About the Concentration in Music
Training thinking musicians
Occasionally we are asked what a music department does in an academic institution. The simple answer is: we train thinking musicians. This can mean a several things, depending on your interests. A number of our courses are concerned with the connection between detailed music analysis and performance, others with performance, with musics of the world, or with the exploration of the connection between compositional styles and the wider intellectual movements in the arts and humanities such as sound studies, creativity, or politics. The concentration offers a great deal of flexibility and ensures that the many diverse interests of our students are represented in its course offerings.
Academic, rather than pre-professional
As a liberal arts program rather than a pre-professional program, the music department does not have an extended performance faculty. We do not offer regular instrumental or vocal lessons, but do offer a large number of performance-based courses each semester. Harvard also offers very competitive dual degree programs (AB/MM) with both the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music that provide their participants with both a broad-based liberal arts education and specialized music training.
“Even though Harvard is an academic school, music at Harvard – both the scene and the department – is absolutely flourishing…I’d meet dozens and dozens of musicians who work and perform at the highest level, whether it be students who were admitted to Juilliard or Curtis, students who work in the joint NEC program, or students who have already launched professional solo and orchestra careers. I have been overwhelmed by the quality of music making at Harvard.”Zach Sheets ’13
Performance groups and classes
The Music Department offers undergraduate classes in which master performers coach chamber music ensembles, vocal ensembles, creative music, jazz, African music traditions, songwriting, or 21st-century ensemble in a number of different settings. In addition, Harvard University’s Office for the Arts hosts 45 music groups from Mariachi to the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra to jazz bands to the Harvard Undergraduate Drummers (THUD).
Harvard has educated a distinguished line of composers from John Adams to Leonard Bernstein to Du Yun. Currently the Department has special strengths in electro-acoustic music, jazz harmony and improvisation, creative music, avant-garde music theatre, songwriting, and instrumental music. Students have the opportunity to hear their work performed in end-of-term recitals as well as by various performance groups on campus.
Thinking across disciplines
Training thinking musicians means fostering connections between music and the other arts and humanities. We regularly offer classes that engage music in a wider cultural context, linking musical works with works of art, literature, or with political or philosophical questions. Many of our students are joint concentrators, who combine the rigorous study of music with another discipline. In their final year they write an honors thesis that combines their two chosen fields. Some combinations are more common than others, but very exciting senior theses have brought such diverse fields as economics, computer science, linguistics, or neuroscience to bear on music.
What can you do with a music degree from Harvard?
The A.B. 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 become lawyers, congressional aides, software developers, sound technicians, arts administrators, and speech pathologists, as well conductors, performers, composers, and music professors. LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR ALUMNI
Resources for Study and Performance
The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library offers an outstanding collection of books and scores, as well as listening equipment for its extensive recording collection. An electronic music studio is available. 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, Bach Society Orchestra, Harvard Glee Club, Collegium Musicum, Radcliffe Choral Society, University Choir, Harvard Group for New Music, Piano Society, Jazz Bands, Lowell House Opera, and numerous a cappella groups, among many others. Students interested in composition may submit works for performance at concerts offered by the department, performance ensembles, and for the Harvard University Prizes. The Office for the Arts offers a special lesson subsidy program for musicians (by audition), as well as information on private teachers in the area. For more details, visit our Resources page.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to conduct pit orchestras, music direct everything from Bernstein to Jason Robert Brown, and compose my thesis. How am I qualified to do any of that? I’m not. But Harvard’s support system is so brilliant, you’re never far from a world-renowned conductor, composer, or director. The most consistent and familiar feeling of my Harvard experience has been coming home from rehearsal (to start homework at 1 a.m.), and only thinking: I’m the luckiest girl in the world. Why do I get to do this?”Madeline Smith ’14
How to Apply
Please note: The Music Department does not have a separate admissions process. All applicants must apply to Harvard College following the procedures listed on the Admissions Office website. All admissions-related questions should be directed to the Admissions Office.
Harvard College admission is open to everyone, including all international students. To begin the application process, learn more about requirements for admissions, learn what courses and activities will prepare you for Harvard, or read about campus tours and visits, please visit the Admissions Office website.
The annual deadline for Harvard College admission is January 1 for entrance the following fall term. There is also an early admissions program with a deadline of November 1.
All applicants must apply to Harvard College. If you are interested in music, the College uses the web-based platform Slideroom to allow you to submit musical materials as an Arts Supplement. Recordings of large bands, orchestras, or ensembles are not recommended, so submit either solo pieces or those that feature you with an accompanist. The choice of material is up to you. There are no live auditions. Please do not send supplemental materials 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 submitting music materials as part of your undergraduate application, please see the Admissions Office website.