Overview and context
The music curriculum at Wheaton teaches students the skills that will allow them to ask the important and interesting questions that will lead to a lifetime of learning and exploration, no matter what their eventual career. Through a challenging and energizing exposure to the great composers, performers, and thinkers in the world of music, our students learn how to write, research, and communicate their ideas in compelling and thought-provoking ways.
Wheaton students are encouraged to link their love of music to studies beyond the music department’s core curriculum, through the interdisciplinary First Year Seminar program, through Wheaton’s unique Connections curriculum, and through study abroad programs, independent study with faculty mentors, and internships.
Faced with a society in which the the arts are becoming increasingly marginalized, Wheaton hopes to train future leaders who will use their intellectual and creative abilities to advocate passionately and articulately for the importance of music as a central component of the human experience.
Wheaton’s music major provides the in-depth study that is an essential component of a liberal arts education. Each of the requirements of the music major teaches skills that are essential to the academic and performance study of music:
Through our Music Theory requirements, Wheaton music majors learn to read and write the notes, scales, and chords that comprise the language of written music in the Western tradition. In upper-level theory courses, students broaden their knowledge of the grammars and larger structures of written music and become more sophisticated in their ability to write in this language. They also develop the ability to employ technical vocabulary to describe, discuss, and evaluate music in class discussion and in prose.
Through our Western Music requirement, music majors learn to describe and recognize the stylistic characteristics of different historical periods, e.g., Baroque vs. Classic/Romantic, and to identify historical and cultural influences shaping their development. Majors also demonstrate competence in writing documents such as program/liner notes and annotated bibliographies.
Through our World Music requirement, music majors master core concepts of the discipline of ethnomusicology, become familiar with localized vocabularies of various musical systems, and achieve a broad understanding of regional aesthetic choices. Students also discover the stylistic developments and social trends that knit together the musical lives of peoples from many different cultures. In the process, majors also demonstrate competence in writing documents such as ethnographies and interviews/oral histories.
Through our Lessons and Ensembles requirements, music majors develop technical skills on their chosen instrument and improve their individual musicality as expressed through that instrument. In ensembles, students hone their performance ability and practice skills, learn to listen and perform in a group, and develop an appreciation for and increased sensitivity to the performance of music from a wide variety of stylistic periods and musical genres.
Through our 200and 300level electives, music majors gain expertise in subfields of music that are both interesting to them and relevant to their unique graduate school, career and life objectives. In the process they master the vocabularies of the various fields of musical study and learn to describe the characteristics of varied musical genres, to identify historical and cultural influences shaping their development, and to locate appropriate research materials. In upper-level history seminars, majors expand their repertoire of scholarly writing to include book reviews, research papers, and essays on music analysis and criticism. In upper-level ethnomusicology seminars, students explore the scholarly literature of selected subfields within ethnomusicology and cognate disciplines, and conduct in-depth independent research case studies, learning to think on their feet in a challenging environment approaching graduate level work in sophistication. In composition classes, students develop a familiarity with compositional techniques in domains such as pitch structure, phase structure, form, rhythmic structure, metric structure, melodic/thematic/motive structure, texture, and timbre. They also gain a familiarity with the idiomatic uses of standard orchestral instruments and the voice in the Western tradition. Students also develop a familiarity with the general practice of notating, editing, and proofreading acoustic music, including gaining skill in the use of industry standard notation software.
Through our capstone Senior Seminar, music majors recapitulate and reflect upon college coursework and experiences. Having developed their academic abilities through the intensive study of music in its historical, theoretical, and social components, and having mastered the typical modes of writing about music, students draw on their collective areas of expertise in research projects that synthesize and provide closure on their undergraduate career. Looking forward, the readings, discussions, and research projects in the senior seminar are designed to help the graduating music major envision and imagine possible career paths after graduation.