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The Program

General Education Requirements

To fulfill the Arts General Education Requirement in Music, students may select any of the three-credit courses for their Theoretical/Historical component, and any of the listed one-credit applied studio or ensemble courses for the Applied component.

Several Music Department courses fulfill other General Education Requirements. One course meets the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, MUS 161; several courses fulfill the Theoretical/Historical component of the Arts Requirement: MUS 161, 271, 360, 371, 372, 440. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars.

Two Music Major Tracks

The Earlham Music Department offers two majors:

  • a Music Studies Major for students wishing for foundational training in music (often done in combination with another major), and
  • a Music Major for students expecting to go on to advanced study in the field of music.

Music Studies Major

To earn a major in Music Studies, students must successfully complete 41 hours of course work as follows:

Theory and Musicianship (9 credit hours)

  • MUS 271 Music Theory II: Foundations
  • MUS 272 Musicianship
  • MUS 371 Music Theory III: Counterpoint and Part Writing  OR  MUS 471 Topics in Music Theory and Composition

Musicology (15 credit hours)

  • MUS 201 Thinking and Writing About Music
  • MUS 460 Ethnomusicology: Methods and Issues
  • Three additional musicology courses. Each course will be designated as emphasizing one or two of the following:
    • Western classical music (WC)
    • Traditional music that has developed outside the Western tradition (non-Eurogenic music) (NE)
    • Mass-mediated music (MM)

At least one course emphasizing each of these three broad repertoires is required of all music majors. In some cases a single course will count for two of these.

Applied (11 credit hours)

  • MUS 372 Making Music with Computers
  • Eight additional credits of applied music, with a minimum of four being ensemble credits and two being applied lesson credits.

Credits in Visual Arts, Theatre or Film (3 credit hours)

Capstone Project (3 credit hours)

Music Major

To earn a major in Music, students must successfully complete 50-51 hours of course work as follows. In addition to the requirements of the Music Studies Major, the Music Major will require the following, based on area of concentration


  • Admission to the composition track is by audition. An initial sampling of works will be evaluated and an assessment of compositional ability will be determined by the faculty prior to admission.
  • Six additional credits in applied composition lessons above the two stipulated in the basic track.
  • An additional Western classical music seminar specifically in music after 1900 or an Independent Study survey of some aspect of contemporary composition.
  • A portfolio evaluation of works produced during the student's time at Earlham will be required before graduation.

Computer Music

  • MUS 372 Making Music with Computers
  • A three-credit independent study in the area of the student’s interest.
  • One Computer Science course in programming for three or four credits OR ideally, a Computer Science minor.


  • A combination of Independent Studies and Teaching Assistantships in ensemble direction, designed in consultation with the appropriate ensemble director, for nine credit hours.


  • Two additional courses in musicology for six credit hours. Note: at least two of the five total musicology courses should have a geographical focus.
  • One course in Sociology/Anthropology for three or four credit hours OR ideally, a Sociology/Anthropology minor.

Historical Musicology

  • Two additional courses in Western Classical Music for six credit hours.
  • One course in European history for three or four hours OR ideally, a History minor.

Music Education

  • Independent studies in music teaching methods and conducting for six credit hours.
  • An education course to be determined for three hours

Music Therapy

  • Students interested in pursuing Music Therapy after graduation are strongly encouraged to complete the Music Studies Major and the Psychology minor.


  • Admission to the performance track is by audition in the primary performing medium.
  • An additional six credits of applied lessons, above the two stipulated in the basic track. 
  • One elective for three credit hours in an area of musicology closely related to the student’s performance instrument.
  • Performance evaluations (“juries”) will occur at the end of selected semesters.

Music Minor

To earn a minor in Music, students must successfully complete 19 credit hours as follows:

  • MUS 201 Thinking and Writing About Music
  • MUS 271 Music Theory II: Foundations
  • Two more 3-credit classes, one of which must be in musicology
  • Four credits of applied courses, of which at least one credit must be sight-singing, piano class, or private instrumental or vocal study, and at least one credit of which must be an ensemble.
  • Three additional credits of either applied or classroom courses.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*MUS 161 MUSICS OF THE WORLD (3 credits)
A first introduction to the study of music. Students learn to talk and write about music effectively, notice musical features when listening and understand the variety of ways in which music is made and valued around the globe. Explores musics of several distinct regions or ethnicities. (A-TH, D-I)

An introduction to contemporary Western musical design and notation. This course introduces terminology and symbolic notation for sounds and their properties of frequency, duration, volume, and timbre. Students will gain musicianship through introductory singing, keyboard playing, listening, analyzing, reading, and composition exercises. Topics include staff notation, solfege, scales, intervals, triads, 7th chords, harmonic function, and simple musical forms. No previous knowledge of music notation or theory required.

MUS 173 SIGHT SINGING (1 credit)
Provides opportunities for developing and practicing sight singing skills using the movable do pitch system.

An introduction to the study of music as a scholarly pursuit, including the professional disciplines of ethnomusicology, historical musicology and popular music studies. This course explores diverse ways of thinking and writing about music using repertoires drawn from non-Eurogenic traditional, Western classical and mass-mediated musics as case studies. Reading, listening and writing projects pose core philosophical questions about music’s nature, meaning, cultural significance and distinctiveness among the arts. After reading essays by musicians, composers, journalists and scholars, students will augment this body of literature with their own original research and writing project.

This course begins with an accelerated review of intervals, modes and scales, then moves on to more advanced analysis and ear-training. Students learn to identify and construct harmonies using lead sheet, roman numeral and figured bass symbols. Students will learn about harmonic syntax in common practice European art music and in popular idioms. Units on rhythm explore West African, French Baroque, and North American popular repertoires. Other topics include musical texture, non-harmonic notes, motivic analysis, phrase types and form in popular music. Prerequisite: MUS 171 or Placement Exam. (A-TH)

MUS 272 MUSICIANSHIP (3 credits)
This course develops students' abilities in sight singing, ear training, aural skills and keyboard skills in support of broader learning in Western music theory and applied music-making. Concepts are approached from Western classical and popular perspectives. Prerequisite: MUS 171 and MUS 173, or consent of the instructor.

This course is a continuation of MUS 173 Beginning Sight Singing. Students continue developing sight-singing skills using movable-do solfège, expanding into more complex rhythms, chromatic melodies, and multi-part textures. Intended for intermediate choir singers and other musicians seeking to improve their sight-reading skills. Prerequisite: MUS 173 or consent of the instructor.

This course offers a general introduction to the fascinating world of Western classical music by means of a case-study approach. Students will investigate selected musical works and situate them in their aesthetic, social, cultural, historical and political contexts. The course will include exploration in particular of women composers and of contemporary challenges in classical music culture and audience development. Prerequisites: Earlham Seminar I and II.

Courses present concentrated study of both the life and the musical compositions of the individual composer. Students gain an in-depth look at the composer's unique musical style within the cultural context of the time period. (WC)

MUS 350 HISTORY OF ROCK (3 credits)
This course surveys Rock from its roots in Blues, Folk and Country music to “Postrock” and recent developments of the “noughties.” In addition to the “classic” sounds of artists such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen, students will explore Rock’s fragmentation into subgenres such as Glam, Prog, Punk and Indie. The class will discuss issues that have occupied Rock musicians, scholars and critics over the past 50 years. Through extensive listening assignments, students will become familiar with landmark recordings, learn to distinguish between musical styles, and to analyze popular songs. While previous experience with music is useful, it is not a requirement for success in this course.

This course explores specific topics within the broad area of the history of jazz. Pre-requisite: MUS 271 or permission of instructor. 

This course will explore the Beatles as a product of their “time,” and it will also explore their “time” in the musical sense. This class is foremost a study of their music. Students will delve deeply into a number of their greatest (not always their most famous) songs, exploring why they are still considered masterpieces of popular musical style and expression. The course will look at the phenomenon of the Beatles as a cultural event, tracing their roots in African-American rhythm and blues, in early American rock ‘n’ roll, and in a myriad of American and British folk and popular musics. Students will look at their innovations in the recording studio and explore their involvement with both Indian classical music, and avant garde musical traditions. Students will learn a great deal about music, and music in relationship to culture, through the lens of the Beatles and their time. Prerequisite: Second-year status or permission of instructor.

This course will examine recent and current trends in contemporary popular music with a particular focus on the variety of popular musics within the diverse communities of the United States. Students will explore the histories, contexts and aesthetics of a variety of contemporary musical genres, including examinations of the roles of race, class, education and gender identity within the genres. Prerequisites: Earlham Seminar I and II. (A-TH) (DD)

Courses introduce specific repertoires and survey the music of a geographic region, with a consideration not only of local musics but also of translocal and transnational movements of cultural artifacts, ideas and processes. Students explore what is valued in these musics by the people closest to them (musicians, patrons, intended listeners), identify regional or historical styles, and seek to understand the factors contributing to their formation and reception. The ways music not only reflects but also acts as a formative part of culture are also considered, as well as how it affects and is affected by a global economy. (A-TH).

Regions covered in any one semester are:

  • Musics of Indonesia
  • Musics of Africa
  • Musics of Japan
  • Musics of South America
  • Musics of Java
  • Musics of the Arab World

This course focuses on the harmonic language of common practice European art music. Through extensive analysis and composition exercises, students will explore and emulate the practices of J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn and others. The course begins with an introduction to species counterpoint, proceeds to composition for SATB choir, and Includes an introduction to chromatic harmony. Prerequisites: MUS 271 and MUS 272. (A-TH) 

Builds skills in composing, arranging and performing with computer music technologies. Studies sound synthesis, digital audio concepts, MIDI, and the Digital Audio Workstations "Logic" and "Pro Tools." Emphasis on the program "Abelton Live," coupled with an introduction to the programming language MAX, which now interacts with Ableton to enable live interactive performance and composition. The history of experimental electronic music is emphasized and built upon. Prior experience with computer music helpful but not required. Knowledge of music notation unnecessary. Course is limited to 15 students due to studio space. (A-TH)

Provides opportunities for developing and practicing advanced sight singing skills using the movable do pitch system. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

MUS 381 MUSIC AND MORALITY (3 credits)
Examines the following issues from a variety of historical and cultural positions: 1) the role of music in moral education; 2) what to do when aesthetic and moral evaluation conflict; 3) whether music — apart from words — can be morally good or bad; and 4) the vexing problem of ownership (is it immoral to "steal" someone's music?). (AY)

MUS 382 MUSIC AND GENDER (3 credits)
Explores how the practice of music is gendered — how it is overlaid with gender associations and expectations. Looks at the role gender and sexual orientation play in the music-historical canon and non-Western musical traditions. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. (AY)

MUS 383 MUSIC AND LANGUAGE (3 credits)
Interdisciplinary exploration of the complex relationship between language and music. Considers the central question: In what sense can music be considered a language? Examines the features of language found and not found in music. Includes selections by philosophers, composers, psychologists, anthropologists, linguists and musicologists. (AY)

A topical study of various aspects of Western classical music, focusing primarily on Europe and North America during some portion of time from the early Middle Ages to the present day. Students may take the course more than once for credit, since the topic will be different each semester. Topics may vary from genre surveys (e.g. a history of the symphony) to geographic surveys (e.g. music in Italy) to historical surveys (e.g. Western classical music 1600-1827). Prerequisites: MUS 271 and MUS 201 or consent of instructor. (A-TH)

Topics include

  • Opera History
  • Choral Music
  • History of the Symphony
  • Women Composers
  • Western Classical Music to 1827
  • Western Classical Music since 1827

A theoretical and practical introduction to the field of ethnomusicology. Theory taught through readings in linguistics, anthropology and musicology that reflect or have shaped the concerns of ethnomusicologists. Practical dimension explored mostly through an ethnographic field project. Increases understanding of musical processes from an anthropological or cross-cultural perspective, and provides students new insights into their own experience of music. Prerequisite: MUS 161 or any course in the MUS 360s series or consent of the instructor.

This seminar explores the craft of music composition through the act of musical analysis. By analyzing works in a variety of styles and genres, students are then guided to create works in emulation of specific compositional procedures. Topics will change from semester to semester based on student interest, and can vary widely between traditional genres such as Western classical chamber music settings, music for solo piano, or music for voice and piano, through popular song writing styles and even composed interpretations of musics from non-Eurogenic sources. The student will leave the class with a portfolio of works, based in individual interest.

MUS 472 ORCHESTRATION (3 credits)
A comprehensive study of the art of composing and arranging for the Western symphony orchestra. Emphasis is on score study, including the playing of orchestral scores at the piano, and weekly writing exercises for combinations of instruments. The orchestrational techniques of the master composers are examined in detail, culminating in the production of a full arrangement for symphony orchestra. Prerequisite: MUS 471.

Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

Topics may include: Western music history, conducting, ethnomusicology, composition or interdisciplinary studies.

MUS 487 SENIOR SEMINAR (1 credit)
Integrates what students have learned in their previous courses and provides opportunities to think beyond Earlham to broaden their knowledge. Class members present individual senior projects for comments and criticism. Professionals from outside the College sometimes participate.

(1 credit for each of two semesters or 2 credits for one semester)

Students develop and complete a Senior Project.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) Analytical - Quantitative
  • (CP) Comparative Practices
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IP) = Interpretive Practices
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

While the number of rehearsals vary, the total weekly time required to participate in a performing group is about three to four hours. Upper-level credit is given to students with at least four semesters of prior participation, or to students in advanced ensembles. Any performing credit may be used to fulfill the Applied Component of The Arts General Education Requirement.

Ensemble Descriptions

*MUSG 121/321 HAND-DRUM ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Open to all students. This 20-30 member ensemble encourages drummers of all ability levels. No prior experience required. Concert performances twice a semester in addition to impromptu events, jam sessions and collaboration with student groups (dance groups, brass groups, choral groups). (A-AP)

*MUSG 124 BATÁ DRUMMING (0-1 credit)
This course begins the exploration of Batá drumming and singing from the traditions of the land of Yoruba, Nigeria, and its cross-continental/cultural continuation better known as Santería in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States. Hand drumming and singing in the Yoruba language will be primary activities in the course. Previous musical experience is recommended, but not required. (A-AP)

Open to all students. Consists of tuned bronze metallophones, gongs and other Indonesian instruments that use non-Western tunings. Typically culminates in a single performance. Offered Spring Semester only. (A-AP)

*MUSG 131/331 GOSPEL REVELATIONS (0-1 credit)
Open to all students. This ensemble performs traditional and contemporary African-American gospel music, both a cappella and accompanied. Both on-campus and outreach performances. (A-AP)

*MUSG 219/319 SMALL ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Ad hoc groups formed by student initiative upon faculty consultation. (A-AP)

*MUSG 220/320 ORCHESTRA (0-1 credit)
The Earlham College Orchestra is a large ensemble dedicated to the performance of both standard and unusual orchestral repertoire. It is comprised of music majors and of non-majors who seek an opportunity to continue playing their instrument of choice, even as they pursue other academic interests. (A-AP)

*MUSG 222/322 BRASS ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
Brass Ensemble membership is typically drawn from participants in Orchestra. (A-AP)

*MUSG 223/323 WOODWIND QUINTET (0-1 credit)
Woodwind Quintet membership is typically drawn from participants in Orchestra. (A-AP)

*MUSG 224/324 FLUTE CHOIR (0-1 credit)
Open to all experienced flute players. (A-AP)

*MUSG 225/325 JAZZ ENSEMBLE (0-1 credit)
The Jazz Ensemble performs big band jazz and encourages self-expression through jazz improvisation. (A-AP)

*MUSG 226/326 LATIN JAZZ COMBO (0-1 credit)
Open to instrumentalists and percussionists who would like to learn the Latin Jazz style. (A-AP)

*MUSG 229/329 EARLHAM RHYTHM PROJECT (0-1 credit)
Open to all percussionists by audition. Frequently includes mallet and some non-percussion instruments. (A-AP)

*MUSG 230/330 WOMEN'S CHORUS (0-1 credit)
Open to all women by audition. This ensemble performs women's chorus repertoire from all time periods, both sacred and secular, including classical, popular and non-Western selections. The group is involved in several performances each semester, including outreach performances such as the highly popular annual benefit concert for the Genesis Women's Shelter. The Women’s Chorus performs on campus, in the community and on tours. (A-AP)

*MUSG 233/333 CONCERT CHOIR (0-1 credit)
Open to all students by audition. This large ensemble performs widely varied repertoire, both secular and sacred, from throughout Western music history, as well as music from non-Western traditions. Recent performances have included masterworks like Orff’s Carmina Burana and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, folksong settings by Brahms and Schumann, choral compositions by Arab, African and Cuban composers, and jazz and Broadway compositions by Ellington, Kern, Porter and Sondheim. The Concert Choir performs on campus, in the community and on tours. (A-AP) 

*MUSG 328 STRING QUARTET (0-1 credit)
Open to all Orchestra string players by audition. Occasional off-campus performance opportunities. (A-AP)

*MUSG 334 MADRIGAL SINGERS (0-1 credit)
Open to Concert Choir and Women’s Chorus  members by audition. This highly selective small ensemble focuses on the rich repertoire of 16th-century madrigals from a variety of countries, but also performs repertoire from other time periods and genres, including Baroque music, vocal jazz and music by living composers. (A-AP)

*MUSG 335 MEN'S VOCAL QUARTET (0-1 credit)
Open to men in Concert Choir. This is a selective group with four members. This group performs a variety of styles ranging from Renaissance music to barbershop quartet repertoire. (A-AP)

Open to all students with consent of instructor. An introduction to the notation and performance of Gregorian chant. Possible off-campus rehearsals and performances outside the regular schedule. (A-AP) (AY)

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) Analytical - Quantitative
  • (CP) Comparative Practices
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IP) = Interpretive Practices
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

Instrumental and Vocal

Earlham offers instruction in instruments, voice and composition to all students. To register for instruction consult first with the Music Department. A fee for individual instruction and Applied Music classes provides one half-hour lesson each week and one-hour daily access to a practice room. Please see registration materials for fee information.

All lessons fulfill the one-credit Applied component of The Arts General Education Requirement.

Lessons on an instrument that is not usually offered are sometimes possible if arranged well in advance. Upper-level credit is given for advanced study.

*MUSL 100/300 APPLIED HARP (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 101/301 APPLIED VOICE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 102/302 APPLIED PIANO (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 103/303 APPLIED ORGAN (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 104/304 APPLIED VIOLIN and/or VIOLA (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 105/305 APPLIED CELLO (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 106/306 APPLIED BASS: ACOUSTIC and/or ELECTRIC (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 107/307 APPLIED FLUTE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 108 /308 APPLIED OBOE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 109/309 APPLIED CLARINET (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 110/310 APPLIED BASSOON (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 111/311 APPLIED SAXOPHONE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 112/312 APPLIED TRUMPET (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 113/313 APPLIED FRENCH HORN (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 114/314 APPLIED TROMBONE (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 115/315 APPLIED TUBA (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 116/316 APPLIED GUITAR (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 117/317 APPLIED PERCUSSION (1 credit) (A-AP)

*MUSL 132 VOICE CLASS (1 credit)
Student explore the fundamentals of good singing technique applicable to a wide variety of musical styles: posture, breathing and breath support, diction, healthy tone production, range expansion, and the basics of music notation. Public performance opportunities available on student recitals throughout the semester. Particularly recommended for singers in preparation for or in conjunction with choral ensembles. (A-AP)


*MUSL 219/319 APPLIED COMPOSITION (1 credit) (A-AP)

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