Music Department


The music curriculum is structured along three fundamental lines-performance, theory-composition, and history-literature. At MIT it is possible to major, double major, minor or concentrate in Music. Academic credit can be obtained in the fields of Performance, Composition/Theory, History/Culture, World Music, and Jazz.


Many students come to MIT with considerable talent as performers. For them, we provide performance opportunities that may be taken on a for credit or not-for credit basis. Our ensembles, led by faculty of great distinction, are open by audition to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of major. These include a Balinese Gamelan, a Senegalese drumming ensemble, a symphony orchestra, a wind ensemble, a jazz ensemble, jazz combos, two choirs, and dozens of jazz and classical chamber music groups coached by Marcus Thompson, violist and Artistic Director of the Boston Chamber Music Society, pianist David Deveau, Artistic Director of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, clarinetist and Bang on a Can All-star Evan Ziporyn, Jean Rife, on the horn, chamber music and early music faculties at the New England Conservatory and jazz bassist, Keala Kumeheiwa. Those wishing to continue private instrumental lessons while at MIT, should audition for the Emerson Music Scholarship Program for private study.


Our composition program helps student composers develop their skills regardless of prior experience. Students can receive compositional training and performances in a wide variety of genres, from the avant-garde to classical tonality, from jazz arranging to state-of-the-art computer music. Advanced students participate in a composition seminar, which includes opportunities for readings (informal performances) by professional ensembles and the MIT Symphony Orchestra. Composition is also an integral part of many other music subjects, from Jazz Composition and Computer Music to the Harmony/Counterpoint sequence, where students compose original pieces in various period styles.

Our theory curriculum covers an equally wide range and accommodates all skills levels, giving students a solid grounding in the harmonic and contrapuntal techniques of tonal music, as well as expanding into contemporary practices in both classical music and jazz.

Our composition faculty includes Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison, Bang on a Can All-star Evan Ziporyn, and highly regarded and widely performed, distinguished composers Peter Child, Keeril Makan, Elena Ruehr and Charles Shadle.


For those of you who wish to obtain a basic knowledge of music, we offer three introductory subjects: Western Music, World Music, and The Supernatural in Music, Literature and Culture. Within Western Music, we offer fourteen advanced subjects. Our chronological series of six begins with Early Music and ends with Music since 1960, while the remaining eight focus on genres or selected cultures: Symphony and Concerto, Opera, Song, Musicals of Stage and Screen, Film Music, American Music, Jazz, and Folk Music of the British Isles and North America. In the realm of World Music, we offer four advanced subjects: three focus on the regions of Africa, India and Indonesia, while the fourth concerns Popular Musics of the World. Eminent scholars, composers and performers teach these twenty-one subjects, some of which are allied with our performing ensembles (e.g., Music of Africa with the Senegalese Drum Ensemble and Music of Indonesia with the Gamelan Galak Tika).

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At MIT it is common to find students who are so musically talented they could thrive at conservatories, if that is what they chose to do.”

Peter Child
Professor of Music