Music at the School of General Studies

The School of General Studies is a liberal arts school for students whose education since high school has been interrupted by at least a year. Its students earn either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. In both cases, the majority of points of credit must be in liberal arts subjects. The School has a set of core courses and a distribution requirement, as well as departmental majors and minors.

School of General Studies Website

Contact Information: 

Professor Christopher Washburne
cjw5 [at] columbia.edu
Departmental Representative to General Studies, 2019-2020


The Department of Music provides a solid foundation in many areas of music from Western and non-Western traditions. The Music Performance Program provides a staff of distinguished performing artists to give private instruction and to coach chamber music ensembles. The Music & Arts Library, located on the seventh floor of Dodge Hall, is an excellent study and research facility, possessing an extensive collection of musical scores, reference works, books on music, and audio and video recordings, with listening and viewing facilities and computer-aided instructional equipment.

For a Major in Music

A program of study should be planned with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first semester of sophomore year. Students planning to focus on a particular area (computer music, composition, ethnomusicology, music theory or music history) may wish to select a faculty adviser in that area.  For students who plan to do graduate work in music, studying German, French, Italian and/or Latin is recommended.

The major requires a minimum of 40 points 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

For a Concentration in Music

A program of study should be planned with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first semester of sophomore year. All concentrators must consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies each term before registering. 

The concentration requires a minimum of 28 points 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 (1) 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

There are several means for undergraduate students to carry their studies in music beyond current undergraduate course offerings: Independent Study and Departmental Honors. Both require prior agreement with the Department of Music concerned. The Departmental Honors course carries restrictions, as noted below.

INDEPENDENT STUDY

Independent Study is available to School of General Studies and Barnard College students, but does not to count toward the major.

Supervised Independent Study (MUSI UN3998-UN3999) 1, 2 or 3 pts.

The student must develop a plan of study with a faculty supervisor and then obtain the approval of the Department. Ordinarily, only seniors are allowed to register. A creative/scholarly project conducted under faculty supervision, leading to completion of an essay, composition, or the equivalent.

DEPARTMENTAL HONORS

Music majors in Columbia College and General Studies, with a minimum grade point average of 3.6 in departmental courses, may apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the first term of his or her senior year to be considered as a candidate for departmental honors. A written proposal must be submitted to an appropriate faculty advisor no later than two weeks before the last day of classes of the student's penultimate (usually autumn) term, in order to register for UN3996-Honors research in the final (usually spring) term. Honors research is taken in addition to the ordinary requirements for the major. In Columbia College and the School of General Studies, honors will be awarded to no more than 10 percent of graduating music majors for the distinguished completion of this project and maintenance of a 3.6 departmental grade point average.

Honors Research (MUSI UN3995-UN39960 pts.

A creative/scholarly project conducted under faculty supervision, leading to completion of an honors essay, composition, or the equivalent.

The special concentration in jazz studies is an interdisciplinary liberal arts course of study that uses jazz music—and the jazz culture from which the music emanated—as a prism through which to study jazz culture during what might be termed the long jazz century, the sprawling twentieth. The curriculum in jazz studies guides students in developing a firm grounding in the traditions and aesthetic motives of jazz music, viewed through the perspectives of music history and ethnomusicology as well as literary theory and cultural studies. 

Learn more about the Special Concentration in Jazz here:

Jazz Studies Special Concentration

Learn more about the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program and Jazz at Columbia:

Jazz Performance Program