Music at Columbia College

Columbia College is a liberal arts college for men and women. It was founded in 1754, and currently has 3,700 students, making it the smallest college in the Ivy League. Students earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The cornerstone of a Columbia College education is its core curriculum, a body of required courses in literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science, all taught in seminar-style classes. View the Columbia College Bulletin for detailed information on courses and major/concentration requirements.

Columbia College Website

Contact Information:
Professor Aaron A. Fox
aaf19 [at] columbia.edu
Director of Undergraduate Studies for Columbia College, 2019-2020

A program of study should be planned with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first semester of sophomore year. Students planning to focus on a particular area (computer music, composition, ethnomusicology, music theory or music history) may wish to select a faculty adviser in that area.  For students who plan to do graduate work in music, studying German, French, Italian and/or Latin is recommended.

The major requires a minimum of 40 points including:

  1. Keyboard Harmony/Musicianship MUSI UN1518:  Required only if student does not pass piano proficiency exam.
  2. Fundamentals of Music UN1002:  Required only if student does not pass placement exam for Music Theory I.
  3. Music Theory I - IV MUSI UN2318UN2319UN3321UN3322:  Students who pass the Music Theory I placement exam may request to take a Music Theory II placement exam; students must complete up to Music Theory IV.
  4. Introductory Ear Training UN1312:  Required only if student does not qualify on placement exam for Ear Training I.
  5. Ear Training I - IV MUSI UN2314UN2315UN3316 & UN3317:  Students take a placement exam to determine where in the Ear Training sequence they will begin; students must complete up to Ear Training IV.  Ear Training V & VI are optional (MUSI GU4318 & GU4319).
  6. History of Western Music I: Middle Ages To Baroque MUSI UN3128:  Required for all students.
  7. History of Western Music II: Classical To the 20th Century MUSI UN3129:  Required for all students.
  8. Topics in Music and Society MUSI UN3400:  Required for all students.
  9. Electives:  At least (2) 3000 or 4000-level electives.
  10. Electives:  The remaining points are to be earned through 1000-level MPP courses, 2000, 3000 or 4000-level courses subject to these constraints:  No more than 4 points of 1000-level MPP courses and UN1518 combined, no more than 6 points of 2000-level courses.

Note:  Undergraduates interested in focusing in the area of Composition must take these courses in this order:

  • Music Theory II/MUSI UN2319
  • Techniques of 20th Century Music/MUSI UN3310
  • Introduction to Composition/MUSI UN3239
  • Advanced Composition/MUSI UN3241

FOR A CONCENTRATION IN MUSIC

A program of study should be planned with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first semester of sophomore year. All concentrators must consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies each term before registering. 

The concentration requires a minimum of 28 points including:

  1. Keyboard Harmony/Musicianship MUSI UN1518:  Required only if student does not pass piano proficiency exam.
  2. Fundamentals of Music UN1002:  Required only if student does not pass placement exam for Music Theory I.
  3. Music Theory I - IV MUSI UN2318UN2319UN3321UN3322:  Students who pass the Music Theory I placement exam may request to take a Music Theory II placement exam; students must complete up to Music Theory IV.
  4. Introductory Ear Training UN1312:  Required only if student does not qualify on placement exam for Ear Training I.
  5. Ear Training I - IV MUSI UN2314UN2315UN3316 & UN3317:  Students take a placement exam to determine where in the Ear Training sequence they will begin; students must complete up to Ear Training IV.  Ear Training V & VI are optional (MUSI GU4318 & GU4319).
  6. History of Western Music I: Middle Ages To Baroque MUSI UN3128:  Required for all students.
  7. History of Western Music II: Classical To the 20th Century MUSI UN3129:  Required for all students.
  8. Topics in Music and Society MUSI UN3400:  Required for all students.
  9. Electives:  At least (1) 3000 or 4000-level electives.
  10. Electives:  The remaining points are to be earned through 1000-level MPP courses, 2000, 3000 or 4000-level courses subject to these constraints:  No more than 4 points of 1000-level MPP courses and UN1518 combined, no more than 6 points of 2000-level courses.

Note:  Undergraduates interested in focusing in the area of Composition must take these courses in this order:

  • Music Theory II/MUSI UN2319
  • Techniques of 20th Century Music/MUSI UN3310
  • Introduction to Composition/MUSI UN3239
  • Advanced Composition/MUSI UN3241

There are several means for Columbia College students to carry their studies in music beyond current undergraduate course offerings: Independent Study and Departmental Honors. Both require prior agreement with the Department of Music concerned. The Departmental Honors course carries restrictions, as noted below.

INDEPENDENT STUDY

This is available to Columbia College students. (Independent Study is also available to School of General Studies and Barnard College students, but does not to count toward the major.)

The student must develop a plan of study with a faculty supervisor and then obtain the approval of the Department. Ordinarily, only seniors are allowed to register. A creative/scholarly project conducted under faculty supervision, leading to completion of an essay, composition, or the equivalent.

DEPARTMENTAL HONORS

Music majors in Columbia College and General Studies, with a minimum grade point average of 3.6 in departmental courses, may apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first term of his or her senior year to be considered as a candidate for departmental honors. A written proposal must be submitted to an appropriate faculty advisor no later than two weeks before the last day of classes of the student's penultimate (usually autumn) term, in order to register for UN3996-Honors research in the final (usually spring) term. Honors research is taken in addition to the ordinary requirements for the major. In Columbia College and the School of General Studies, honors will be awarded to no more than 10 percent of graduating music majors for the distinguished completion of this project and maintenance of a 3.6 departmental grade point average.

A creative/scholarly project conducted under faculty supervision, leading to completion of an honors essay, composition, or the equivalent.

Open only to honors candidates in music: see the Columbia College Bulletin, "Departmental Honors" for eligibility requirements.

The special concentration in jazz studies is an interdisciplinary liberal arts course of study that uses jazz music—and the jazz culture from which the music emanated—as a prism through which to study jazz culture during what might be termed the long jazz century, the sprawling twentieth. The curriculum in jazz studies guides students in developing a firm grounding in the traditions and aesthetic motives of jazz music, viewed through the perspectives of music history and ethnomusicology as well as literary theory and cultural studies. 

Learn more about the Special Concentration in Jazz here:

Jazz Studies Special Concentration

Learn more about the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program and Jazz at Columbia:

Jazz Performance Program

Exceptionally talented Columbia College and Barnard College students have access by competitive audition to instrumental and voice instruction at The Juilliard School. There are two separate programs, The Exchange and The Joint Program. Learn more about these programs:

COLUMBIA-BARNARD-JUILLIARD PROGRAMS

Interested students should also refer to information available on the website for the Juilliard School.