Music (BA)

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Program Description

The Department of Music offers both a major and a minor in music. Both programs give students the opportunity to gain proficiency in the theory, history, and interpretation of music throughout the world, and help them build a solid set of applied critical and listening abilities demanded of musicians and listeners today. The major offers students opportunities for independent research during their final year.

The department teaches a wide range of innovative courses in ethnomusicology, popular music, the cultural study of music, and sound studies. Many of these courses are open to non-majors. Some recent courses include: Music in the Post-9/11 World; Introduction to World Music; Music in New York; Music, Global Hip-Hop, and the Politics of Culture; and Music, Sound, and Technology.

The department’s Waverly Labs provide digital resources for composition and research. The department hosts the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society and a number of other performing ensembles and initiatives. Our majors and minors may also take private instrumental instruction with department support, and are eligible to join performance ensembles at the Steinhardt School. Our students take advantage of our location in one of the world’s major cultural centers by attending concerts and pursuing internships with New York recording companies, music magazines, or major performing arts organizations.

Departmental Objectives

The breadth and depth of knowledge offered by the major provide an excellent foundation for academic, creative, and performance work, offering a solid set of applied critical and listening abilities. The major is equally ideal for students seeking careers requiring a solid liberal arts background and strong analytical and critical skills, and for students interested in humanistic fields in which sonic culture is a central element. The music major cultivates the ability to interpret and analyze music as both text and performance. It gives students a broad understanding of the various issues currently being discussed in musical thinking and research, as well as a grounding in theory and the opportunity to engage in creative work. Qualified students can undertake advanced supervised research or composition in their senior year, leading to a thesis and the award of honors in the major.

The major program of study and our faculty’s specializations offer superb foundations for further advanced studies in music as well as disciplines such as American studies, comparative literature, linguistic and cultural anthropology, Native American studies, popular culture, gender studies, Western and Central European culture and history, Slavic studies, Latin American and Latino studies, media studies, performance studies, theatre, environmental humanities, and sound studies.


Students pursuing a major or minor in music, and indeed all students in the College of Arts and Science, are encouraged to participate in musical performance, lessons, and ensembles. We believe that the joys of making music, the dedication and study necessary to perform music, and the collective effort required of ensemble participants constitute an inimitable experience that should have a central place in a liberal arts education. Students are encouraged to participate in the performance ensembles regularly offered (for credit) by our clinical faculty. They can also participate in the NYU Orchestra, and many of the lessons, programs, and ensembles associated with the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions. Students are also invited to attend the numerous concerts that the department sponsors each year, as well as concerts of the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society. We encourage students to patronize the large collection of independent music venues located throughout Greenwich Village, and, more broadly, to participate in the vibrant music cultures found in all five boroughs of the city. Exploration of music in the city is a central component of the music major, and the Department's faculty and graduate students regularly organize concert trips for our undergraduates.

In addition to participation in the various performance ensembles, the department encourages students to partake vigorously of the cultural life of New York City. Students are entitled to discounted tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, concerts of the World Music Institute, concerts of the Kalavant Center for Indian Music and Dance, and many other music-presenting organizations.

Honors Program

Highly motivated students may take part in the department’s honors program, which culminates during the senior year with an independent study supervised by a faculty member. Students must have a 3.65 GPA both in the major and overall to pursue honors. Honors students register for a semester or more of Independent Study (MUSIC-UA 997 Independent Study in which they complete a capstone project in musicology or music history, ethnomusicology, analysis, or composition. This might take the form of an analytical or historiographical study of a major work or group of works, the writing of a musical composition of substantial dimensions, or a biographical study of a composer, all under the guidance of a faculty member. A student wishing to pursue departmental honors should apply to the director of undergraduate studies. There are also three departmental prizes that the department awards to exceptional students (listed in the awards and prizes section of this Bulletin).


The Department of Music sponsors internships for music majors only. To propose an internship:

  • Write to the department's director of undergraduate studies (DUS), with an internship proposal, which must include a letter from the sponsoring company that describes the duties to be assigned and the number of hours to be worked per week. The internship may be paid or unpaid, and may be taken for 2 or 4 credits. For a four-point internship, 10 hours of work per week is a general guideline. The sponsor must also state in the letter that they will submit an interim report and a final report on a student's work.
  • The sponsor's obligations to the university during the time of the internship will include supervision of the intern and the two evaluations mentioned above. The final report must be on letterhead and signed by the company sponsor. It must evaluate the student's performance in detail.
  • At the conclusion of the internship, students submit to the DUS a paper of approximately five pages in length describing their internship work and how it relates to their academic program at NYU. It should describe what has been accomplished and the value of the internship as it relates to their future career objectives.

Students may apply up to 4 credits of internship towards the music major.  

Independent Study  

Independent Study may be taken through the CAS music department for research in an area of particular interest, and in some cases, for applied music instruction.  This option is generally available only to music majors, and students should apply to the director of undergraduate studies.  


New York University's Office of Undergraduate Admissions supports the application process for all undergraduate programs at NYU.  For additional information about undergraduate admissions, including application requirements, see How to Apply