Exploring the Open Curriculum Through Music

Ben Newman '23 speaking in seminar with students in background

Greetings and welcome to those of you considering music courses as part of the open curriculum at Amherst! Outside the requirements for your major, you have a tremendous opportunity to explore coursework, and we invite you to consider music as part of your study. 

Here at Amherst, we have a distinctive approach to the study of music. For one thing, you can study at any level of experience. Some of our students have felt an attraction to music but have never tried it. You’ll never have a better opportunity than now. Always wanted to try an instrument? Want to learn to read music notation? Wondering what people mean by the term "harmony"? Our 100-level courses have no prerequistes and are great for starting a path of study. 

If you have some experience, we can match courses to your level, but unlike at many universities, you are not required to major in music at Amherst in order to have access to music courses, even the advanced ones. Do you want to keep up a music practice you've already started? Perhaps you'd like to continue lessons you took in high school to keep your playing in shape. Perhaps you'd like to perform in an ensemble with others, as you did in your church choir at home or your school band or orchestra. Perhaps you'd like to develop your abilities to arrange for your a capella group, or you'd like to work toward giving a solo recital. You can do all these things as part of the college's open curriculum.

Some of our students have felt an attraction to music but have never tried it. You'll never have a better opportunity than now. 

Another distinctive aspect of music study at Amherst is our mixture of scholarship and practice. In addition to the courses in performance, composition and musicianship, we encourage you to explore courses in historical studies (see Hip Hop History, The Symphony Orchestra, History of Opera, Voices from a Bygone Time, Jazz History, and many others); and ethnographic studies (see African Popular Music; Live Music; Sacred Sound; The Blues Muse; Listening, Hearing & the Human; Connecticut River Valley Soundscapes). These kinds of courses may be new to you, and this makes them perfect when you're looking for courses to try or ways to nourish your curiosity. 

 Below are some links to help you get started:

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.

Five College Ethnomusicology Certificate

DJ at the mic with neon swirls double exposed

Studying music from a multi-disciplinary perspective

The Five College Certificate Program in Ethnomusicology allows students interested in studying music from a multi-disciplinary perspective to build bridges across departmental boundaries in a rigorous and structured manner, and to receive credit for their accomplishments, even while completing a major in another field. In reflecting interdisciplinary trends in Ethnomusicology, students are encouraged to combine the certificate with degrees in various overlapping fields, such as African American and African Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, Cultural Studies, European Studies, Gender Studies, language studies, Latin American Studies, Religion, Sociology, as well as other courses of study in Music.

Learn more