Sunday, April 9, 2017

Music -- draft

 by D. Kern Holoman

Go ahead and smile indulgently at the comic strips and sit-coms (and maybe some teasers in your circle) that poke fun at the concept, remembering that the Bachelor of Arts degree is the most ancient and honorable of them all. And that you can't go wrong with a BA from a top-tier research university.


UCD Music is a liberal arts major, which (as opposed to a conservatory degree-program) features a common core of coursework in musicianship and theory, the history and literature of music, and performance. In the junior and senior years, you focus on your desired specialty as a performer or composer or scholar: that's when you begin to think about and design, with a faculty mentor, a capstone “senior project”—and about what to do next.

It is the kind of major I myself followed before graduate school, and it let me pursue my passion for orchestras and dream of becoming a conductor, but with simultaneous encouragement to become a real writer, along with countless opportunities to follow my nose (French literature, Freud, and, yes, Rocks for Jocks and Bible—at the time, a required course at Duke).

Music is not a major for the faint-hearted. You really do have to spent a lot of time in the practice room, and there is ear-training, keyboard, and foreign language to master. Music is, after all, a discipline as well as a passion. But the rewards are life-long (whatever you go on to do for a living) and the collegiality and mentoring relationships with gifted faculty especially warm.

Our sensational facilities—the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts (2002) and the Ann E. Pitzer Center (2016)—were built for undergraduate musicians as core constituents.

And the menu of performance ensembles whets any appetite. You can be part of the famous UCD Symphony and University Choruses, three (or is it four?) jazz ensembles, several bands, and an Early [and Modern] Music Ensemble of singers and players.

Wait, there's more. Recent strides in our world music programs have led to (for-credit) groups devoted to Hindustani singing, a Brazilian Samba School, Korean Percussion Ensemble, and the Javanese ensemble Gamelan Lebdo Budoyo. A world, you might say, of fascinating activity.

Something like half our students are dual majors, with about half of those majoring in more than one college. Flexibility in the choice of majors is one of the chief competitive advantages of the Davis campus.

Our website,, gives the details of the undergraduate programs, coverage of what some of the students are doing now, and the splendid video you see above, written and produced by majors.

Then What?

Plenty of our majors go on to traditional careers in music performance (a star conductor on the rise, a prize-winning saxophone-quartet founder, percussionists galore, opera singers, orchestral players), education from K-12 through university levels, and—our historic specialty—music composition. But plenty more find themselves elsewhere in The Business: film, web development, animation and 3D . . . anywhere there's music to be heard. Consider:

by Catherine Adoyo

Catherine Adoyo (BA Music and Italian, 1998) went on to complete a Ph.D. at Harvard with a dissertation on Dante's Divine Comedy. In addition to her academic posts, she is an editor and web developer for Zamani Studios in Washington DC and a gifted visual artist. (She financed a part of her UCD education by painting portraits—see my author bio, below.) Catherine is proficient in six modern European languages; Latin, Greek, and Arabic; and multiple African languages including Luo and Swahili. Now she's working on her Korean and Chinese. She is, in a word, a polymath. Look it up.

Lucas Chen (BA Music, BS Animal Science, 2007), cellist. Lucas went from UCD to complete graduate work at the San Francisco Conservatory. In addition to his success in classical music (principal cellist of Bear Valley Music Festival, faculty member for the Oakland Youth Orchestra, the Alameda String Academy, and the Northcreek Academy), he has performed and recorded with such artists as Death Cab for Cutie, Sting, Train, Chicago, Chris Botti, the Trans Siberian Orchestra, Hillary Hahn, and for numerous movie and video game soundtracks.

Amanda Wu (BA Music, 2010), development officer and special events manager for CAL Performances, UC-Berkeley. Amanda got into orchestral management while a member of the UCD Symphony Orchestra, and from there continued with the San Francisco Wind Ensemble, the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, and as Annual Giving Manager with the San Francisco Symphony.

Indi Savitala (BA Music, 2003) was a percussion major at UCD, then went on to study acoustics and architecture at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy New, York. His thesis there was inspired by his UCD Symphony Orchestra performances in the Mondavi Center. He is currently Senior Project Manager with Intertek Building Sciences in New York with a slew of important projects to his credit.

Some Other Fun Facts:
Steven J. Law (BA 1983) meant to be a composer, but then detoured to Columbia Law and went on to become Deputy Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration, among many other distinctions in the world of government and politics. Steven Mackey (BA 1978) became a music major after hearing 20th-century music in a music appreciation class; since then he has balanced his career as professor of composition at Princeton—and multiple Grammy nominations—with regular appearances on the electric guitar. Laurie San Martin (BA 1991), after graduate work on the Other Coast, came back to UCD as professor of composition in 2001. Angelo Moreno (BA 1998, MA 2000) continued with a master's degree in conducting at UCD, then took over the much-admired orchestra program at Davis High School, where he has since established a Baroque orchestra of international note. Violet Grgich (BA 1995) is vice president of Grgich Hills Estate wines in the Napa Valley, but continues to play harpsichord in early music concerts, often with her husband Colin Shipman, a builder and player of the Renaissance/Baroque viola da gamba. Tom Young (BA 1994) enjoyed a fine career in opera administration (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and, as Director of Music Administration, at Lyric Opera of Chicago), then recently retired in order to devote full time to his thriving business in . . . wait for it . . . ballpark blueprints.

The point is that the UCD Music major leads, demonstrably, into rewarding and remunerative careers all over the map. (Including medicine, by the way: Music majors have an unusually high acceptance rate to med school.)

Give it some serious thought.

by Catherine Adoyo
D. Kern Holoman is Distinguished Professor of Music, emeritus (retired) at UC Davis and was fourth conductor of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra (1977–2009). His large-lecture music appreciation class, Music 10, continues as a pillar of the undergraduate General Education curriculum, its textbook, Masterworks, was the first multi-media package in the field and is now distributed to UCD students for free.

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D. Kern Holoman is Distinguished Professor of Music emeritus at the University of California, Davis