Music degree options

Cornell’s Department of Music provides rich opportunities to explore performance, theory, composition, and history within the framework of a broad liberal arts education. It also supports an active community of music majors, nonmajors who value music as an avocation, and professional teaching musicians. All are dedicated to the intellectual examination and informed performance of music of all styles. 

Studying music at Cornell prepares you for a full-time career in the arts or for contributing to your community through your talents—either way involving you in building the ongoing richness of culture. You might go into teaching or on to graduate or professional schools in performance, musicology, or education. 

Or you might combine music with another major as you prepare for law school, a business career, or other endeavors. 

Our alumni have distinguished themselves in many fields, including as a senior business analyst at Pandora, a managing consultant in a national philanthropic firm, and a manager of entertainment operations at Disney California. 

Benefits of One Course At A Time

Music courses that include music theory, history, literature, and topics courses are offered on the One Course At A Time schedule. Studio lessons and performing ensembles are on a semester system that runs contemporaneously with Cornell's One Course curriculum. The meshing of these schedules means that you will have opportunities for focused immersion experiences as well as extended periods of practice and ensemble work.

Off-campus studies and performance

You might take a course in Chicago at the Newberry Library, where you will be able to study primary documents and attend operas, concerts, and plays. Or you might perform over block break with the Pandemonium steel drum ensemble, the Calypso Singers, and the Calypso Horns in New Orleans in four Mardi Gras parades seen by 1 million people. 

Performance ensembles

Our vibrant and challenging ensembles are open to both majors and non-majors. Ensembles meet three or four times per week on a semester schedule and practices are easily scheduled after the One Course At A Time academic day ends at 3 p.m.

Our ensembles are:

Additional chamber ensembles may include string quartets, brass quintets, woodwind quintets, new music and percussion ensembles, or vocal collegium.

Studio lessons

Studio lessons are taught by professional faculty members who specialize in the instrument or performance style specific to each student. Lessons are required for music majors and scholarship recipients and are open to all qualified student musicians. Jury performances may be required for students enrolled in studio lessons.

Internships and fellowships

Internships have created exciting experiences for our music students, and the block plan makes scheduling easy. Recent internships include the following:

  • Public school instrumental music education in Marion, Iowa
  • Harmony University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Teaching music in public schools of England
  • Working as an arts administrator of Orchestra Iowa
  • Practicing music therapy

Music scholarships

Music scholarships range from $1,000 to $5,000 annually and are awarded in addition to other scholarships, increasing the total assistance package. Muic scholarships are available to all qualified students, whether or not they decide to major or minor in music. 

All music scholarships and awards require you to participate in at least one major ensemble on your primary instrument. With some scholarship levels music lesson fees are waived; those scholarship recipients must enroll in music lessons on their principal instrument and enroll in the MUS 701 Music Performance Seminar.