Performance at Harvard


“During the summers I’ve gone to music festivals where there are students—undergrads, grads—from the best conservatories like Curtis, Juilliard, NEC. The really serious musicians at Harvard are just as good as those people.”— Stefan Jackiw (concert violinist)

“Harvard offered [me] the ability to make music somewhere that wasn’t a pressure-cooker. Everyone at Harvard was doing their own thing, and these beautiful and natural collaborations came out of that.” 
—Gabe Fox Peck '19
Read the story of how Fox-Peck and fellow Harvard grad Joshuah Campbell developed their Academy Award-nominated "Stand Up" (2019 nomination for best song, Harriet)

… if you say you went to Harvard, in the musical world, the automatic reaction is “How good can you really be? Is this a side thing for you while you prepare to work on Wall Street? But in a much deeper and truer sense the responsibility that you have to take as an artist at Harvard is the kind you have to take as an artist in the world because you are in a community of really talented, really intelligent people who are simultaneously all figuring out what the heck they want to do together, and that is tremendously exciting. And it’s a bit of a safe haven, of course, but it’s a far truer model, I think, of what being an artist in the world is like.
— Matt Aucoin ' 12 [excerpted from Harvard Gazette, "A Year Set to Music"]

See what faculty and students are up to right now in their PERFORMANCE AND RESEARCH.









Student Music Groups

Harvard Jazz Band Visits Cuba

Faculty-led Ensembles

Participation in faculty-led ensembles is eligible for Harvard College credit. See Performance Courses, below.

The Harvard Choruses:

Harvard Glee Club
Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum
Radcliffe Choral Society

Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
Harvard Jazz Bands (Sunday and Monday bands)
Harvard University Band
Harvard Wind Ensemble
Harvard University Choir

The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra virtually perform Handel's Messiah, conducted by Andrew Clark

Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra and maestro Federico Cortese

Student Performance Ensembles

Much of music performance on campus is considered extracurricular at Harvard, and groups are open to all students, regardless of concentration. Musical groups are often student-governed, and most handle their own auditions, operations, touring, and funding.


Harvard Group for New Music (graduate composers)
Harvard Composers Association (undergraduate composers)


Kuumba Singers
GSAS Student Center Choir

Kuumba Singers

A Capella

Harvard Din and Tonics
Harvard KeyChange
Harvard Krocodiloes
Harvard Low Keys
Harvard-Radcliffe Callbacks
Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones
Mizmor Shir
Radcliffe Pitches
Vox Jazz


Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players
Harvard College Opera
Hasty Pudding Theatrical
Lowell House Opera
Harvard Department of Theatre, Dance and Media


Bach Society Orchestra
GSAS Student Center Orchestra
Harvard Pops Orchestra
Mozart Society Orchestra

Chamber Music & Ensembles

Brattle Street Chamber Players
Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra
River Charles Ensemble

Early Music

Harvard Early Music Society (HEMS on Facebook)

Jazz Performance at Harvard.

Jazz Band

GSAS Student Center Jazz Band

Sunday and Monday Jazz Bands

Harvard Jazz Combo Initiative

Organ & Piano Societies

Harvard-Radcliffe Organ Society
Harvard Piano Society


T.H.U.D. (The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers)


Mariachi Veritas
GSAS Student Center World Music Collective
Mariachi Veritas


Read about these and other music groups at Harvard on the Office for the Arts website.

Music Performance Courses
& Visiting Artists

Performance Courses
Artists in the Classroom
Master classes & Coachings


Angelique Kidjo on stage in Paine Hall
Angelique Kidjo gives the Louis C. Elson Lecture in Paine Hall.



Department Performance Courses

Harvard's Music Department offers a full composition program as well as a number of jazz, classical, creative and world music performance courses, which usually culminate in a student recital at the end of each term. Performance courses receive Harvard College credit; most are eligible for music concentration credit. Not all courses are offered each semester.


Music 175/Classical Repertoire class recital of Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night"

Music 153 class concert: Jazz Harmony - Moogology

Music 10. Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra

Federico Cortese
Half course (throughout the year).

Music 14. Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum

Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
Andrew Gregory Clark
Half course (throughout the year).

Music 15. Harvard Glee Club

Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
Andrew Gregory Clark
Half course (throughout the year).

Music 16. Radcliffe Choral Society

Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
Andrew Clark
Half course (throughout the year).

Music 18. Harvard Jazz Band

Yosvany Terry
(fall and spring M, 7:17-9:15pm and W. 7:15-8:15pm)

121. Choral Conducting

Andrew Clark
Skill levels evaluated at first class meeting.

127. Intensive Conducting

Federico Cortese

Music142. Foundations of Modern Jazz: Art Blakey/
West African Musical Traditions

Yosvany Terry

Music 143. Cuban Music

Yosvany Terry

Music 157r. South Indian Theory and Practice

Richard Wolf

Music 160/TDM. Composing Theater

Yvette Jackson

Music 170. Songwriting Workshop

Esperanza Spalding

Music 172. 21st-Century Ensemble Workshop

Claire Chase

Music 171. Creative Music: Composer-Pianists

Vijay Iyer

Music 189. Chamber Music Performance

See a sample of recent undergraduate course offerings





Harvard's Music Department offers a full program of coursework that includes courses in music theory and composition, and includes styles ranging from jazz harmony to electroacoustic composition.

Students in Richard Beaudoin's composition class created new works based on the collection of the Harvard Art Museums. Richard Heyde, cellist, performed them in the Museum's new courtyard.
Professors Vijay Iyer (piano) and Hans Tutschku (live electronics) perform as part of a composition class recital in 2015.

Harvard's HYDRA 40-speaker orchestra is a rare and unique resource for electroacoustic composition students.

Academic Music Courses

The Department's offerings include courses such as Music from the Silk Road, Musical Migration, Opera, Broadway Musicals, Modern Jazz, Film Music, and many more. Check course schedules and descriptions for current offerings.


Artists in the Classroom

In addition to courses specifically in performance, performance of music is intrinsic to the study of all musics. Guest artists and lecturers frequently visit our classes to talk informally with students about a range of topics from the operas of Peter Sellars to how jazz relates to social movements to how Broadway artists think and work.

Broadway artist Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) visits Carol Oja's course, "American Musicals and American Culture."



Artists in Residence

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence Program of the Department of Music

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program is made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program provides for a distinguished string quartet to be in residence at the Harvard University Department of Music offering workshops, coachings, and serving as faculty for the Chamber Music course. The quartet is also available to read undergraduate and graduate student compositions, and to perform a composition by the winner of the annual Blodgett Composition Competition. The quartet gives four free public performances each year in Paine Hall, and others in the Harvard houses and other campus venues. The current Blodgett Artists-in-Residence are the Parker Quartet.

Additionally, the music department invites Blodgett Distinguished Artists to campus to lecture and perform in a variety of musical disciplines. Past artists have been Koo Nimo (Ghanaian music), The Clerks Group (medieval song), Sir Harrison Birtwistle (composer), TASHI (new music), Neba Solo (Malian balafon), Bahman Panahi (Persian music), jazz pioneer Geri Allen, and Wadada Leo Smith.



Master Classes and Coachings

The Parker Quartet are in residence at Harvard's Music Department, and give weekly master classes to students enrolled in our Chamber Music course, Music 189.

We also bring performing artists of all disciplines to campus to work with students; recent examples include singer Angelique Kidjo, conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, choral conductor George Benjamin, Broadway artists Marsha Norman and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and pianist Jeremy Denk. Additionally, we arrange informal meetings between undergraduates and Music Department special guests such as Herbie Hancock and Laurie Anderson.

OFA Visiting Artist Programs

The Office for the Arts (OFA) is a rich resource for undergraduate performers as well. OFA operates a visiting artist program that provides opportunities for students to interact with professionals in all disciplines through master classes, workshops, informal discussions and other forums. The OFA also provides opportunities for students to work alongside professionals in producing visiting artist events, and runs several funding programs for student arts projects.

Opera singer Morris Robinson

Opera singer Morris Robinson gave a master class through the OFA in 2019.


Resources for Performers and Composers

Concert Venues
Arts & Humanities Division
Office for the Arts
Resources for Student Composers
Organs at Harvard
Rehearsal and Practice Space
Art Making in the Houses



Concert Venues

Harvard has three primary concert halls. John Knowles Paine Hall is located on the second floor of the music building, and is a concert hall that seats 437. Other performance venues include the beautiful, 1166-seat Sanders Theatre and Lowell Hall (seats around 300), which is frequently used for jazz. Several of the Harvard houses also offer opportunities for musical performance. For instance, Dudley House hosts several graduate student music groups including a chorus, orchestra, jazz band, and traditional music ensemble.

House common rooms can also be used for music performance, and multi-purpose areas such as University Hall's Faculty Room, the Barker Center Thompson Room, the Arts at 29 Garden, and the courtyard of the Harvard Arts Museums are used for concerts as well.



Office for the Arts

The Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) is a central resource for arts information, opportunities, programs, and support at Harvard University. The OFA runs co-curricular arts courses such as Skills for Singing (for students who would like to improve their fundamental skills for choral singing, a visiting artist program (see desciption, above) and also produces an annual, campus-wide arts festival called ArtsFirst.

Grants for artistic projects, fellowships for emerging undergraduate artists, music lesson subsidies (for students studying privately with a teacher off-campus), a jazz master residency program, and venue management and ticketing services (Harvard Box Office) are some of the other initiatives sponsored by the OFA.

Resources from the Office for the Arts
Go to the Office for the Arts WEBSITE



Composer Resources

Undergraduate composition: Getting your work performed

Undergraduate composers have organized as the Harvard Composers Association and can be contacted at harvardcomposers@gmail.com

Undergraduates looking to have their compositions played have a number of options. Coursework in composition usually includes a final performance of new work. Student composers are also welcome to submit work to the Blodgett Composition Competition annually (for string quartet); the winning piece is premiered by the Quartet-in-Residence during a Blodgett Chamber Music concert in Paine Hall. The Bach Society also runs an annual composition competition. Senior thesis recitals consist of performance of original compositions. Informally, students also write pieces for musical groups on campus. [Read about one composer's experience at Harvard here]

The Harvard Group for New Music, a graduate student organization, invites undergraduates to submit work for performance in one annual concert, the Goldberg concert.

Students who write for strings may request that the Quartet-in-Residence read and play their piece for them so that they can hear its full potential. This is a service provided by the Music Department, and is available to all students on campus regardless of concentration.

Students who would like to produce their own concerts are encouraged to do so. The Office for the Arts offers a grant program to support artistic efforts (as well as an annual arts festival that showcases student concerts), and Harvard offers a number of resources to assist student producers.

Composition Prizes

Financial prizes are awarded annually for completed compositional work. The Music Department awards the Bohemians Prize (original composition), the Francis Boott Prize (concerted vocal music), the George Arthur Knight Prize (string quartets or trios, or works with piano accompaniment), the Hugh F. MacColl Bequest (original composition), and the John Green Fund, awarded for musical excellence.





Harvard University is blessed with a rich and varied collection of organs. The magnificent 1958 Flentrop (housed in Busch Hall) is perhaps its most famous example. Championed by E. Power Biggs, it remains one of the great examples of classic organ building principles, and is still revered by organists the world over. In addition, the university houses a 1911 Skinner in Andover Hall, as well as a Hutchings in Divinity Hall. Several of the undergraduate houses have instruments, as well as a number of churches in Cambridge that house organs on loan from the university.

The newest addition is the Fisk Op. 139, pictured here, housed in Memorial Church.

Concert Series

The Parker Quartet are on the Harvard faculty.
They coach classes and give public concerts, read student works, and participate
in the musical life of the department. The Quartet also premieres the winning
composition of the Blodgett Composition competition.

Blodgett Chamber Music Series

The Blodgett Chamber Music Series produces several concerts each year featuring the Department's artists-in-residence. These concerts are free and open to the public, and take place in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall. The Parker Quartet currently perform the series. Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet have been hailed by the New York Times as “something extraordinary,” and the Boston Globe acclaims their “pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.” The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009- 2011 seasons.

The Fromm Players at Harvard

The Fromm Players at Harvard present a major concert or concert series each year dedicated to new music such as that of Cage, Martino, Kampela, Gompper, Davidovsky, Berio, Fedele, Ung, Sierra, Leon and many other composers working in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Fromm Players concerts seek to program works not normally heard in Boston. In 2010, for example, the concerts (curated by Joel Sachs and featuring New York's internationally renowned ensemble CONTINUUM), explored the music of international composers working where cultures collide and fuse. Each year's curator is different, and each year the concerts focus on a new area of work. In 2012 Harvard's Hans Tutschku created a program of electroacoustic work performed by Boston Modern Orchestra Project; in 2016 Vijay Iyer curated a series of four concerts featuring Creative Music; and in 2019 Claire Chase curated a performance of Perle Noire: Meditations for Josephine, a reworking of the music of Josephine Baker by Tyshawn Sorey. The concerts are sponsored by the Music Department and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard. They are free and open to the public.

Portrait Concerts and Special Events

The Music Department also produces a number of concerts each year that showcase the work of a specific composer, performer, or theme. "On My Music" featured the compositions of Visiting Composer Helmut Lachenmann, for example, and pianist Ursula Oppens performed a concert of "Music of the 21st Century." 2013-14's Norton Lecturer was Herbie Hancock, who gave a series of six talks, illustrated with music. For upcoming special concerts, please see our Events Calendar.

Concerts Around Campus

Music Department concerts represent only part of the concert schedule at Harvard. Student groups produce concerts, as do other academic departments, the Harvard museums, libraries, churches, student societies, and the Office for the Arts. There are musical events taking place on campus nearly every day during the academic year.

To learn more about music events on campus, go to the Harvard Box Office
To see a listing of daily events at Harvard, go to the Harvard Gazette Calendar
To see a listing of all arts events on campus, go to the Harvard Arts portal

Practice Rooms and Instrument Storage

There are fifteen practice rooms in the music building; all but one of them have pianos. (For those who play harpishord, there are instruments available in the Early Instrument Room in the Music building.) Anyone with a valid Harvard I.D. may use the practice rooms, including students in all of Harvard’s schools and divisions, faculty, and staff. Practice rooms are available on a first come, first served basis. There is a two-hour limit.

To use a practice room you go to the front office at the Music Building (Reception area) and sign the log book. Practice room keys hang on a wooden stand nearby. Leave your ID and take a key. When the offices of the Music Department are closed, the keys will be at a security desk opposite the reception area.

Professional lessons are not allowed in the practice rooms. We’re not able to allow amplified music and percussion instruments either.

Practice Room Guidelines for Fall 2021
The Department of Music is pleased to announce the reopening of its practice rooms for the fall semester beginning Wednesday, September 1. Practice rooms will be available on a first come, first served basis to members of the Harvard community (with a valid Harvard ID card) from:
Monday - Friday: 9:00 am-10:00 pm*
Saturday / Sunday: 10:00 am-6:00 pm
*Practice rooms will close promptly at 10:00 pm (6:00 pm on weekends)

Please note that the following rules will apply, according to Harvard University’s Environmental Health and Safety regulations:
Solo practice room users may choose to remove their masks when practicing alone with the door closed.
Masks are required for practice sessions involving more than one person.
Wind/brass instrument practice is now permitted in the practice rooms, solo use only (one user at a time).
Singing practice is now permitted in the practice rooms. Singers may remove their masks only if they are practicing alone.
Infractions of this policy will be recorded and may result in loss of practice room privileges.

**There are also practice rooms in other campus locations, and 60 of Harvard's buildings have pianos in them. There is a percussion practice room in Sanders Theatre. Piano practice rooms exist in all the houses, in SOCH (Student Organization Center at Hilles-one room), in Loker Commons (two rooms plus storage space for large instruments and percussion), in the Freshman dorms [one between Wigglesworth C and D basements, one in Wigglesworth D basement, two in Straus basement (A and C), one in Greenough basement, and two in (wheelchair accessible) Matthews basement; all available from 9 am to 11 pm with the exception of Straus, which is open 24 hours/day. The Freshman Music Rooms are open only to first-year students [more on the practice rooms for freshmen HERE.

There are a total of 220 pianos on campus.

**These are not under the jurisdiction of the music department.

Practice rooms are closed during all legal holidays, and over the December holiday break (normally December 23-January 2).
During January, reading periods, intersession, and summer, hours are curtailed.

Instrument Storage

There are a limited number of lockers in the music building. Ask to reserve one at the Receptionist's desk. There is additional instrument storage in the Memorial Hall/Sanders Theatre complex; contact ofa@fas.harvard.edu about storing harps.

Please visit the Piano Technical Services website for answers to any questions about pianos at Harvard. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~pts/index.html

The Music Department does not rent, purchase or sell instruments.

Music Lessons

The Music Department faculty do not offer lessons. Students who want to pursue lessons during their time at Harvard find their own teachers, usually drawing from the large pool of music instructors in the Boston area. Lists of local teachers and information can be obtained through the Office for the Arts at Harvard. Lessons are arranged privately between the student and his/her instructor, and are usually considered extra-curricular. Some students have their current instructor recommend teachers in the Boston area. Some find their instructor through the bulletin board in the Music Department or seek recommendations from fellow students. The Holden Voice Program of the Harvard Choruses provides subsidized, individual lessons in vocal performance.

Lesson Subsidies for Music Concentrators

In order to support students’ musicianship, the Music Department offers financial awards to all music concentrators (full or joint)* to help with the cost of lessons. Awards are granted once yearly, in September, and are administered by the Office for the Arts. The Music Department awards can be applied to VIRTUAL lessons with any music teacher in the Boston area. Students must find their own tutors and arrange and pay for lessons independent of the Music Department. Students enrolled in the Harvard/NEC or Harvard/Berklee Dual Degree programs are ineligible.

Awards are granted to students currently receiving financial aid; smaller subsidies are available for those students not on financial aid. Otherwise, the aid package and administration of the program is the same as the Office for the Arts Music Lesson Subsidy Program awards. In addition to filling out the online application, you will have to fill out a questionnaire form.

Find the application HERE (September 21, 2020 9am deadline)

*First-semester sophomores intending to declare a concentration or joint concentration in music are also eligible.

Lesson Subsidies from the Office for the Arts (for all students currently receiving financial aid, regardless of concentration)

The Office for the Arts also maintains a Lesson Subsidy Program to support instrumental and vocal instruction to qualified, full-time, enrolled Harvard undergraduates currently receiving some financial aid. It is intended for students who, without financial help, could not make a sustained commitment to taking music lessons. The program is not for beginning musicians. New applicants must demonstrate a certain level of proficiency and/or potential, as evidenced by their musical activities. Returning applicants who have been awarded subsidies in past academic years will have their financial aid status reviewed prior to any subsidy determination for the new academic year. There is a late September deadline and all application material is to be obtained from them.

Recipients schedule lessons directly with their teachers and are responsible for handling all payments to teachers. The OFA’s online Music Teacher Reference Guide provides a listing of local music instructors who teach, have taught, or are interested in teaching undergraduate students. This listing is a resource only. Recipients may choose to take lessons from other instructors.

NOTE: Students enrolled in the Harvard-NEC or Harvard-Berklee Dual Degree Programs are ineligible for MLSP funding.


It is possible to receive course credit for lessons by creating an INDEPENDENT STUDY course. Independent Study is designed to provide credit for private music lessons given by instructors not on the Harvard faculty and is governed by the guidelines published in the Handbook for Students issued each year by Harvard College. The catalogue number for Independent Study is "9999."
Only students concurrently engaged in at least one of the following activities are eligible for Private Music Lessons as Independent Study in Music:

1) Music Concentrators/Joint Concentrators

2) Members of:
Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum
Radcliffe Choral Society
Harvard Glee Club
Harvard University Choir
Harvard University Jazz Band
Harvard Wind Ensemble
Harvard Jazz Band

3) Students enrolled in a Music Department course (not including Core or GenEd)
Lessons must be paid for by the student, as the Music Department does not fund private study on any instrument. Independent Study may not be counted for concentration credit and is not available to Freshman.

Contact the Music Department Undergraduate Coordinator for more information.