Music Major and Minor

We bring outstanding students and faculty together to explore the rich diversity of music in the context of a challenging liberal arts curriculum. Our rigorous program develops skills in performance and composition as well as a deep understanding of musical works in their cultural and social contexts. We offer undergraduates an exceptionally broad range of academic and performance opportunities, while emphasizing mentoring and student-faculty collaboration. Our dynamic program is further enriched by visiting artist residencies and by our proximity to the world-class musical life of Philadelphia.

Curriculum & Courses

Our curriculum is comprised of courses in theory/composition, musicology, and performance. Through theory classes our majors gain proficiency in aural and keyboard skills as well as harmony and counterpoint. We emphasize composition in traditional forms as well as experimentation with contemporary styles, and we encourage students to forge their own creative paths. Students also pursue musicology courses that place music in social, religious, and aesthetic contexts and embrace European, North American, and Asian traditions. Students hone their performance skills through participation in our many fine instrumental and vocal ensembles as well as in private study.

  • Major Requirements

    • Composition/Theory: MUSC H203, MUSC H204, and MUSC H303.
    • Musicology: A total of three courses:  MUSC H229, plus any two courses in music history or musicology at the 200 or 300 level.
    • Two full-credit electives in Music at the 200 or 300 level.
    • Performance
      • Participation in a department-sponsored performance group for at least a year.
      • MUSC H208, MUSC H209, or MUSC H210 instrumental or vocal private study for one year.
      • We strongly urge continuing ensemble participation and instrumental or vocal private study.
    • A Senior Project (as detailed below)
    • We expect majors to attend the majority of department-sponsored concerts, lectures, and colloquia.

    Students may take only one elective course abroad or at another institution in the U.S., including within the Tri-College Consortium or at Penn, with prior written approval from the Chair of the Music Department.

    Senior Project

    Senior majors in the Department of Music may choose to undertake their capstone experience by pursuing one of the following focused project options: an original composition or theoretical inquiry; a musicology research paper; a full recital performance; a personalized plan of study within an elective course beyond the number required. In some cases, projects might combine two fields—performance and theory, for example—and may involve joint advisorship. All projects culminate in public presentation appropriate to their nature and scope.

    Majors are asked in February of their junior year to discuss with department faculty members their ideas for the senior experience, identify an advisor, and submit a formal, written project proposal to the Chair before spring break. Proposals are then reviewed by the Music faculty in department meetings. Frequently the department asks that proposals be modified and submitted for a second review before final approval is given. Notification of departmental approval is sent by the chair to students in April. As soon as the project is approved, students are expected to consult with the advisor to determine a clear schedule for the timely completion of work according to the unique needs of the project. Students are often encouraged to get a head start on senior project work well before the beginning of their final fall semester.

    Majors pursuing an independent project in composition/theory, musicology or performance generally register for MUSC H480 in both the fall and spring semesters of their senior year. Each semester of MUSC H480 earns one course credit; however, only one semester of MUSC H480 counts toward the courses required for the major. Majors pursuing the expanded curricular option may be advised to take a preparatory fall MUSC H480, which likewise would earn one course credit, but not apply toward fulfillment of major requirements.

    Senior Project Learning Goals

    • In the process of preparing an original composition, the student exercises the ability to compose a substantial work (e.g., string quartet, song cycle, piano sonata) exhibiting proficiency in notation, clarity of structure, stylistic integrity, and awareness of historical models. In pursuing a theoretical inquiry, the student engages in the analysis of musical content through primary and secondary sources, aiming for a synthesis of perspectives and an expression of insights sensitive to music’s interpretive possibilities.
    • In the process of preparing a senior thesis in musicology, the student develops the ability to craft an original research question based on knowledge of and reflection upon prior literature in the field. The student will also demonstrate command of appropriate musicological research methods, clear written expression, and the capacity to speak with authority about the topic in a public presentation.
    • In the process of preparing a senior recital, the student hones the skills to present a technically and interpretively challenging program of repertory from a range of stylistic periods.
    • In the process of fulfilling a program of intensified study within an additional course elective, the student expands curricular horizons, and meets the highest-level challenges in their experience as a major.

    Regardless of the specific path taken, it is intended that the senior experience stimulate reflection on the discipline of music as a whole, and lead to the student’s awareness of place within the unfolding history of musical creativity, scholarship and performance. Each project should in its own way constitute a consummation of the student’s musical growth throughout the undergraduate years.

    Senior Project Assessment

    Whether undertaken in the context of an intensified elective or of an independent study the actual numerical grade assigned for the senior project remains at advisor discretion. The department as a body discusses the project’s relative quality and the consistency of effort brought to bear in its production, to aid the advisor in evaluation.  A written summary of the department’s collective appraisal of the student’s achievement in the senior experience is furnished by the chair to the student prior to Commencement.

    Requirements for Honors


    • Minimum GPA in music courses of 3.7 AND grade on senior project of 4.0.

    High Honors

    • Outstanding, standard-setting contribution to the department in the context of courses and/or ensembles.
    • Exceptional level of originality, depth, and synthesis in the senior project as compared to undergraduate work generally, outside Haverford (i.e., a level of work that should be sufficient to gain admission to top graduate programs in the field).
  • Minor Requirements

    • Composition/Theory: MUSC H203 and MUSC H204.
    • Musicology: A total of two courses:  MUSC H229, plus one course in music history or musicology at the 200 or 300 level
    • One full-credit elective in Music at the 200 or 300 level.
    • MUSC H208, MUSC H209, MUSC H210 instrumental/vocal private study or department ensemble participation for one year.
    • We expect minors to attend the majority of department-sponsored concerts, lectures, and colloquia.

    Students may take only one elective course abroad or at another institution in the U.S., including within the Tri-College Consortium or at Penn, with prior written approval from the Chair of the Music Department.

Research & Outreach

All majors participate in our senior experience, during which they produce an independent study project. Projects typically take the form of original compositions, solo recitals, or musicological research papers. Alternatively, projects are undertaken within the context of an advanced music course. A public presentation is also required. The culmination of our majors’ undergraduate training, the senior experience is designed to stimulate reflection on the discipline as a whole while demonstrating particular achievement within a focused area of musical study.

After Graduation

Our graduates are musical thinkers and thinking musicians, possessing skills that equip them superbly for graduate work in music and careers in music and related fields. Our alumni are active in all areas of the musical world as professional performers, composers, and educators; arts administrators with leading cultural organizations; and innovators in various technologies, including sound design, sound recording, and web design for the music industry.

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