Founded in 1990, the Bard Music Festival focuses on the life and work of a single composer, presenting that work in the cultural and social context of his or her time. Recent festivals have explored the worlds of Puccini, Carlos Chávez, Sibelius, Berg, Wagner, Prokofiev, Elgar, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Stravinsky, and Schubert. The Bard Music Festival is part of the seven-week SummerScape series, which the Wall Street Journal called “one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals.“
The John Cage Trust, created to oversee the use of the published and unpublished work of one of the 20th century’s most important composers, has permanent residence at Bard College. The trust’s holdings—which include scores, recordings, texts, artworks, Cage’s personal library, and ephemera—are accessible to scholars, students, faculty, and the general public. The John Cage Trust also generates courses, workshops, and concerts, as well as other educational activities and programs.
A feature of the Stevenson Library’s online archive is Bard Makes Noise, a website that documents 40 years of student musicians and bands through audio, video, and photos.
Bard boasts a range of ensembles, orchestras, and choruses in which students perform regularly: Chamber Singers and Opera Workshop, Balinese Gamelan, Bard College Community Orchestra, Bard College Symphonic Chorus, Baroque Ensemble, Bard College Community Jazz Orchestra, Chamber Music (classical and jazz), Contemporary Jazz Composers Ensemble, Contemporary Music Ensemble, Electroacoustic Ensemble, Georgian Vocal Ensemble, Gospel Choir, Percussion Ensemble, and Samba School.
Several student a cappella ensembles make unaccompanied music on campus:
- The Orcapelicans have been named one of the top 14 collegiate groups in the country by the Huffington Post, which featured a video of the group’s rendition of “White Rabbit.”
- The Shape-Note Singing Society, which meets every Sunday in Bard Hall and is open to all students, performs raucous traditional music from the “Sacred Harp“ (or shape-note singing) songbook.
- The Bard Georgian Choir offers students an opportunity to learn traditional polyphonic choral music from the Republic of Georgia. Most songs are taught orally.
See Ethnomusicology for detailed information about the world music ensembles at Bard.
Student-Run Performance Opportunities
The Old Gym is a multipurpose, student-run arts space with the technical capabilities of a small black-box theater. It is open to any student who wants to explore performance or alternative installation projects. The space is managed by a committee of students representing every artistic discipline—theater and performance, film and electronic arts, dance, studio arts, photography, and music.
SMOG is a rock and jazz performance space in a converted garage, open to Bard students for band performances or practices.