Senior Comprehensive Project

This section covers all the requirements and timelines for senior comprehensive projects in Music.

Forms

Introduction

All Music majors complete a senior project related both to the student’s sustained and serious interest in a particular area of music and to the courses they’ve taken in the music department. All senior projects involve both a written and a public component. Each component is graded High Pass (HP), Pass (P), or Not Passed (NP).

In their junior year, students submit a senior project proposal to the Music department faculty.

  • Students with a particular interest in Ethnomusicology/Popular Music, Musicology, or Music Theory & Analysis will propose a senior thesis of 6,500 words or more in length (excluding footnotes and bibliography).
     
  • Students with a particular interest in Composition will prepare a portfolio of original compositions developed in MUSC 148, 257, 258, and independent study, including both acoustic and electronic music, some of which will be presented in a composition recital during the senior year. Composers will write an argument-driven analytic paper of 2,500 words or more in length (exclusive of title page and bibliography) about one or more composers who have influenced their approach to composing.
     
  • Students with a particular interest in Production will prepare a portfolio of original tracks (totaling 45-60 minutes in length) developed in MUSC 148, 248, 249, 348, and independent study, some of which will be presented in a production recital during the senior year. Producers will write an argument-driven analytic paper of 2,500 words or more in length (exclusive of title page and bibliography) about one or more producers who have influenced their approach to producing.
     
  • Students with a demonstrated ability in Performance will propose a junior and senior recital, and will write an argument-driven paper 2,500 words or more in length (exclusive of title page and bibliography) that addresses analytical and historical issues related to at least one work in their recital.

All seniors will present their final work in a public forum during the spring semester, either in a recital (instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, producers) or in an oral presentation (musicologists, ethnomusicologists, theorists).

A final grade of “Passed With Distinction" on the senior comprehensive will be awarded if all components (written, aural, and performance, if applicable) are graded High Pass.


Timetable for Submission of Senior Project Proposals

By October 1 in the junior year (5th week), every Music major must meet with their advisor and -- if applicable -- their applied teacher, composition instructor, or production instructor to discuss their senior project ideas. They will bring the first drafts of the supporting documentation for the senior project proposal to this meeting. Between the 5th and 10th week of the fall semester, students will work with their advisor to refine the proposal. In the 10th week of the fall semester, these proposals will be discussed by the full faculty. Proposals will be approved, provisionally approved with specific recommendations, or returned for revision and resubmission.

(NOTE: Students wanting to study abroad in the fall semester of their junior year must have declared the Music major prior to submitting their study abroad application in February of their sophomore year. They must determine with their Music advisor whether they can fulfill the major requirements in their proposed study abroad program.)

The senior project proposal consists of an application, a detailed summary of your project, and supporting documentation:

  • Composition
    1. A description of the type and amount of music you intend to write (i.e., chamber pieces including instrumentation and projected durations, electronic and film score works with projected durations, etc.)
    2. A description of a composer who has influenced your approach to composition and a piece by that composer that will be the focus of your analytic paper. Upload a 250- to 350-word description of your analytic paper topic and an accompanying bibliography of ten relevant scholarly sources.
    3. A portfolio of compositions that you have already completed.
  • Production
    1. A description of your production project, including its length and content.
    2. Your paper is to develop an argument about a particular producer or about the history, evolution, and/or reception of a particular style, technique, instrument, or other technology. Upload a 250- to 350-word description of your paper topic and an accompanying bibliography of ten relevant scholarly sources.
    3. A portfolio of the recordings and related materials produced as part of a class or under the supervision of Music faculty.
  • Performance
    1. List the proposed repertoire for your Junior and Senior Recitals. Include composer name, title of composition, year of composition, performing forces (instrumentation), and approximate running time.
    2. Your analytic paper topic must focus on a piece on your Senior Recital program. Upload a 250- to 350-word description of your analytic paper topic and an accompanying bibliography of ten relevant scholarly sources.
    3. Please provide the name of your applied instructor. In order for your proposal to be complete, you must ensure that they submit to the Department Chair a confidential evaluation of your skills.
  • Senior thesis or other non-recital project
    1. Upload a 250- to 350-word description of your topic and an accompanying bibliography of ten relevant scholarly sources.
    2. Upload a writing sample at least five pages long, preferably one related to your proposed topic.

During the fall term of their senior year, all seniors will discuss their plans for completing the project in a meeting with the Music department faculty.

Senior Thesis or Other Non-Recital Project

Students should begin to explore possible thesis topics with a faculty project advisor during their junior year and should enroll in Music 374 (Junior Comprehensive Preparation, 2 units) in the spring semester of their junior year to facilitate the development of their senior project proposal. At a minimum, thesis-writers must be enrolled in Music 474 (Senior Comprehensive Preparation) during the spring semester of their senior year.

Timetable for Completing a Senior Thesis

Fall Semester

  • September 23-ish (5th week of classes): Present a summary of preliminary research to Music department faculty.
  • November 11-ish (12th week of classes): Submit outline prospectus and preliminary bibliography to the faculty project advisor. These should contain an abstract of your topic, an identification of primary issues, and a summary of the methodology you have chosen to examine them.

Spring Semester

  • February 17-ish (5th week of classes): Completed full first draft due. Submit the completed paper along with all supporting materials other than the bibliography to your faculty project advisor.
  • March 23-ish (10th week of classes): Completed bibliography and second draft due. Submit your revised draft and completed bibliography to your faculty project advisor.
  • April 6 (12th week of classes): Deadline for final revisions. Submit three printed copies of your completed paper to your project advisor by noon for department evaluation.
  • April 13-ish (13th week of classes): Registrar’s deadline for senior comprehensive grades.

Evaluation Process

Upon department approval of the thesis topic and research methodology, a second faculty member will join your project advisor in evaluating your written work, methodology, and public presentation. Your final project grade (High Pass, Pass, Fail) will be determined by the consensus of these two faculty members. The rubric we use for assessing the senior thesis can be downloaded here.

Composition Recital

Students intending to give a composition recital will assemble a portfolio of original compositions with the guidance of one or more Music department faculty members. The portfolio may also contain preliminary sketches and revisions in addition to the final copy of each composition. The portfolio will include works begun or completed in MUSC 148, 257, 258, and independent study courses, and may contain up to two works composed independently. This portfolio must be submitted in hard copy, with recordings if available, to the faculty along with the electronic submission of the senior project proposal.

Composition Recital Content

Students must discuss compositional goals for the recital with their composition teacher no later than the spring semester of the junior year. Practical considerations, such as space and performer requirements, must be included in this planning process. During the senior year, the student and faculty composition teacher(s) will choose compositions in the portfolio, resulting in 25 to 30 minutes of music. Composition recitals must include at least one work for electronic media. Students must begin recruiting performers immediately upon approval of recital repertoire, and all Occidental student performers must agree to perform without financial compensation.

The student is responsible for completing instrumental and vocal parts no later than five weeks in advance of the recital date. The student is also responsible for scheduling coaching and rehearsal sessions as needed. The student may perform in her/his own recital, and may choose either to conduct ensemble performances, or to recruit a conductor.

Composition Jury

A student presenting a senior composition recital must participate in a recital jury at least four weeks prior to the recital date. A committee comprised of at least two Music department faculty members, including the student’s composition teacher and another faculty member outside of the composition area, will hold the jury. At least five days prior to the jury, the student must give the composition teacher a complete portfolio, consisting of all scores intended for the recital, the analytic paper (completed in MUSC 490), and a formatted draft of the recital program, which will include the title page; complete titles of all repertoire, movements or sections as appropriate; names of all performers; program notes for all compositions (to be prepared in MUSC 374, 490, 474); and texts in English for all vocal works, including the original language where relevant (see below for templates).

At the jury, the student will meet with the committee for a thorough evaluation of the portfolio. The final decision regarding compositions to be included in the recital will be made at the jury. If the portfolio does not demonstrate adequate evidence of achievement, and/or the recruitment of personnel to perform in the recital has not been completed satisfactorily, the student will be asked to postpone the recital date.

The student shall submit their recital program in print-ready form to the Music department concert manager no less than one week before the recital date. Sample recital programs may be examined in the Music department office, and templates for your program are available for download here.

Analytic Paper for Composition Recitals

When composers submit their senior project proposal during their junior year, they will include a paragraph-length topic proposal and preliminary bibliography for their 2,500-word paper (one of the two written components of their senior comprehensive project, along with their program notes). This paper will consist of an argument-driven analysis of one or more composers who have influenced their approach to composing, focusing on a piece or pieces to analyze. It is expected that students will be reading on their topic and composing during the summer before their senior year.

Students will work with their senior seminar (MUSC 490) instructor on this paper during the fall semester of their senior year. An annotated bibliography is due in the 4th week of the fall semester; an abstract proposal is due in the 6th week, and a complete first draft is due in the 10th week. The final paper is due on the last day of classes, fall semester. The rubric we use for assessing the senior analytic paper can be downloaded here.

Grading the Senior Comprehensive Composition Project

A portfolio must be submitted to the Music department no later than noon on Monday, April 15. This portfolio will include the final paper (produced in MUSC 490), the recital program, and all scores. A senior composition recital is graded High Pass, Pass, or No Pass, and the rubric we use for assessing senior composition recitals can be downloaded here.

Production Lecture-Recital

Students giving a production lecture-recital will assemble a portfolio of original tracks with the guidance of one or more Music department faculty members. The portfolio will include works begun or completed in MUSC 148, 248, 249, 252, and 348. This portfolio must be submitted electronically, with full score(s) if available, to the faculty along with the senior project proposal. The portfolio should be 45-60 minutes in total length.

Production Lecture-Recital Content

Students must discuss goals for the lecture-recital with their production instructor no later than the spring semester of the junior year. Practical considerations, such as space, equipment, and performer requirements, must be included in this planning process. During the senior year, the student and production instructor(s) will choose tracks that will be submitted as part of the portfolio, as well as those tracks (amounting to 25 minutes of music) that will be part of the lecture-recital.  At least 75% of the portfolio tracks must be original creations, and up to 25% can be remixes. All covers, remixes, and samples must be cleared by the copyright owner. At least 25% of portfolio music must cross genres in a significant way. While we encourage you to collaborate with as many people as needed to realize your creative vision for your project, we require that you collaborate with at least two other individuals. At least 50% of the portfolio and lecture-recital must be collaborative (e.g. recording other musicians, co-writing, live mixing musicians). Each track must be written, recorded, and mixed by the student.

The student is responsible for completing and submitting tracks no later than four weeks in advance of the recital date. The student is also responsible for scheduling coaching and rehearsal sessions as needed. 

Production Jury

A student presenting a senior production lecture-recital must participate in a jury at least four weeks prior to the lecture-recital date. A committee comprised of at least two Music department faculty members, including the student’s production instructor and another faculty member outside of the production area, will hold the jury. At least five days prior to the jury, the student must give the production instructor the following: a portfolio consisting of final mixes of all tracks (45-60 minutes in length);  the analytic paper (completed in MUSC 490); and a draft script for the lecture-recital that identifies which tracks (totalling 25 minutes) will be played or performed at the recital and the accompanying analytic discussion of each track to be played. The total scripted speaking time should be 10-15 minutes (approximately 1000-1500 words), for a script that will be prepared in MUSC 490 and used as the basis for their lecture-recital presentation. At the jury, the student will meet with the committee for a thorough evaluation of all submitted materials. The final decision regarding tracks to be included in the recital will be made at the jury. If the portfolio does not demonstrate adequate evidence of achievement, and/or the recruitment of personnel to perform in the recital has not been completed satisfactorily, the student will not be approved for the lecture-recital and will, instead, be required to take an exam to complete the senior comprehensive requirement (details of this are indicated under “Courses & Requirements”)..

The student shall submit their lecture-recital script to their review committee chair no later than one week before the recital date.

Analytic Paper for Production Recitals

When producers submit their senior project proposal during their junior year, they will include a paragraph-length topic proposal and preliminary bibliography for their 2,500-word paper. This analysis-driven research paper should develop an argument about the music of a particular producer or about the history, evolution, and/or reception of a particular style, technique, instrument, or other technology. It is expected that students will begin this research during the summer before their senior year.

Students will work with their senior seminar (MUSC 490) professor on this paper and their lecture-recital script during the fall semester of their senior year. An annotated bibliography is due in the 4th week of the fall semester; an abstract proposal and 15 minutes of music from the proposed portfolio are due in the 6th week; and a complete first draft is due in the 11th week. The final paper is due on the last day of classes, fall semester. The rubric for assessing the senior analytic paper can be downloaded here.

Grading the Senior Comprehensive Production Project

The senior music production portfolio must be submitted no later than noon on the Friday before the week when Senior Comprehensive Grades are due. Please consult the current academic calendar for precise dates. The portfolio will include the final paper (produced in MUSC 490), the lecture-recital script, and all tracks.

Performance Recital

The repertoire for both a junior and a senior recital should represent a range of historical periods and national styles. Recital repertoire is developed in consultation with the applied teacher and other members of the music department faculty. Repertoire planning for a recital should begin no later than the spring semester of the year preceding the recital.

Vocal and piano recitals are usually performed from memory. The decision whether or not to perform a recital from memory is made by the applied teacher.

junior recital should contain 30-45 minutes of music.
A senior recital should contain at least 60 minutes of music.

Scheduling Junior or Senior Recitals

At the beginning of the academic year, the Music department will establish available dates for junior and senior recitals. 

The student is responsible for filing a senior project proposal form, which will include a description of proposed repertoire for the junior recital, in the 10th week of the semester (see above concerning senior project proposals). Please note: the student must obtain the applied teacher’s approval of the proposed program before submitting the senior project proposal to the Music department.

Recital Jury

A student presenting a junior or senior recital must perform a jury at least four weeks prior to the recital date to determine the student’s level of preparation for the event. All of the repertoire presented at the jury must be at a level of preparation that indicates that the music will be ready for public performance at the time of the recital. If the jury does not demonstrate adequate preparation and achievement, the student will be asked to postpone the recital date. In addition to the repertoire, the student must present the required analytic paper (seniors only), and a draft of the recital program booklet at the time of the jury.

Recital Program for Junior and Senior Recitals

Sample recital programs may be examined in the Music department office, and templates for your program -- both junior and senior -- are available for download here.

The recital program draft must be reviewed and approved by the student's applied teacher and recital preparation instructor or advisor prior to the jury. The student must bring three printed copies of the draft to the recital jury, one for each member of the committee. After passing the jury, and after the draft of the program copy is approved by the complete jury-grading committee, the final print-ready program must be proofread by the student and then submitted to the Music Department Production Manager at least one week before the recital.

The junior recital program must include full titles of all repertoire, movements or sections as appropriate, complete names and dates of all composers included in the program, brief program notes for all compositions (to be prepared in Junior Recital Preparation, MUSC 374), English translation of all vocal texts, names of all performers on the program, and any other text, comments, or acknowledgments that you intend to include in the program.

The senior recital program constitutes one of the two written components of the senior recital and shall be judged on the accuracy of its content, the incisiveness and clarity of the program notes, and layout. The program shall include the title page of the recital, full titles of all repertoire, movements or sections as appropriate, complete names and dates of all composers included in the program, program notes for all compositions (to be prepared in senior seminar (MUSC 490) and senior comprehensives preparation (MUSC 474)), English translations of all vocal texts (these may be on a separate sheet, but must be included with the draft of the program copy), the names of all performers on the program, and any other text, comments, or acknowledgments that you intend to include in the program.

The Music department will print 50 copies of your program for your junior or senior recital. If you wish to have additional copies, these will be at your expense.

Analytic Paper for Performance Recitals

When performers (instrumentalists and vocalists) submit their senior project proposal during their junior year, they shall include a paragraph-length proposal and preliminary bibliography for their 2,500-word paper (one of the two written components of their senior comprehensive project, along with their program notes). This paper will consist of an argument-driven analysis of at least one work in their recital. It is expected that students will be reading on their topic and working on their senior recital repertoire during the summer before their senior year.

Students will work with their senior seminar (MUSC 490) instructor on this paper during the fall semester of their senior year.  An annotated bibliography is due in the 4th week of the fall semester; an abstract proposal is due in the 6th week, and a complete first draft is due in the 10th week. The final paper is due on the last day of classes, fall semester. The rubric we use for assessing the senior analytic paper can be downloaded here.

Grading the Senior Comprehensive Performance Recital

A portfolio must be submitted to the Music department no later than noon on Monday, April 15. This portfolio will include the final paper (produced in MUSC 490) and the recital program. A senior performance recital is graded High Pass, Pass, or No Pass, and the rubric we use for assessing the performance recital can be downloaded here.

Comprehensives Preparation Courses (Music 374, 474)

Music majors preparing for a recital or thesis are expected to enroll in Music 374 (junior comprehensive preparation--2 units; this course may be repeated once) and Music 474 (senior comprehensive preparation--2 units). Music 474 is required. Music 374 and 474 can each be repeated once for credit.

We expect that these comprehensives preparation courses will allow you to practice or compose an additional 4-6 hours per week, as well as to engage in an historical and analytical study of each composition on the recital program under the supervision of the Music faculty advisor for the course. This study culminates in recital program notes written by the student and approved by both the recital preparation advisor and the applied teacher.

The student and senior comprehensives preparation instructor must have a first meeting no later than the second week of classes. They will continue to meet weekly or bi-weekly, as determined by the student and instructor. At the first meeting of the semester, the student and instructor will:

  • Establish a schedule for the historical and analytical study of the recital compositions, including specific dates on which the student will report on specific compositions
  • Set specific dates for the completion of first drafts and revisions of the written notes, including the draft to be submitted at the recital jury
  • Set specific dates for the completion of the first draft and revision of the complete recital program that will be submitted at the recital jury

The final grade of the senior comprehensive preparation course will be given by the course instructor, and will be based on:

  • Applied teacher’s evaluation of the use of extra practice time (50%)
  • Completion and quality of the historical/analytical study of the recital compositions as evidenced in the student’s weekly or bi-weekly reports and in the completed recital program notes (50%)

Music Department Honors Projects

Students wishing to be considered in the Departmental Honors Program, who have maintained at least a 3.5 average in their Music courses, should contact the Music Department Chair during the spring semester of the sophomore year.

An Honors Project represents artistic, creative, or scholarly achievement beyond standard undergraduate Senior Project expectations. An honors senior recital will include music of exceptional technical and interpretive challenge for an undergraduate student, as well as an analytical paper (~15 pages) prepared as part of enrollment in the Recital Preparation course. An honors composition recital or an honors senior thesis likewise would be designed with exceptional challenge in mind.

A preliminary proposal for an honors senior recital or honors senior thesis must be submitted to the Music Faculty by the tenth week of the spring semester of the junior year. The proposal must be prepared in consultation with a music faculty member with experience in the area of emphasis (performance, composition, music history, or music theory), the faculty advisor, and (if a recital proposal) the applied music teacher. The proposal must be submitted to the Music Faculty, and must include a description of the project (recital repertoire, composition portfolio and recital intentions, or paper topic) and the factors that make the proposed project qualify as an honors project. The Music Faculty will either approve the proposal, or will provide the student with suggestions to strengthen the proposal. A revised proposal may be resubmitted to the Music Faculty by the beginning of the thirteenth week of the spring semester of the junior year.

You are expected to consult with your honors project supervisor during the summer before your senior year as you continue to develop the project. The final proposal for the honors project must be completed by the second week of the fall semester of your senior year. It should include a final description of the project and the factors that make the proposal qualify as an honors project. Following a review of the final proposal, the Music Faculty will give final approval or denial. If the proposal is denied approval, you may appeal this decision within one week of being informed of the Music Faculty’s decision.

Please note that acceptance of an honors project proposal does not guarantee departmental honors at graduation. In order to receive departmental honors at graduation, you must fulfill the expectations outlined in the project proposal, and must fulfill all of the honors requirements with respect to GPA (3.25 average in Music courses) and successful completion of the project outlined above. It also is important to note that you must maintain the GPA requirements (overall and departmental) throughout your senior year.

Graduation with Departmental Honors

Graduation with departmental honors will be awarded on the following criteria:

  • A grade of High Pass on all components of the Senior Recital or Senior Thesis that is designated by the Music Department as an Honors Project.
  • Grade point average (GPA) of 3.25 in all Occidental College coursework together with a GPA of 3.5 in all Music coursework (including applied lesson grades).
  • If you are qualified and intend to participate in the Departmental Honors Program, you should plan your junior year to use Independent Study or Recital Preparation courses to prepare honors-quality recital repertoire or paper topics.

Departmental Distinction

Departmental distinction will be awarded on the following criteria:

  • Grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 in all Occidental College coursework together with a GPA of 3.25 in all Music coursework (including applied lesson grades).
  • A grade of High Pass on all components of the Senior Recital or Senior Project. Please note that Departmental Distinction is not represented on your diploma or your official transcript, but is a Music Department honor. Recipients of Departmental Distinction receive a certificate from the Music Department.

College Honors Program

The Honors Program at Occidental College is designed to allow a superior student’s attention to be focused on an independent investigation for a sustained period of time. It is expected that students admitted to the College Honors Program will have established themselves as outstanding prospects for individualized work in the department of their major and will also have established themselves as doing work of very high quality in all that they have undertaken at Occidental. Students accepted for the College Honors Program are exempt from the eight-unit limit in Independent Study and may take Advanced Research (499) courses on an independent study basis. The purpose of such research is to prepare a special project to be submitted to the major department for evaluation. Evaluation of the completed project will be made by a committee of department faculty and may include readers from outside the department or College. Students wishing to be considered for participation in the Honors Program should contact the chair of the appropriate department during the spring semester of their sophomore year.