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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Major Requirements

music department

Minimum of 12 courses / 38 credits

Note: Three digit numbers will no longer be used to reference courses, but are indicated in parentheses for reference.

Optional Introductory Course, depending on previous knowledge of music theory

  • MUSA1100 (MU070) Fundamentals of Music Theory

May be substituted for one of the electives, with the approval of the Chairperson.

Theory, Analysis and Composition Courses – four courses total


  • MUSA1100 (MU070) Fundamentals of Music Theory, or equivalent

Required of all majors:

  • MUSA2100 (MU110) Harmony
  • MUSA3100 (MU211) Chromatic Harmony
  • MUSA3106 (MU312) Counterpoint

Choice of any one course:

  • MUSA3110 (MU214) Form and Analysis
  • MUSA3114 (MU215) Jazz Harmony
  • MUSA3120 (MU315) Composition Seminar
  • MUSA3126 (MU316) Tonal Composition

Historical Courses – three courses total

Required of all majors:

  • MUSA2209 (MU209) Music of the Modern Era

Choice of any two:

  • MUSA2201 (MU201) Medieval-Renaissance Music
  • MUSA2203 (MU203) Music of the Baroque
  • MUSA2205 (MU205) Music of the Classic Period
  • MUSA2207 (MU207) Music of the Romantic Era

With permission of the Chairperson, a composer or genre course may be substituted for a period course.

Cross-Cultural Courses – two courses total

Required of all majors, a choice of one from each of the following two groups:

  • Group I – Non-Western tradition
    • MUSA1320 (MU301) Introduction to World Music
    • MUSA2306 (MU306) African Music
    • MUSA2307 (MU307) Musics of Asia
    • MUSA2308 Music in the Medieval Islamic World
    • MUSA3342 (MU342) Music & Ecstasy
    • MUSA1320, 2306, and 2307 also satisfy the Core Cultural Diversity requirement
  • Group II – Western tradition
    • MUSA2320 (MU320) Music and America
    • MUSA2330 (MU326) History of Jazz
    • MUSA2331 (MU321) Rhythm and Blues in American Music
    • MUSA2332 (MU322) Jazz in America
    • MUSA2340 (MU330) Introduction to Irish Folk Music
    • MUSA3330 Contemporary Jazz Scenes

Required Senior Seminar – one semester

The Senior Seminar, MUSA4941 (MU405) is ordinarily open only to senior music majors. The Seminar entails a series of weekly projects allowing majors to investigate issues in depth with special emphasis in one of the areas listed above—theory and composition, history, cross-cultural or performance. The Seminar serves as preparation for a senior project, with supervised reading, research, writing and discussion.

Electives – two courses

The student will choose a minimum of two semester courses in whatever category is appropriate to his or her particular interest, whether it is in music theory and composition, performance, history, or cross-cultural studies. Students with performance emphasis must have three semesters of private instruction for credit. The three credits for private instruction will be bundled into a full course only upon completion of the jury at the end of the third semester of lessons. See Credit for Performance.

Co-requisites for the Major

  • Performance/Ensemble Experience
    Minimum of two semesters – Each major must have two semester of experience in performance in some capacity and may choose from any organized performance group at Boston College, such as Boston College Symphony Orchestra; Chamber Music Ensemble; Popular Styles Ensemble; Irish Traditional Music classes; University Chorale, Madrigals, Voices of Imani, or student a capella group; Concert Band, BC bOp, through more informal students groups, by consultation with Chairperson, or through private lessons.
  • Listening Repertory Lists
    Majors will be asked to identify important works from the Western tradition in a series of Listening Repertory exams. Each year of the music major (normally three), a list of works will be given to the student that they must be able to identify by the end of the year. A listening test on each of three lists of works will be administered until the student passes.
  • Ear Training/Sight Singing
    All Majors will be expected to have passed the minimum competency requirements in Ear Training and Sight-Singing before graduation. The course MUSA1090-2090 (MU081-082) Ear-Training and Sight-Singing, a one-credit course, is designed and recommended as an aid to passing this test.

Recommended Course of Study

Information for First Year

Included in the University's Core Curriculum is one course in the Arts (Fine Arts, Music, or Theatre). MUSA1200 (MU066) Introduction to Music, and MUSA1100 (MU070) Fundamentals of Music Theory, and MUSA1300 (MU030) History of Popular Music are the Music Department's Core offerings. They are designed for the non-musician as well as the student who has studied music. Prospective music majors and minors should reference the Recommended Course of Study listed below. Students with advanced musical backgrounds and interests should speak to the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Music regarding appropriate upper-level courses. The department offers MUSA1320 (MU301) Introduction to World Music as an option for the Cultural Diversity requirement of the Core.

Freshman Year

All students declaring the music major should try as freshmen to take or test out of MUSA1100 (MU070) Fundamentals of Music Theory, a course covering the notation of music and fundamental ear-training. Freshmen who feel they may wish to consider majoring in music (or wish to fulfill the Core requirement in Fine Arts by taking a music course) should take MU005 The Musical Experience or MUSA1200 (MU066) Introduction to Music. Either of these courses is a general introduction to the field and its various methodologies, and a student may receive retroactive credit for the major if passed with a B+ or higher.

Sophomore Year

Harmony and Chromatic Harmony should be taken in sequence along with MUSA1090-2090 (MU081-082), Ear Training/Sight Singing Labs. Two history courses in Western Music (selected from Medieval-Renaissance, Baroque Music, Music of the Classical Era, Music of the Romantic Era, Music of the Modern Era, or a composer or genre course) or, one history course and one cross-cultural course should be taken. The first year's required Listening Repertoire should be mastered. Some performance experience (Orchestra, Chorale, Band, Chamber Music, non-Western performance and/or private lessons) should be started and pursued throughout the rest of the major.

Junior Year

Counterpoint and a choice of Jazz Harmony, Form and Analysis, Orchestration or Composition and a second or third history course and/or a cross-cultural course should be taken. The second year of the required Listening Repertoire should be mastered.

Senior Year

Any advanced courses in the department relevant to the particular emphasis the student has chosen – performance, composition, history, or cross-cultural – in conjunction with the Senior Seminar, which will help the student synthesize previous course work, should be taken. The final year of the required Listening Repertoire should be mastered.