Music Major

Goals for the Music Major

The Music Department at Wellesley College offers students a program that integrates performance, research, critical thinking, and the creative process. We strive to enhance students’ knowledge and understanding of diverse musical cultures, and to guide them in applying that understanding to their engagement with music. Recognizing how contemporary innovations in technology and digital media are impacting musical performance and compositional practices in the 21st century, we also provide students with opportunities to study computer music as well as interdisciplinary new media that draw on visual arts and film studies. Music majors study the global and historical contexts, literatures, aesthetics, and critical and practical theories of music. They work closely with the materials of music, becoming fluent in analyzing and interpreting both written and heard music. We require majors to cultivate aural and keyboard fluency as well as perform in ensembles, and we offer opportunities for independent projects in research, performance, composition, and/or improvisation. Through this critical and applied approach, music majors learn new ways of reading, writing, performing, and thinking about sound.

Learning Outcomes for the Music Major

  1. Read, understand, and interpret music.
  2. Navigate the print/online resources needed to produce a research paper or a sound object and assert a scholarly voice.
  3. Recognize specific styles of composers and performers, and identify the progression and evolution of music in space and time.
  4. Develop skills in leadership, build interpersonal relationships, cultivate creativity with other performers, apply constructive criticism, and learn how to collaborate with an accompanist, an ensemble, or in chamber music.
  5. Find one’s unique style within the performing medium, such as improvisation, and communicate and express emotion though the voice or learned instrument.
  6. Develop critical thinking & critical listening skills, and skills about writing about music, in order to identify and articulate how music developed within its cultural context, and what influenced particular musicians in a given place and time.  Apply and expand these skills to other disciplines.
  7. Be able to use music technology to manipulate sound and create musical compositions, including the production of music in concert, exhibition, and multi-media performance.
  8. Apply musical literacies to discover techniques that make music work and demonstrate mastery of knowledge through a variety of means including composition, analysis, performance, writing, and digital media.
  9. Demonstrate and describe a wide variety of performance practices in styles encompassing classical, jazz, digital, and various world traditions. 
  10. Discover and initiate ways to use music for social advocacy and community outreach.

Requirements for the Music Major

The major in Music is a program of at least 10 units. The department offers three areas of concentration in fulfilling the Music major: Western Classical Music, Jazz and World Music, and Digital Media/Experimental Music. In addition, a student may elect to fulfill a Self-Designed Major, which they will plan in consultation with their major advisor. The course requirements for each area of concentration are listed below.

MUS 100, “Musical Literacies,” is an introductory gateway course that can be counted toward the Music major, unless a student tests out of MUS 100 on the Music Theory Placement Evaluation (discussed in more detail below). If a student also places out of MUS 122 and/or MUS 244, they will need to pursue other Music courses to add up to 10 units.  

Students who declare a music major will also be required to participate in their choice of the department’s performing music ensembles for at least two academic years.

In most cases, courses taken credit/noncredit will not count toward the major. 

Students who plan to undertake graduate study in Western classical musicology or theory are strongly encouraged to study German, French, or Italian beyond the introductory level, as well as European history, literature, and art. 

Basic proficiency in one or more foreign languages will also benefit students who plan to undertake graduate study in ethnomusicology as will studies in one or more languages relevant to a particular research interest. 

Music majors develop their musicianship through the acquisition of basic keyboard skills, ear training, private instruction in practical music, and involvement in the various performance ensembles of the department. For students with an interest in the Digital Media/Experimental Music track, credit for one academic year of ensemble participation can come from taking MUS 275 and MUS 277

The specific course requirements for each concentration in the Music Major are as follows:

Western Classical Music

MUS 122 - Harmonic Concepts in Tonal Music

MUS 244 - Introduction to Modal and Tonal Counterpoint

MUS 200 - Music History Topics I

MUS 201 - Music History Topics II

MUS 202 - Music History Topics III

MUS 300 - Music Capstone Major Seminar and/or MUS 301 Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing

MUS 315 - Advanced Harmony 

3 electives (one of which may be MUS 100, or a full year’s lesson credit from MUS 199, MUS 299, or MUS 344)

Two years of participation in department ensembles (MUS 260 or MUS 270

Jazz and World Music

MUS 209 / MUS 309 - A History of Jazz

MUS 220 - Jazz and Popular Music Theory

MUS 245 / MUS 345 - Introduction to Ethnomusicology

2 among the following courses: MUS 200, MUS 201, MUS 202, MUS 210, MUS 215

MUS 276 - American Popular Music

MUS 398 - Performing Music (Jazz and World Improvisation)

2 electives which could include: MUS 100, MUS 122, MUS 222/MUS 322, MUS 250/MUS 350, MUS 275, AMST 217, or AMST 315.

MUS 300 - Music Capstone Major Seminar and/or MUS 301 Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing and/or MUS 314 Brazilian Music and the Politics of Culture

Two years of participation in Jazz and World Music Ensembles (MUS 260 or MUS 270)

Digital Media/Experimental Music

MUS 122 - Harmonic Concepts in Tonal Music

MUS 202 - Music History Topics III

MUS 275 - Introduction to Electronic and Computer Music: Histories and Practices

MUS 277 or MUS 377 - Interactive Sound Art with Electronics

CS 111 - Computer Programming and Problem Solving

1 course in Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) and 1 course in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS)

2 electives (one of which may be MUS 100)

MUS 300 - Music Capstone Major Seminar and/or MUS 301 Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing

Two years of participation in department ensembles (MUS 260 or MUS 270); participation in MUS 275 and MUS 277 can count for one year of ensemble activity.

Self-Designed Major

A student may elect to create a self-designed major in consultation with their major advisor.

Honors in Music

The department offers a choice of three programs for honors: Program I, a research thesis; Program II, a composition or sound art project; or Program III, a performance-based project. All of these programs exist under the catalog numbers 360/370; honors students normally elect the two units in succession during the senior year. Eligibility for these programs requires a GPA of 3.5 in the major. Under Program I, the honors candidate carries out independent research leading to a written thesis and an oral examination. Under Program II, honors in composition, the 360 and 370 units culminate in a composition of substance and an oral examination on the honors work. Program III, honors in performance, culminates in a recital, a lecture-demonstration, and a shorter thesis on some aspect of performance.  MUS 344 or MUS 398 must be taken in the senior year as a component of the MUS 360/MUS 370 sequence, and not for separate course credit.