
My name is Mike ________ from _______ University, and I am an aspiring doubler. I have been doing some looking around at graduate schools and programs, and I have found there still are a few programs that still offer doubling. What I have not found are the requirements or guidelines for auditions. I was wondering how an audition for a doubling program would go. What kind of things should I prepare? Do I audition on all the instruments? Thanks for your insight.
Mike Continue reading “Auditioning for a multiple woodwinds degree program”

Brass doubling?

I have now successfully completed both my written and oral comprehensive exams, and am one large step closer to finishing a doctorate in multiple woodwinds performance.

In the oral exam, one of my professors asked why woodwind doubling is a well-recognized musical specialty, but doubling on brass instruments is not.  The question was an odd one, especially since brass instruments fall precisely outside my area of expertise. I didn’t have a good answer, except that brass players seem to be particularly protective of their embouchures, and presumably don’t want to risk ruining them by switching instruments. (That seemed to be satisfactory for purposes of the exam.) Continue reading “Brass doubling?”

Doctoral multiple woodwinds exams

I am starting what hopefully will be my final year in pursuit of a doctoral degree in multiple woodwinds performance (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone). Today I kicked off five days of written comprehensive exams. In addition to a musicology exam and a music theory exam, I have been preparing for woodwind-related test questions such as these: Continue reading “Doctoral multiple woodwinds exams”