Academics Cover Photo

Play. Innovate.

TŌN is a unique pre-professional orchestra that combines performance with rigorous study of the humanities, inspiring musicians to become creative ambassadors of classical music.

Scroll down for more information on the academic program. Click here for information on admissions and applications.

Photo by David DeNee


- 3-year Master’s Degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies, or 2-year Advanced Certificate in Orchestra Studies

- Full-tuition fellowship and bi-weekly stipend

- Regular performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center

- World-renowned guest conductors like Fabio Luisi, Tan Dun, Leonard Slatkin, and Neeme Järvi

- Sectional and Audition coaching with members of the New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra

- Behind-the-scenes experience like curating programs and communicating with audiences

- An exciting musical environment filled with motivated students

- Members have earned tenured positions in orchestras across the U.S., Canada, Europe and China

The Program

Thinking critically about the role of orchestras in today's changing musical landscape.

The Orchestra Now (TŌN) offers both a 3-year Master of Music Degree program and a 2-Year Advanced Certificate program. Musicians in both tracks receive advanced orchestral training and take graduate-level courses in orchestral and curatorial studies. Developed by the conductor Leon Botstein in partnership with professional musicians, teachers, and professional orchestra administrators, TŌN offers students the kind of experience they might expect as career orchestral musicians—public performance, touring, recording—and something more. 

In The Orchestra Now, you will be part of an ensemble of forward-thinking, exceptional musicians who intend to redefine what it means to be an orchestra. You will learn from renowned faculty how to curate repertoire that absorbs the audience and sparks new ideas. Under the guidance of experienced artist teachers, you and your peers will design and present music programs that respond to diverse audiences.

The curriculum of The Orchestra Now involves intensive practical and academic study. Orchestra rehearsals are held 4–5 days a week and courses 2–3 days a week. Courses in orchestral and curatorial studies, taught by Bard College faculty, guest scholars, and performing artists, provide a historical and critical understanding of the orchestra’s past and present roles in society and its responsibility to remain responsive to a changing musical landscape. 

For Master’s students, a Teaching Artist program deepens orchestra musicians’ understanding of their responsibility to new audiences and provides the members of TŌN with opportunities to engage in community outreach projects with mid-Hudson schools, regional concert series, and community music education programs.  The Master’s curriculum culminates in self-designed independent study projects, involving such activities as forming and managing a performing ensemble, curating a program of solo and chamber works to explore a topic of social importance, participating in transcribing a masterwork for new or unusual instruments, or working with community members to explore and express their life experience in words and music.

Current Courses

Applied Orchestral Study (Years 1–3)
Full orchestral rehearsals are infused with discussion of the works being prepared for performance.

Applied Sectional Study (Years 1–3)
Sectionals, masterclasses, and special lectures enhance the student’s preparation for performance. This course also includes audition preparation and chamber music rehearsal and study.

Applied Chamber Music (Years 1–3)
This course focuses on work in chamber groups, as well as outreach projects.

Seminar in Orchestral Studies and Studies in Music & Culture (Years 1–2)
In these intensive seminars, students study the historical and cultural context of the works they are preparing for performance.  They also learn the skills necessary to research musical works and integrate that research into their work as performers.

Audition Prep Class (Years 1–2)
Designed to help prepare the player for professional auditions, students have two coachings on their instrument, play in mock auditions, and attend classes for other instruments. Faculty are drawn from the Bard Conservatory and members of the American Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and others.

Professional Development (Years 1–2)
An opportunity for students to consistently shape their ideas into action, and to create range by learning skills that will be helpful after graduation. Students define professional success and fulfillment to create their ideal professional scenario after graduation.

Curatorial Studies (Year 1)
Taken in conjunction with performance in the Bard Music Festival, this summer course focuses on repertoire and methods of concert programming, and examines the history of the orchestra as an institution and cultural force as a means of exploring why and how the concert tradition developed and how it might evolve.

Teaching Artist Program* (Year 3)
TŌN students participate in a teaching artist program, in which, with guidance, they participate in outreach programs and projects for a range of local communities.
*Not applicable to certificate students.

The Capstone Project* (Year 3)
This is an equivalent to the master’s degree thesis. The student may choose to write a scholarly treatise or may choose to design and implement a project they could conceivably continue after they graduate: an innovative chamber ensemble, a festival, a new kind of concert format, a music education program, some entrepreneurial scheme, an outreach project, etc.
*Certificate students are not required to complete a Capstone Project, but are expected in their second year to participate in a fellow student's Capstone Project.


The Orchestra Now's concert season runs from September through May, plus participation in the Bard Music Festival during a summer semester from mid-July through mid-August.
The Orchestra Now performs regular subscription series at Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fisher Center at Bard, and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Other Locations
In addition, the orchestra performs other concerts in New York City and throughout the Northeast, including Massachusetts and upstate New York. In total, The Orchestra Now performs 20–30 concerts each season. The Orchestra Now also performs regularly in chamber groups in the Hudson Valley area.

Bard Music Festival
TŌN also performs in the Bard Music Festival every summer. This acclaimed festival focuses each year on a single composer, exploring their relationship to their contemporaries and their impact on the history of music. The focus in the summer of 2024 is Hector Berlioz.

Life in TŌN

In TŌN, you will be part of a group of outstanding musicians who work together, share experiences and opportunities together, and who will learn from and collaborate with some of the finest orchestral performers in the world. The program is intense; therefore TŌN students are required to live within commuting distance of Bard College. They are responsible for acquiring their own housing, but networks of graduate student apartments and listings as well as advisory assistance are available to them. Bard maintains a shuttle service between nearby towns and the campus. Transportation is provided to performance venues in New York City and elsewhere outside the campus. 

With the exception of percussion and some specialized instruments, TŌN students use their own instruments and are responsible for storing and maintenance of them. Limited practice space is available on a sign-up basis.

It is the intention of this program to simulate as fully as possible the experience a musician may have in a full-time orchestra. Therefore, standards of discipline and conduct at a professional level are expected. Attendance and promptness to rehearsals and concerts are expected. A certain number of leaves of absence for purposes of audition are available to TŌN students with blackout dates. TŌN students are free to accept work outside the program as long as it does not conflict with any aspect of TŌN’s schedule.

It is to be expected that some members in the program will leave before finishing—we hope because they will win a seat in a great orchestra. It is requested that early departures occur only at the end of semesters in fairness to the other orchestral members.