The Latest: BFA Fast Track

August 31, 2014

A Walnut Hill and Boston Conservatory partnership will allow dancers to graduate in three years.


Boston Conservatory faculty member Adriana Suárez. Photo Courtesy Boston Conservatory.


The Boston Conservatory and Walnut Hill School for the Arts have had a close relationship for some time. They are only 30 minutes apart in Massachusetts and share one full-time faculty member, as well as guest and adjunct faculty. But in fall 2015, the college and boarding school will make their partnership official. A new program will allow select Walnut Hill graduates to earn a BFA in dance from Boston Conservatory in three years. “In some ways the creation of the partnership was organic,” says Walnut Hill director of dance Michael Owen, who proposed the program one year ago. TBC dance director Cathy Young agrees. “The more we talked, the more we saw similarities in what both schools believe is essential to developing dance artists. We’ve taken a few Walnut Hill students each year, so we know they’re a great fit for our program.”

Walnut Hill students still must complete the audition and application process to be accepted into the college. Owen will identify possible candidates from Walnut Hill as early as their sophomore year, and the Conservatory director and assistant director will observe these students in classes and performances during their junior year. Candidates who are then invited to apply will submit application materials and audition in the fall of their senior year. Accepted dancers must complete three specified Walnut Hill upper-level academic courses that have been approved by Boston Conservatory before they begin their first year. Young predicts she will take about five students, out of an approximately 30-student Boston Conservatory class, from Walnut Hill each year.

Once at Boston Conservatory, students will be completely integrated with other freshman dancers, though they will be working toward slightly different degrees; traditional Conservatory students graduate with a BFA in contemporary dance performance. Curriculum will follow the same requirements, from technique classes to pedagogy to Laban, but students on the three-year track will have a condensed final year that combines junior and senior coursework. The program is especially attractive for students who may have considered forgoing college to start their professional careers. “It will be extremely useful for our dancers to be able to enter the professional field a little earlier,” says Owen. “But most importantly, they’ll be able to do it with a degree under their belts.”