The Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Engineering (APSE) have approved an Engineering Music Performance Minor, which will allow engineering students to complete a degree in music performance and technology. The program received unanimous approval at the January 2018 meeting of the Faculty of Music Council and is set to start in September 2018.

The curriculum touches on the crossover of music and engineering within “acoustics, signal processing (both physiological and technological) and noise control. Students can then apply this knowledge to further studies in music technology, cultural areas, or engineering applications,” according to the proposal memo released on November 8.

This interdisciplinary initiative is part of the Faculty of Music’s five-year academic plan, which, since 2016, has aimed to expand the resources, research opportunities, fellowships, and exchanges available for music students and staff. Similar initiatives include joint programs like Music Technology & Digital Media.

Auditions for a core course — which will be year-long PMU course — will begin as early as March 2018. An information session, hosted by U of T Engineering, will occur on Tuesday, February 13. Committed faculty members in attendance will include Professor Willy Wong of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Faculty of Music professors Ryan McClelland and Midori Koga.

The minor will consist of three required courses, the core course, titled Applied Performance; TMU130H1 — Music Theory 1; and ECE446 #1 — Sensory Communication. A half-credit of 1.0 FCE in electives must relate to technology and music.

The minor was created in response to student demand, according to the memo. Engineering students have expressed their interest through clubs like Skule Orchestra, Choir, and Stage Band, as well as by choosing music electives to fulfil their Humanities breadth requirements. “I’m excited that this is happening. Given the extensive role engineering plays in modern music performance and production, I think it’d be a fascinating area to explore,” said Harry Jiang, Vice-President Communications of the Engineering Society (Skule). “Also, I hope this opens up more access to artistic resources by Engineering Students.”

The program’s pilot year enrolment limits are based on audition outcomes that will be revealed by May 2018. An estimated cap is set for eight pianists, four string players, and two chamber groups. Students auditioning can choose between performing classical or jazz, as well as performing solo instrumental or in a chamber music setting. All prospective minor students are required to play at RCM Level 8 and must have background in theory and rudiments — Rudiments II or equivalent.

When asked about these restrictions, the engineering Skule Music groups wrote in a joint response that “the performance minor is somewhat exclusive in its requirements and therefore may be inaccessible.”

“We would like to see the minor offered to vocalists, instrumentalists in the jazz stream and other orchestra musicians as the program grows,” the groups wrote. They recommended expanding the minor to give “students opportunity to learn an instrument or partake in the faculty of music ensembles.”

McClelland, who is also Associate Dean Academic and Student Affairs at the Faculty of Music, said that the faculty has a growing interest in developing more program-based collaborations in the future and that “having students from APSE in music courses will bring new perspectives and areas of knowledge into the classroom, enriching the experience of both students and faculty and opening up possibilities for future collaborations that might extend well beyond students’ time at U of T.”

Second-year music major Ricci Ebron is happy about the new minor but worries about the student plan on balancing the workload.

“It’s a good opportunity for engineers to explore different areas, however I believe engineers are already super busy with their heavy schedules and would suffer from having to balance time,” said Ebron. “Music is not just having fun and playing music all day. Underneath all that is a lot of intensive theoretical and historical studies.”

Furthermore, she is concerned about the stress it will place on the Faculty of Music’s resources, saying that “if they’re integrated into the program that would mean they would have to be included into our ensembles, which are already overpopulated, as well as use our practice spaces which are already extremely limited.”

Associated costs for this minor will be covered by the U of T Interdivisional Teaching framework, through which the Faculty of Music will receive a “per student” compensation for each engineering student enrolled in its courses.