Music Department


MIT Emerson Scholarship/Fellowship Program
for Private Study

Funded by Mr. Cherry L. Emerson, Jr. (SM, 1941) the Emerson Program offers merit-based financial assistance for private lessons to MIT students who demonstrate outstanding achievement on their instrument or voice in classical, jazz or world music. Each academic year private study scholarships and fellowships are offered to approximately 50 qualified students out of about 100 who apply and audition. Private teacher selections, made in consultation with the music faculty, may include instructors from MIT or from the greater Boston musical community.


If you are a beginning musician or are not offered an award, you are encouraged to pursue private instruction independently. For advice about an appropriate instructor, email

Emerson Scholarship

Open to all enrolled MIT students, the Emerson Scholarship is an award of up to $800 paid directly to a private instructor for 10, one-hour lessons during the spring semester after a student has prepaid and successfully completed 10 lessons in the fall semester. Students must prepay for the 10 lessons in the fall and are responsible for costs in excess of the $800 awarded for the second semester.

  1. Scholars self-fund, pre-pay, and complete 10, one-hour lessons in the fall semester.
    Scholars participate in an MIT Music and Theater Arts music performance subject on a for-credit or non-credit basis. Options are listed below.
  2. Scholars present a 10-minute public performance at the end of each semester.
  3. Scholars must receive a satisfactory instructor evaluation for the fall semester.
  4. Vocal Scholars must register for 21M.410/515 Vocal Repertoire & Performance or 21M.252 on a credit or non-credit basis, but if over qualified may request exemption from the Emerson Vocal Advisor.
  5. Academic credit is not awarded for private lessons as an Emerson Scholar.

Optional Scholar Recital:

Scholars may petition and audition for a limited number of one-hour, solo spring recital opportunities via an application form signed by the private instructor and submitted to the Music Office. If approval for a recital is granted, a student may register for 21M.490 and receive 6 units of credit for the solo recital preparation and performance.

Emerson Fellowship

Only sophomores, juniors and seniors, and experienced graduate students, may audition for the Fellowship, which funds two semesters of 10, one-hour lessons. Fellows are required to register for the subject Advanced Music Performance, 21M480/512. To audition for a Fellowship, all eligible applicants must have completed a full year of study, with the same private instructor. Fellows must continue studying with that instructor throughout the Fellowship year.

  1. Students who accept the Fellowship commit to a full academic year of private study and enroll in and attend 21M.480/512. The class meets for two hours weekly.
  2. Fellows must participate in a Music and Theater Arts performance subject from the listed below on a for-credit or non-credit basis.

Performance Subject Options

Emerson Scholars and Fellows are required to participate in one of the following:

21M.401 Concert Choir
21M.405 Chamber Chorus
21M.421 Symphony Orchestra
21M.426 Wind Ensemble
21M.442 Festival Jazz Ensemble
21M.445 Chamber Music Society including Jazz Combos and Vocal Jazz Ensemble
21M.451 Piano Accompanying


  • Auditions are held during the first week and weekend after Labor Day. The audition schedule will be posted in front of Rm. 4-243.
  • All applicants must prepare and perform 15-minutes of music for a panel of adjudicators.
  • All applicants should be prepared to sight-read/sight-sing.
  • Classical instrumentalists prepare two different pieces of music of contrasting styles and periods that show the complete range of their ability.
  • Percussionists must audition on at least two of the three major percussion instruments (timpani, mallet instruments, snare drum). Timpani auditions will include basic tuning, snare drum auditions will include basic rudiments, and mallet auditions will include scales. The two required etudes/solo compositions should have contrasting styles represented. Sight-reading on two instruments will be required.
  • Vocalists should prepare three memorized art songs of different styles, at least one of which should be in English. An accompanist will be provided. Please provide a copy of the music, two-sided and bound for the accompanist.
  • Jazz instrumentalists, in addition to two prepared pieces in contrasting styles, will be expected to demonstrate their improvisation skills.
  • Drum set performers should prepare two pieces in contrasting styles, sight-reading of basic swing and Latin/funk charts and performance of four/eight bars of time followed by four/eight bars of soloing in both swing and funk/Latin styles at a medium tempo will also be required.
  • Jazz vocalists should prepare three songs in the following styles: ballad, medium swing, latin or straight feel. At least two of the songs should be jazz standards. Improvisation on one of the songs or on a simple blues form is required.
  • An Emerson jazz audition may also serve as an audition for the Festival Jazz Ensemble or jazz combo.

Application Procedure

If you wish to audition for a scholarship or fellowship, click here to complete and submit an application.

Application Deadline: August 21

Auditions take place during the first week and weekend after Labor day.

Students wishing to audition on more than one instrument / voice must submit separate forms for each audition. Although you may audition on two instruments and be offered scholarships on each, we usually allow acceptance of only one award.


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The Chamber Music Society and Emerson Scholarship Program at MIT gave me an unparalleled opportunity to grow as a chamber and solo musician.”

Sherman Jia ’06