Division of the Arts



Performance, composition, and historical study are the primary focuses of the Bard Music Program. Students develop their talents as performers through lessons and in large and small ensembles. In addition to weekly rehearsals with an ensemble and in open concerts offered monthly, they present three or four full-length concerts by the end of their fourth year. Composers develop individual “voices” through an active schedule of rehearsing, taping, and performing their music with faculty, outside professional players, and fellow students. Electronic composers learn the use of a sophisticated electronic music studio and eventually present their pieces (live or on tape) to the Music Program and Bard community. All senior music majors are eligible either to perform with or have a piece played by the American Symphony Orchestra at the annual Commencement concert. Some students pursue Senior Projects in music history, theory, or ethnomusicology. The music faculty believes that these activities take on depth when grounded in a knowledge of musical tradition.

The Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a five-year program in which students pursue a simultaneous double degree: a bachelor of music and a bachelor of arts in a field other than music. Music Program courses are open to Conservatory students, and the two programs may share some courses, workshops, faculty, and performance facilities.

Areas of Study

Bard’s Music Program is equipped for specialization in four major areas: jazz (and related African American traditions), European classical music (including its younger, American parallel), electronic music (starting with its early 20th-century experimental roots), and ethnomusicology. The music major explores the history and theory of one of these four areas through course work and also takes at least one music course in an area outside his or her specialization. The Music Program encourages diversity, provided the musician becomes sufficiently immersed in one tradition to experience the richness and complexity of a musical culture.


By the time of graduation, all music majors are expected to have successfully completed three semesters of music theory and three semesters of music history, including at least one course at the 300 level or above. In addition, music majors are required to complete one class in composition or, with the approval of the Music Program director, four credits in an equivalent course involving personal musical creativity. Participation in a performance class, accompanied by two semesters’ worth of private lessons, is also required (performance class may be replaced by some other class involving public performance). Generally, half of these requirements are completed by the time of Moderation. For their Moderation project, most students give a 25- to 40-minute concert of their own music and/or music by other composers; a substantial music history or theory paper may also be accepted. The Senior Project consists of two concerts of approximately 60 minutes each. Composers may replace one concert with an orchestral work written for performance by the American Symphony Orchestra. In certain cases involving expertise in music technology, a student may submit produced recordings of music rather than give a live performance. An advanced research project in music history or theory can also be considered as a Senior Project.

Recent Senior Projects in Music

  • “Body of the Bay,” a composition for orchestra
  • Débarrassons Nous de Nos Mamelles and Half of What She Thinks: Two Recitals in Classical Voice”
  • “Flip the Script: A Reflexive Ethnography of American Millennial Hip-Hop Culture”
  • “The Versatility of the Cello: From Bach to Barber”


Music Program offerings are grouped under the headings of workshops, ensembles, and courses. Workshops are project oriented, allowing a student to enroll repeatedly in the same workshop; courses cover specific material and one-time-only registration is anticipated. Workshops, ensembles, and courses are open to music majors and nonmajors alike, and a number of courses are specifically aimed at stimulating the interest and listening involvement of the general student population.

Recent workshops include the following: American Tableaux, Art of Collaboration, Bach Arias, Baroque Ensemble, Classical Guitar, Composition, Contemporary Electronics, Early Music Vocal Performance, Electronic Music, English and American Art Song, French Art Song, German Diction, Hands-on Music History, Improvisation, Jazz Vocals, Music Software for Composition and Performance, Musical Structure for Performers, Opera, Orchestral and Festival Audition Preparation, Percussion Discussion, Production and Reproduction, Samba School, Sight Reading, Songwriting, Transcription Analysis, 20th-Century Composition, and Voice and Vocal Repertoire for Singers and Pianists.