Major / Minor

Professor of Music Mark D. Swift, Ph.D., leads students in the Zimbabwean marimba ensemble JayTerm class in a performance in the lobby of the Olin Fine Arts Center Friday, January 17, 2019.

Welcome to W&J Music!

Music is integral to the liberal arts education and campus life at W&J College. Students of all interests and passions, regardless of experience, are invited to join our musical community.

The Department of Music encourages students to find intersections between scholarship and performance through the study and creation of music. Our academic courses introduce students from across the curriculum to a diversity of ideas that challenge them to think and communicate effectively about music. Our vocal and instrumental ensembles – choral, jazz, wind, chamber, and marimba – provide opportunities for students to come together and perform a wide range of musical styles. Private lessons are available with exceptional teacher-performers drawn from across the region. With a distinguished faculty, small classes, and a focus on close mentorship, the Department of Music advocates music as a means of personal expression and a platform for building connections across campus, into the greater Pittsburgh area, and around the world.

Academic Highlights

The academic courses in our program introduce foundational skills through the history, theory, literature, performance, and cross-cultural study of music. Students often find that the skills emphasized in our music courses, such as critical thinking, listening, collaboration, and writing, are relevant to most disciplines and professions. As a result, the major and minor in music constitute excellent preparation for graduate study in music and related fields in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; for careers in performance, media, and culture industries; or for any occupation demanding clear and original thinking, command of the written word, analytical and listening skills, and creativity. Many of our courses take advantage of our location close to Pittsburgh, a vibrant city with great live performance and plenty of cultural opportunities.

In addition to a curriculum designed for majors and minors, we offer a wide range of innovative courses for the general student in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music, music theory, composition, jazz, and music technology.

Recent and upcoming courses to look out for include:

  • Music in the Age of Romanticism
  • Introduction to Global Music Listening
  • The Art of Conducting
  • African Pop
  • Music Theory I, II, and III
  • Digital Audio Recording and Manipulation
  • Music in the Natural Environment
  • The History of Underground Dance Music
  • Opera: Sex, Love and Magic

Track Emphases

The Department of music offers three Track Emphases that have been designed to provide unique focus and specialization within the music major.

  • Literature & Theory: an emphasis designed for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, or composition.
  • Performance: an emphasis intended for students who wish to pursue careers in instrumental or vocal performances, or performance-related fields, such as music theory and conducting.
  • Media: en emphasis designed for students with professional interests in music technology, audio and film production, sound engineering, or composition.

Learn more about specific requirements for each Track Emphasis in the W&J Course Catalog.

Course Requirements

Course listening for the Department of Music is drawn from the W&J Course Catalog. For more information on the courses offered during the fall and spring semesters, please log in to WebAdvisor.


The general major in music requires a minimum of 14 courses (36) credits as follows:

  • Introduction to Global Music Listening (MUS 101)
  • Survey of Western Music History (MUS 110)
  • Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 204)
  • Music Theory I, II, and III (MUS 205, MUS 206, and MUS 306)
  • One course in the area of music history at the advanced 300-level
  • Three electives, two of which must be designated as advanced 300-level courses
  • Music Seminar, taken in spring of senior year (MUS 401)
  • Four semesters of a single ensemble
  • Eight credits of private instruction in any combination of 30-minute (1 credit) or 1-hour (2 credit) lessons


  • Music Theory Fundamentals (MUS 204)
  • Two of the following: Introduction to Global Music Listening (MUS 101); Survey of Western Music History (MUS 110); Music Theory I (MUS 205)
  • Three additional courses (12 credits total) from the MUA or MUS courses offering numbers 211 and above

Policies Applying to the Major and Minor

A grade of C or higher is required for a course to count toward the major or minor; courses graded Pass/Fail do not count.

Students with AP Credit in Music Theory, prior course work in, or knowledge of music theory may earn advanced placement in the department's theory sequence. The students may be eligible to place out of MUS 204 and should consult with the chair of the department.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do I declare a music major/minor?

A major must be declared by the end of your sophomore year. This means you should be making contact with the department chair and your professors during your sophomore year to look at requirements and how the courses would fit into your schedule over your remaining years. Many students choose to take at least one music course during their freshman year to get a feel for the department and its curriculum. A minor may be declared at a later point if the necessary course requirements have been satisfied.

Can I have two or more majors/minors?

Yes, you can. Many students have two majors, a major and minor, and even a major and two minors. If you intend to have two majors, you must let each department known so this information can be entered into WebAdvisor correctly.

How do I declare a music major/minor?

Majors and minors are declared through the Department of Music, by meeting with the department chair to discuss your proposed course plan, and by then informing the W&J registrar ( who will enter your major and minor into the system.

Can I place out of Fundamentals of Music (MUS 204)?

Yes, it is possible. In order to place out of Fundamentals of Music, you must take a diagnostic exam and earn a grade of 80% or higher. This exam can be scheduled by contacting one of your music professors. Placing out of Fundamentals of Music allows you to begin theory with a higher-level course, Theory 1 (MUS 205).

Do I have to audition for any of the ensembles?

The only ensemble that requires an audition is the Camerata Singers. Please contact the Director of Choral Activities Susan Medley ( to schedule an audition.

Lessons and Performance Opportunites

The Department of Music invites all students (majors and non-majors) to participate in our extensive performance program, which includes a wide variety of ensembles and private lessons for all instruments and voice. These performance opportunities are a great way to meet and engage with other students who share similar passions, to become a part of the W&J community, and to learn an instrument with our gifted instructors.

Students are encouraged to register for any of our six ensemble groups worth 1/4 course (1 credit) highlighted below:

Music Department Facilities

The Music Department makes its home in the spacious Olin Fine Arts Center, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012 and also houses the departments of Art and Communication.

Listen To Past Peformances

All W&J students are welcome in ensembles.

Beyond the Classroom


Music majors who demonstrate outstanding achievement in academics and/or performance and composition are eligible for the following annual awards to be determined by the music faculty:

Scholar in Music

An award that is presented each year to a senior music major who has excelled in all areas of music study and made significant contributions to the life of the Music Department during their time as a student.

Nicholas C. and Josephine C. Tucci Memorial Prize in Music

A prize is given annually to a deserving student of music who demonstrates profound interest and promise in the classroom. The prize was established by Josephine C. Tucci in memory of her late husband, Nicholas C. Tucci, who was a community leader and friend of the College.

Barbara Ransohoff Burnett Prize in Music

An award that recognizes an outstanding student in music, whose participation either in performing ensembles or classroom studies demonstrates high achievement, active interest, and a strong commitment to the standards of excellence set by the Department of Music. This prize was established in 1991 by former College President Howard J. Burnett in memory of his wife, Barbara Ransohoff Burnett, who was a devoted supporter of the fine and performing arts at W&J College.

Music Events

Spring Student Recognition Recital

May 4, 2022 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Recital features selected performances from W&J’s Applied Music studios.

Spring W&J Wind Ensemble Concert presents “Rhapsody in Blue” feat. Dr. Mark Swift

May 1, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The W&J Wind Ensemble will feature W&J Professor Mark Swift in performing George Gershwin’s arguably most recognizable work, “Rhapsody in …