Emily Dolan, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The concentration in Music exposes students to a wide variety of musical styles, sounds, and musical traditions in order to develop their critical understanding of music in diverse cultural and historical contexts. The concentration also provides a solid foundation in theory, analysis, composition, and criticism, while developing critical listening skills, which are a pivotal contribution that engagement with music makes to the humanities. Although the Department of Music is not in itself a school of music with a performance department, all of our courses support the intellectual development of musicians, and several of our courses incorporate or focus on performance.

Students are encouraged to participate (with credit) in faculty-led ensembles in orchestra, chorus, jazz, and dance. We offer a wide range of introductory and advanced courses in music theory, composition, historical musicology, ethnomusicology, in addition to many courses that incorporate or focus on musical performance. These courses reflect the specialties of our academic faculty: eighteenth-century material culture, diaspora studies and migration, opera, jazz, music and politics, early music, musical theater, music and media, country music, improvisation, hip hop, musics from around the world, history of the book, film, American and European modernism, music and cognition, music and ecology, new music of the 21st-century, and cross-cultural composition.

Students choose their own pathways through these course offerings, creating a mix of introductory and advanced courses that best reflect their musical interests and aspirations. Students may enter the concentration from any music course, including performance courses, Freshman Seminars, Gen. Ed. and introductory courses, as well as through the first year theory course. The heart of the concentration is the two-semester concentration tutorial, “Critical Listening” and “Thinking About Music.” These required courses, taught by different faculty on a rotating basis, provide listening and analytical skills as well as a familiarity with a wide range of methodologies in music studies.

Students continue with electives that invite engagement with musical questions at a deeper level. In musicology and ethnomusicology, these courses take the form of proseminars for small groups that explore in detail selected musicological issues and direct students toward significant independent projects. Several courses in acoustic and electronic composition are given each year, along with occasional offerings in orchestration and other specific compositional topics. Advanced theory and analysis courses include such topics as tonal and post-tonal analysis, jazz harmony, and modal and tonal counterpoint. Performance-oriented courses include chamber music, jazz, South Indian, West African, historical performance practice, improvisation, conducting and creative music.

There are three concentration tutorials: 97T Thinking about Music, 97L Critical Listening, and 98 Advanced Tutorial. The two concentration tutorials, Music 97T and Music 97L, can be imagined as offering a macrocosm and microcosm of the musical world. Where Music 97T tackles broad questions pertaining to music and its place in human existence, Music 97L focuses the lens on a more detailed level of engagement with music. Music 98 (optional for joint concentrators), emphasizes skills that students may be able to use with the view to a senior thesis or “capstone project.”

For those writing senior theses, a year of Senior Tutorial (Music 99r) is required. Options for senior theses include research papers, original compositions, or senior recitals. There are no general examinations for undergraduates.

The department welcomes joint concentrations with other departments that allow them. Students who had wished to pursue a joint concentration with a department that does not allow them should consult with the DUS to explore how best to pursue their course interests in music. Joint concentrators need to fulfill a reduced number of course requirements, as outlined below. A senior thesis is required on a topic in which both fields are represented.

For students who feel they require more time for applied practice and study, the department offers a five-year performance program. Students approved by the department and the Administrative Board for this program take the normal number of courses in their freshman year, but then work at the three-course rate for the four years following. This permits more intensive work in performance. These students are expected to give a senior recital.

Students who have taken college courses in music at other institutions may receive concentration credit for work done elsewhere. This ordinarily involves a written petition to the faculty and may require taking an examination in the materials of the course for which credit is requested.

Basic Requirements: 10 courses (40 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Music 97T and Music 97L; Music 98 (see item 3. Tutorials).
  2. Electives:
    1. Any 7 courses taught by Music Department faculty with no more than 2 each from the following categories:
      1. Faculty-led ensembles and Introductory courses
      2. Repeatable courses (labeled 'r' after the course number) of the same course number
      3. SAT/UNS courses

      Department of Music Course offerings are categorized as follows:

      • Composition: Music 160r through 167r
      • Conducting or orchestration: Music 121a through 128r
      • Faculty-led Ensembles: Music 10 through 18
      • Introductory Music: Gen Ed and Freshman Seminars taught by Music Department faculty, Music 1 through 9, and 20 through 49
      • Music Theory: Music 51a, 51b, 142r, and 150 through 159
      • Musicology, Ethnomusicology, Popular Music, and Music & Science: 176r and 190r through 194r
      • Performance-oriented: Music 105r, 173r, 174r, 175r, 180r, 181r, 185r, 186r, and 189r.
      • Supervised Reading and Research: Music 91r (must submit a proposal form prior to registration, concentration credit requires advance petition).
  3. Tutorials:
    1. Sophomore year: Music 97T and Music 97L
    2. Junior year: Music 98 Advanced Tutorial
  4. Thesis: None
  5. Examination: None
  6. Other information: None

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements.
  2. Tutorials: Same as Basic Requirements, plus two terms of Music 99r.
  3. Thesis: Required of all honors candidates. May be an original composition, a senior recital, or a written thesis. Plan or subject to be approved by the department at the end of the junior year. In the first term of the junior year, students wishing to submit a composition as their thesis are required to submit a portfolio of work for consideration by the composition faculty, and students wishing to pursue a recital must submit a representative recording for consideration by the performance committee. Any change of plan must be resubmitted to the department.
  4. Examination: None.

Joint Concentration Requirements: 8 courses (32 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Music 97T and Music 97L.
  2. Electives
    1. Any 5 (if Music 98 is taken) or any 6 (if Music 98 is not taken) from courses listed under electives for Basic Requirements
  3. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: Music 97T and Music 97L (see item 1. Required courses)
    2. Junior year: Music 98 Advanced Tutorial is optional
    3. Students should enroll in two terms of Senior Tutorial 99r in their primary department. A faculty adviser in Music will be provided in any case. Will not count towards Music concentration credit.
  4. Thesis:
    1. Required. Plan or subject to be approved by both departments by the end of the junior year.
  5. Examination: None.
  6. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.


All students are required to confer with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies at the outset of their concentration or joint concentration, in order to develop an overall plan for fulfillment of requirements. All concentrators will continue to be advised by one of these two officials at the start of each term.

For up-to-date information on advising in Music, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library offers an outstanding collection of books and scores, as well as listening equipment for its extensive recording collection. The Sound Lab provides access to cutting edge tools for audio capture and recording, digital media and video editing, as well as audio mixing, mastering, and restoration. Musicians have access to the practice rooms, all of which have pianos, and a limited number of instrument lockers are provided. The many musical organizations on campus include the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the Bach Society Orchestra, the Mozart Society Orchestra, the Harvard Glee Club, the Collegium Musicum, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the University Choir, the Group for New Music at Harvard, and the Organ Society. Students interested in composition may submit works for performance at concerts offered by the department and for the Harvard University Prizes. The Office for the Arts offers a special lesson subsidy program to concentrator and non-concentrators, as well as information on private teachers in the area.


For further information, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Professor Emily Dolan,, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies (Professor Hans Tutschku,, or the Undergraduate Coordinator (Mary MacKinnon, in the Music Building (617-384-9507). You may also wish to consult the department website.

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Music 30 26 21 18 10 15 16 17 12 7
Music + another field 9 8 3 3 5 6 9 11 9 8
Another field + Music 6 8 4 4 4 8 6 7 10 10