Since our fast-changing, unpredictable, and yes, challenging world demands a new kind of musical preparation for today's graduates, Lawrence is creating a new paradigm for conservatory education, and we are very excited about the results.  Some of the components are new and others are as old as the conservatory itself.   The full integration of all of these values, old and new, is what truly differentiates our approach from what has come before. We don’t believe that adding a stand-alone course in any one area does anything to create substantive change. Rather we are committed to infusing our entire conservatory culture with new ways to prepare our graduates for a musical life today, for it is only by changing the core conservatory culture that a truly new musicianship can be achieved.


The diagram above might help give you an idea of what sets us apart.


Core Musicianship

At the center of our values is core musicianship.  A musician today needs outstanding technique, flawless tone, beautiful musicality as well as a firm grounding in music theory, composition, and history.  Exceptional classical music training provides the groundwork for all kinds of musical possibilities extending far beyond the classical realm.  The difference today is that our studio teachers, theory professors, composition professors, and musicologists are building stellar core musicianship while also bridging out to all of the other values we embrace. The linked values are a visual representation of the integrative approach to how we are building a music culture where all of our values are re-enforced and inter-connected.

Liberal Arts

YouTube VideoYouTube VideoPlay YouTube VideoFirst, everything we do at our conservatory is informed by a liberal arts approach to education. We believe that to reach one’s full musical potential one must also expand intellectual capacity.We also believe that a liberal arts approach to education is foundational to nurturing the creative, multi-disciplinary, flexible mindset you need to be a success in our ever-changing world.   We take this very seriously.  It isn’t a coincidence that 50% of our incoming freshman Con students are enrolled in our 5 year double degree program.  Our faculty members in both the conservatory and college are dedicated to a cross-disciplinary education and will work together to help you reach your goals. The video above highlights some of the great collaborations and inspiring ideas our students are coming up with and being recognized for.

Engaging the World

It is all well and good to nurture one’s creative, innovative 21st Century Musicianship, but if this journey ends with the individual musician, then the job is just half finished.  We have a deeper obligation to pay it forward. Not only should we share our new-found musicianship with the world, but we should also commit ourselves to change the way the greater society views and interacts with music as well.  This is where our entrepreneurial mindset and creative impulse applies to our music educators as well.  In an age when arts programs are being cut left and right and music is often the first thing to go, we need to produce musical education advocates who can demonstrate in real terms the critical importance of music in all of our lives.

What if all of our general music educators approached teaching music as if it were the core subject it should be?  What if every first grader were composing music at the same time they were writing their first stories? What if every child were drumming and dancing and singing, and improvising and composing and we all thought this was a completely ordinary scenario. This is exactly what Lawrence music educators aspire to bring into their teaching.

What if our bands and choirs and orchestras were not only places of joyous music-making of the highest level, but also communities that foster leadership skills, entrepreneurial thought, creative improvisation, composition and collaboration? Again, these are the goals to which we aspire.  What if we committed to bring live performance into warming shelters, prisons, hospitals and other non-traditional venues.  What impact could we have on these non-traditional audiences? At Lawrence, this is exactly what we are doing through our partnership with Decoda and the results are inspiring.

Performance Re-Imagined

Part of our creative culture is to rethink every aspect of performance from venue to presentation.  Why do we perform the way we do?  Why do we perform where we do?  If we want to engage modern audiences with compelling live performances then we better start figuring out what exactly a compelling performance looks like and sounds like today.  We have a partnership with Decoda, the official outreach ensemble of Carnegie Hall and a leader in audience engagement.  In fact two of our faculty, Michael Mizrahi, piano, and Erin Lesser, flute, are members of Decoda.  In the last month we have performed” IN C” and encouraged the audience to wander around the stage to explore how location impacts perception. We have played at warming shelters and community gardens. A student staged a 12 hour community performance of Satie’s “Vexations”—all in the living room of his house. If we want audiences to re-engage with classical music, or any live music, we have to redefine the rules and be willing to step outside of confines of tradition.

Recently, a student-comprised saxophone quartet traveled to France in to perform at the 17th Annual World Saxophone Conference.  Check out their blog post here!

Entrepreneurial Mindset

To be truly creative, we all need to look at the world and ask, “why?”  Why are professional orchestras organized like they are?  Why is a recital formatted like it is?  Why don’t we clap between movements?  Why don’t more people come to our concerts?

And then we need to boldly reimagine things and ask “why not?” Why not create my own chamber orchestra? Why not create a new kind of concert series? Why not create a new paradigm for touring. Why not redefine what a private studio looks like?

We live in an age where we as musicians need to be able to create our own musical lives.  A musician needs to be innovative, passionate, creative, collaborative and fearless.  In short today’s musician needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.  Lawrence’s core liberal arts education is at the center of this journey, but we also have ample offerings to help focus one’s entrepreneurial mindset. The Entrepreneurial Musician course incorporates improvisational exercises, creative play, and contemplative studies in the creation of high level business proposals.  It is another fine example of the integrative approach to our core values. This course is just part of an entire Entrepreneurship Interdisciplinary Area at Lawrence which offers 8 additional courses in entrepreneurial studies. When combined with our other core cultural values, an entrepreneurial mindset can help today’s musician define their musical life.



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YouTube VideoYouTube VideoPlay YouTube VideoYouTube VideoYouTube VideoPlay YouTube VideoWe believe that expanding one’s musical vocabulary is critical to reaching one’s full musical potential in today’s global and collaborative world. Besides a full array of Western Classical Music opportunities, at Lawrence we offer 5 hands-on world music ensembles: Balinese Gamelan, Ghanaian Ewe Drumming and Dancing, Cuban Drumming and Singing, Brazilian Samba Drumming, and Australian Aboriginal Didjeridu. Something truly amazing happens when one dives into an ensemble tradition with no written music. One's listening expands and musicianship increases in unexpected ways. Yes, Bali can indeed help Bach!  In the area of  multi-musicality we also include, dance, improvisation, jazz, as well as student-run opportunities in fiddle, early music, Funk, and Swing Dance.  We believe that all of these opportunities, when approached at the highest level, are a means to expanding musicianship and reaching one’s full musical potential.

Creative Impulse

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Today, it isn't enough to be an excellent translator of notes to music. 21st century musicians need to be flexible, adaptable creators and collaborators.  Because of this, improvisation and composition are vital to today’s musicianship.  So we are integrating improvisation and composition throughout our curriculum and culture. Improvisation is no longer just found in our nationally recognized jazz department, it is now found in Music Education, Entrepreneurial Studies, Studio Classes, multiple intro courses for non-jazz improvisation, IGLU (Improvisation Group of Lawrence University), Acting for Singers, Dance Courses, Theory Courses, and even in our major ensembles like Orchestra, Band, and Choir.  We have also expanded our composition offerings to include more intro courses and more opportunities explore various styles of composition.  Deep Listening, or the art of active listening, is also infused throughout our curriculum. Deep Listening practice helps to unleash the creative impulse.  Deep Listening plays a role in all types of courses, including Entrepreneurship, Composition, Ethnomusicology, Acting for Singers, Musicology, Studio classes and Ensembles.

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