The study of music is as varied as the kinds of music that exist throughout the world, from Renaissance to rap. Music majors study everything from producing pop albums to staging performances as they were staged in Mozart’s time.
The bachelor of arts (B.A.) in music is usually offered at liberal arts colleges. Generally, the B.A. requires a lot of course work outside the area of music. At a music conservatory, on the other hand, you can earn a bachelor of music (B.M.) degree, which will prepare you for a career as a professional musician.
Students of music learn about the history of music, music theory and composition, and the performance of one or more instruments. Classes cover such topics as musical styles, ear training, and performance.
“Many employers outside of the field of music value the rigor and breadth of training that musicians receive.”Judy Lochhead, Professor and Chair, Department of Music, SUNY Stony Brook
Are You Ready To...?
- Spend long hours practicing
- Read about musical traditions worldwide
- Identify chords by both sight and ear
- Perform solo recitals in front of a jury of professors
- Attend regular rehearsals for one or more performance groups
- Take private music lessons from one teacher
It Helps To Be...
A music lover who is self-disciplined and able to take criticism well. If you are planning on being a professional musician, you’ll also need to be comfortable performing in front of a crowd.
- Is the program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music?
- Is there enough room for everyone to practice and rehearse? Are there good acoustics?
- How many and what kinds of performance opportunities are there? If you have an interest in period music, make sure there’s a performance group that specializes in your area.
- Speak with the professor who teaches your instrument. Will you enjoy working very closely with him or her for four years?
- Will you have to pay extra for private lessons?
- Are there opportunities to study non-Western music?
- What kinds of internships or summer programs will you be able to choose from?
Did You Know?
In ancient Greece and Rome, music was believed to be a force that could persuade people to do good.
As a music major, you’ll probably take at least one class that explores works outside the Western classical music tradition (think Bach and Beethoven). In ethnomusicology, you’ll study the music of non-Western cultures, as well as rock, jazz, and the folk music of North America. You’ll also look beyond the music at the culture that produces it. You might find yourself writing a paper on the gamelan music of Southeast Asia or the punk rock movement in New York City during the 1970s.