Music Performance

Performing Music Instrument Collection

The music department owns 36 pianos (including 28 Steinway grands, two Mason and Hamlin grands, and five Boston/Steinway uprights), a Noack practice organ, a practice carillon, a harp, a marimba, vibraphone, a jazz drum kit, and a wide assortment of modern orchestral instruments. In addition, an unusually fine collection of instruments appropriate to early music performance is available for use by students. These include a Dolmetsch clavichord, a virginal, three harpsichords, a positive organ, a fortepiano, an 1823 Clementi grand piano, a Gothic harp, a psaltery, a lute, eight violas da gamba, a Baroque violin, and an assortment of Renaissance and Baroque wind instruments.

Of particular interest is the Charles Benton Fisk meantone organ (completed 1981) in Houghton Memorial Chapel, which is America’s first major instrument constructed after seventeenth-century German prototypes. Galen Stone Tower contains a 32-bell carillon.

Advanced Performance Seminar (MUS 344)

The Advanced Performance Seminar is directed each year by two members of the performance faculty. It offers advanced students an opportunity to perform frequently in an informal setting before fellow students and faculty, to discuss repertoire and interpretation, and to receive constructive comments. The work in this class culminates with the student presenting a full recital at the end of the academic year.

Musicianship Skills Instruction in Music

Group instruction in basic keyboard skills, including keyboard harmony, sight-reading, ear training, and score reading, is provided free to all students enrolled in any music theory course (including MUS 100 with the instructor’s permission and if space is available), and to MUS 099 students with the written recommendation of their private instructor. Ensemble sight-reading instruction on a more advanced level is also available for pianists.

Private Instruction in Music

The department offers private classical instruction in voice, keyboards (piano, fortepiano, harpsichord, organ, carillon, accordion), strings (harp, violin, baroque violin, viola, cello, double bass, viola da gamba, classical guitar, lute, guzheng), winds and brass (flute, baroque flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, recorder, saxophone, trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba), percussion and marimba. The department also offers private jazz instruction in voice, piano, strings (fiddle, violin, viola, electric and upright bass, guitar), winds (saxophone, trumpet, trombone and low brass), and percussion (drumset, vibraphone, congas/hand percussion).

All students who wish to receive private instruction are advised to take the Music Theory Placement Evaluation, offered during Orientation Week. Information concerning auditions and course requirements for noncredit and credit study is given under the listings for MUS 099, 149, 199, 249, 299, 344 and 398. With the exception of MUS 344, auditions and the Placement Evaluation are ordinarily given at the start of the Fall semester.

Lessons are arranged during Orientation and/or the first week of the Fall semester. Lessons are generally a full-year commitment (two semesters), however students may begin private lessons at the start of the Spring semester with approval from the department.  More about lessons and fees can be found at

MUS 099: Private Music Instruction (Not for Credit)

Open to all students: Corequisite of MUS 100 during the same academic year is exempted via the Music Theory Placement Evaluation or fulfilled in the same academic year in which the lessons begin. Partial scholarships are available. An audition or an initial meeting with the instructor is required prior to registration. Please Note: Lessons are a full-year commitment (two semesters).

MUS 149, 199, 249, 299, 398: Private Music Instruction (For Credit)

Credit for performing music at the 149, 199, 249, 299, and 398 levels is granted only for study with the department's performance faculty, not with outside instructors; the final decision for acceptance is based on the student's audition. One unit of credit is granted for a full year (2 semesters) of study in either 149, 199 or 249, 299 or 398. One academic music course must be taken each year as a corequisite in order to receive one credit in performing music. If a student must take MUS 100 as a result of the Placement Evaluation, this course counts as the corequisite for the first year of lessons. Please note: lessons are a full-year (two semesters) commitment.

Unless a student receives special permission, both semesters of performing music must be satisfactorily completed before credit can be counted toward the degree.  While the performance music courses (099, 149, 199, 249, 299, 344, 398) may be repeated without limit, no more than four units of credit in these courses may be counted toward the Wellesley degree. Students who wish to take two or more simultaneous courses in performing music for credit must obtain special permission from the department. 

Evaluations and Juries (Exams)

There are two performance exams over the course of the academic year: an evaluation in December, and a jury in May.  These exams are required for students taking lessons for credit.  The exam forms will include a list of the criteria for judging the student’s performance. Feedback from various members of the performance faculty will be provided to the student.

The department's MUS 149, 199, 249, 299, and 398 course offerings are made possible by the estate of Elsa Graefe Whitney, Class of 1918.

Music Theory Placement Evaluation

The Music Theory Placement Evaluation (MTPE) is designed to assess students' current knowledge of music theory in order to help determine which music courses would be best to start with.  Students may be placed into or exempted from MUS 100 based on the results of this informal online evaluation.  Although the MTPE is voluntary, all are encouraged to attempt it even if they have had little or no theory study.  The evaluation includes questions covering major and minor scales, intervals, chords, rhythms, dictation, simple harmonic analysis and 4-part writing.  Students may leave those portions of the evaluation blank containing questions with which they are unfamiliar. Students do not need to complete the MTPE in order to enroll in music lessons or courses.  Students who answer the first page questionnaire without completing the MTPE will automatically be recommended for MUS 100.  


For students taking lessons for credit, there is no lesson fee. Students who register for performing music instruction under MUS 099 are charged $1014 for a weekly 30 minute lesson per year and may register for 45- or 60-minute lessons for an additional charge. Partial scholarships are available. Music lessons at Wellesley involve a full-year commitment, although lesson registration occurs each semester. Performing music lesson fees are due within 30 days of registration.

Group Instruction in Music (MUS 099G)

Weekly group lessons in voice, acoustic guitar, and violin are available. Groups meet once a week for 10 weeks each semester at a cost of $150.


Performing Organizations in Music

The following organizations, all directed by faculty members, are vital extensions of the academic program of the Department of Music. Students may elect to participate for credit.

The Wellesley College Choir

The College Choir, consisting of approximately 70 singers, has a rich history of dedication to great choral literature and inspiring performances. Endowed funds provide for annual collaborative concerts with men’s choirs from such institutions as the University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, Harvard, and Cornell. The choir regularly commissions and premieres new compositions as well as performs a great variety of repertoire for women’s chorus. In addition to staging local performances of works for choir and orchestra and singing at annual college events throughout the year, the choir tours both nationally and internationally. Auditions are held during Orientation.

The Wellesley College Chamber Singers

A select ensemble of about 20 vocalists, the Chamber Singers perform concerts on and off campus. The Chamber Singers are often invited to perform with local instrumental ensembles, on professional concert series, and as part of choral festivals. Specializing in music for women’s voices, the repertoire ranges from medieval to contemporary literature.

Choral Scholars

As part of the Choral Program, students may audition to join the Choral Scholars. Open to all students and effective for the full academic year, the scholarships are awarded to singers and conductors who have a serious interest in choral music. The recipients will be expected to participate in one or more of the choral ensembles; serve as section leaders and/or assistant conductors; meet weekly as a group for coaching and research; and take voice or conducting lessons. Applications are available at the start of the fall semester.

The Collegium Musicum

The Collegium Musicum specializes in the performance of Western music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods on original instruments. This ensemble of singers and instrumentalists is open to Wellesley College students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community.  Weekly rehearsals include instruction in viola da gamba, lute, Renaissance flute, recorder, and violin. Wellesley’s unique collection of early instruments, made available for student use, includes eight viole da gamba.  The work of the ensemble will culminate in informal concerts at the end of each semester.

The Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra

The Orchestra is composed of students, faculty, staff, and associates of Wellesley College and Brandeis University. Observing the high standard of excellence associated with these institutions, the Orchestra is dedicated to bringing inspiring performances of the great orchestral literature—past and present—to a new generation of musicians and audiences. The Orchestra gives four to five concerts a year; one concert features the winners of the annual Concerto Competition, which is open to students taking lessons and participating in department ensembles. Rehearsals are two and one-half hours long and held on Thursday evenings alternating at the Brandeis and Wellesley campuses with one-hour sectional rehearsals at Wellesley on Tuesday evenings on an ad-hoc basis. Membership is based on auditions held at the start of each semester.

Chamber Music Society

Chamber Music Society provides an opportunity for interested instrumentalists and vocalists to prepare and perform works for small ensembles. Each chamber group receives weekly coachings from a member of the Wellesley College Music Department, and performs on one of several concerts held at the end of each semester.

Wellesley BlueJazz

The Wellesley BlueJazz Ensemble Program includes Wellesley BlueJazz Big Band, BlueJazz Strings, and BlueJazz Combos. Faculty-directed rehearsals encourage the development of fluency in jazz improvisation. The ensembles perform throughout the year on campus and also collaborate with other colleges in the Boston area to present joint concerts. The Wellesley BlueJazz experience includes workshops and master classes with visiting guest artists and WBJ Nights Out attending jazz performances in the Boston area.

Yanvalou Drumming and Dance Ensemble

Yanvalou is a faculty-directed ensemble that performs the folkloric music and dance of Africa as it exists today throughout the African Diaspora, particularly in Haiti. Students perform on authentic instruments, experience a variety of cultures through their music, and present several concerts during the academic year.

Guild of Carillonneurs

Members are selected through an application process, and they receive weekly lessons and bi-weekly masterclasses on the 32-bell carillon in Galen Stone Tower. The guild hosts open concerts and events for the local community, and members travel to other carillons for wider performance possibilities. On campus, guild members perform solo concerts on the college carillon between classes and for special events in the college community.