Academic Programs

Division of the Arts



Performance, composition, and historical analysis 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 the 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. 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 dual 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.


All music majors are expected to successfully complete three semesters of music theory and three semesters of music history, including at least one course above the 200 level each. Additionally, program majors must take one class in composition or an equivalent course involving personal musical creativity, and a performance class, accompanied by two semesters' worth of private performance lessons (or an equivalent course involving regular public performance). About half of these requirements should be completed prior to Moderation. The Senior Project consists of two concerts from 30 to 60 minutes each; it may also take the form of an advanced research project in music history or theory. In the case of composers, one concert may be replaced by an orchestra work written for performance by the American Symphony Orchestra.

Recent Senior Projects in Music

  • "A Prelude to Modernism and Rhapsodies in Red, White, and Blue," two concerts that explore 20th-century Russian, German, and American nationalism through art songs
  • "Deconstructing Fugue: A Critical Survey of Analytical Approaches and an Original Method of Analysis"
  • "Study and Performance of Violin Works by Bach, Beethoven, Dvoˇrák, and Tchaikovsky"
  • "To Die upon the Hand I Love So Well: A Senior Recital"


Music Program offerings are grouped under the headings of workshops, ensembles, and courses. Special Projects are for music majors only. 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: The Art of Collaboration, Bach Arias, Chinese Music Ensemble, Classical Guitar, Composition, Contemporary Electronics, Early Music Vocal Performance, Electronic Performance, English and American Art Song, French Art Song, Harmony, Improvisation, Jazz Vocals, Jazz Improvisation, Musical Structure for Performers, Opera, Percussion Discussion, Production and Reproduction, Samba School, Sight Reading, Songwriting, 20th-Century Composition, and Voice and Vocal Repertoire for Singers and Pianists.