Guidelines for Independent Studies

Musc 099 Independent Study is designed to provide the student with a unique learning experience not achievable by ordinary course work. It most often involves a capstone project. Students typically consider pursuing an independent study during their junior or senior years.

Only Music majors will be eligible to do an Independent Study in Music. It typically involves either an academic research project (musicology, ethnomusicology, theory), or a creative project (composition), or a combination of them by following an appropriate pathway to the needs of the student and the faculty member who agree on pursuing the independent study. Any member of the standing faculty (and only a member of the standing faculty) may offer an independent study to a student at the professor's discretion.

The independent study may count towards one of the six electives that are required for the major (i.e., courses at the 200 or 300 level, earning one credit each). This independent study (Musc 099) is different from the one taken by students who are eligible for departmental honors and use it to research and write the honors thesis (by taking Musc 239 in their junior year and Musc 259 in senior year, see guidelines here [link to webpage]). However, Musc 099 may fulfill a similar purpose, that is, to provide a capstone experience by pursuing a research project resulting in a substantial final paper, a creative project resulting in one or more musical works, or a mixed-mode project resulting in a creative work using technologies of inscription or involving community engagement.  

General expectations 

A typical independent study in musicology, ethnomusicology or theory will involve weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the faculty sponsor, during which the student’s ongoing academic work will be discussed. Meetings will include regular assignments. Final projects may include a traditional essay, a conference paper, a film, a documentary, or a multimodal work, but other forms can be discussed with the faculty sponsor.  

A typical independent study in composition will involve weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the faculty sponsor during which the student’s ongoing creative work will be discussed. A steady output is expected; the study may be designed around a single, substantial work or may involve smaller projects. Regular listening and score study will be expected. The professor may choose to assign exercises in addition to the student’s creative work. It is possible that a newly composed work may be included on a Penn Sound Collective performance (at the professor’s discretion). 

Other kinds of independent studies are possible with input and consultation from a member of the Music faculty. 

Procedure to start an independent study

(to be followed during the semester preceding the one in which you plan to take Musc 099) 

When you have a clear idea of the topic you would like to study in greater detail, or the creative project you intend to pursue, you should find a faculty sponsor who can supervise your work. Typically, you need to contact the faculty sponsor and agree on the independent study before the final day of classes of the semester preceding the one in which you intend to take the independent study. Before approval, the potential sponsor may ask you to meet in person to discuss the topic and the expectations. When you and your faculty sponsor have decided upon the topic and terms of your independent study, please communicate this by e-mail to the Undergraduate Chair and the Undergraduate Coordinator, no later than the end of the reading period of the semester preceding the one in which you will take the independent study.