A video introduction to the Music Department by Professor Jason Robinson

Major Explorations: Music

Whether singing is your passion, or composing, or playing the violin or saxophone, or producing beats and rapping, or writing about music, Amherst is home to many musical opportunities. If you can imagine it, then you can do it.

A History of the Music Department

Portrait of the Glee Club circa 1890
The Glee Club circa 1880, before Amherst hired its first music professor

By Jeremiah Phillips '22

“The study of music in Amherst dates back to 1900 approximately and may be described briefly as the beginning of a process of education, the object of which is to acquire the ability to listen intelligently to music, Naturally such a process and education lasts as long as one lives.”

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Between 2 Mammoths with Professor Jeffers Engelhardt and President Michael Elliott

Professor of Music Jeffers Engelhardt and President Elliott meet up to talk about the music department's connection and collaboration with The Drake, a performance space that opened in 2022 in the town of Amherst.

An Obituary for Lewis Spratlan

portrait of Lew Spratlan in dark jacket and blue shirt

Peter Pouncey Emeritus of Music

Lew’s colleagues in the Music Department describe him as a consummate musician and generous colleague who inspired generations of young composers to find their own creative voice. “Lew’s unbounded energy for creativity and teaching leaves us with a large and distinguished catalog of musical work stretching over six decades, and a tradition of thoughtful, hands-on music making within our department.”


A Laboratory for Concert Programming

A selfie by the Curation Lab participants
Clockwise from top left: Dan Langa '18, Oren Tirschwell '25, Rebecca Awuah '24E, Mel Arthur '25, Alisa Pearson, Nicholas Edwards-Levin '25

Vica Henry '25 reports on the Music@Amherst Curation Lab

The Music@Amherst Curation Lab was put together by Manager of Concert Programming, Production, and Publicity, Alisa Pearson, assisted by Graduate Associate in Music, Dan Langa with the intention of taking a group of students with an interest in presenting and curation to NYC to attend a variety of presenting conferences that happen there in January. Following this experience, the students got the chance to submit artist proposals to the Music@Amherst concert series, meet with the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, and get to talk about the curator-audience dynamic with Professor Harper's “Live Music” class.

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The Many Faces of Jazz at Amherst

one student standing up and playing a saxophone solo amidst the band
Saxophonist Camila Bonilla '26 takes a solo on guest artist Erica Seguine's "Soliloquy"


Having composers come in and lead rehearsals is incredibly valuable for musicians: “They’re going to say concepts and directions in ways that are different from how I’d say things,” stated Bruce Diehl, director of the school’s Jazz Performance program. “If maybe the way I’m talking about concepts isn’t connecting with the students, hopefully something the guest says connects those dots for them.”


In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus David Reck

A model of creative, interdisciplinary teaching

David taught at Amherst for over thirty years, holding appointments in the departments of music and Asian languages and civilizations before retiring in 2006. Thanks to the range of his talents, curiosity, generosity, and expertise, his teaching indeed embraced music of the whole earth. Many of his courses were legendary, with scores of students gathered in Buckley Recital Hall to learn about David's three Bs—Bach, the Beatles, and Bollywood—and a large part of the football team learning to sing South Indian ragas. At the ends of semesters, the corridor outside David's office swelled with fantastic musical instruments handmade by students in his course called "The Sound Machine”—a testament to David's conviction that students learn about the material and spiritual foundations of music by making and doing. 

In Stravinsky's Orbit: Responses to Modernism in Russian Paris

Headshot of Moricz with white building with arches in background

A 2020 book by Professor Klára Móricz

The Bolsheviks’ 1917 political coup caused a seismic disruption in Russian culture. Carried by the first wave of emigrants, Russian culture migrated West, transforming itself as it interacted with the new cultural environment and clashed with exported Soviet trends. In her new book, In Stravinsky's Orbit: Responses to Modernism in Russian Paris (University of California Press), Klára Móricz explores the transnational emigrant space of Russian composers Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Dukelsky, Sergey Prokofiev, Nicolas Nabokov, and Arthur Lourié in interwar Paris.

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In Rehearsal: The Amherst College Concert Choir with the Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble

September 27, 2019

On the eve of the Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble’s Sept. 19, 2019, debut performance at Amherst College, the octet rehearses the final movement of Musikalische Exequien by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) with the Amherst College Concert Choir. Directed by Arianne Abela.

Jason Robinson's Resonant Geographies

A 2018 interview marking the release of a new album

Robinson's concert-length suite Resonant Geographies, released on March 1, 2018, from pfMENTUM acts as a meditation on the relationship between geography and personal history, structure and expression.

An Interview with Professor Darryl Harper

Professor Darryl Harper ('90) discusses his student days at Amherst in this 2018 interview

Darryl Harper ’90 majored in music at Amherst and went on to earn advanced degrees at Rutgers University and the New England Conservatory. Now a jazz clarinetist and composer, he credits Amherst with teaching “skills that are going to serve you no matter what you do.”

An Old Crime, a New Opera

Sawyer conducting while reading from music stand. Colleagues in background

A 2017 feature on Professor Eric Sawyer's opera <i>The Scarlet Professor</i>

Two Amherst professors teamed up with students and professional actors to dramatize the true, local story of a Smith faculty member’s arrest.

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Lucky Soprano

Alison Wahl against clapboard building in black and white

2017 profile on opera singer Alison Wahl '08

The peculiarity of making a living as a classical singer is not lost on Alison Wahl ’08. “I pay my rent,” she says, “by making weird noises with my face.” But Wahl is pretty sure she landed in the right place: “I keep coming back to music, because I find it more interesting than anything else.”

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Listening Through History

Schneider coaching a string quartet

A 2016 Q&A with Professor David Schneider

As he marks 20 years of teaching at Amherst, Professor David E. Schneider discusses his love of music, his career as a musicologist and how his classes have evolved over the decades.

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