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Senior Project Guidelines

Undergraduate Advising Head:

• May - August
Cheryl Nalbach

• September - April
Sarah Mead

Music Major Track Advisers:

History Track Adviser
Karen Desmond

Composition Track Adviser
Erin Gee

Cultural Studies Adviser
Judith Eissenberg

Performance Track Adviser (Instrumental)
Joshua Gordon

Performance Track Adviser (Vocal)
Robert Duff

Musical Theater Performance Track Adviser
Robert Duff

Learning Goals for the Music Major

The learning goals for the Music Department are based on an integrated approach to the study of music, encompassing a number of perspectives:

  • Music as a technical discipline, with its own notation, materials and forms.
  • Music as an artifact of different historical periods, cultures and societies, both Western and non-Western, in written as well as oral traditions.
  • The practice of music in the context of both performance and composition.
  • Music as expression and communication, fostering a deeply sympathetic understanding of peoples, a sense of community, and a humane and tolerant outlook on the world.  

In addition to the general requirements for the Music Major, students may enrich their experience by choosing to pursue one of five specialized tracks offered by the Department. Whichever route a student follows, course-work is built on three essential ways of knowing about and experiencing the field of music. The three pillars of the study of music can be summarized as follows:

  • Theory: Mastery of the basic materials of music and the rules governing their arrangement and organization. 
  • History: The study of musical forms, repertory, and composers as they exemplify different styles and periods.
  • Performance: Direct collaborative experience of music through participation in Departmental ensembles including chorus, orchestra, early music ensemble, jazz ensemble and chamber music.

Each of the three Pillars serves the student of music by providing its own set of Core Skills and Knowledge, summarized below.


Essential for work in theory is the development of self-criticism in the control of the basic materials of music and mastery of the rules governing their arrangement and organization in different musical styles. Courses in theory are aligned with work in ear training and musicianship, which develop aural skills necessary for identifying, writing and singing the basic elements of music.

Core Skills:

  • Train and develop skills for accurately hearing and matching sounds
  • Discriminate differences of pitch and duration in single voice and in combination, both in reading music (sight-singing) and notating it (musical dictation)
  • Master the control of consonance and dissonance in written exercises
  • Shape and develop melodic lines both in terms of single voice continuity and in the simultaneous combination of voices
  • Understand the grammar of chords, cadence structures, and the place and function of chords in harmonic progressions
  • Synthesize concepts of form, melody, rhythm, and harmonic motion in the writing of music
  • Refine the understanding of compositional structure in discussion and performance by professional musicians


  • Capability to write in the style of traditional classical forms (minuet and trio; sonata movement)
  • Ability to recognize and describe the structure of standard small musical forms
  • Strong foundation in functional harmony and counterpoint 

The study of the history of Western music from antiquity to the present day gives us a cultural and sequential context for the understanding of changing musical aesthetics and modes of expression. Evidence for examination includes historical depictions of music in society (written and pictured), theoretical and philosophical writings, notational systems, musical instruments, written and printed music, recordings, and performances.

Core Skills:

  • Consider the various ways in which society has used music in private/public, secular/religious contexts
  • Evaluate the changing standards of the musical aesthetic over time, including tuning systems, texture, timbre, melody and harmony
  • Listen critically to musical examples, identifying performing forces, form, and social function
  • Apply the principles of music theory in a historically appropriate manner  


  • Ability to recognize and categorize historical and national style and to describe musical trends over time
  • Familiarity with the major composers of the Western canon and representative repertoire of the significant styles, forms and genres
  • Awareness of the nature, causes, directions, and influences of stylistic change 

Performance of music synthesizes knowledge and skills, bringing together text, context and technique by interaction with well-known, lesser-known, and newly written repertoire. Technical and expressive skills are practiced, and competency in solo and ensemble performance is expected. While strongly anchored in Western European classical repertoire, there are also opportunities for study and performance of historical music, jazz, popular and non-Western traditions.

Core Skills:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in chosen instrument/voice as well as a mastery of basic keyboard skills
  • Incorporate improvisation and oral learning skills in appropriate musical traditions (jazz, early music)
  • Employ effective self-critique and problem-solving in private practice sessions and rehearsals
  • Work effectively within an ensemble in both a leading and responding role
  • Hear and act on subtle differences in pitch, timbre, balance, and articulation Express musically the affective aspect of the compositions
  • Communicate verbally the musical ideas involved in creating a convincing performance, with the ability to compare alternatives and justify choices
  • Write clear and effective program notes


  • Ability to read musical notation fluently on chosen instrument or voice
  • Understanding of the information in a musical text: pitch, rhythm, articulations, tempo, dynamics, etc.
  • Differentiation between various forms and genres of music, including different periods and traditions
  • Application of theoretical and stylistic knowledge to musical interpretation
  • Employment of effective listening and communicating techniques to solve ensemble issues (rhythm, intonation, etc.)
  • Direct experience with performing in a variety of ensembles and venues
  • Familiarity with the works of major composers in the Western European tradition
  • Identification of the basic musical instrument families, their sounds and functions

Social Justice:

  • Collaborate with colleagues in working toward a common goal
  • Recognize, respond to, and communicate the shared human expression embodied in all music
  • Value the benefit of self-reflection and inquiry in continually striving to become a better musician 

The three pillars of theory, history and performance form the core of the music major; students may choose to focus their study further through one of five track options:

Composition Track

 In addition to the core requirements of the Music Major, students work closely with the Composition Track advisor to choose electives that focus on the skills necessary to create new works of music. Students in this track employ their knowledge of musical form and function, their awareness of genres and historical trends, and their familiarity with performance issues to develop their creative expression. Upon graduation, students in this track will be prepared to pursue graduate degrees in composition.

History Track

As in the above track, students will enhance the major requirements with electives chosen in consultation with the History Track advisor. Through in-depth focus on specific composers and repertoires, and engagement in research and analysis, students will gain a fuller understanding of the changing ways in which music has served as a means of expression arising from the surrounding culture and ethos. This focus will enhance their own musical experience as well as preparing them for further graduate work in musicology.

Performance Track

While all music majors incorporate performance into their studies, those in the Performance Track must demonstrate an advanced level of skill through audition. In addition to their core courses, students in this track work with their private instructor and the track advisor to prepare two recitals: a half-length program in their Junior year and a full-length one in their Senior year. Graduates in this track will be prepared go on to further study towards a professional career in performance or music education.

Musical Theater Performance Track

As in the Performance Track, students are accepted into the MTP Track by audition. Core courses and electives include offerings specific to the track within the Theater Department. Students work with their private voice or instrumental teacher and track advisor to prepare two recitals: a half-length program in their Junior year and a full-length one in their Senior year. Upon graduation, MTP students will be prepared to pursue further study in musical theater or to audition for professional work.

Cultural Studies Track

Cultural Studies is a semi-independent track in music that is a reflective, critical and cross-disciplinary exploration of culture with music as a primary lens. Students are encouraged to take courses across the academy in global studies, the creative arts, religion, languages, the social sciences, and the humanities in order to develop tools and strategies for the serious study of the various expressions of culture across place and time. Students are expected to apply critical thinking to issues of globalization, trans-nationalism, cultural production, and cultural rights, as they explore the flow of artistic expression across traditional boundaries: political, cultural, social. They are encouraged to study a non-Western instrument and to take the opportunity to study abroad. Upon graduating, a CST student will be prepared to pursue graduate study in ethnomusicology, music education, or (in some cases) performance, as well as fields outside of music, including cultural or international studies.

Because of the unique nature of this track, it encompasses its own list of outcomes:

Core Skills:

  • Hear and identify unique musical values and aesthetic aims in a variety of Western and non-Western musical traditions
  • Make connections between cultural values and cultural expressions from Western and non-Western traditions
  • Recognize how cultural/social values are transmitted through music and other forms of human expression and activity
  • Investigate socio-political movements across time as well as place
  • Examine issues of identity and authenticity


  • Familiarity with the theory, practice, and performance of Western and non-Western musical traditions
  • Awareness of the intersections between social history and music history
  • Understanding of the complexity of cultural production and its effects on local traditions
  • Recognition of the intersections of gender, race and class in the formation of cultural values
  • Openness to religion and ritual as cultural expressions

Social Justice:

  • Value the diversity of cultural expression
  • Take part comfortably in cross-cultural collaboration
  • Appreciate the uniqueness of, as well as the commonalities between, traditions Be well-versed in issues of globalization