Introduction to the Music Department

The Music Department is a vibrant department that enrolls over five hundred students every term in a flexible and broad curriculum that offers an array of courses in performance, composition, theory, history, popular music, electronic music, media, and ethnomusicology. We offer a Music Major and a minor in American Music.

Carleton’s ensembles include Orchestra, Choir, Symphony Band, Jazz Ensemble, African Drumming, Chinese Music, African Karimba and Mbira, and Chamber Music (Western, Folk, Jazz, and Non-Western); we offer private lessons in all traditional instruments and voice, and many folk and non-Western instruments. The personal and rigorous attention each student receives is from faculty members who represent diversity in their field on the international stage, including academic presentations at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performances around the world, and research with collaborators around the US, and in China, the UK, and Finland.

The Music Department regularly presents internationally acclaimed guest artists in concert and in classes with students, and we provide many opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Majors have presented work at, and regularly attend, national conferences; recent graduates have continued their studies at Harvard, The Royal College of Music (London), Indiana University, and the Boston Conservatory. Others have continued on to law school, medical school, or other professions, where a music major or double major was integral to their personal and professional success, and music continues to play a formative role in their lives.

The Music Department will be moving into new facilities in the Weitz Center for Creativity in the Fall of 2017. The new facilities will boast a 400-seat flexible performance hall, an 80-seat recital/rehearsal hall, a chamber rehearsal room, a jazz room, an ElectroAcoustic Lab, and all-new practice rooms and teaching spaces with built-in A/V recording capabilities.

Mission Statement

The study of music in a liberal arts setting develops logical thinking, critical analysis, musical literacy, historical consciousness, cultural sensitivity, and aesthetic values. The human dimensions that music is especially capable of revealing—emotional nuance, beauty, and imagination—are also central to the liberal arts ideal. Creative musical activity cultivates feelings of accomplishment and facilitates the search for meaning. Many Carleton students with outstanding academic records believe their work as musicians is the most challenging they undertake as undergraduates. Composing, performing, or writing about music requires talent, initiative, risk, and reflection, and demands the courage to stand up for a personal vision realized through exacting attention to detail. Collaborating in music-making encourages sympathetic communication, attention to others, and clear personal expression. These processes stimulate personal, intellectual, and social growth and have a positive, lasting influence.

Private Music Lessons

We offer private music lessons from an extensive music faculty with strong teaching and performing backgrounds.  Our music faculty members are mindful of the need to engage students in the learning process by providing a supportive environment that encourages personal growth and the exploration of individual potential. Music majors are eligible for free applied study.

Ensembles and Chamber Music

The Ensemble Program and the Chamber Music Program give students a wonderful opportunity to play music with others, and provide a rich learning experience that focuses on how the individual contributes to the group.

Music Courses

Music courses offer students the opportunity to develop as performers and composers, and in writing about and the analysis of a wide range of musics. The Music Department offers courses in performance, composition, theory, history, popular music, electronic music, media, and ethnomusicology.

Eugene Bailey Program

The Bailey program was established by a generous gift from the estate of S. Eugene Bailey, who was a member of Carleton's Music faculty from 1946-1975. This program is for all students who might consider a music major, who play an orchestral instrument (strings, woodwinds and brass), and who plan to participate in one or more of the following Carleton ensembles: Orchestra, Symphonic Band, or Jazz Ensemble. The program will cover the College grant portion of a student's financial aid package. In addition, students will receive private lessons on their primary instrument free of charge for every term of eligibility, and will be eligible to apply for financial support for a summer of music study at a national or international music institute of their choice.

Applications can be renewed annually as long as criteria for eligibility are met. These criteria include: the student is a declared music major or is considering majoring in music at Carleton; the student enrolls and successfully completes private lessons on the major orchestral instrument; the student enrolls in and successfully completes one of the above instrumental ensembles.

Current students may apply for this program by completing an application form that is available in the Music Hall Lobby. Prospective students must first be accepted to Carleton College, and must then schedule an audition and interview with the instrumental faculty of the College during New Student Week.

Summer Study Support

In addition to the S. Eugene Bailey program, the Class of 1963 Fellowships and the Independent Research Fellowships also offer opportunities for summer study between the Junior and Senior years. Materials detailing these fellowships are available from the Office of the Associate Dean of the College. These programs, in addition to providing funding for tuition and travel, can include funding of up to $1000 to replace summer earnings. These programs have been used by music majors both for research projects and for attending summer music programs such as those at Bowdoin, Aspen, Tanglewood, Round Top, etc.