Current Undergraduate Students

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, as well as the opportunity to develop acute listening skills.  The trained ear grounds the unique contribution of musical study 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 many 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, and ethnomusicology, some of which also involve musical performance. These courses reflect the specialties of our academic faculty: diaspora studies and migration, opera, jazz, music and politics, early music, musical theater, music and media, improvisation, hip hop, history of the book, film, Islam, American and European modernism, music and cognition, music and ecology, music and language, new music of the 21st-century, and cross-cultural composition; regular cross-cultural offerings include the musical traditions of Africa, Latin America, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.


Get in Touch

Landon Morrison
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Office: Music Building 306N

Concentration and Joint Concentration Information

2022 Music Theory Placement Exam

The placement test for music theory courses will be offered in-person during the first week of fall 2022 classes. Please CLICK HERE to register.

The results of this test will help us recommend whether you should take 51A (music theory I), the preparatory Music 2 (offered in Spring), or jump to 51B (Theory 2, spring; this option is rare). The exam also assists with sectioning students by experience and interests. Contact with any questions.

Note: If a rising freshman or sophomore has taken the AP Theory test (and scored a 5), they can automatically register for 51A without sitting for the placement exam in August/September. AP scores and Placement Test scores hold for two years; if you are a junior or senior, or would like to try and place out of 51A and/or 51B, you must take the test.  

Concentration Curriculum

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.

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, the first-year theory course as well as through one of the Arts & Human courses. The heart of the concentration is a semester-long sophomore tutorial, The Study of Music (Music 97), covering the study of music in the broadest sense. This required course, taught by different faculty on a rotating basis, involves close reading of select musical repertoire drawn from a range of cultures and historical periods and introduces a wide range of methodologies in music studies. It provides a point of departure for coursework in three music areas, 1) History/Society/Culture, 2) Music theory, and 3) Creating music.

After completing Music 97, students continue with electives that invite engagement with musical questions at a deeper level. Musicology and ethnomusicology proseminars (Music 190 series) 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 (Music 160 series). Advanced theory and analysis courses include such topics as tonal and post-tonal analysis, jazz harmony, and modal and tonal counterpoint (Music 150 series). Performance-oriented courses include chamber music, jazz, South Indian music, West African music, historical performance practice, improvisation, conducting and creative music (Music 170 and 180 series’ as well as others). To foster breadth and depth in musical study, the concentration requires at least one upper level course in each of the three music areas (what constitutes “upper level” is explained in the detailed list of course requirements below).

In addition to Music 97, there is an optional Junior Tutorial, Music 98, which helps students prepare for thesis work in the senior year. 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.

Those who are not writing theses are required to complete a capstone project. This can be either an extension of a final class project, or a fresh project, usually undertaken in the context of Music 98 in the senior year.  It is ungraded and serves as a culminating experience in the Music Department.

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, usually on a topic that engages both fields.

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. 

Students who place out of both introductory theory courses—Music 51a and Music 51b—though the Harvard Placement Examination in Music (given in the fall and open to all students; see details above) will earn one full credit toward Advanced Standing. Concentration credit is not granted for passing out of Music 51, but substitute courses may be selected with consultation of an adviser. The AP exam in Music cannot be applied toward either Advanced Standing credit or Music Concentration credit at Harvard.

Graduates in Music go on to a variety of careers. Graduates have become lawyers, congressional aides, software developers, sound technicians, arts administrators, and speech pathologists, as well conductors, performers, and professors. The AB degree from Harvard with a concentration in Music is a liberal arts degree, and our students pursue careers in professions similar to anyone with liberal arts training. They also pursue careers as professional musicians, and many continue their studies and go on to become music scholars. Read about recent graduates who concentrated in Music.

Concentration Requirements

10 courses (40 credits) 

  1. Required courses: 
    1. MUSIC 97 (sophomore tutorial): The Study of Music (4 credits)
    2. At least one upper-level course as defined below in each of the 3 following categories (a total of 12 credits).  Courses crossing over these categories can count in either category. For instance, if a student takes 2 courses combining musicology and performance, one can count for category i and the other can count for category iii. In ambiguous cases, the DUS, ADUS and Undergraduate Coordinator will help determine and approve which course counts for which category. Graduate courses will always count as upper-level ones.
      1. History, Culture, and Society (100 level or above)
        • Historical Musicology
        • Ethnomusicology
      2. Music Theory
        • Includes Western art music, Jazz, cross-cultural theory.
        • Upper level here means one 4-credit course at the 100 level or above (with the exception of ii.c, below).
        • Music 51a and Music 51b together (i.e. 2 semesters, 8 credits) can satisfy this requirement. (4 of the credits would in this case count toward the 24 elective credits.)
      3. Creating Music
        • Ensembles at the 100 level or above.
        • This can include Music 107r, a 4-credit, letter-graded course which requires committed participation in one of the ensembles Music 10-18 for a full year, plus additional assignments as determined by the instructor.
        • Composition (including 100-level as well as advanced lessons, such as Music 261)
        • Courses at the 100 level or above that combine composition and performance.
  2. Electives: 6 courses (24 credits)
    1. All music departmental courses and courses taught by music faculty outside the department can satisfy concentration elective requirements.  Courses not taught by music department faculty will not count for concentration credit.  Exceptions:
      • 4 credits transferred from Berklee/NEC for Dual Degree students.
      • One 4-credit HUM or ARTS course, meant as a gateway course.
    2. Notes: 
      • One or two freshman seminars taught by music faculty can count.
      • Up to one Gen Ed, taught by music department faculty member, can count.
      • Music 98 counts as an elective and is graded SAT/UNSAT.
      • One 91r can count as an elective, with prior approval of the department.
      • One 9999 can count, but not as an upper-level course.
      • Students should avoid taking multiple introductory-level courses.
  3. Honors 
    1. Thesis (MUSIC 99, 2 semesters, graded SAT/UNSAT). Music 99 does not count toward the 10 required courses/electives.

Please note also the following, which represent changes beginning in AY 2022-23

  1. Department of Music Course offerings are categorized as follows: 
    1. Music 97 is a single-semester course aimed at introducing students to the study of music in the broadest sense. To count for concentration credit, it must be taken for a letter grade.
    2. Music 91 is a strictly academic course for students who have demonstrated commitment to high-quality independent work and whose interests cannot be accommodated by our curriculum. Students will write a proposal including a provisional reading list and produce a 15-page paper or an equivalent product that reflects 4 credits of work. Performance and composition will no longer be eligible under this number. Must be taken for a letter grade and requires approval by the department prior to enrollment. No student can take more than one Music 91.
    3. Music 98 is a one-semester junior tutorial that can be used for work on a thesis or capstone project. It is not required and does not count as an upper-level course.
    4. Advanced, individual composition lessons will be offered as Music 261 and require completion of at least one composition course in the Music Department and instructor’s approval.
    5. Students who have declared their music concentration by Spring 2022 will have the choice of completing the concentration requirements of the new curriculum or the concentration requirements that were in place when they declared.
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: Music 97T and Music 97L 
    2. Junior year: Music 98 Advanced Tutorial–Graded SAT/UNSAT 
    3. Senior Year (honors only) Music 99—Graded SAT/UNSAT 
  3. Concentration Examination: None 
  4. Thesis: Required of all honors candidates. May be an original composition, a recital or similar performance-based event, or a written thesis. Plan or subject to be approved by the department at the end of the junior year. All students proposing to do a creative thesis must identify an adviser and submit examples of their work for pre-screening in the first term of the junior year. Students wishing to do a composition thesis must have taken an advanced composition course in the department and submit a portfolio of work for consideration by the composition faculty; students wishing to pursue a recital must submit a representative recording for consideration by the performance committee, along with a resumé and a letter from their performance teacher. Any change of plan must be resubmitted to the department. 
    1. – Examination: None. 
    2. – requires enrollment in Music 99r SAT/UNSAT, which does not count toward the 10 courses  

Joint Concentration Requirements

8 courses (32 credits) 

  1. Required courses: 
    1. MUSIC 97 (sophomore tutorial): The Study of Music (4 credits)
    2. One upper level course each in the areas of 1) History/Society/Culture, 2) Music Theory, and 3) Creating Music.
    3. Electives: Any 4 courses as listed in the requirements for the full concentration.  
  2. Tutorials
    1. Music 97, usually taken in the sophomore year, letter graded.
    2. (Optional) Music 98, usually taken in the junior or senior year, graded SAT/UNSAT.
    3. Senior Year. Students take Music 99 (thesis) in the Music Department if Music is the primary department in the joint.  If Music is the allied field, the student will work with a music faculty advisor but will not register for this as a tutorial in the music department. Music 99 does not count toward the 8 required half courses. Graded SAT/UNSAT.
  3. Thesis: Required. Plan or subject to be approved by both departments by the end of the junior year. 
  4. Examination:  None. 
  5. Other information: NEC/Berklee students may count 4 transfer credits as an elective.Junior Tutorial (98) cannot be taken for credit in the two departments of a joint concentration during the same semester. In exceptional circumstances, in separate semesters, students for whom Music is the allied field in their joint concentration can receive concentration credit for 98 in their primary department, while receiving college credit (but not Music Department credit) for Music 98. 

Attention First-Year Students

Several courses in Music are (or may be) graded pass/fail or sat/unsat.  You must take at least 3 letter-graded courses each semester during your first year at Harvard.  If this means exceeding the usual number of total courses per semester, you may be able to petition to enroll in an additional course (HRO or 189r for instance).  Please consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Undergraduate Coordinator in Music, or your First-Year advisor for further guidance if necessary.


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 faculty members at the start of each term. For up-to-date information on advising in Music, please see the  Advising Programs Office website

Honors/Thesis Information

Any concentrator who is a fall degree candidate should email the Undergraduate Coordinator as soon as possible to obtain the relevant due dates.

All Honors candidates, including all joint concentrators, are required to complete a thesis during their senior year. This may take the form of a written thesis, a performance thesis, or an original composition. This will require consultation with a Harvard University Department of Music faculty member, who will serve as the thesis adviser. The plan or subject of the thesis is to be approved by the department at the end of the junior year. Please read the document below thoroughly for details and deadlines. It contains information on:
– the written thesis (Historical Musicology, Ethnomusicology, Music Theory)
– pre-screening and details for the non-written thesis (original composition, performance-based and creative Honors projects)
– deadlines for 21-22 and 22-23
– submission requirements
– thesis formatting guidelines and requirements
– Undergraduate Honors Thesis Proposal Form

Thesis Guidelines and Deadlines classes of 2023 and 24.pdf (9 pages)
Fillable PDF Thesis Proposal

Music as a Secondary Field

The Department of Music offers one secondary field designed to be flexible enough to accommodate a broad range of interests. Students are free to explore the field by selecting a variety of courses, or they may focus on a specific aspect of the larger field.

Requirements: 5 courses (20 credits)

Any five courses selected from among the courses offered in Music (including Gen Ed courses and Freshman Seminars taught by Music Department faculty), with the exceptions noted below:

  1. At least one course recommended from each of the three categories (History, Society, Culture; Theory; Creating music)
  2. Courses taught outside the music department by music department faculty may count.
  3. NEC and Berklee dual degree students may transfer up to 4 Harvard credits for courses taken at NEC or Berklee.

Other Information

Courses taken abroad or in the summer school can be counted in the secondary field only with the permission of the department, normally granted only after the course has been completed.

Advising Resources and Expectations

Students pursuing a secondary field are urged to seek out members of the Music department faculty for advice on their specific course choices. For more information on the secondary field and for advising, please speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Dr. Landon Morrison,, or the current Undergraduate Coordinator ( 


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 to a limited number of instrument lockers. 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.

Undergraduate Funding

NOTE: Students traveling abroad on trips funded or arranged by Harvard or who will receive Harvard credit during their travel are required to record their itineraries in the Harvard Travel Registry.

Music Department Travel and Study Awards

John Knowles Paine Fellowships (for travel and study during the summer after graduation)

Each spring, the Music Department awards John Knowles Paine Fellowships for travel and study. The Fellowships were established in 1912 by Mrs. Paine in memory of her husband and are available to music concentrators in their senior year for study during the summer following graduation. If you are interested in applying, please submit THIS FORM and a letter to the Department Chair detailing your plans of travel or study and proposed budget. If you have any questions, please see the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Department Administrator. The proposal is usually due in March.

Davison Fellowships

The Davison Fellowship for Travel in Music, a gift from Alice D. Humez in memory of her husband Archibald “Doc” Davison, provides financial support for students engaged in short projects relating to music that require travel away from Harvard University. Undergraduate students in good standing are eligible to apply. While the terms of the fellowship are broadly defined, preference will be given to proposals that have an academic component. Projects may take place during the summer or the school year. Economical and resourceful proposals will be favored. Undergraduates engaged in research are particularly encouraged to apply. Applications consist of THIS FORM, a short project description (1-2 pp.), a budget, and a confidential letter of recommendation sent directly from an academic advisor. These materials should be submitted to the Department of Music in March and can be emailed to Eva Kim (

The fellowship selection will be made by a committee in the Department of Music and will be announced in the first week of April.

College Project and Travel Funding

Undergraduates seeking funding for projects and travel may find these sources helpful as well:
• Harvard College funding sources database
• Harvard College Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships
• Office of Career Services David Rockefeller International Experience Grants • Common Application for Research and Travel (CARAT)
• Artist Development Fellowships

Composition Prizes

Undergraduate composers are eligible to apply for several prizes, awarded annually. Write to the Assistant to the Chair ( if you have questions about dates or details.

John Green Fellowship

The Fund was established by friends and family of the late John Green ’28 in support of excellence in musical composition. No submission or application necessary. The award is made annually to an undergraduate or graduate student composer.  This year’s fellowship will be awarded to an undergraduate student composer.

University Composition Prizes

The deadline for submitting to the department for the university composition prizes and Blodgett Composition Competition is in March (email Eva Kim for exact deadline).
Please submit your piece(s) in hard copy form to Eva Kim. If your piece is selected, the composition faculty will determine which prize is most appropriate. There is general information about these prizes below. 


This is a string quartet competition for a piece to be performed by the Parker String Quartet in 2018-19. 


“The Bohemians” (New York Musicians Club) has been established in the Department of Music a prize in original musical composition. The competition is open to undergraduates or the members of any graduate school of the University. The interest of the bequest will be awarded for an original composition for one or two instruments.


From the income of the bequest of Francis Boott, of the Class of 1831, a prize has been established for the writer of the best composition in concerted vocal music. The competition is open to undergraduates or to members of any graduate school of the University. The prize is offered for the best composition for chorus of not less than three nor more than eight parts, either a capella or with accompaniment for piano, organ, or small instrumental ensemble, requiring not more than ten minutes for performance. The choice of text, which may be either sacred or secular, Latin or English, original or selected, is left to the contestant.


In 1909 the University received from William H. Knight, of the Class of 1903, a fund for the establishment of a prize in memory of his brother, George Arthur Knight, late of the Class of 1907. On this foundation the George Arthur Knight Prize is offered for the best composition in instrumental music, “preference to be given to compositions for string quartets or trios, though works with piano accompaniment may compete.” The competition is open to undergraduates and degree candidates in any graduate school in the University.


Bequest of Hugh F. MacColl, 1907, this prize was established in 1954. The income from the fund is “to be applied from time to time . . . to the awarding of prizes” in a competition for students in Harvard College “for original musical compositions.

Five-Year Performance Program

(NOT the dual-degree Harvard/NEC or Harvard/Berklee program)

For students who wish to pursue a program with more emphasis on performance, the department offers the Five-Year Program. Students approved by the department take four or five courses per term in their freshman year, but then work at the three-course-per-term rate for four following years. This permits more intensive work in performance, and these students are expected to give a senior recital.

This program is designed for music concentrators; thus admission to the five-year program is only granted to students willing to commit to this concentration choice as freshmen. This also means that a student doing the five-year program will pay for four years (of tuition, but an extra year of fees, room and board.

Students may combine this option with advanced standing to finish degree requirements in four years and remain at Harvard for a fifth year at the reduced rate.

To Apply:

  • 1) In the freshman year, student requests certification from the Department of Music. This takes the form of a brief letter to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, outlining the student’s performance background and plans for performance study in the five-year program.
  • 2) The DUS presents the request at a Department meeting.
  • 3) If the request is approved, the student takes the Department’s certification to her/his Resident Dean, and makes a request for permission to remain at Harvard for ten terms, and to work for eight terms at the three-course-per-term rate.
  • 4) The Resident Dean takes this request to the Administrative Board for permission.
  • 5) The Resident Dean notifies the student and the Director of Undergraduate Studies of Music of the Administrative Board’s decision.