Why Study Abroad as a Music Student?

• Musicians can always benefit from studying in a new environment, with new teachers, and with a new point of view. Studying abroad allows music students to study music in a different setting and with a different teacher than their studio teacher at Lawrence, offering a new point of view. 
• Students are exposed to different cultural ideas about music, studying music, and music making. For example, students who take lessons while abroad may find themselves in a new learning environment, such as a different conservatory culture, public-style lessons, or learning entirely by ear. For students in language immersion programs, they can study their instrument in a different language, bringing a new level of comprehension and a brand new vocabulary to their second or third languages.
• Students can work with teachers that specialize in a particular area not offered at Lawrence. For some students, this means learning a new style or technique, but for others, this means learning entirely new instruments traditional to their host countries.
• One benefit of off-campus study is the possibility for experiential learning, which can be especially valuable for music students. Students can study Verdi in Milan, Mahler in Vienna, and Celtic fiddling in the British Isles. Students can immerse themselves in the local music performance scene, either as performers or audience members, gaining valuable insight about what it means to perform in different countries and cultures.
• Music students benefit from all of the other aspects of study abroad, too, such as an expanded worldview, opportunities to take classes not available on the Lawrence campus, or the chance to develop foreign language skills.

music student at IES Milan

A music education major at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, during her program with IES Milan - Music: Tradition and Innovation

Some Common Myths about Studying Abroad as a Music Student

Myth: Between music theory, music history, and juries, I just don’t have time in my schedule!
Fact: While it’s true that music students have a lot of required sequences, it’s absolutely possible to complete all of the requirements while still studying abroad. Plan ahead and begin working with your advisor in your first or second year to determine which term would be the best one for study abroad. Most students complete their sequences by their second or third year, making off-campus study more than feasible. Additionally, students can take courses off-campus that will count towards their upper-level musicology requirements.

Myth: I can’t leave my professor for that long!
Fact: Many professors will be the first to suggest that, in fact, music students can really benefit and grow from studying with a different professor. Different teachers not only offer a different point of view, they may also offer expertise in a different area than your studio professor. For example, students have studied with Alexander technique practitioners, Hindustani violinists, and experts in improvisation.

Myth: I won’t be able to practice as much and my time abroad will cause me to regress in my musical skills!
Fact: True for musicians and non-musicians alike, an off-campus study experience will be what you make of it. For musicians, this means that if students emphasize practicing and music study while they’re off-campus, they will likely have a musically fulfilling and rigorous experience. Some programs are built around lessons, chamber music, and performance, while some programs rely on students to be motivated to seek out opportunities for musical instruction. Some programs are designed to emphasize time in the conservatory, such as the Conservatorium von Amsterdam program, offered through IES, while others allow students to determine how involved they want to be in lessons and ensembles, such as the opportunities offered at École Normale de Musique through the IES Paris – French Studies program.

Some students view a term or semester abroad as an opportunity to take a step back from their conservatory routine of long hours in the practice room to instead spend a few months immersing themselves in a different instrument, musical style, or concert culture. Other students plan their time abroad so that they may work intensively with a specific teacher in preparation for a recital. Some students find that they have less time to practice than they would on campus or that they find it difficult to dedicate the same amount of time to practicing that they do normally. To compensate, many students strike a balance between efficient, smart practicing and emphasizing the experiential learning opportunities in their host city.

Anecdotally, many students return from a study abroad experience in good shape, both musically and otherwise, and have often gone on to perform recitals, take auditions, share their new musical knowledge, and win competitions in the months after their return. If students are interested in studying abroad but concerned about falling behind, they should speak with their advisors and studio teachers to determine what type of program might be best for them and set personal goals to ensure that they are productive during their time off-campus.

music student at ACM India

A music student performing on Shehnai, an instrument he learned as part of his program with ACM India.

Past Participant Experiences:

IES Vienna – Music: "The IES Vienna center [Palais Corbelli] is the place that I take most of my classes. It is in an old palace located right at the heart of Vienna. It has a beautiful room that holds all the students and faculty concerts, lectures, and events. One of my favorite things to do here is to practice and perform in this beautiful concert hall."

IES Amsterdam – Conservatorium van Amsterdam: "I chose to study abroad in Amsterdam because I loved the idea that the program was directly enrolled in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. This meant that I got to take classes, lessons, and interact with students from all over the world that were attending the CvA for their full degrees. That helped me feel like I was really a student in Amsterdam.

My lessons were through the CvA and were similar in style to my lessons at Lawrence. It is definitely a unique experience studying with a new teacher for a semester! Practicing was a little difficult due to the CvA’s room booking system and the fact that the building is a skyscraper made of glass - you see everything you’re missing out on going on in the city below. My solution? Practice early in the morning and in the evening, then I had the whole rest of the day to explore!"

IES Milan – Music: Tradition and Innovation: "Milan is a great place for seeing operas and other performances! Teatro alla Scala and Milan are known for being one of the most important places for composers like Verdi. Through my program abroad I have been able to go to La Scala 6 times! 4/6 we were on boxes, one of the performances was the world premiere, and another featured Anna Netrebko, world renowned opera singer. This program has been especially wonderful for me in seeing what my voice is capable of!"

IES Paris – French Studies: "I took lessons with Genviève Teulières-Sommer at École Normale de Musique as part of my program with IES Paris – French Studies, and I learned so much. I was working on my senior recital repertoire while I was there, and I learned so much from Mme Teulières about performing such standard repertoire. We compared our own ideas about the well-known pieces I was working on and laughed at how little I knew of French musical vocabulary (I never learned the words for bow or half-note in my French literature courses at Lawrence!). My lessons were in French, but Mme Teulières had a few international students who only spoke English. I served as an interpreter for many lessons, giving me an opportunity to practice my language skills that was challenging, interesting, and totally unexpected!"

music student at IES Amsterdam

A music performance major at a recital he organized while studying at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam as part of the IES Amsterdam - Conservatorium van Amsterdam program. 

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