Music permeates the lives of many in the Oberlin College community, from the ardent listener to the aficionado to the pre-professional student in the Conservatory of Music. The Musical Studies major targets arts and sciences students with serious preparation for and interest in the study of music within a liberal arts context. We place a strong emphasis on critical thinking, writing, and communications skills, grounded in practical musical experience. Majors will build musical foundations in applied study, musicianship skills, and music history, and will continue more advanced work in the major with a selection of courses chosen to give shape to your consideration of music.
Previously called the College Music Major, musical studies is a partnership between Oberlin’s College of Arts and Sciences and Conservatory of Music, offering students an interdivisional approach to musical study. Majors take courses in both divisions and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on music. Many of our graduates have careers in music education, conducting, ethnomusicology, music theory, performance, and other related disciplines.
Our courses permit interested students to double major and, with careful planning, many pair musical studies with other majors in the arts and sciences division— politics, cinema studies, or theater and dance, for example. You will design a concentration within the major that allows in-depth study of a specific musical topic. We advise students wishing to pursue graduate study in music to plan carefully so that enough advanced coursework is possible.
The Musical Studies Program is for arts and sciences students with serious preparation for and interest in the study of music within a liberal arts setting. You must apply for admission to the major. Students take courses in the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences, which include musical foundations, music theory and aural skills, musicology, applied study, and private instruction. Each student also proposes a major concentration designed to support his or her individual interests. We require all majors to participate in the Musical Studies Senior Seminar and complete an appropriate capstone project.
In addition, you are required to participate in at least two of the several Oberlin ensembles: the Oberlin Orchestra, Musical Union, Oberlin College Choir, Oberlin Singers, Oberlin Wind Ensemble, Javanese Gamelan, Mandinka Ensemble, or the Contemporary Chamber Music Ensemble, among others. These groups represent the many student, faculty, and professional performance groups that offer more than 500 mostly free public concerts on campus each year. From pop to classical, jazz to folk, these groups enrich the campus experience for both the participant and the listener. Program majors also must complete at least four semesters of secondary private study on an instrument or voice for credit.
Students wishing more intense study or who plan to attend graduate school should consider the Musical Studies Honors Program. Consult with an advisor or a member of the Musical Studies Committee to ensure appropriate coursework for the major. The program does not offer a minor.