Concentration FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Music Concentration

GENERAL
CONCENTRATION REQUIREMENTS
DECLARING THE CONCENTRATION

GENERAL

How does the concentration work?

Prior to 2019, Music concentrators had to pursue one of three tracks: History/Theory/Composition, Ethnomusicology, or Computer Music and Multimedia. Our revised concentration offers a single, flexible set of requirements that can be tailored to each individual student’s interests.

There were two principal considerations driving this change. First, we wanted to give students the flexibility to chart their own pathway through our curriculum. A jazz pianist can learn to compose experimental concert music, a classically trained cellist can gain experience in studio production, or a musical theater performer can develop an interest in Latin American music, popular music theory, or instrument building. Students can choose courses that reflect their interests while expanding their intellectual and creative horizons.

Second, our intention was to make the concentration more accessible to students with a wide variety of backgrounds and goals. A sitar player, a DJ, or an aspiring singer-songwriter with no prior experience with music notation can all develop their musicianship fundamentals at Brown and flourish in the Music concentration.
[back to top]

Can I still concentrate in one of the old Music tracks (History/Theory/Composition, Ethnomusicology, or Computer Music and Multimedia)?

Any course of study that could be undertaken in our previous concentration structure remains possible. A student interested in Computer Music and Multimedia, for instance, can still take the foundational courses in that area—Computers and Music (MUSC 0200), Recording Studio as Compositional Tool (MUSC 1200), and Real-Time Systems (MUSC 1210)—as well as more advanced course offerings at the MUSC 12XX and MUSC 22XX level. The difference is that we no longer require our concentrators to follow a particular track.
[back to top]

Can I get course credit for performance? Does Brown offer a concentration in music performance?

Performance ensembles and individual lessons through the Applied Music Program can be taken for half a credit per semester. Up to four half-credits in performance (i.e., two course credits) can be applied towards the ten credits required for the Music concentration. There is no limit on the number of half-credit performance courses that can be counted towards the 30 credits required for the Brown degree.

It is possible to participate in ensembles on a not-for-credit basis. Some students elect to do so if they are already enrolled in five credits (the maximum permitted at Brown) in a given semester. In Chamber Music, at least one student in each group must be enrolled for course credit.

Brown does not offer a separate concentration in music performance, but our program offers opportunities for rigorous training through private lessons, ensembles, and coursework in music theory and musicianship. Some of our students go on to pursue graduate degrees at conservatories and careers as performers.
[back to top]

Can I take music lessons or participate in an ensemble if I am not a Music concentrator?

Yes! All Music Department courses are open to all Brown students, provided they have satisfied the prerequisites. Participation in ensembles and the Applied Music Program is determined by audition, and equal consideration is given to concentrators and non-concentrators. In fact, most of the students who perform in our ensembles concentrate in fields other than Music. Some of our ensembles, including Javanese Gamelan and Ghanaian Drumming and Dancing, require no prior experience in that musical tradition.
[back to top]

How do I chart a path through the concentration?

Personalized advising is integral to our program. Prospective concentrators work with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to devise a course of study that supports the student’s goals in Music. Once the concentration declaration is approved, the student is paired with a faculty Concentration Advisor who can help refine and revise the course plan throughout the student’s time at Brown. In the senior year, students work with a capstone or thesis advisor (who may or may not be the same person as the Concentration Advisor) to undertake a culminating project in the concentration.
[back to top]

What can you do with an A.B. from Brown with a concentration in Music?

The A.B. from Brown with a concentration in Music is a liberal arts degree, and our students undertake a wide variety of paths after graduation. Some become professional musicians, composers, producers, music scholars, or arts administrators. Others pursue careers in fields well served by a liberal arts training, including law, education, technology, or public policy. Like the opportunities at Brown, the possibilities are endless.
[back to top]

CONCENTRATION REQUIREMENTS

What are the requirements for the concentration?

The requirements for the Music concentration are outlined here.
[back to top]

Which music theory courses should I take? Can I get credit for my AP courses?

We administer a placement test at the beginning of each academic year for students with prior theory experience. The test is only given during the first class meeting for MUSC 0550, so please plan accordingly.

Students with no prior experience with music theory will generally take either MUSC 0400A (Introduction to Music Theory) or MUSC 0400B (Introduction to Popular Music Theory and Songwriting), and then MUSC 0550 (Theory of Tonal Music I; offered every fall). Some students place into MUSC 0550 and then take either MUSC 0560 (Theory of Tonal Music II; offered every spring) or MUSC 0570 (Jazz and Pop Harmony; offered every spring). If a student tests out of MUSC 0550, they can fulfill the theory requirement by taking either MUSC 0560 or MUSC 0570, and then an advanced theory course above the 1000 level.

We do not award course credit for AP Music Theory, but students with prior theory experience will be placed into the appropriate course.
[back to top]

Which courses satisfy the musicology/ethnomusicology requirement?

Since our course offerings vary every year, we do not maintain a standing list of upper-level musicology and ethnomusicology courses. Generally speaking, courses that fulfill the requirement have a course designation of MUSC 15XX, MUSC 16XX, MUSC 19XX, or MUSC 20XX. For specific inquiries, speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies or your Concentration Advisor.
[back to top]

What non-Music courses can I include in my course plan?

We evaluate non-Music courses on a case-by-case basis. The essential criterion is whether the course supports the student’s goals in the concentration. For example: a student interested in composing for musical theater might take a TAPS course in playwriting; a multimedia sound artist could include coursework in Visual Arts or at RISD; or a student with a research interest in gospel music might pursue relevant coursework in Religious Studies or Africana Studies.
[back to top]

What types of projects can fulfill the senior project requirement? What is the difference between a capstone and an honors thesis?

The senior project can take the form of a scholarly study, performance, or original creative work, or some combination of the above. Students work with their Concentration Advisor and capstone/thesis advisor to design a project appropriate for their goals and interests. Descriptions of recent senior projects are available here.

The difference between a capstone and an honors thesis is primarily one of scope. A capstone is a one-semester project with a single faculty advisor, undertaken in the seventh or eighth semester. The work may be done as an independent study (MUSC 1970), within the framework of an existing course (e.g., an expansion of a research paper in a seminar, or a final creative project in a Music and Multimedia Composition course), or outside of the course-for-credit structure (e.g., a recital or a community-based project).

Students who pursue Honors in Music complete an honors thesis, which is a two-semester project with two faculty committee members: a primary advisor and a second reader. Honors candidates should secure committee members by the end of the sixth semester, and must submit a thesis proposal for review by the full Music faculty at the beginning of the seventh semester. Examples of recent honors proposals are available here (Brown login required). Seniors working on honors theses may enroll in MUSC 1970 (Independent Study) in either semester, but this is not required.
[back to top]

DECLARING THE CONCENTRATION

How do I declare a concentration in Music?

Prospective concentrators should meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss their goals and interests in Music. Once the student has done so, they can draft a concentration declaration in ASK (ask.brown.edu). The declaration consists of a 500-1000 word personal statement, a course plan, and responses to a few shorter essay prompts (including a question about the proposed senior project).
[back to top]

The course plan should contain exactly ten credits, distributed as follows: two credits in music theory; four credits above the 1000 level in music scholarship, production, or advanced theory, at least one of which must be in musicology or ethnomusicology; and four credits in additional electives. Half-credit courses (ensembles, AMP, and Advanced Musicianship I and II) should be counted accordingly. Students may take more than ten credits in Music—and many of our concentrators do—but the declaration should be limited to ten.

I’m a sophomore and am not yet sure what I want to do for a senior project. Do I need to commit to a plan when I declare the concentration?

We expect that students’ interests will evolve as they progress through the concentration, and that plans for the senior project may change. We only ask prospective concentrators to start thinking about possibilities early to help guide conversations about course planning and advising.

At the beginning of the senior year, concentrators must declare their plans for the senior project, either by submitting an honors thesis proposal or by indicating how they intend to complete the capstone requirement.
[back to top]

Can I choose my Concentration Advisor?

While we make every effort to take student preferences and interests into account, we assign Concentration Advisors in order to distribute the advising workload equitably among Music faculty. Concentrators who wish to change advisors may contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
[back to top]

Spotlight