Liberal Arts Major in Music

The music major is founded on a balance between the fields of Music History, Ethnomusicology, Theory, and Composition. Five core courses provide a foundation for the broad study of music,  introducing the wide range of traditions within the subject  and providing training in a  series of specialized skills and tools that facilitate and deepen that study. 

While it is possible to complete the major in two years, students should try to begin the major in their freshman or sophomore years; which allows the completion of course work at a moderate pace.  The flexibility within the major means that advising plays a crucial role so students are strongly encouraged to consult with the Undergraduate Chair as well as their College advisors.  Regular consultation with the Undergraduate Chair will help insure an orderly progression through the requirements for the major.

The Music major can be declared by logging in to Path@Penn and submitting a “Declare/Update field of study form”. All potential majors will meet with the Undergraduate Chair prior to declaring the major to discuss coursework, goals and any programmatic questions. They should also complete a declaration statement (short paragraph): 

Why are you choosing a music major? Which subfields are you most interested in exploring (history, composition, theory, ethnomusicology)? Do you think you would like to write a senior thesis to graduate with honors? Do you have an additional major or minor? If so, what? Do you have any ideas yet about what you want to do with your major after Penn?

Course Requirements for the Music Major

1. Core Courses (6 c.u.’s):
(Prerequisite to each of these courses is Music 1700 or the ability to read and analyze music.) 

A. Core Courses in Music History, Ethnomusicology and American Music- (3 c.u.)

Music 2300 [130] – Introduction to European Art Music
Music 2400 [135] – Introduction to the Musical Life of America
Music 2500 [150] – Introduction to Ethnomusicology

B. Music Theory Core Courses - (3 c.u.)

Music 2700 [170] – Music Theory and Musicianship I (1.5 c.u.)
Music 2710 [171] – Music Theory and Musicianship II (1.5 c.u.)

(Both theory courses are required and meet five hours per week, with three hours of theory instruction and two of musicianship training; MUSC2700 AND 2710  fulfill College Formal Reasoning and Analysis Foundational Requirement). 


2. Course Electives (4 c.u.): 

Four c.u.'s of courses numbered 3000 and above.  For a complete list of eligible courses, you can consult the course list found here in the University course catalog.  Course offerings are defined by term and can be searched using the course search function in Path@Penn.  You may also consult with the Undergraduate Chair in Music.


3. Capstone Seminars. (2.0 c.u.)


All majors take two seminars (typically in their Junior or Senior year).  Capstone seminars are taught by all members of the standing faculty on a rotating basis; topics covered will vary and students may repeat registration in MUSC4300, 4500, and 4700.  The seminars may sometimes be offered as joint classes with the graduate program.  MUSC Majors may enroll in graduate seminars (with the permission of the instructor).  Graduate courses can satisfy the capstone requirement.

MUSC4300 – Seminars in Music History

MUSC4500 – Seminars in Ethnomusicology

MUSC4700 – Seminars in Theory and Composition



All MUSC majors are required to complete 2 c.u.’s of participation in performance/ensemble courses.  The performance requirement can be met using the following courses:

MUSC0070, Ensemble Performance

Four sections of MUSC 0070, .5 c.u. per course.  MUSC0070 must be taken for a letter grade (Pass/Fail registration option may not be utilized for this course). Read more about our Performance Ensembles here.  []

MUSC0100  or 0110 (Marian Anderson Performance Programs). 

MUSC0100 is a two semester performance course for majors and minors.  Auditions are required.  Please read more about the program here. 


MUSC 3660, Performance, Analysis, and History (1 c.u.).   

MUSC 3660 may be taken multiple times, but can only count once as a major elective, and no more than twice toward the performance requirement.  Please note that a course that counts as an elective may not ALSO count toward the performance requirement

HONORS (Optional)

To be eligible for departmental honors, a student must have a 3.5 grade point average within the department, and must have completed a senior thesis [registration in MUSC 4097 and 4098 required. See complete guidelines.


-Only one credit transferred from another institution (domestic or study abroad) may count toward requirements. 

-Majors and minors must receive a grade of C or above to satisfy requirements (courses with grades of C- or below will not count). Further, the student must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for all courses taken towards the major of minor.