Composite image of various musicans

Greetings from the Amherst College Music Department!

The Music Department offers an exciting array of performance opportunities for students of all levels and backgrounds. These include four choral groups, an orchestra, a jazz ensemble, a contemporary music ensemble, classical chamber music groups, jazz combos, early music, world music, and opera and musical theatre. We would like to invite you to participate in our performance program and in the many concerts to be given during the year.

Please plan to attend the Music Orientation Meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 3, 2017 in Room 3, Music Center. We look forward to meeting you, discussing our programs, and answering your questions. Pizza will be served after the meeting. There will be a music showcase concert following the orientation meeting/pizza party starting at 7:30 in Buckley Recital Hall. Descriptions of our performance groups are below and information about taking individual lessons can be found at the attached link.

Placement for Music Theory and Musicianship Courses 

The music major engages students in musical practices (e.g. performance, improvisation, and composition) and intellectual explorations surrounding those practices (e.g. the anthropology, history, and theory of music). Depending on past musical experience, students may enter the music major from a number of different angles. For more detailed information about placement and pathways through the music major, see: Placement for Music Theory and Musicianship Courses.

Musical Performance Opportunities

Choir performing in Johnson Chapel

Choral Music

The Amherst College Choral Society is made up of four singing ensembles. Three of the groups, under the direction of Mallorie Chernin, perform a varied selection of music ranging from major classical works with and without orchestra, to folk songs, spirituals and jazz. The Concert Choir (SATB) rehearses Mondays 7-8:30 pm and Wednesdays 8-10 pm. The Chorus (soprano/alto) was established in 1979 and rehearses Mondays 8:45-10:15 pm and Thursdays 6:45-8:45 pm. The Glee Club (tenor/bass), established in 1865, meets Tuesdays 7-9 pm and Thursdays 9-10:30 pm. The Glee Club, over 150 years old, is the fifth oldest collegiate choir in the United States! All three choirs sing in a variety of styles and languages. Members of the Concert Choir, Chorus, and Glee Club are able to enroll for one half credit any or all semesters if they desire to do so. The one requirement is that you must take one full credit music class during your first or second semester. The fourth group, The Madrigal Singers, is student directed and focuses on early music. Its singers come from members of the other three ensembles, and auditions will be held separately once the Choral Society is established.

Auditions for the Choral groups will be held Saturday, September 2, through Tuesday, September 5, in room 3 of the music building.  Check the table next to Room 3 in the Arms Music Center for further information and sign-up sheets. Any student wishing to sing with the Choral Society at the Opening of the College Convocation on Monday, September 4 is cordially invited to do so. A short rehearsal will be held on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 3 of the Music Building. If you have any questions, please contact Mallorie Chernin, Director of Choral Music at 413-542-2484 or by e-mail at or contact Assistant Director Rebecca Ruescher by e-mail at Don't miss an opportunity to have fun and enjoy music making with a great community!

Classical music practice

Classical Instrumental Music, New Music

The Amherst Symphony Orchestra (the "ASO") is the centerpiece of the college's classical instrumental music program. Led by Senior Lecturer & Director of Instrumental Music Mark Lane Swanson, up to sixty Amherst College students participate (as well as up to ten students from Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst). On three concert programs per semester, the ASO performs ambitious and exciting masterpieces from the standard 18th, 19th & 20th century repertoire. The orchestra is a co-curricular pursuit; although most members are not music majors, expectations for attendance and preparation are the same for all, and participants are encouraged wherever possible to enroll in the half-course Music 139H. The one requirement is you must take one full credit music course during your first or second semester. The ASO rehearses T/Th 7-9:30 p.m., divided between sectional and tutti work. There is a 15-minute "candy break"--a fun time to relax and socialize with other orchestra members. The ASO devotes its 2017-2018 season to a survey of American concert music, with works by Gershwin ("An American in Paris"), Copland ("Rodeo"), Bernstein ("Symphonic Dances from West Side Story"), Barber, John Adams, Ives, John Williams, and many others; it also will present numerous concertos performed by Amherst seniors. Many orchestra members also participate in Chamber Music (see below). Finally, the New Music Ensemble is an ad hoc opportunity, organized based on student interest with direction and guidance by Mr. Swanson, and which presents contemporary solo and chamber works by composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Numerous opportunities for performing in original Amherst student compositions by honors candidates in music also present exciting possibilities for those in terested in new music.

AUDITIONS FOR ALL CLASSICAL MUSIC INSTRUMENTAL ACTIVITIES FOR THE 2017-2018 ACADEMIC YEAR, INCLUDING ORCHESTRA, CHAMBER MUSIC & NEW MUSIC will take place on Monday, September 4, 2017 from 10am - 6pm. Sign-up sheets are posted on the bulletin board just inside the front entrance to the Music Building. You are highly encouraged to audition even if you are not sure you have time your first semester at the college, or if you feel you are "rusty" from the summer! If you have any questions, or would prefer another time to audition during the first week of classes, please e-mail Mark Lane Swanson at

Master Class opportunity

Chamber Music

The Chamber Music program offers Amherst College musicians an opportunity to collaborate on a more intimate scale with fellow student musicians as coached by faculty and guest professional artists. There are three department-sponsored chamber music options open to you: extracurricular participation (about two hours per week, coordinator by Mr. Swanson and generally recommended for first-years); enrollment in Music 140H (a half-course coached by Mr. Swanson, adjunct faculty or other local professionals); or the most intensive, Music 310 (offered spring 2018 only), taught by Professor David Schneider. Internationally renowned artists on the Music at Amherst series, where possible, will offer intensive coaching during their visits to rigourously prepared chamber groups as selected by Mr. Swanson, Professor Schneider and/or private studio teachers. Members of the class of 2021 are encouraged intially to pursue chamber music as an extracurricular commitment, as they learn to manage their demanding schedules (and not over-commit). More information on the chamber music program may be obtained during the music department orientation meeting and the instrumental music auditions (see schedule above), or by emailing Mark Swanson at

Jazz Ensemble and Combos


The Jazz Performance Program (a part of what is known as Jazz@Amherst) offers students the opportunity to perform in the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble and/or our Jazz Combo program.. There are also numerous opportunities to study jazz through courses, lessons, and Five College interchange. To learn more about the performance program, contact Bruce Diehl (, 413-542-8308) and read below. For academic advising related to jazz, contact Professor Jason Robinson (, 413-542-8308 - On Sabbatical 2017-18).

Under the direction of Bruce Diehl, the Jazz Ensemble performs on- and off-campus concerts and rehearses on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The yearly performance schedule includes appearances at collegiate jazz festivals. Guest artists regularly appear with our groups; recent guests have included Jeff Holmes, Ingrid Jensen, Ryan Keberle, John Hollenbeck, Stephan Crump '94, Dave Holland, and Vijay Iyer. The yearly Robin McBride '59 Jazz Commission Series gives the opportunity to work directly with a current jazz composer and witness the creative process through the performance of a new piece crafted specifically for the personnel in the group. The Jazz Ensemble is comprised of the typical instrumentation (including male and female vocalists), and has occasional needs for supplemental instruments including clarinets, flute, French horns, tubas and strings. All musicians are encouraged to participate in our Jazz Combos program. These groups focus on improvisation, ensemble concepts, standard repertoire, and offer the opportunity to develop original compositions and arrangements. Jazz Combos are coached once or twice a week by Bruce Diehl, David Picchi, and other adjunct faculty members. They perform many times throughout the semester at various on- and off-campus venues, including performances within the Jazz@Schwemm's performance series scheduled in October and March of each year. Rehearsal times for the jazz combos vary according to group members' availability; coachings tend to be on Mondays and Wednesdays. We encourage each participant to earn credit for their participation in these performance opportunities. The requirement for the half credit jazz ensemble or combo course is to take one full credit music course during your first or second semester.

Students are encouraged to develop their jazz performance skills within a larger course of study that explores the theoretical, historical, and cultural contexts of jazz, African American music, and popular music. For example, students may elect to take Music 226 (Jazz History to 1945), Music 227 (Jazz History After 1945), the Music 113/246/247 series (Jazz Theory and Improvisation), Music 243 (Jazz Form & Analysis), and Music 439 (Improvised Music: Spectrum, Theory, and Practice), among other jazz-related course offerings. For 2017-2018, Music 113 is offered in the Fall (and is considered a minimum skill level for those students who wish to be in our combo program), and Music 246 is offered in the Spring.

Jazz Jam Sessions take place at regular intervals. We view these as a chance to build a strong jazz community among members of the jazz combos and the jazz ensemble, as well as a chance to meet and play with area professionals. The opening Jazz Session is on Monday, September 4 at 9:00 p.m. in Room 7.

Auditions for Jazz Emsemble and Combos will take place September 5 - September 8, 2017. Please sign up for a time on the bulletin board outside Bruce's office (Room 216) and pick up/prepare the audition piece. The audition piece will also be available in mid-August on the Jazz@Amherst website. The first meeting for all jazz ensemble and combo participants will be Monday, September 11 at 7:00 pm, (8:30 p.m. for Combos) all in Room 7. Contacts: Bruce Diehl (, 413-542-8308) and Professor Jason Robinson (, 413-542-8208). Please also visit the jazz@Amherst website at

Early Music 

The Five College Early Music Program welcomes students who wish to sing or play Medieval and Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical music. There are several groups, including the Five College Early Music Collegium, a select SATB choir which sings a cappella and with winds and strings. It will rehearse this fall at the University of Massachusetts on Tuesday evenings. Euridice Ensembles include a baroque chamber orchestra, meeting Thursdays early evening at UMass, and 17th- and 18th-century chamber ensembles, open to modern string and wind players. We hope to have a couple of these ensembles meeting at Amherst College at mutually convenient times. Period bows are provided for string players. Individual instruction is available on Medieval and Renaissance instruments, of which the department has a substantial collection. There are openings for singers as well, all voice ranges accepted. Singers are needed for the Collegium (SATB small choir), Voces Feminae (women's choir) and the 17th-Century Song Seminar (singers interested in solo/duo repertory). We also have a Medieval Ensemble, viol consorts, beginning and advanced recorder ensembles, and lute group lessons.

If you would like to sing, or you already play an early instrument or wish to learn, or wish to transfer some of your skills from modern strings, winds, brass or keyboard to early instruments, please contact Mr. Robert Eisenstein in the Early Music Program Office (413-538-2079 or 413-538-2306), or by e-mail at The Early Music Website is https// Painless auditions will be held Tuesday, September 5 from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. in Room 7 of the Music Center at Amherst College. Just show up during the audition/information time; no need to schedule in advance. It will be first come, first serve, and the audition will only take five minutes of your time.

World Music 

The world music performance program includes the study of vocal and instrumental music in any area for which there is an interest and for which a teacher can be found. Amherst students are also encouraged to participate in the Five Colleges World Music Ensembles. Each semester, Professor Jeffers Engelhardt sponsors performance opportunities for those with experience or interest in traditional and popular music and dance from around the world.

Concert Office 

The Music at Amherst Series brings top-of-the-line classical, jazz, new music, and world music artists to Amherst College's Buckley Recital Hall. These concerts and free master classes run throughout the academic year. You are welcome at all of these events. Free student rush tickets are available on the night of the show.

That means beginning in 2017-2018, you can enjoy over $1,000 woth of concerts during your tenure here at Amherst.

This year, each month brings a new M@A performance: In September, the M@A Parallels Series opens with Israeli-born jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and bandleader Anat Cohen and her quartet - featuring Gary Versace, Joe Martin and Daniel Freedman. In October, two stars team up for you as the mother-son duo: violinist Miriam Fried and pianist Jonathan Biss, Kicking off the Chamber Series portion of M@A with music by Brahsm, Bartok and Beethoven. In November, acclaimed pianist Angela Hewitt returns to Buckley with her Bach Odyssey project. And in December, the Tallis Scholars sing for you on a Sunday afternoon, celebrating composer Heinrich Isaac.

In January, you can look forward to the Juilliard String Quartet with is newest member, cellist Astrid Schween. In February, the International Contemporary Ensemble performs music for invisible places (2017) by Wojtek Blecharz. March brings a duo with fiddler and singer from Northern Estonia, Maarja Nuut. And in April, the young wind quintet WindSync presents their mixed program, Voyager.

Students can attend any of these events by getting free student-rush tickets on the night of the show or through

You can earn a little extra spending money by ushering for Series and other departmental events. For more information on tickets, ushering, or general concert information, please contact Alisa Pearson, Manager of Concert Programming, Production and Publicity, at, or stop by the Concert Office in Room 101 of the Arms Music Center when you are on campus. We look forward to seeing you!

Again, welcome to Amherst. We look forward to meeting you at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 3.

Sincerely yours,

Jeffers Engelhardt, Chair, and the members of the Music Department