We offer both an undergraduate and a graduate program. Undergraduates earn an A.B. with a concentration in music. Graduate students complete a PhD program in musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, composition, or Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry.
Harvard College also offers two dual degree programs: one with New England Conservatory where students earn an A.B. from Harvard and a M.M. from NEC over the course of five years. The other is with Berklee College of Music, where students earn an A.B. from Harvard and an M.M. or M.A. from Berklee, also over five years.
Although we do not offer a vocal or instrumental performance degree (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.
We are located in the 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, SoundLab, 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.
John Adams, Matt Aucoin, Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Justin Hurwitz, Tom Lehrer, Yo-Yo Ma, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger, and Virgil Thomson—all graduates of Harvard who have gone on to influence the world of music. Creativity can be found throughout the music department’s offerings: in classes on Adams Operas to Orfeo to the Music of Mali and Neo Soul, in collaborations that bring leading musicians—the Silk Road Project, Angelique Kidjo, Lin-Manuel Miranda—to campus to work with small groups of student performers, or in working one-on-one with faculty to develop unique thesis proposals and fieldwork that support students’ individual creative vision. Composition courses, new studios, and performance groups such as the Harvard Group for New Music support and nurture composers by providing instruction, mentoring, and opportunities for creators to hear their work.
The performance of music is at the heart of the department’s mission, practice, coursework, and community. Harvard’s undergraduate music concentration and its graduate program seek two complementary goals: to inform the performance of music through study of theory, composition, musicology, ethnomusicology, and critical inquiry, and to provide the academic training and discipline that will benefit young scholars, musicians, and composers.
The Harvard campus is a hive of musical activity that includes master classes, performance courses, concerts, student recitals, and the performance of new compositions. A wide variety of curricular and extra-curricular performance groups are open to all students at Harvard, whether they choose to concentrate in music or not.
Collaboration among faculty and students is key to both the graduate and undergraduate music programs. Some faculty/student collaborations grow out of coursework, such as the launch of a public archive of Leonard Bernstein materials or the development of exhibits and online resources such as “Sounding China” or “Unmasking Jim Crow.” Other collaborative efforts may be focused around thesis work, publications, or conferences. In addition, interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty often gives rise to new courses, such as “Fine Arts and Electronic Music,” an effort of the music department in tandem with the Sackler Art Museum, or “Patronage and Contemporary Music,” where students worked with library archivists to create an exhibit on the contributions of Paul Fromm to new music in America. Collaboration also enriches teaching at Harvard, as professors sometimes co-lead seminars that span more than one area of expertise. Recent examples include a seminar about music and activism, Music and Migration, and Water Musics, combining electroacoustic music and moving images.
Students have access to the vast resources of the Harvard library system as well as to the Department’s ethnomusicology lab, sound studies lab, and an annual calendar of lectures, colloquia, and scholarly conferences. The Norton Lectures, for example, bring artists and thinkers—Herbie Hancock, Daniel Barenboim, and Luciano Berio most recently—from the world to music to campus for a series of lectures. Graduate student research is supported by grants and fellowships, and students frequently present at national/international conferences and publish their scholarly work. Undergraduates are able to propose a senior honors thesis, and often have opportunities to conduct original research as part of their coursework. Harvard owns specialized, high-quality resouces such as the Isham Memorial Library (dedicated to primary sources), the autographed manuscripts housed at Houghton Library, archives of notable musicians such as Randy Weston and Georg Solti, and a full range of electronic and digital support such as state-of-the-art composing software and recording equipment.