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Department/Program Description

The Music Department is based on the belief that all of the world's musics warrant close study and that all musicians should cultivate the ability to engage with unfamiliar musical traditions. The department provides performance opportunities for the entire Wesleyan community through orchestra, Chinese orchestra, concert choir, the Collegium Musicum, organ, South Indian voice and percussion instruction, wind ensemble, jazz orchestra, Korean drumming and creative music ensemble, laptop ensemble, Javanese gamelan, West African drumming, South Indian music, steel band, and taiko. These offerings are supplemented by an extensive private lessons program. Courses in music history, music as a cultural practice, music theory, and composition are offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Music majors design their own programs of study in consultation with an advisor. Program proposals must demonstrate a balance between performance, historical/cultural study, and music theoretic/compositional investigation. Each proposal is reviewed by the director of undergraduate study and ratified by the entire department.

Major Description

Major programs are put together by the students in consultation with their advisors. The programs reflect the individual interests and needs of the students. The department requires that a program proposal, including all music courses previously taken and those planned for the future, be submitted at the time of application to be a major. A major program should have a healthy balance between courses in music history and culture; courses in music analysis, theory and composition; and courses in performance. It is a fundamental principle of the Wesleyan music program that the study of music and the experience of music should reinforce and inspire each other. A major program must show evidence of work in at least one musical tradition outside the area of the student’s prime concentration. The understanding that comes with new experiences is an essential part of the music opportunity at Wesleyan.

A music major's possible foci of study include Western classical music; new and experimental music; African American, Indonesian, Indian, and African musics; and European and American music outside the art tradition. These and other possibilities are not mutually exclusive but can be studied in combinations that reflect the interests of individual students. The music profession is international. In many areas of music study, at least one foreign language is essential.

Admission to the Major


One Course in the Music Theory Gateway Category 1
Materials and Design
Tonal Harmony
Theory and Analysis
Theory of Jazz Improvisation

Note: MUSC103, a prerequisite for all other theory classes, may be waived on the basis of a placement test. For AP Music Theory credit questions, see "Additional Information."

One Course in the History/Culture Gateway Category 1
World Music
Music History Seen From Keyboard Instruments
A Thousand Years of Music History
Introduction to Experimental Music
Introduction to South Indian Music
Music and Theater of Indonesia
Introduction to North Indian Music

Note: For the Class of 2019, the history/culture capability prerequisite can be met with any course in that category.

One Course in the Performance Category 1
MUSC 405 through MUSC 499

Note: MUSC405 satisfies the prerequisite but will not count toward the requirements for the major.

Major Requirements

Music majors take four courses in each of three capabilities: theory/composition, history/culture, and performance. Two additional courses from the MUSC300-level Seminars for Music Majors bring the number of music credits to 14. The required senior project or senior honors thesis brings the total number of music credits to 15 or 16, respectively.  Diversity of musical experience is a core value of the Music Department and is expected of all music majors. To move toward this goal, at least two of the 14 music credits must be outside the student’s main area of interest.

The Music Department expects its majors to continue to refine and extend their performance skills throughout their undergraduate careers, which may mean accumulating more than 15 or 16 credits in music. No more than 16 credits in music may be counted toward the 32 credits required for graduation, however, and students must therefore complete 16 or 17 credits outside of music.

Courses for Non-Majors

With the exception of MUSC300, all classes offered by the Music Department are open to non-majors.

General Education

Music majors are advised to complete their General Education Expectations (three each of HA, NSM, and SBS courses). Prospective majors who have not taken enough courses outside of the Music Department may be refused entry into the major. Students who fail to fulfill the General Education Expectations are generally not considered for department prizes and honors.

Student Learning Goals

At graduation, music majors will be able to:

  • Think analytically and critically about musical languages, histories, and cultures
  • Write effectively about music
  • Perform and/or create music with proficiency and creativity
  • Engage unfamiliar traditions and paradigms of humanly organized sound with sensitivity and insight
  • Apply their musical knowledge and skills within broader investigations of the human experience
Advanced Placement

AP theory credit is considered as follows:

AP Theory Credit on the student’s Wesleyan transcript

  • Counts as one of the 4 theory/composition requirements for the music major
  • Student needs to complete 3 additional theory/composition credits for the major

Passed the AP test with a 4 or 5 but Will not have the credit on the student's Wesleyan transcript

  • Student may begin theory coursework at a higher level
  • Student will still be required to take 4 theory/composition courses for the major

Students with questions regarding AP Theory

  • Should meet with the theory faculty of the Music Department teaching MUSC103 to discuss options

Merit-based awards that may be awarded annually

Elizabeth Verveer Tishler Prize

Established in 1981 by a gift from Mrs. Tishler. Expanded in 1989 for excellence in piano performance. 

Gwen Livingston Pokora Prize

Established in 1993, awarded annually to the outstanding undergraduate student in music composition.

Leavell Memorial Prize

Awarded annually to a senior who has done outstanding work in music and whose work
manifests the ideals of the World Music Program in the Music Department.

Lipsky Prize

The gift of the Reverend and Mrs. Bailey G. Lipsky in memory of their son, Francis Jules Lipsky, Class of 1931, to the member of the choir possessing in the highest degree unfailing kindliness, quiet dignity, and brilliant scholarship.

Samuel C. Silipo Prize

Awarded annually for the most valuable player(s) of the Wesleyan orchestra.
Additional Information

Special Activities

The department supports a number of unusual activities, many of which are available to the student body in general as well as to music majors. Among them are ensembles in various Asian, African, American, and European traditions, as well as a variety of chamber ensembles.

Private Lessons Program

Private lessons are available for many instruments and voice in Western art music, African American music, and a variety of other musics from around the world. Lessons are considered one-credit-per-semester courses. An additional fee, $780 per semester, is charged for these private lessons (financial aid may be available to students eligible for university financial aid). Approved music majors in their junior and senior years are eligible for partial subsidy when taking one (1) private lesson, per semester, for academic credit with a private lessons teacher.

Departmental Colloquium

An ongoing departmental colloquium is intended for the entire music community. It includes presentations by Wesleyan faculty, students, and outside speakers and encourages general discussion of broad issues in the world of music.


The study facilities include a working collection of musical instruments from many different cultures; a music-instrument manufacturing workshop; a 45-piece Javanese Gamelan Orchestra; a large formal concert hall and a small multipurpose concert hall; an electronic music studio coupled to a professional recording studio; a computer-arts studio capable of producing electronic music, video art, and environmental simulations; a music and record library; an electronic keyboard lab; and an archive of world music.


The following is a listing according to capabilities of courses offered by the department:

Theory Gateways
MUSC103 Materials and Design 1
MUSC201 Tonal Harmony 1
MUSC202 Theory and Analysis 1
MUSC210 Theory of Jazz Improvisation 1
History/Culture Gateways
MUSC102 World Music 1
MUSC105 Music History Seen From Keyboard Instruments 1
MUSC106 A Thousand Years of Music History 1
MUSC109 Introduction to Experimental Music 1
MUSC110 Introduction to South Indian Music 1
MUSC111 Music and Theater of Indonesia 1
MUSC115 Introduction to North Indian Music 1
FYS Courses
MUSC116 Visual Sounds: Graphic Notation in Theory and Practice 1
MUSC117F Musicking Body (FYS) 1
MUSC122 Sample, Remix, Reuse, and Replay: Approaches to Musical Adaptation in Audiovisual Culture 1
MUSC124F Mapping Culture (FYS) 1
MUSC125 Music and Downtown New York, 1950-1970 1
MUSC126F Poetry and Song (FYS) 1
MUSC128F Music and the Moving Image: From Music Video to Film to Digital Media (FYS) 1
MUSC203 Chromatic Harmony 1
MUSC204 Undergraduate Seminar in Composition 1
MUSC205 Song: Music and Text 1
MUSC206 18th-Century Counterpoint 1
MUSC207 Orchestration 1
MUSC208 Post-Tonal Music Theory 1
MUSC212 South Indian Music: Solkattu 1
MUSC220 Composing, Performing, and Listening to Experimental Music 1
MUSC223 Music, Recording, and Sound Design 1
MUSC230 Music Theater Workshop (cross list) 1
MUSC108 History of Rock and r&b 1
MUSC127 Popular Music in Reform China 1
MUSC241 Allegory and Devotion in Medieval and Renaissance Music (cross list) 1
MUSC243 Music of the 19th Century 1
MUSC244 Music of the 20th Century 1
MUSC246 The Symphony: Evolution of Genre 1
MUSC261 Music and Modernity in China, Japan, and Korea 1
MUSC265 African Presences I: Music in Africa 1
MUSC269 Sacred and Secular African American Musics 1
MUSC272 History of Jazz in American Culture 1
MUSC274 Hymnody in the United States Before the Civil War 1
MUSC275 Music and Downtown New York 1
MUSC277 Jazz Avant-Gardes 1
MUSC290 How Ethnomusicology Works 1
MUSC291 The Gendering of Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective 1
MUSC294 Queer Opera 1
MUSC295 Global Hip-Hop 1
MUSC296 Soundscapes of Islam 1
Major Seminars
MUSC300 Seminar for Music Majors 1
MUSC304 Arranging and Composing for Jazz Orchestra 1
Performance/Study Groups
MUSC405 Private Music Lessons for Nonmusic Majors 1
MUSC406 Private Music Lessons for Declared Music Majors 1
MUSC413 Korean Drumming and Creative Music 1
MUSC416 Beginning Taiko--Japanese Drumming Ensemble 1
MUSC418 Advanced Taiko--Japanese Drumming Ensemble 1
MUSC428 Chinese Music Ensemble 1
MUSC430 South Indian Voice--Beginning 1
MUSC431 South Indian Voice--Intermediate 1
MUSC432 South Indian Voice--Advanced 1
MUSC433 South Indian Music--Percussion 1
MUSC434 Improvisational Techniques in South Indian Music 1
MUSC436 Wesleyan Concert Choir 1
MUSC438 Wesleyan University Collegium Musicum (cross list) 1
MUSC439 Wesleyan University Orchestra 1
MUSC440 Instrumental Conducting 1
MUSC441 Pipe Organ in Theory and Practice, from Sanctuary to Stage: A Performance-Based Examination of Music 1
MUSC442 Chamber Music Ensemble 1
MUSC443 Wesleyan Wind Ensemble (WesWinds) 1
MUSC445 West African Music and Culture--Beginners 1
MUSC446 West African Music and Culture--Intermediate 1
MUSC447 West African Music and Culture--Advanced 1
MUSC448 Ebony Singers: Gospel Music 0.5
MUSC450 Steelband 1
MUSC451 Javanese Gamelan--Beginners 1
MUSC452 Javanese Gamelan--Advanced 1
MUSC455 Jazz Ensemble 1
MUSC456 Jazz Improvisation Performance 1
MUSC457 Jazz Orchestra I 1
MUSC458 Jazz Orchestra II 1
MUSC459 Wesleyan New Music Ensemble I 1
MUSC460 Wesleyan New Music Ensemble II 1
MUSC461 Sound Systems: The How of Hearing 1
MUSC463 Teaching Music Lessons to Children in Local Schools 1
MUSC464 Laptop Ensemble 1
Graduate Courses
MUSC500 Graduate Pedagogy 0.5
MUSC505 Topics in Applied Ethnomusicology/Public Musicology 1
MUSC506 Reading Ethnomusicology 1
MUSC507 Practicing Ethnomusicology 1
MUSC508 Graduate Seminar in Composition 1
MUSC509 Graduate Seminar in Composition II 1
MUSC510 Graduate Proseminar in World Music Studies 1
MUSC513 Improvisation in Cross-Cultural Perspective 1
MUSC515 Mapping Music as/in Motion: The Cartographies and Circulation of Aural Culture 1
MUSC519 Current Issues in Ethnomusicology 1
MUSC520 Explorations in Musicology 1
MUSC521 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies 1
MUSC522 Seminar in Comparative Music Theory 1
MUSC530 Department of Music Colloquium 0.25

The senior project requirement may be satisfied by the completion of an honors project, a project that may encompass a composition, a concert, etc., but the honors project always contains a substantial written component; for this reason it is called the honors thesis. An honors thesis satisfies the departmental requirement for a senior project, even if it is not awarded honors. The honors thesis tutorial is always a two-semester undertaking.

Capstone Experience

All music majors are required to complete a senior project by the end of their final year. The purpose of the project is to give focus to the major by means of independent, creative work and to encourage independent study with the close advice and support of a faculty member. Students who choose to undertake an honors thesis may count this as their senior project.

Graduate Program

General Introduction

The World Music Program offers degrees at both the master’s and doctoral levels. The MA in music has concentrations in scholarship (ethnomusicology/musicology), experimental music/composition, and performance. The PhD is in ethnomusicology. Many traditions are represented by faculty members through teaching and performing African American, Caribbean, East Asian, Euro-American, Indonesian, South Indian (Karnatak), West African, and experimental musics, and there are many opportunities for individual and ensemble study/performance.

Director of Graduate Studies in Music: Roger Mathew Grant



A total of 11 credits of coursework. Students are required to take MUSC510, four graduate seminars other than MUSC510 (two in the area of concentration), two performance courses, a course outside the department, a two-semester thesis tutorial (MUSC591/MUSC592), and four semesters of MUSC530.


Satisfactory completion of courses totaling at least 12 credits. Students are required to take three core seminars (MUSC519MUSC521MUSC520/MUSC522), three elective graduate-level seminars other than the core seminars (two of which may be satisfied with appropriate courses already taken at the master’s level), two credits of performance (in different musics), one course outside the department, two credits of thesis tutorial (MUSC591/MUSC592), and four semesters of MUSC530.


Language Requirement


One foreign language is required for the MA. All incoming students are required to take the language examination administered by the department at the beginning of their first term.


Two foreign languages are required for the PhD: one field language and one research language. All incoming students are required to take the language examination administered by the department at the beginning of their first term.

Progress and Qualifying Exams


Students in ethnomusicology submit a written thesis of original research and, if relevant, a public presentation of original work to a thesis committee. The final review or original works culminates in a thesis defense.

For students in composition, the essay may discuss the nature and form of their creative work, but it must also include a researched discussion of the broader context of that work, such as the musical discourse or social context within which it was conceived. Alternatively, the thesis may also forgo any discussion of the student's creative work and focus fully on a research topic. 


At the conclusion of the second year in residence, students take a qualifying examination consisting of a set of essays and a follow-up oral examination.



Masters students in ethnomusicology are required to complete a unique thesis and defense in their area of expertise. Research may include field work, archival research, engagement in performance, and learning a field language, among other practices.

The creative work of MA students in composition can range through many forms of auditory culture, including musical compositions, sound installations, and the design of musical instruments and systems. The composition thesis includes the presentation of this work in a performance, installation or other public forum and a written essay. The research expectations of the thesis essay are developed in consultation with a thesis advisor and other music faculty.


PhD candidates in ethnomusicology are required to complete a dissertation and defense in their area of expertise. Research may include field work, archival research, engagement in performance, and learning a field language, among other practices.



An ethnomusicology thesis must constitute an archivable product displaying mastery of and an original contribution to the understanding of an aspect of world music. The MA thesis may follow various formats and modes of musical investigation, but performance per se does not constitute a thesis without substantial written ancillary materials. Work such as bibliographies, translations, and journals do not normally constitute theses. After completing all department requirements and acceptance of the thesis by the committee, the candidate is scheduled for an oral thesis defense administered by the committee.


The dissertation must constitute an archivable product displaying mastery of and an original contribution to the understanding of an aspect of world music. After completing all department requirements and acceptance of the dissertation by the committee, the candidate is scheduled for an oral dissertation defense administered by the committee.


For additional information, please visit the department website at