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About the Major
The goal of the music major at Amherst College is to provide you with a solid grounding in music theory and the fundamentals of composition, to teach you to think and write critically about music, and to help you achieve a level of sophisticated command in at least one of the following areas: performance; composition; music scholarship (music history, theory, ethnomusicology, and jazz and popular music studies), and music drama and opera studies. By graduation a major will have the following: 1) knowledge of and appreciation for the craft involved in creating and performing tonal music; 2) knowledge of one or more major time periods in Western music history; 3) the ability to think and write critically about music; and 4) a high level of achievement in at least one major area of musical study (performance; scholarship on a Western or non-Western topic; or composition), knowledge of at least two specialized areas, or knowledge of one specialized area combined with a broad base of knowledge.
Students majoring in music must take the necessary background courses so as to elect Music 241 no later than the fall of their junior year. Those interested in declaring the music major should submit an application to the Department Chair, normally no later than the first week of their junior year. Note that students will not be admitted to the major before the completion of Music 241 nor will they normally be admitted to the major in their senior year. In consultation with a member of the department, students determine the most appropriate manner of fulfilling the departmental requirement of eight semester courses. Note that because the music faculty is eager to help students create individualized paths in the major, we strongly encourage potential majors to speak with members of the department as early as possible in their academic careers.
We urge, as well, that students acquaint themselves with the wide variety of music courses available through Five College Interchange. For example, courses in African-American music are also offered at the University of Massachusetts and Hampshire College; courses in rock and popular music at Smith College; courses on African music are offered at Mount Holyoke College; and there is a Five College Ethnomusicology Certificate Program. Above all, the department is committed to helping students put together the program best suited to their interests, abilities, and aspirations.
Beginning with the class of 2016 (or on a case-by-case basis for those graduating before 2016), the minimum of eight courses required for the major must include the six courses specified below (requirements vary slightly for majors electing honors work):
- One of the following History and Culture courses: MUSI 106, 115, 123, 124, 127, 128, 129, 226, 227, or 238
- One of the following courses from the Western Music and Culture sequence: MUSI 221, 222, or 223
- Two courses in Theory and Analysis: MUSI 241, 242, or 243
- Two courses designated as "major seminars" taken after the completion of MUSI 241. (Note that majors electing to do honors work may satisfy the seminar requirement with only one major seminar.) In 2013-14, the major seminars are: MUSI 421, 422, 443, and 449.
NB: Majors electing honors work must elect at least one of the following seminars in advanced analysis: MUSI 443, 444, or 448. Additionally, majors contemplating honors in composition must complete MUSI 371 or 372 no later than the spring of their junior year, and normally MUSI 269 in preparation.
Departmental Honors Program. In the senior year students may elect to do honors work - a critical thesis (historical, theoretical, cultural, or ethnomusicological), a major composition project, a major music drama or opera project, or a major performance project. In preparation for this work, a student will ordinarily elect a number of courses in a field of concentration beyond those required. Students contemplating honors work must complete MUSI 242 no later than the spring of their junior year. Those doing honors work in performance are required to take at least two semester of private instruction prior to the senior year and be affiliated with a private instructor while enrolled in MUSI 498 and 499. Those doing honors work in jazz (performance and/or composition, critical thesis) are strongly encouraged to take MUSI 243 and MUSI 226 or MUSI 227 prior to their senior year. The thesis course, MUSI 498-499, should be elected in the senior year. Students interested in the Honors Program should submit a formal thesis proposal to the department for approval during the spring semester of their junior year. The Music Department Coordinator will notify all junior majors of the guidelines and deadline (usually the Monday following Spring Break) for the thesis proposal.