Want to continue pursuing your childhood dream of becoming the next Yo-Yo Ma? Or perhaps thinking of picking up an instrument for the first time? Whether you’re already an accomplished musician or just looking to begin, there’s an option for everyone. Check out this guide to classical music programs and groups at Barnard and Columbia to help you get started as soon as you arrive on campus this fall.
The Music Performance Program
For those with strong prior experience, the Music Performance Program is the perfect place to further your musical education. It offers private lessons and the opportunity to participate in various ensembles including cultural groups such as Latin American Music Ensemble as well as classical chamber music groups. It also presents an annual concert at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. For $300 per semester, students from both Columbia and Barnard are eligible to take private instrumental lessons. During the first week of fall semester, it offers auditions for those who are interested. Unfortunately, auditions are required unless you’re interested in beginner piano lessons, which are also offered by MPP. If you decide to take private lessons and are accepted into the program, there are six required hours of lesson per semester, which are taken for one credit. The program is offered for both jazz and classically trained musicians.
Columbia University Orchestra
If you’re a current or future orch-dork, this is the place for you. Founded in 1896, Columbia University Orchestra is the oldest continually operating university orchestra in the United States (pretty cool, huh?). It is conducted by acclaimed conductor, Jeffrey Milarsky, who works with the Juilliard School in addition to the CUO. From Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” to Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” CUO tackles the best and greatest masterpieces of the classical music genre. It puts on two culminating sets of performances annually, so if you’re unsure of whether you should join, consider checking out one of its concerts! As an official course within Columbia’s music department at Columbia, CUO will count for two credits per semester. If you are interested, sign-up forms will be available on its website near the start of fall semester.
Columbia Classical Players
For those interested in performing for audiences, Columbia Classical Performers provides students with an outlet to share their playing with the greater Columbia community and the public. CCP presents biweekly concerts that anyone can sign up for (that’s right, no auditions necessary!). These concerts are free and always accompanied by tasty refreshments, which means that it can be the perfect opportunity to share your musical talents with friends. Even if performing isn’t your forte, you can apply for a board position to help out behind the scenes. Follow them on Facebook at @columbiaclassicalperformers to get updates on concert applications.
Columbia University Bach Society
The Columbia University Bach Society (affectionately known as Bach Soc) is a completely student-run orchestra and choir ensemble on campus. Currently directed by Andre Chan, it is committed to presenting music from the high baroque and classical periods of western music performed by students of all musical backgrounds. Bach Society is recognized for its high-level performances of advanced classical music repertoire, as well as tight-knit sense of camaraderie among musicians.Their concerts are often held at the beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel right here on Columbia’s campus. For prospective members, the Bach Society holds auditions at the start of both fall and spring semesters. Audition sign-ups will be available at the beginning of semesters.
Have you ever wanted to play the majestic soundtrack to Indiana Jones or charming tunes from Super Mario Bros.? Do you like to break social norms and play pop tunes on your classical instrument? If your answer to either of those questions is yes, consider joining Columbia Pops!
A completely student-run orchestra, Columbia Pops is open to students of all four undergraduate schools and performs student arrangements of nonclassical works including film, television, and video game soundtracks. There are two sets of concerts performed every year which are attended by members of the Columbia and greater New York City community. A close community, it meets once a week for two-hour rehearsals. If you’re lucky, you may catch its chamber groups performing at various on-campus events. Musicians of all instruments (as well as composers) are welcome to audition at the start of both fall and spring semesters.
Columbia New Music
Open to both composers and passionate performers, Columbia New Music’s goal is to creatively explore a wide variety of musical genres through the process of writing and performing music by Columbia students. In the past, it has focused on contemporary classical music, jazz, and electronic music. Its aim is to share innovative yet often overlooked music with the Columbia community. Through improvisation sessions as well as weekly meetings, it presents three concerts per semester which showcase the works of Columbia’s student composers. If you are a composer looking for musicians to perform your compositions, this is the perfect way to turn the notes on your manuscript paper into a real-life performance.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s just a taste of all of the opportunities that Columbia has to offer. Other classical music groups on campus include but are not limited to Columbia University Wind Ensemble, Barnard/Columbia Flute Choir, and Columbia Musical Mentors Collaborative. Even if you want to just play an instrument for fun, consider applying/auditioning for these when applications roll out at the start of the school year. Making music with your friends can be one of the best way to unwind and de-stress amid the long hours of studying and academia. Ultimately, music is about having fun, and we hope that you find your niche within the larger community. Happy practicing!Even if you want to just play an instrument for fun, consider applying/auditioning for these when applications roll out at the start of the school year. Making music with your friends can be one of the best way to unwind and de-stress amid the long hours of studying and academia. Ultimately, music is about having fun, and we hope that you find your niche within the larger community. Happy practicing!