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Lawrence University unveils new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree

A new degree program has been introduced at Lawrence University that is expected to open the school’s Conservatory of Music to a wider group of student musicians.

Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.), with a Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track, has been added to Lawrence’s degree options, joining Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

Built on the strength of a nationally recognized jazz program, the new degree expands on the classical music component in the Conservatory, allowing students for the first time to audition with nonclassical repertoire.

The B.M.A. degree has a 50-50 split between music studies and a student’s choice of another field in the liberal arts landscape, with expectations that they will connect the two.

The audition process for acceptance into the Conservatory remains intact, and the skill-development expectations continue to be top level. But, for prospective students eyeing the B.M.A. degree, the audition no longer needs to be limited to the Western classical repertoire. This openness has the potential to open the door for students who see their strengths and interests in jazz or pop or hip-hop or another music genre. It unwraps additional choices, said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.

“The new degree will open the Conservatory to a broader range of musical interests,” he said.

Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, said the new degree also bolsters music industry skills and career paths beyond technical mastery.

“It’s really interesting how the recording scene has developed, how music publishing has changed,” she said. “Even large ensembles and orchestras — all these musical opportunities have transformed dramatically in the last 10 years, and students need the ability to self-promote. That’s a very important skill to have … to be able to put your best self out there.”