The Elder Conservatorium of Music has been awarding degrees and diplomas in music - equally, to both men and women - since the end of the nineteenth century. It is sometimes erroneously said that the early degree programs were modelled on those at the University of Cambridge. It is true that Professor Ives had graduated (albeit as an external candidate) with the MusB degree from Cambridge, and the academic robes are based on those from Cambridge, but the degree programs of the University of Adelaide were - and to a large extent still are - based on the Scottish rather than English model. This reflects the fact that most of the founding fathers of the university were Scots. Furthermore, the Cambridge MusB degree was taken as a second, postgraduate degree, whereas the Elder Conservatorium's BMus degree is a first degree award. The differences are most striking when viewed from the perspective of educational opportunities for women. Whereas women were not able to graduate from the University of Cambridge until shortly after the Second World War, they were graduating from the Elder Conservatorium of Music (and the University of Adelaide as a whole) fifty years earlier.
Principal areas of study and specialisation include Classical performance, Jazz performance, Composition, Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Music Education, and Music Technology. The large number of adjunct staff includes most of the principals of the highly regarded Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
The Elder Conservatorium offers the academic degrees of Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Studies, and Bachelor of Music Education, Bachelor of Music with Honours, Bachelor of Music Studies with Honours, and Bachelor of Music Education with Honours. Postgraduate awards include: the graduate diplomas; Master's degrees in Composition, Performance, Music Technology, Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Instrumental Pedagogy; the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), available in Performance, Composition and Musicology; and the higher Doctorate of Music (DMus).
Since 2002 the Elder Conservatorium has been unique among Conservatoria in Australia in being a dual-sector institution also offering pre-degree specialist programs in Music, including Certificates in Classical performance, Jazz performance, Music Technology, and Composition, and Diplomas in Sound Engineering, Classical performance and Jazz Performance.
The Elder Conservatorium provides a comprehensive range of higher degrees by research. In 2004 it introduced to Australia the concept of the PhD degree by examination of a portfolio of recorded performances, a concept since emulated by other institutions. Hence it is able to offer the PhD degree by several modes of investigation and examination: Musical Composition (by portfolio of original creative works); Musical Performance (by portfolio of recorded performances); Musicology and Music Education (by conventional, text-based thesis). An application for the higher Doctorate of Music (DMus) can be considered in the fields of Musical Composition, Musical Performance, or Musicology, or in any combination of these three disciplines. Since 2004 the Elder Conservatorium has had the largest concentration of music research students in Australia.
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