As long as there have been “liberal arts,” music has been among them. The ancient Greeks perceived that in the study of the relationships of sound there lay parallels with mathematic, physical, and even cultural phenomena. We recognize the same thing today. The study of music—or rather musics—is still an integral part of a liberal arts education, all the more so now because of the ways in which musics pervade contemporary life.
At Erskine, studying music can mean honing skills in the practice room for a solo recital, or pondering the relationships between the words, the rhythms, and the notes of a U2 song or a Bach cantata in an appreciation class. You can learn music analysis by following a composer’s footsteps to produce original compositions of your own, or you can sing masterworks of the past and the present in the Choraleers, or play in one of the chamber ensembles.
All of these things you could do at many schools, but at Erskine there is an added emphasis: context. Music is a part of culture—that is, what humans make of the raw materials of creation around them. You will be challenged to think about how your musical knowledge informs your learning in other disciplines, and vice-versa. This is the essence of the Christian Liberal Arts education, which recognizes the interconnectedness of all knowledge and that Truth can only point to God. This is not an easy way to study music, but we believe it is the most authentic path to musical and academic excellence.
I love teaching music in this environment because it is throws before me every day some of the hard questions that get side-stepped in other academic environments (religious or secular): Can music be truly good? Can it be evil? How does a composer create? Does a performer do more than merely reproduce? What does music communicate? Higher education involves giving up easy answers and instead probing more deeply into the unknown; it really must be a communal project. I learn from my students as I try to answer these questions. Is this a conversation you would like to join?
If you have questions about the music program at Erskine, contact me or any of my faculty colleagues; better still, come to a musical event and hear and talk to current students.
Chair, Music Department