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 2, 2018 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 Arianne Abela, 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 6:30-8:30 pm and Wednesdays 8-10 pm. The Chorus (soprano/alto) was established in 1979 and rehearses Mondays 8:30-10:30 pm and Thursdays 6:45-8:45 pm. The Glee Club (tenor/bass), established in 1865, meets Mondays 8:30-10:30 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.

Vocal placements for the Choral groups will be held Saturday, September 1, through Tuesday, September 4, in room 3 of the music building.  Visit for more information and to sign-up for a time. 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. Come to our Choral Society OPEN REHEARSAL: Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 3 of the Music Building. If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Abela, Director of Choral Music at 413-542-2484 or by e-mail at or contact Assistant Director Ellen Mutter 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, as many as sixty Amherst College students participate (supplemented by up to ten students from Hampshire College and UMass Amherst). On three concert programs per semester, the ASO performs ambitious and exciting masterpieces from the standard 18th, 19th & 20th century repertoire. You may participate in orchestra either as an extracurricular pursuit or may enroll in orchestra as a half-credit (Music 139h), and you do not need to be majoring in music or taking lessons to participate; but in order to assure high performance standards, attendance and preparation expectations are the same for all. 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 fall 2018 semester to a survey of concert musics of Spain and Central & South America (Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Argentina), and its spring 2019 semester to performances of concert opera set in Seville (Bizet's Carmen & Mozart's Don Giovanni). Many orchestra members also participate in Chamber Music (see below). Finally, the New Music Ensemble presents contemporary "classical" solo and chamber music by recent composers, on an ad hoc basis based on student interest, with direction and guidance by Mr. Swanson. Many instrumentalists also support Amherst student composers by performing in original student honors projects as well as composition class end-of-semester recitals.

AUDITIONS FOR ALL CLASSICAL MUSIC INSTRUMENTAL ACTIVITIES (ORCHESTRA, CHAMBER & NEW MUSIC) FOR THE 2018-2019 ACADEMIC YEAR will take place on Monday, September 3, 2018 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 cannot make the 9/3/18 audition date, please e-mail Mark Lane Swanson at to set up a more convenient time to meet. We aim to make this one-time only hearing as stress-free as possible, and need to hear only one minute each of something slow and something fast.

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 coordinated by Mr. Swanson); or the most intensive, Music 310 (offered spring 2019 only), taught by Professor David Schneider. Coachings by Mr. Swanson, Amherst faculty, and guest artists are available under all three options; often, internationally renowned artists on the Music at Amherst series offer intensive master classes during their visits to rigorously prepared chamber groups as selected by Mr. Swanson, Professor Schneider, and/or private studio teachers. Last year, for example, Amherst students were coached by the Juilliard Quartet! More information on the chamber music program may be obtained during the intrumental 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 Visiting Director of Jazz Performance (Fall 2018) Carl Clements ( or Director of Jazz Performance (returning Spring 2019) Bruce Diehl (, 413-542-8308) and read below. For academic advising related to jazz, contact Professor Jason Robinson (, 413-542-8308).

Under the direction of Carl Clements (Fall 2018) Bruce Diehl (resuming Spring 2019), 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, Carl Clements, and Geoff Cunningham. 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. 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 2018-2019, 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 247 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 3 at 9:00 p.m. in Room 7.

Auditions for Jazz Emsemble and Combos will take place September 4 - September 6, 2018. Please sign up for a time on the bulletin board outside Carl's/Bruce's office (Room 216) and download the audution piece from the Jazz@Amherst website. The first meeting for all jazz ensemble and combo participants will be Monday, September 10 at 7:00 pm, (8:30 p.m. for Combos) all in Room 7. Contacts: Carl Clements (, 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 4 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 that, beginning in 2018-2019, you can enjoy more than $1,000 worth of concerts during your time at Amherst. Don’t miss out. Read more here.

This year, we are celebrating our 40th M@A Series anniversary in style: In September, the M@A Parallels Series opens with the Brooklyn Rider Quartet and Mexican jazz vocalist Magos Herrera, presenting their new collaboration “Dreamers”—reinterpreting classics of the era from Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain, and celebrating such luminaries as Octavio Paz, Federico García Lorca, and Rubén Darío. 

In October, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzeel sings Mahler and Ives songs, paired with songs by Argentinian composers Alberto Ginastera, Carlos López Buchardo, Carlos Guastavino, and master of tango Astor Piazzolla. When she is not at Amherst, Houtzeel shares the stage with the greatest opera singers in the world, and got her start at Middlebury College. Be sure to come to her master class the morning after the concert to find out more.

In November, acclaimed Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero comes to Buckley to play Robert Schumann, Chick Corea, Shostakovich, and her own composition Scenes from Childhood—five compositions titled “Morning in Caracas,” “Wild Parrots,” “The Swing,” “Missing Home,” and “My Mother’s Lullaby”—along with improvisations suggested by the audience. In recognition of her sustained efforts to advocate for human rights through both music and public discourse, Montero has been named by Amnesty International as its first honorary consul. She is the winner of a Latin Grammy and performed at President Obama’s inauguration with violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and clarinetist Anthony McGill.

And in December, the early music trio Sequentia takes us to another time with harps, flute, and songs from the ninth to twelfth centuries, presenting their secular program “Monks Singing Pagans.”

In February, we start off with an afternoon with Mnozil Brass. This septet from Vienna is probably the strangest brass ensemble ever. With a mix of musical virtuosity and their own special kind of comedy, they can only be described as a combination of Mr. Bean and the Monty Python of the music world. Later in February, Nicole Mitchell and her Black Earth Ensemble bring Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds. Mitchell uses science fiction to address the question, “What would a world look like that is truly egalitarian, with advanced technology that is in tune with nature?”

March heats up with the all-woman mariachi quartet Flor de Toloache, and April brings the rising stars in the Argus Quartet, presenting string quartets old and new by Haydn, Zosha di Castri, Andrew Norman, and Claude Debussy.

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!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 2018-2019, you can enjoy over $1,000 worth of concerts during your tenure here at Amherst.

Sincerely yours,

Jason Robinson, Chair, and the members of the Music Department