Liberal Arts faculty members embrace their unique role in helping NEC students become conversant in the history, literature, and philosophy of the cultures they will represent through their artistry during their musical careers. That is, from the Liberal Arts point of view, NEC students' musical studies and their studies in the Liberal Arts are in a direct, two-way relationship. Liberal Arts courses not only provide students with essential opportunities to immerse their intellects in a variety of subjects that seem on the surface unrelated to their music studies, but at the same time also show students that any course they take, in any subject, can indirectly feed their passion for communicating through music.
Seeking to emphasize this two-way interaction in the development of culturally conversant musicians, representatives from the departments of Liberal Arts, Music Theory, Music History, and Contemporary Improvisation are currently creating “Courses in Collaboration” in which existing electives from each department are taught simultaneously and in direct relationship. Student work in each course encourages cross-thinking and cross-referencing, and both classes participate in a culminating activity featuring student compositions and performance.
In fall 2009, Patrick Keppel’s Liberal Arts course on The Theatre of the Absurd was taught in collaboration with Katarina Miljkovic’s Music Theory course, Order and Chaos in Music Since 1945. At the end of the semester, students from both classes came together to perform their original musical and dramatic interpretations of some of Samuel Beckett’s short plays.