Courses & Requirements

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2021-2022 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.



Students majoring in Music must choose one of the following concentrations to pursue: music production; composition; instrumental performance; vocal performance; ethnomusicology or popular music; musicology; or music theory and analysis. Students considering any of these tracks should begin by taking the appropriate entry-level music theory course in their first year. All concentrations require music theory, and many Music courses (including all the production courses) have a music theory prerequisite. Students with no prior music theory experience must take MUSC 101, offered in the fall semester. Students with some experience in music theory should take the Music Theory Placement Exam to see if they can pass into MUSC 151, offered in the spring semester. 

All students wishing to declare the Music major must have completed MUSC 151 with a grade of B-minus or higher. Students wishing to declare the Music Production concentration must also have completed MUSC 148 with a grade of B-minus or higher. Both courses must be completed by the end of the sophomore year.

Students considering studying abroad in their junior year must begin the music theory sequence in their first year and should only consider study abroad programs that can advance them in their particular Music major concentration. We offer one minor concentration, in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music.

Major Requirements


All students pursuing a Music major must complete the following courses:

Required Courses:

MUSC 151Music Theory II

4 units

MUSC 201The Ethics and Aesthetics of Sampling

4 units

MUSC 251Music Theory III

4 units

MUSC 261Western Music and Culture: 1580-1829

4 units

MUSC 263Western Music and Culture: 1830 to the Present

4 units

MUSC 490Senior Seminar

4 units

Required Concentration

In addition to these 24 units required of all Music majors, students majoring in Music must pursue one of the following concentrations:

Music Production

Music Composition

Instrumental Performance

Vocal Performance

Ethnomusicology or Popular Music


Music Theory & Analysis

Second-Stage Writing Requirement

Students majoring in Music will satisfy the second-stage component of Occidental College's college-wide writing requirement by successfully completing MUSC 201, MUSC 261, or MUSC 263 in the sophomore or junior year with a grade of B- or higher.  Students receiving a C+ or lower will have to take another Music course that satisfies this requirement. Music majors who do not complete the Second-Stage Writing Requirement through the standard course-based mechanism will need to submit a satisfactory writing portfolio (consisting of 4000 to 5000 words) from 200-level Music courses to the Department Chair prior to the end of their Senior Fall semester.

Comprehensive Requirement

Senior music majors complete a senior project related to the student's area of interest. All senior projects involve both a written and an oral component. The written component (thesis draft; or final draft of argument-driven analytic paper plus recital program notes) must be completed by the end of MUSC 490, which is offered in the fall semester. Each component is graded High Pass (HP), Pass (P), or Fail (F). A final grade of Pass with Distinction (PD) on the senior comprehensive will be awarded if all components (written, oral, and performance, if applicable) are graded High Pass.

In the Fall semester of their junior year, students submit a proposal for their senior project to the Music Department faculty for approval. Music's "Senior Comprehensive Project" page provides details about the project proposal and the requirements of individual concentrations.

All seniors will present their work in a public forum during the spring semester. If the Music faculty determines that the senior has not sufficiently prepared to complete the project in time, the senior must take a written examination in lieu of the recital or thesis submission/presentation in order to fulfill the senior comprehensive requirement. The faculty will supply questions drawn from the material of that senior’s course of music study at Occidental.

College Honors

Students who have achieved at least a 3.25 average in their Music courses and have demonstrated exceptional potential in their Music concentration of study (one of the concentrations listed above) may apply for the Honors Program at the end of their junior year. For information about the Honors Program, students should consult their Music Department faculty adviser. See the Honors Program for additional information.

Minor Requirements

Ethnomusicology and Popular Music

Students must complete a total of 20 units.

MUSC 151Music Theory II

4 units

MUSC 201The Ethics and Aesthetics of Sampling

4 units

One 100-level elective, selected from the courses below.

MUSC 102/LLAS 102Music of Latin America

4 units

MUSC 103Music of Asia and the Pacific Islands

4 units

MUSC 104/BLST 104Music of Africa and the Middle East

4 units

MUSC 105/BLST 105Topics in American Music

4 units

MUSC 108European Vernacular Music

4 units

MUSC 111/BLST 111Topics in Jazz History

4 units

MUSC 112Topics in Popular Music

4 units

Two 200- or 300-level electives, selected from the courses below.

MUSC 280Introduction to Ethnomusicology

4 units

MUSC 283Music of Los Angeles

4 units

MUSC 284/LLAS 284Sonic Latinidad: Latino/a music in the United States

4 units

MUSC 285Topics in the Critical Study of Music

4 units

MUSC 286Music and Politics of the United States-Mexico Border

4 units

MUSC 385Advanced Topics in the Critical Study of Music

4 units

MUSC 386Performance and Politics of the United States-Mexico Border

4 units

Music Theory Placement

All Music students will begin their Music Theory and Musicianship study in one of two ways: by taking MUSC 101 (no prior experience with music fundamentals), or MUSC 151.


The Elinor Remick Warren Award is presented each spring to the student who has written the most outstanding piece of music, in a Music course, that academic year.

The Peters Prize is awarded to the "Music major who, in the opinion of the faculty, had done the most during the year to advance the ideals and the prestige of music on the campus."

Transfer Credit Policies

The Music Department policy on transfer credit conforms to College policy. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for more details.


MUSC - Music Courses

MUSA - Music Applied Study