Frequently Asked Questions

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I want to major in something other than music. Can I still be involved in music?

Yes. All Brandeis students may enroll in courses and ensembles offered by the Music Department. Some courses require prerequisites or permission of the instructor. Others require an audition. Music Department ensembles are open to all members of the Brandeis community by audition. Check course descriptions for specific requirements.

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How do I join an ensemble, for example the orchestra, or a chorus?

Auditions for all ensembles are held at the beginning of the fall semester and by appointment at the beginning of the spring semester.  Check here for audition dates, times, locations, and details about what to prepare. Information is also posted on the bulletin board in the entrance of Slosberg Music Center. Additionally, students are always welcome to email ensemble directors - anytime during the year - with questions about joining ensembles!

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How much do music lessons cost? Who teaches them?

Lessons are taught by members of the Brandeis music faculty and members of Boston's large and talented community of professional musicians. For non-music majors, lessons cost $700 per semester (for 10 one-hour lessons). Declared music majors pay $250 per semester. Students audition at the beginning of the fall semester. For more information, contact Cheryl Nalbach.

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Can I take lessons for credit?

Yes. Lessons are offered on a credit/no-credit grading basis. The course yields 2 credits per semester (i.e., half-course credit). A maximum of 16 credits (ie., four course credits) is allowed  for all enrollments in private lessons taken together with a co-requisite ensemble (also 2 credits) or ensembles taken alone. After the maximum credit limit is reached, students may continue taking lessons by registering in the non-credit ("XC") sections. Students are encouraged to register for credit whenever possible. The course number for lessons is as follows: MUS 111a/b for instrumental lessons  and MUS 112a/b for voice lessons. Registration is required.

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Can I receive credit for playing in an ensemble?

Yes. Music department ensembles are offered on a credit/no-credit grading basis. The course yields 2 credits per semester (i.e., half-course credit). A maximum of 16 credits (ie., four course credits) is allowed  for all enrollments in ensembles taken alone or private lessons (also 2 credits) taken together with a co-requisite ensemble. After the maximum credit limit is reached, students may continue playing in ensembles by registering in the non-credit ("XC") sections. Students are encouraged to register for credit whenever possible. Registration is required. The course numbers for ensembles are found in the schedule of classes.

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Can ensembles or lessons for credit satisfy the Creative Arts distribution requirement?

Yes. Ensembles and private lessons yield half-course credit (i.e., 2 credits) each; therefore, two semesters of ensemble participation for credit or one semester of private lessons plus the co-requisite ensemble, for credit, satisfy the Creative Arts distribution requirement. Students should contact the Registrar's Office directly to have the Creative Arts distribution requirement notated properly on their transcript. 

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What does the music major consist of?

The curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts in Music combines music theory, history, and performance. As a music major, you'll take one-two years of theory and musicianship; three semesters of music history; you'll participate in university ensembles; you'll gain proficiency on keyboard; and take electives chosen from a wide variety of topics. If you wish to focus on a particular area, you may enroll in one of five specialized tracks: composition, cultural studies, history, performance or musical theater performance.

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How do I choose a music major "track?"

When selecting the music major, a student may wish to choose one of five specialized concentrations or "tracks": composition, cultural studies, history, performance, or musical theater performance. Detailed information about each track, including pre-requisites and faculty track advisors, can be found here. Brandeis students typically declare a major - and any specific concentration or track - before the end of sophomore year. This allows adequate time to complete any pre-requisites and create an outline of required coursework for the junior and senior years. Students interested in discussing a track before declaring the major may contact the appropriate faculty track advisor directly.  

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Are there courses that will teach me basic theory?

MUS 5a (The Beginner's Toolbox: Fundamentals of Music Notation and Performance) addresses notation, elementary theory and sight-singing. This is the best place to start if you have little experience. If you have some background and if you are considering either a major or minor in music, you should take MUS 101a (Theory I). There is a brief diagnostic test during the first class meeting to determine placement in the appropriate level of theory.

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Are there courses for students who like music but don't have a background?

The department offers several introductory courses that are open to all students, including MUS la: Exploring Western Music, MUS 3b: Introduction to World Music: Performance Tradition Through Sound, and MUS 4b: Introduction to Chinese Music. There are also a number of courses devoted to particular composers (Mozart, Bach and Handel, Beethoven), or topics (opera, globalism, American music, jazz, the Beatles). These courses do not have prerequisites.

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Who can use the practice rooms in the Slosberg Music Center?

Practice rooms in Slosberg are open every weekday and weekend and are available to all members of the Brandeis community on a first come/first served basis. Classrooms, when not in use, may also be used for practice Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. by signing the daily room schedule posted outside the Music Office, Slosberg 208. Signing in with the front desk monitor is required after 5 p.m. and on weekends. Music majors and minors are permitted access to classrooms weeknights after 5 p.m. and on weekends. All practice rooms and classrooms have pianos.

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Does the department offer graduate degrees?

The department offers three graduate degrees: a one-year MA, a two-year MFA, and a PhD in musicology and in composition. Graduate courses are open to qualified undergraduates.

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Does Brandeis have an electronic music studio?

The department has a state-of-the-art electronic music studio (Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio or BEAMS), headed by Eric Chasalow. The studio is designed for electro-acoustic composition, both analog and digital.

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Where do music performances take place?

All music department ensembles and recitalists perform in the Slosberg Music Center Recital Hall.  The hall has a superb natural acoustic and is also equipped with state-of-the-art surround sound and video. There are two Steinway concert grand pianos and a tracker organ as well. Additional performances take place at various locations on campus, including the Mandel Humanities Center, the Shapiro Campus Center, the Rose Art Museum, the Berlin Chapel, and the Rapaporte Treasure Hall. The Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra also performs at Wellesley College.