Best tech colleges?

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Aug 9, 2005
Hi, I know there are other threads on college, but none of them got to the questions I have. Next year will be my senior year of high school and I'm making some sad attempts at trying to figure out college. I would prefer a four year college with strong academics as well as a really strong tech theatre program. I'm really just looking for the best college I can, I've got a 4.0 and strong test scores along with over 15 shows of experience, so getting admitted isn't my first concern. I have a few names in mind, but one can only get so much information from their propaganda pamphlets. I want to major in either lighting design, set design or stage management, I haven't quite decided yet.

I've heard good things about North Carolina School of the Arts, but I'm worried that it doesn't have much of an academic program if I wanted to minor in something other than theatre. So far I'm looking at Emerson in Boston and Webster in Missouri, but I haven't heard any first hand opinions of the schools. I've also heard of DePaul in Chicago, but I don't know much about their tech programs. So far Emerson is my favorite. I'm just curious about any opinions you may have about the schools I mentioned and if I've left any notable ones out. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Webster does not have that great of academics, they are a liberal arts college, most liberal arts college don't excel at academics. They are an OK theatre school if you think the relationship with the St. Louis rep is a good thing (if you think you would enjoy working on their shows). If you are at all concerned about academics, don't go to a conservatory school.

University of Illinois has a great theatre program and top notch facilities and on top of that a large research university behind it. My X gf was a grad student (in math... don't ask) there for awhile and seemed to really enjoy it. She also had her undergrad from there... in math again.... I also know a few people that have come out of their lighting, stage management, and sound grad and undergrad programs and they are all working.

Do you want a BA or BFA? If you want a well rounded education, you will want to go BA. If you want a hands all theatre all the time and BASIC gen eds, get a BFA, if you don't want hardly any gen eds at all, go conservatory.

Also, what do you want to do? SM, Sound, Lighting, Design, TD, Company Management...
 
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Aug 9, 2005
I'm thinking I want a BFA and possibly minor in something other than tech. That's part of the reason I like Emerson so much so far, they have other programs in things I'm interested in, but I can still focus on theatre.

Also, I'm not entirely sure what I want to do yet. At my high school, I do it all, from stage managing to paint and lights. I like it all, so I'm hoping that I can figure that out my freshman year.

Thanks!
 

taylorjacobs

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Dec 19, 2006
Most of the schools you have mentioned are very strong schools, but they are going to want you to make a choice on whether you are into light, set sm, etc. these are cut throat programs and they only want to accept the cream of the crop...honestly your grades dont matter and most of these because they are looking for talent not smarts.if you want to minor in something other than theatre you might want to look into some state schools. oklahoma university has a strong program and evansville although private has good academics...and a note about depaul they cut down their classes every year, like your freshman class may consist of 20 and your graduating clas will be made up of 5 or 6 which is good, but also it sucks if you are one of those 14 who got cut
 

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Most of the schools you have mentioned are very strong schools, but they are going to want you to make a choice on whether you are into light, set sm, etc. these are cut throat programs and they only want to accept the cream of the crop...honestly your grades dont matter and most of these because they are looking for talent not smarts.if you want to minor in something other than theatre you might want to look into some state schools. oklahoma university has a strong program and evansville although private has good academics...and a note about depaul they cut down their classes every year, like your freshman class may consist of 20 and your graduating clas will be made up of 5 or 6 which is good, but also it sucks if you are one of those 14 who got cut
Depaul is also famous for not giving you any grades till your sophomore year, and that also happens to be the year they do the blood letting.
 

icewolf08

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I like pitching my school, it's too bad they don't pay me for it. Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY (not the same as the movie Road Trip) has a great theatre program. They offer a BFA in both theatre production and in design. Within either major you have the option to focus in two areas (as long as you keep up with the work). So you could be a Lighting/Costume design focus within the Design Major, or you could be a lighting/sound focus within the production major.

Ithaca's theatre department is one of the top 5 in the country for private undergrad. Ithaca is a liberal arts college, and at the moment the theatre department is part of the School of Humanities and Sciences so there are a good bit of gen-ed courses required. This may change in the next 5-10 years as the theatre department is trying to become it's own school (there are 5 "schools" at Ithaca: H&S, Communications, Health Science, Music, Physical Therapy).

Ithaca has a huge network of alumni who are working in the business. It is hard to find a show in NY that doesn't have some kind of Ithaca connection. We have alumni at City Theatrical, PRG, Hudson Scenic Studios, and many theatres and other places.

Overall, it is a great school with a great department and great people. In a business where who you know means so much, the Ithaca connection is also a great help. It is worth looking into, or adding to your list.
 

avkid

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Ithaca is a great school.
Be warned that the city may be a bit of a culture shock if you come from a politically conservative area.
It's a great arts community though.
 

Jamie

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University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, you'll cover lighting drama, musical theatre, opera, and concerts with 40 some movers. good well-rounded education. great campus too, dorm, 5 venues, wendy's and a smoothie joint all close. what more does a tech need?
 

Sean

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My $.02

Get a BA from a school with a good theatre department, and work your ass off. BFA's are great, but in 5 years if you decide you're burnt out and don't want to "do theatre" anymore a BA will serve you better.

Also, it's been my experience that the people who have worked for me that came out of BFA programs aren't really much/any better than the BA folks. You still come out of school and will be competing for the same jobs.

If you're sure you want to do theatre....and _just_ theatre, then a BFA isn't a bad choice. But if you think you might change majors, etc, a BA will be more flexible.

I'm the ME at a LORT B+ theatre and I have a BA. My predecessor had a degree in marine biology, and his predecessor didn't finish college. If the degree doesn't matter that much to the theatrical employer, why not get a degree that WILL matter to someone in the rest of the business world?

Your mileage may vary....

--Sean
 

Edrick

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I looked into Emmerson, however I didn't like the fact that their college was more spread apart in boston, IE you have to cross through traffic and all the other boston people. I was much more into a college all on one campus. I however ended up going to college for Computer Networking & Information Systems, and not theater like I wanted to but I wanted to go to school in Boston and on a all on one campus so that won out.

I however plan to get involved in Boston theater and other types of events and get the real world experience.
 

drawstuf99

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I haven't heard NC School of the Arts or Carnegie Mellon so thought I'd throw those in; however, that IS convservatory training which you're prob not as interested in.
 
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As a North Carolina School of the Arts graduate, I can verify that it offers an excellent design / technical education but a relatively modest selection of general academic classes. Prior to transferring into NCSA, I completed two years of undergraduate work at the U of MN, Minneapolis and took a variety of anthropology / geography / history / urban studies courses that could never have been offered in a BFA or conservatory setting.

The other side of that coin, however, is that a large university with a grad program in theatre doesn't offer many (if any) design opportunities for undergrads. I transferred to NCSA because I wanted a more hands-on undergrad theatre experience.

There are strong liberal arts colleges with excellent technical theatre departments that would allow you to explore a wide range of academic subjects while also challenging you with production experience. In the midwest, Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA) and St. Olaf (Northfield, MN) both come to mind. I'm sure there are many others. I suggest looking for schools with the academic environment that you desire and then ask to meet the theatre faculty.

Finally, the BFA or conservatory programs, including NCSA, will expect you to choose a major (lighting, scenery, costume, audio, stage management, technical production, etc) early, often when applying. This doesn't necessarily prevent you from changing majors later, but sometimes it's hard to switch between specialties. A BA program in a liberal arts college should allow much more flexibility.
 

stantonsound

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Some schools don't have a "great" program, so to speak, but have partnerships with other schools. I got my first degree at Siena College in Albany, NY and studied theatre there and at Brooklyn College. For the school, we only had a small blackbox, and that was about it. It was a good education, but not the greatest. The other opportunities that they offered were the best part. We were able to work (for $, might I add) at several local venues and concerts, and were really able to learn the craft.
 

drawstuf99

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Conservatory programs like NCSA and CMU deff have their place in being very specific, but you've got to be pretty darn sure of what you're wanting to do; which, isn't for everyone.
 
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I go to Belmont University in Nashville, TN. We have one of the top Music Business programs in the country with several classes unique to our school only. As a Music Business student you have the option of picking an emphasis in the Business side of or the Production side which is further divided into Studio and Live production. You get a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration() through this degree program. Or you can take the Audio Engineering Technology course which is a BS and focuses more on studio and more technical aspects of recording. It is a bit pricey to go to Belmont, but worth the money. Email me if you have more questions.

Chris R.
Belmont University junior
 

Andy_Leviss

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Hey gang, I'm an Emerson alum ('03), there are too many specifics to really post here, but if you have any questions about Emerson, PM or e-mail me and I'll answer as best I can, or try to get you in touch with somebody who's still there if I don't know the answer or if it's changed since I left.

--Andy
 

TheJeanieness

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I go to Carnegie Mellon, and I absolutely love it. It's pretty hardcore, but if you're really sure you want to do theatre, and it's your ultimate passion, it's amazing.

There isn't a lot of room for taking classes outside the department, but plenty of people do it--mostly as electives--and if you're really smart, which it sounds like you are, the academic courses you can take are crazy--in a good way. Nothing like a little intellectual stimulation.

All the schools that have been mentioned have great theatre programs, but each school has unique characteristics to offer. I definitely encourage you to visit as many schools as you can, even if you're not sure they have what you're looking for. It's not all about the degree you want to get. After all, you're going to be LIVING there for four years.

Feel free to message me with any questions you have about CMU. I also applied to Emerson, Ithaca, DePaul, and Purchase, so I know a little about those schools, too.
 

Grog12

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The other side of that coin, however, is that a large university with a grad program in theatre doesn't offer many (if any) design opportunities for undergrads. I transferred to NCSA because I wanted a more hands-on undergrad theatre experience.
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This should be a big factor when picking out and undergrad program. How do you learn and how much opportunity do you want at that level. Had I gone to an undergrad with a grad program I would be in buisness right now and not theatre.
 

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