Majoring in Music

Make your music heard. Develop your talent at Oxy.

Music study at Occidental College involves three main areas: academic courses, performing ensembles, and applied lessons.

The Music major curriculum at Occidental entails courses in music theory and musicianship, music history and culture, electives, applied music lessons, and performing ensembles culminating in a senior project in the student’s final year of study. Since the first year of music theory and musicianship is required for most other courses pertaining to the major, students are strongly urged to begin this sequence in their first year. Students who are undecided about majoring in Music (or who are unable to fit theory into their first-year studies) can begin their music studies in the fall semester of their second year and still complete the major by the end of the fourth year. We do, however, strongly recommend that students begin the Music major sequence in their first year to avoid taking required courses in their senior year while concurrently preparing a senior project.

In addition to the music theory courses required of all Music majors, students majoring in Music pursue one of the following concentrations. See the Courses & Requirements page for more details about the courses associated with each major concentration.

Music Major Concentrations

Music theory placement: Placement in Theory and Practice of Music I (MUSC 151) is determined in one of two ways: by satisfactory performance on the Music Theory Placement Exam given during Orientation Week each fall, or by completing Materials of Music (MUSC 101) with a grade of "C" or higher. Students who do not place into Theory and Practice of Music I (MUSC 151) will enter the course sequence with Materials of Music (MUSC 101).

Performing ensembles at Occidental are open to all students by audition regardless of major. Glee Club, College Chorus,  Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music, and Jazz Ensemble hold auditions at the beginning of the academic year, and some ensembles also hold auditions in the spring term. The Son Jarocho Ensemble and Afro-Cuban Drumming Ensemble do not require auditions. Ensembles are taken for one course unit each term.

Music majors are required to participate in ensembles.

Piano proficiency is required of all Music majors. Students satisfy this requirement by participation in all three required musicianship classes. Ideally, this requirement should be fulfilled by the end of the Music major’s sophomore year.

Academic advising is essential to your success at Occidental. All Music majors have an advisor from the Music department. However, students who double major with another field listed as their primary major must speak to the Music department chair to obtain an additional advisor in the Music department. You are encouraged to meet regularly with your advisor, either during posted office hours or by making an appointment. You are also able to change advisors within the department, should you feel that another member of the faculty has similar academic or professional interests to yours. Even if you are not a Music major, all Music faculty are available to discuss possible music courses with you.

Music majors should know that graduate work in music theory, musicology, and classical voice requires a reading knowledge of French and German; a reading knowledge of Latin is also a very good idea.

Music majors are expected to attend all Music major meetings, as well as student and faculty recitals and guest artist performances each semester.