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   Visiting the Music Department

“If you look back 10 or 20 years ago, I think there was a sense that music was unapproachable. You had to be able to read a score. You had to have highly specialized training in order to even begin to talk about it. I think those barriers have really gone down. It’s really nice to see that music is not this little island that is somehow feared. … It’s part of the humanities.”—Alexander Rehding

About the Music Department


The Harvard University Department of Music is devoted to the study and practice of music, and exists to provide a first-rate music education that gives students advanced skills and knowledge of music history, repertory, and performance.

As an academic department, the Music Department offers both an undergraduate and a graduate program. Undergraduates receive an A.B. with a concentration in music. Graduate students complete a Ph.D. program in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, or composition.

There is also a small A.M. program in performance practice, and a dual degree program in tandem with New England Conservatory where undergraduate students earn an A.B. from Harvard and a M.M. from NEC over the course of five years.

Although students cannot earn a vocal or instrumental performance degree at Harvard (such as a B.M., M.M., or D.M.A.), performance is very much a part of music department coursework, and students are welcome to join any of the many extracurricular music performance groups on campus.

The Music Department is located in the renovated Fanny Peabody Mason Music Building, which houses classrooms, music practice rooms, the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, John Knowles Paine Concert Hall, the Harvard University Studio for Electroacoustic Composition (HUSEAC), an Ethnomusicology Lab, Collection of Instruments, and faculty and administrative offices. The Department sponsors numerous concerts, colloquia, lectures and special music events each month, which are free to students and the public.

We are located directly behind the Science Center at the corner of Kirkland and Oxford Street


    Department of Music
    Music Building
    Harvard University
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    fax: 617-496-8081

    map and directions

    Quick links:
    Events Calendar
    Department News
    Faculty & Staff
    Concentrating in Music
    Graduate Studies
    Music Curriculum

Music at Harvard
by the NUMBERS

Courses offered per term 33

Practice rooms in the building 15

Full-time faculty 20

Scores in Music Library 143,000

Number of pianos on campus 220

First music course given 1855

Music performance groups 45

What degrees does Harvard's Music Department offer?
You can earn an A.B. from Harvard College with a concentration (or joint concentration, or secondary field [minor]) in Music. We also have a graduate program that offers the PhD in musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, or composition, and a small AM program in Performance Practice, meant for mid-career performers or scholars.

In addition, Harvard and New England Conservatory offer a five-year, dual degree program where students can earn an A.B. from Harvard College and an M.M. from NEC. Click
here for details.

Does Harvard offer a music performance degree?
No, we don't. Harvard has an academic music department, not a conservatory program, and does not have performance faculty or offer lessons. Also, we don't currently offer Music Education, Music Therapy, Vocal Performance, or Music/Sound Engineering degrees. That said, the music scene at Harvard is an especially vibrant one, and there are many experienced and talented musicians who chose Harvard for its strong liberal arts education and continue their music studies at a level equal to or greater than noted conservatories. The difference is that students must take the initiative to audition for the performance groups that interest them, and arrange lessons with Boston area tutors outside their work at Harvard.
We do offer a dual-degree program with New England Conservatory (see question above).

If you are a serious musician, you will find dozens of musicians who work and perform at a Conservatory level. If you are someone who enjoys performing for pleasure, you will likely be able to find your place within a large community of performers and a wide range of opportunities.

Does Harvard require an audition for admission?
No. Harvard does not hold auditions of any kind during the admissions process. If music is important to you, you are welcome (not required) to send in a CD of your performance as an "Arts Supplement" to your Common Application.

What performance opportunities are there at Harvard?
The majority of Harvard students come to college with some musical background. There are no fewer than 45 student music organizations on campus ranging from Mariachi to gamelan, Chinese chorus to jazz bands to several orchestras, choral groups, a capella groups, world music groups, bands, and percussion ensembles. Each operates independently with their own schedule of rehearsals and concerts, and most audition for new members each fall. Musical activities are considered extra-curricular (with some exceptions, such as the performance classes run by the department for credit). For information on music performance both in the Music Department and elsewhere on campus,
click here. For information about Harvard's new A.B./M.M. dual degree performance program with New England Conservatory, click here.

The Music Department offers a few performance courses for credit each term; examples from recent years include choral conducting, chamber music, jazz improvisation, orchestration, and performance/analysis. It also offers a full composition program.

Is it possible to study an instrument with music department faculty?
Music faculty do not give instrument or vocal lessons. Students who wish to pursue lessons are encouraged to find a music tutor in the Boston area. For more information on finding a tutor, go to Performance

Does Harvard have a choral music program?
There are numerous choral music opportunities at Harvard, including the Choral Fellows Program and the University Choir. However, the Music Department offers no degree program in choral music. The Director of Choral Activities at Harvard is Andrew Clark; for information about Professor Clark and many of the choral groups on campus,
click here.

What do students do with a AB in Music?
Students who graduate with an AB with a concentration in Music go on to as many different fields as any student with a liberal arts degree. Many are successful going on to Conservatory after Harvard, and music concentrators have recently gone on to study at USC, NEC, or Juilliard. Some pursue a performance career. Others go to Law School, get a business degree, or go to graduate school in a number of fields, including historical musicology. Recent graduates have found jobs at google, in concert production, as news anchors, speech pathologists, and arts administrators, as well as conductors and performers. Read about our recent alumni here.

Can I get a master's degree?
The graduate program does not offer a "terminal" master's degree and all graduate students are expected to complete the requirements for a PhD. Following successful completion of your course work and general examination, you may apply to the registrar's office to receive a master's degree en route to completion of your doctorate.

Do I need a master's degree to apply to the graduate program in music?
No. Some students have earned a master's when they apply to the PhD program, but just as many have not, and apply directly after they graduate from a four-year college.

How big is the Department of Music?
The Music Department ordinarily has around 20 permanent faculty, around 6 visiting faculty, 50 undergraduate concentrators, 60 graduate students, 11 staff, and 10-15 associates.

ndergraduate Study

Opera director Peter Sellars talks with students in "The Operas of John Adams" seminar, spring 2011.

How to Apply


The Harvard Department of Music is an academic department of the university. It does not conduct a separate admissions process. All applicants must apply to Harvard College for admission. There is no audition required. If you are interested in music, submit a CD of your performance or composition along with your application as part of your supplementary materials. Admissions will not accept a CD of you playing with a large band or orchestra, so submit either a solo CD or one with an accompanist. The choice of material is up to you.

Please do not send these to the Music Department. Your materials will be evaluated by music department faculty, but the process is "blind," and Harvard College Admissions will remove your name from your materials before they are sent to us. For more information about CD requirements, click here.

Harvard College admission is open to everyone, including all international students. To begin the application process, go to

To visit Admissions, take a campus tour, or sit in on a class, visit

To read about the undergraduate music program at Harvard College, go to


Do I need to audition?
No. There are no auditions for admission to Harvard College. (Be aware that those applying to the joint Harvard/NEC five-year program will need to audition for admission to NEC)

When is the deadline for application to Harvard?
The annual deadline is usually around January 2 for entrance the following fall term.
There is also an early admissions program.

Does Harvard offers scholarships or financial aid?
Yes. Financial aid is based entirely on need. You may fill out a financial aid application along with your admissions application. There are no music scholarships or financial aid based on specific skills; rather, Harvard College admissions will make their decision based on the strength of all your application materials. If you are accepted, you will receive an offer of aid (grants, work/study, loans) based on your family's financial need.

Can I concentrate in music and something else as well?
Yes. You can be a joint concentrator and choose two academic fields: music and psychology, or music and math, for example. If you joint concentrate you are required to write a senior thesis combining both areas of study. A joint concentration is not a double concentration. Joint concentrators usually take 5-7 music courses and the same number in their other field rather than 13-15 music courses (the normal load for a music concentration). You can also study music as a secondary field, which requires five music courses. Specifics are outlined in "undergraduate Information" on this site.
You needn't be a music concentrator to take music courses, as the Department's General Education, Interdisciplinary, and introductory-level courses are open to all Harvard students.

Will interviewing with the Music Department aid my chances of acceptance to Harvard?
No. The music department does not take part in the admissions process. Harvard College Admissions makes all decisions and manages all admissions materials.

If I want to talk to a member of the music department about the program, how do I go about it?
Prospective undergraduates with questions about the Harvard Music Department should contact Managing Communications Coordinator, Lesley Bannatyne ( to schedule an appointment to talk about the program. This is not an interview, but rather an informational meeting to answer your questions (the music department has no hand in the admissions process and does not conduct interviews). For questions about performance on campus it's best to read about the
Office for the Arts or research any of the music groups on campus. Student performance groups are independent of the music department.

Herbie Hancock talking with undergraduates as part of his Norton Lectureship.
How to get over stagefright? "Put yourself in that position as often as possible.
It take courage to have courage."

Graduate Study


To apply to the PhD program in musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, and composition, you must make an application to the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. All applications are online, and may be found (along with all the requirements, fee information, and procedures) at

All recipients of a four-year college degree or its international equivalent may apply (students with and without master's degrees may apply). If you are unsure whether you are eligible, please read the GSAS guidelines.

Admissions decisions are made by Music Department faculty, who weigh a combination of factors such as GRE scores, past academic record, strength of scholarly (or compositional) work, and recommendations. The TOEFL test may be required if English is not your first language (required minimum score is 80). Detailed information pertaining to requirements for admission are on the GSAS site listed above.

For information about visiting the department and admissions requirements please go to


Do I need to take GRE's?
Yes. GRE scores are valid for five years.

Do I need to take the Music component of GRE's?
No. Only the general GRE is required.

When is the deadline for application to Harvard?
The annual deadline is usually around January 2 for entrance the following fall term. Check the GSAS website for each year's deadline.

Does Harvard offers scholarships or financial aid?
Yes. If you are accepted into our PhD program, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will offer you a financial package that guarantees funding for six years, and includes both tuition and living expenses. Teaching stipends may make up part of the package from the student's third year on.

There are also opportunities for additional funding. The Department (and GSAS) awards prizes, fellowships, stipends, and grants each year to graduate students for language study, dissertation completion, research assistance, and travel, among other pursuits.

Do I need to submit samples of my work?
Yes. You need to support your application with samples of your work, be it scholarly (musicology/ethnomusicology/theory) or creative (composition).
Specifics are available here.

Does Harvard accept international students?

Will interviewing with the Music Department aid my chances of acceptance to Harvard?
No. Unfortunately, faculty are not usually available to meet with prospective students.

If I want to talk to a member of the music department about the program, how do I go about it?

Prospective graduate students can call the Department receptionist (617-495-2791) during November, December, and January to schedule a visit to the department. You may be able to talk with other students, sit in on a class, or attend a concert or lecture. Please go to for more information.

Visiting the Music Department

-GRADUATE VISITORS (PhD programs/AM in Performance Practice)

Undergraduate Information: Visiting the Department

Harvard College Admissions Tours and Information Sessions (highly recommended)
Cambridge Area Acommodations

Academic Calendar

You are welcome to visit the Music Department anytime during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm. Please know that meeting with music department staff in no way impacts your application; these meetings are informational only. Individual academic departments (such as music) are not involved with the Admissions process at Harvard College.

To make an appointment to visit the Music Department

Call 617-495-2791 or write to arrange an appointment with Lesley Bannatyne, Managing Communications Coordinator. Expect your visit to last around 15 minutes.

If you decide to make an application
The Harvard College Office of Admissions and Financial Aid handles the admissions process in its entirety. All questions about the admissions process, as well as all supplementary application materials, should be sent to them:

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Harvard College
86 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard College Admissions also tracks all applications and is responsible for all materials and submitted information. If you need to know the status of your application, contact them at 617-495-1551. NOTE: Please do not call the Music Department about the status of your application or the return of your materials. We don't have them.

The best times to visit the department are when classes are in session. However, you can come by at any time to see the building and facilities. The Music Department is open 9-5 Monday through Friday except for holidays.

Graduate Information: Visiting the Department

You are welcome to visit the Department at any time, although we in no way require or expect you to make the trip. You should know that we do invite the students we accept to our program to come to Cambridge in the late winter/early spring as part of our admissions process. At that time, admitted students meet with faculty, get to know our current students, and are introduced to other students who have also been admitted.

We regret that we are not able to make appointments with individual faculty members during a pre-admissions visit.

If you do decide to make an informational visit prior to the admissions deadline there are optimum times, such as between October and December. If you visit at another time of the year, check the academic schedule to avoid reading/exam periods and semester breaks. It is not necessary to visit, nor should you see it as a way to improve your chances of admission.

Rather, a visit is simply a good way to learn about our Department's intellectual environment and infrastructure. We urge you to consult the course schedule that you can plan to sit in on one or more graduate seminars (please ask permission of the instructing professor first: music professors can be reached via email at This is the best way to get to know the professors and students.

You may also want to attend any colloquia, lectures, or faculty seminars that coincide with your visit (check our calendar at, or to tour the Music Library (contact Liza Vick to make an appointment at and other Harvard libraries. It may also be possible to chat informally with some of our current graduate students, who are apt to be working in the department and library during the academic year.

Our receptionists can tell you more about the schedule of events (call 617-495-2791). You can also reach them through email: Kaye Denny ( and Charles Stillman (

Tours of the Harvard campus are available twice each day Monday through Friday (and some on weekends), and originate from the Holyoke Information Center in the Holyoke Center Arcade, right in the middle of Harvard Square.

Faculty Advisors

If you have questions about a specific field, you may contact the Graduate Advisor in that field. For more general questions, contact the Director of Graduate Studies. All Professors can be reached via email at: Type the professor's name in the subject line of your email letter (for example, Subject: for Prof. Kelly, or for Director of Graduate Studies).
To find out more about the faculty advisors, find their brief bios and professorial titles at faculty/people.html#faculty


c 2014 President and Fellows of Harvard College