Music at Barnard College

Founded in 1889, Barnard is a small liberal arts and sciences college for women. Our unique and longstanding partnership with Columbia University provides students with a vast selection of additional course offerings, extracurricular activities, NCAA Division I Ivy League athletics, and a fully coeducational social life. A Barnard education is structured around The Nine Ways of Knowing, a flexible set of requirements designed to equip students to respond critically and creatively to a rapidly changing world and debate ideas from new perspectives. Our faculty is comprised of leading scholars who serve as dedicated, accessible teachers to our diverse community of 2400 extraordinary women. The College’s metropolitan location grants students access to thousands of internships in addition to excellent cultural, intellectual, and social resources. Barnard students graduate from the University, though we remain an independent institution.

Barnard Music Department Website

Contact Information: Marquita Amoah, Senior Admissions Officer at mamoah [at]

 or 212-854-2014 or Barnard’s Music Major Adviser for Barnard College: Professor Gail Archer, garcher [at]

For detailed information on all Music options and requirements at Barnard, please see the Barnard catalog website:

Barnard Catalog - Music

The Music Major of Barnard College provides both a core of foundational studies and an opportunity to specialize in one of the areas of music such as composition, computer music studies, ethnomusicology, music history, or music theory. The Major, which is taught in conjunction with the Department of Music of Columbia University, is designed to take its place within Barnard's liberal arts program. Its purpose is to give the student the experience of doing sustained and advanced work, including the possibility of independent research, within the field of music. The major is not designed to produce professional musicians (although those who major in Music while participating in the Barnard-Columbia-Juilliard Exchange Program, or engage in Barnard's exchange arrangement with Manhattan School of Music, may well go on to be such), and performance is not a primary component; nor is the Major designed specifically as a preparation for graduate study in music, at Columbia or elsewhere, although it can successfully serve this purpose.

The point at which a student must elect the Music Major is, at latest, the second term of the sophomore year. However, it is essential to plan for the major well in advance of that, since the prerequisites must all be completed by the end of the sophomore year. In fact, it may be advantageous to complete them by the end of the first year. It is therefore advisable to talk with the Department of Music's consultant early in your time at Barnard College - by the first semester of the sophomore year at the latest.


The major requires at least 40 points, plus a Senior Project, including:

  1. Keyboard Harmony/Musicianship MUSI UN1518:  Required only if student does not pass piano proficiency exam.
  2. Fundamentals of Music UN1002:  Required only if student does not pass placement exam for Music Theory I.
  3. Music Theory I - IV MUSI UN2318UN2319UN3321UN3322:  Students who pass the Music Theory I placement exam may request to take a Music Theory II placement exam; students must complete up to Music Theory IV.
  4. Introductory Ear Training UN1312:  Required only if student does not qualify on placement exam for Ear Training I.
  5. Ear Training I - IV MUSI UN2314UN2315UN3316 & UN3317:  Students take a placement exam to determine where in the Ear Training sequence they will begin; students must complete up to Ear Training IV.  Ear Training V & VI are optional (MUSI GU4318 & GU4319).
  6. History of Western Music I: Middle Ages To Baroque MUSI UN3128:  Required for all students.
  7. History of Western Music II: Classical To the 20th Century MUSI UN3129:  Required for all students.
  8. Topics in Music and Society MUSI UN3400:  Required for all students.
  9. Electives:  At least (2) 3000 or 4000-level electives.
  10. Electives:  The remaining points are to be earned through 1000-level MPP courses, 2000, 3000 or 4000-level courses subject to these constraints:  No more than 4 points of 1000-level MPP courses and UN1518 combined, no more than 6 points of 2000-level courses.

Note:  Undergraduates interested in focusing in the area of Composition must take these courses in this order:

  • Music Theory II/MUSI UN2319
  • Techniques of 20th Century Music/MUSI UN3310
  • Introduction to Composition/MUSI UN3239
  • Advanced Composition/MUSI UN3241

In addition, a Senior Project is required: working with her advisor, a major must complete an original project in her senior year. Normally, it may be the expansion of a paper done in a 4000-level course (as long as it deals with primary sources), a composition, or a recital:

  • BC3990 Senior Project: Research for Music. 3 pts.
  • BC3991 Senior Project: Music Repertory. 3 pts.

Courses in which a grade of D or lower has been received do not count toward the major requirement.

More details about the requirements of the Music Major program can be found on the Barnard Catalog website:


Ethnomusicology Track in the Music Major

The Ethnomusicology track should be chosen no later than the fall semester of a student's junior year. At that time, a student's intention to declare this track must be approved in consultation both with Prof. Archer and with the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser (the Head of the Ethnomusicology Faculty Area). The Ethnomusicology track is demanding and presumes a serious commitment to the subject. Read more in the section below.

Barnard College is one of the few colleges in the US where you can complete an undergraduate major in the field of Ethnomusicology, specifically. This academic major track (please note that it does not focus on the performance of non-western music, although there are opportunities for doing this) provides a unique opportunity for BC students with a serious and scholarly interest in the field of Ethnomusicology. This track is especially intended to prepare students for graduate study and careers in music, anthropology, music business and technology, and library/information science, among other related fields. 

This program offers undergraduates rich access to the faculty and resources of Columbia's highly-ranked graduate (MA/PhD) program in Ethnomusicology. The undergraduate offering has a long and distinguished track record as a "special major" at Barnard. In 2009, the special major was converted into a pre-approved major track within the BC Music major.

Please note, Columbia College and School of General Studies students cannot pursue this track in the Music major. Please contact Prof. Fox if you are a CC/GS student with a specific interest in pursuing Ethnomusicology.

If you are a Barnard College first or second year student and you are even considering declaring the special Ethnomusicology track in the BC Music major, please get in touch (as soon as possible) with the BC Ethnomusicology Adviser. The BC Ethnomusicology Adviser will always be a member of the Ethnomusicology Area faculty. For 2016-17, that person is Prof. Aaron Fox, whose email address is: aaf19 [at]


Again, even if you are just thinking about pursuing the Ethnomusicology track, you should contact the BC Ethnomusicology adviser sooner rather than later, and for certain during your sophomore year. (You are more than welcome to get in touch with the BC Ethno Adviser during your freshman year!) There will be an informational meeting on this major track each spring, before BC major declarations are required, which major-declaring sophomores (and first-years as well) are urged to attend. Watch for notification of this meeting in March or early April from Prof. Fox or Prof. Archer. 

Entrance into the Ethnomusicology Track is not automatic or guaranteed and must be approved by the BC Ethnomusicology Adviser. In most cases entry into this track will be determined based on your performance in prior music classes, and especially in MUSI UN3400 "Topics in Music and Society," now required for all Music majors, or UN3420 "The Social Science of Music," offered in alternate years. For this reason, if you are considering the BC Ethnomusicology major track, you should strongly consider taking MUSI UN3400/3420 in your sophomore year, or possibly even your freshman year in some cases.  

If that is not possible, it is ideal that you take at least one elective class with a member of the Ethnomusicology-area faculty (currently Profs. Fox, Ochoa, Washburne, Ciucci, and Fellezs) before the end  of your sophomore year. If you have taken no courses with Ethnomusicology-area faculty, acceptance into the Ethnomusicology track will depend strongly on an interview with the BC Ethnomusicology adviser, which you should arrange before Major declaration.  

The Ethnomusicology faculty will consider allowing students to "switch" into the Ethnomusicology track after declaring a "standard" BC Music major, but such a switch must be declared no later than the end of the first semester of the junior year, as it will become impossible to fulfill the specific requirements for the Ethnomusicology track if you wait longer than that. Those who switch "into" the BC Ethno track from the standard BC Music major must be enrolled in, or have already taken, MUSI UN3400 or MUSI UN3420. Be aware that while the western music theory and history and keyboard requirements for the Ethnomusicology track are reduced from the standard Major, that difference is more than made up in additional requirements for anthropology courses and thesis-related coursework.  You must have a positive intention to pursue the Ethnomusicology major. It can never be a "fallback" option for students who have difficulty with required theory/history coursework in the standard Music major. 

In general, the Ethnomusicology track is most suitable for students who have a primarily scholarly interest in music, combined with curiosity about music across the spectrum of human cultures and societies, popular music and music technology, and social scientific approaches to studying music as human culture.  Because of the intensity of the thesis process in the Ethnomusicology track, it is not well suited for students who struggle with writing or who are not drawn to academic research or wish to focus on music performance in their studies.  It is especially suited to students who are considering going on to graduate study in ethnomusicology (or related fields such as anthropology, library science, or popular cultural/media studies), as have many of the program's alumnae.  

A final caveat: no BC student may declare a special (or self-designed) major that includes portions of the Ethnomusicology track (such as combining Ethnomusicology with an area studies focus, dance, gender studies, etc.) without consulting the BC Ethnomusicology adviser well in advance filing a petition for a special major with the Barnard Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS) and obtaining her/his approval for the petition. You may not propose or pursue modifications to the Ethnomusicology track requirements without approval from the BC Ethnomusicology adviser. Special major petitions to the BC CPAS that include coursework in ethnomusicology must be approved by the BC Ethnomusicology adviser, and we will work with you to make such a proposal effective.

Choosing the Ethnomusicology Track in the Barnard College Music Major

The Ethnomusicology track must be chosen no later than the fall semester of a student's junior year and ideally at the time of major declaration in the sophomore year. At or before that time, a student's intention to declare this track must be approved in consultation both with Prof. Archer and with the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser (the Head of the Ethnomusicology Faculty Area). The Ethnomusicology track is demanding and presumes a serious commitment to the subject.

Ethnomusicology track students must take Topics in Music and Society (MUSI UN3400) or The Social Science of Music (MUSI UN3420, offered irregularly) no later than their junior year, and ideally in their sophomore year. This course is considered the "gateway" course for the Ethnomusicology track curriculum. If you are considering the Ethnomusicology track, you are strongly advised to take this course (or MUSI UN3420) during your sophomore year, since in any case it is required for the general Music major as well. If you cannot do so, you should discuss this with the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser (the Head of the Ethnomusicology Faculty Area).

The ethnomusicology track emphasizes anthropological and cross-cultural perspectives on music. All Ethnomusicology track majors must take at least two courses (one introductory, and one elective) in anthropology at the recommendation of the Barnard anthropology department and in consultation with ethnomusicology faculty at Columbia.

The Ethnomusicology track also emphasizes music theory and musicianship.  Ethnomusicology track students must begin the Diatonic Harmony and Ear Training sequences in the junior year, with only rare exceptions. A semester of Western music history is also required. This differs from the regular Music major, which requires two semesters of Western music history and two years of music theory.

Ethnomusicology track students are expected to produce a scholarly senior thesis project (NB: not a performance project) based on closely supervised original research. Generally this project will entail some ethnographic field research, and in most cases students are strongly advised to take Field Methods (MUSI GU4401) in their junior or senior year as one of their upper division elective courses.  All Ethnomusicology track students must take the Senior Seminar (BC 3992) in the fall of their senior year, and complete their thesis in a 3-credit independent study with a faculty member in the spring of their senior year.  

Course requirements for The Ethnomusicology Track


Gateway Class (3 credits)

Music Theory/Ear Training (8 credits)

Performance (up to 4 credits)

Music History (6 credits)

  • One 3000-level western music history course (3 credits)
  • One Asian Humanities-Music (AHMM) course (3 credits)

Anthropology  (6 credits)

  • Two courses in Anthropology, one at the introduction to cultural anthropology level; the other, an elective (6 credits)

Electives in Ethnomusicology (9 credits)

  • Three ethnomusicology electives, one at the 2000 level and the others from the upper division electives (9 credits).  It is highly recommended that one of the upper division electives be Field Methods Seminar (MUSI GU4401), to be taken either in the junior or senior year.

Senior Thesis Project (6 credits total)

  • Ethnographic thesis of 30-40 pages, developed over the senior year for a total of 6 credits, divided as follows:
    • FALL of Senior Year: 3 credits of Senior Seminar (MUSI UN3992)
    • SPRING of Senior Year: 3 credits of Independent Study (MUSI 3999), Advised by Ethnomusicology faculty member assigned by the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser.

 More details about the requirements of the Music Major and the Ethnomusicology Track can be found on the Barnard Catalog website:


The Minor in Music at Barnard College, which must be undertaken while also doing a Major in another department (or a combined or special major), provides a student with the experience of doing sustained and advanced work within the field of music.

The Minor in Music can be elected at any time up to graduation; however, in practice a student should confer with the departmental consultant to plan her program well before the beginning of her senior year.


No prerequisites are specified for the Minor. However, all of the courses that the student will take carry their own prerequisites.


Students must choose courses from three categories:

  • Four terms of Music Theory
  • Four terms of Ear-training
  • Two terms of Music History (i.e. UN3123-UN3126)

The individual courses to be taken are not specified. Up to two of the courses taken for the Music Minor may count also toward the distribution requirement.

Courses in which a grade of D or lower has been received do not count toward the Minor requirement.

More details about the requirements of the Music Minor program can be found on the Barnard Catalog website:

Barnard Catalog - Music Requirements

Barnard College's Introduction to Music is a general introduction to Western music, arranged chronologically, and assuming no prior training in music.

These courses are part of Barnard College's Writing Program and require three papers and a cumulative final examination. Each paper is submitted in draft form to specially trained Writing Fellows, who critique the work for elements of style and form. The final draft is submitted to the professor two weeks later.

MUSI BC1001: Introduction to Music. 3 pts.

Extensive listening is required. A survey of the development of Western music from 6th-century Gregorian Chant to Mozart, with emphasis upon important composers and forms.

MUSI BC1002: Introduction to Music. 3 pts.

Extensive listening is required. A survey of the development of Western music from the first Viennese Classical school at the end of the 18th century to the present, with emphasis upon composers and forms.

Exceptionally talented Columbia College and Barnard College students have access by competitive audition to instrumental and voice instruction at The Juilliard School. There are two separate programs, The Exchange and The Joint Program. Learn more about these programs:


Interested students should also refer to information available on the website for the Juilliard School.

Barnard College students may take advantage of the cross-registration agreement with neighboring Manhattan School of Music, which permits pianists and instrumentalists only to take applied music lessons in the classical and jazz division at the conservatory. Voice lessons for all University undergraduates are coordinated through the Barnard Music Program.

Prospective Barnard College students must indicate their intention to apply to the MSM cross-registration program on the Barnard Supplement. An applicant must also complete a separate MSM online application and submit a recorded video audition directly to MSM. Admission to the Barnard College/MSM Cross-Registration Program is contingent on admission to Barnard. Interested students should contact The Manhattan School of Music for more information, including a complete list of required application materials and audition information.

Barnard Cross-Registration Info on MSM Website

Barnard Admissions website

Continuing Barnard College students may obtain an application for this program from the Barnard Registrar. After submitting the application, the student must arrange for an audition at the Manhattan School either in February or May in the Spring semester prior to the Fall term during which she intends to take lessons. Should the student be accepted into the program, she may simply register for the lessons for 2 points of academic credit with no additional charge to her Barnard Bursar's bill.

Contact Information:

  • Miriam Miller, Admission Counselor: memiller [at]

    , (212) 854-2014
  • Professor Gail Archer, Barnard’s Music Major Adviser for Barnard College: garcher [at]