Studies in music theory are part of every program in the conservatory. The music theory program stresses both aural skills and studies in analysis and writing. The level of achievement required in each area is determined by the student's major department.
- The program's course offerings are divided into music theory and aural skills courses. Students are required to take "linked" music theory and aural skills courses simultaneously; for example, an entering student may begin theoretical studies with Music Theory I and Aural Skills I. In this way, writing and analytical skills are reinforced aurally at every step of the way. Music theory courses meet three times a week and help students develop part-writing and analysis skills. Aural skills courses meet twice a week and emphasize notation, sight-singing, performance, and keyboard skills.
- After completing Music Theory I through IV, students choose from a variety of upper-division courses in counterpoint, form, and 20th-century music. All of these courses are intended to emphasize the intensive study and integration of musical analysis with the student's work in performance, music history, and related fields.
- The senior project, an important aspect of the major in music theory, engages each student in extensive independent study under the guidance of a faculty advisor. In addition to completing directed readings and presenting an analytical paper, majors must pass written and oral examinations.