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  Music Lessons
  Independent Study in Performance
  Resources for Student Musicians
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  Harvard Group for New Music
  Practice Rooms
  Concert Series
  Collection of Instruments
  The Office for the Arts at Harvard


“During the summers I’ve gone to music festivals where there are students—undergrads, grads—from the best conservatories like Curtis, Juilliard, NEC. The really serious musicians at Harvard are just as good as those people.”
— Stefan Jackiw (concert violinist, '07)

photo: Office of the Arts at Harvard

VIDEOS: Sir John Eliot Gardiner rehearses the Holden Choruses (Feb 2015) as Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Harvard [the concluding "Alleluia" from the Bach motet "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied]

VIDEOS: Check out "Music at Harvard" on Harvard's youtube channel!

… if you say you went to Harvard, in the musical world, the automatic reaction is “How good can you really be? Is this a side thing for you while you prepare to work on Wall Street? Is this a hobby?” There’s a lot of automatic suspicion. But in a much deeper and truer sense the responsibility that you have to take as an artist at Harvard is the kind of responsibility that you have to take as an artist in the world because you are in a community of really talented, really intelligent people who are simultaneously all figuring out what the heck they want to do together, and that is tremendously exciting. And it’s a bit of a safe haven, of course, but it’s a far truer model, I think, of what being an artist in the world is like than a conservatory is. I know this having spent some time in conservatories.

--Matt Aucoin ' 12 [excerpted from Gazette 7/29/13, "A Year Set to Music"]

Harvard Jazz Band plays Herbie Hancock CLICK FOR VIDEO

Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra in concert CLICK FOR VIDEO


In the News [selected]

Sir John Eliot Gardiner at Harvard

Max Tan '15 on performance

Students in Harvard/NEC program juggle Music & Academics

A Different Tone
Levin Celebrates Mozart's Birthday

Falling in Love with South Asian Music

Could NEC save music training at Harvard?

They study to their own soundtrack
"Musical freshmen coming to Harvard find out something's happening... Harvard offers more music opportunities than most specialized schools: four orchestras, three bands, three choral groups, untold a cappella choruses, 'house' opera and chamber groups."—Tom Everett, Director of the Harvard Bands (Downbeat Magazine interview, July 2011)

Listen in on
Music 175 class recital:
Transfigured Night 12/12
[Pierrot Lunaire]

Music 153 class concert: Jazz Harmony 12/12
[Joint Fracture]
[Coffee for Midterms]

Undergraduates In the News
2013 Survey findings: Excellent prospects for music majors!


Changing Lives with Music and Science

Miranda visits American Musicals

Voice Studies/NEC joint program

Sound Studies Lab opens at Harvard

Performance in the Classroom

Professor Kay Shelemay's "Soundscapes, Music in a Changing World," often features guest artists such as Cape Verdean rapper Cha Chi, above.

Performance Courses The performance of music is at the heart of the Department's mission, practice, coursework, and community. Harvard's Music Department offers a full program of composition coursework as well as a number of performance courses, which usually culminate in a student recital. Performance courses receive Harvard College credit; most are eligible for concentration credit. Please check the course catalog for exact listings as some courses are not offered each year.

Selected Courses (course offerings vary each semester, and not all courses run each year:

  • MUSIC 181r
    Renaissance Music
    Become an amateur musician in Renaissance England and learn to play the viola da gamba in a consort.

  • Music 189. Chamber Music Performance
    An audition is required (students may either be considered based on HRO auditions or by separate audition for the course) . Taught by the Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence, the Parker String Quartet

  • Music 188r. Baroque Performance Practice

  • Music 121a/127r. Choral Conducting

  • Music 128r. Choral Conducting: Repertory

  • Jazz Harmony (153)

    Jazz Improvisation (186)

    Courses in gamelan and other music such as South Indian music, music from the Silk Road, Opera, Musical Theater and others are often offered. Check course schedules and descriptions for current offerings.

    Harvard's Music Department offers a full program of coursework that includes courses in music theory and composition, and includes styles ranging from jazz harmony to electroacoustic composition.


Course Credit: Performance Groups

Undergraduates receive Harvard College credit for participating in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the HR Collegium Musicum, the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, and the Harvard Dance Project.

  • New IN 2014
    Choral Music
    : Music 13, Music 14, and Music 15. Participation in Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Chorus, and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum is now available for Harvard College credit.

  • Music 10hfr. Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
    Federico Cortese 
    Half course (throughout the year).
    Note: Students may enroll for only two offerings of this course and receive credit towards the degree.

    Music 12hfr. The Harvard Dance Project
    Catalog Number: 56909 Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
    Jill Johnson
    Note: Students may enroll for only two offerings of this course and receive credit towards the degree.

    Music 14hfr. Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum - (New Course)
    Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
    Andrew Gregory Clark
    Half course (throughout the year).
    Note: Students may enroll for only two offerings of this course and receive credit towards the degree.

    Music 15hfr. Harvard Glee Club - (New Course)
    Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
    Andrew Gregory Clark
    Half course (throughout the year).
    Note: Students may enroll for only two offerings of this course and receive credit towards the degree.

    Music 16hfr. Radcliffe Choral Society - (New Course)
    Enrollment: By audition prior to first class meeting.
    Half course (throughout the year).
    Note: Students may enroll for only two offerings of this course and receive credit towards the degree.

Guest Artist Appearances

Musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, and composition courses are often structured to include special appearances by performing and creative artists. Broadway choreographers and composers, Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), Jason Robert Brown (Bridges of Madison County) or Lin Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) for example, often make special visits to "American Musicals and American Culture." Persian master musician and visiting artist Bahman Panahi worked with students in 2010's "Music, Debate, and Islam." In "The Operas of John Adams," students talked with Peter Sellers (Nixon in China) and traveled to the Met to see a production of the piece, and in "Music in Cross Cultural Perspectives" students chose between learning to play the gamelan and learning Ethiopian chant as part of their coursework.

Music 187, Chamber Music, received a visit from pianist Jeremy Denk, who gave a masterclass. In Music 180 (Performance and Analysis), Preceptor Dan Stepner welcomed guest artists Pamela Frank, Yo-Yo Ma, and Menahem Pressler (spring, 2014).

Visits from Broadway artists Lin Manuel Miranda and Alice Ripley in Carol Oja's course, "American Musicals and American Culture"

Master Classes and Coachings

Opera singer Renée Fleming gives a master class in Paine Hall. Produced by Learning from Performers.

Learning From Performers (Office of the Arts at Harvard)

Learning from Performers is a visiting-artist program providing opportunities for students to interact with professionals in all disciplines through master classes, workshops, informal discussions and other forums. Recent LFP artists have included composer-lyricists Benj Pase and Justin Paul, opera singer Renée Fleming, composer/musician Fred Ho, violinist Mark O'Connor, and Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown.

Nearly half of the College’s 6,600 undergraduates participate in an arts practice, and as a community, it is prolific. The music community is especially ambitious. Harvard students present close to 450 concerts annually – everything from operas to a cappella (including 16 groups) to recitals, chamber music, rock concerts, jazz performances, and a host of musical presentations from non-Western traditions. Many Harvard singers and instrumentalists are conservatory-caliber musicians who have opted for a liberal arts education at Harvard. A select few already have professional performing careers. It is, in short, a vibrant and very full arts scene at Harvard.

—Jack Megan, Director, Office for the Arts

Students prepare for performance in “Outside the Box: Musicians and Composers Collaborate,” a project where undergraduate composers and student performers created and performed original compositions under the guidance of pianist Ursula Oppens.


Parker Quartet, Blodgett Artist-in-Residence

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence Program
of the Department of Music

The Blodgett Artist-in-Residence program is made possible through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John W. Blodgett, Jr. The program provides for a distinguished string quartet to be in residence at the Harvard University Department of Music offering workshops, coachings, and serving as faculty for the Chamber Music course. The quartet is also available to read undergraduate and graduate student compositions, and to perform a composition by the winner of the annual Blodgett Composition Competition. The quartet gives 3-4 free public performances each year in Paine Hall, and several more in the Harvard houses and other campus venues.

The current Blodgett Artists-in-Residence are the Parker Quartet.

Additionally, the music department invites Blodgett Distinguished Artists to campus to lecture and perform in a variety of musical disciplines. Past artists have been Koo Nimo (Ghanaian music), The Clerks Group (medieval song), Sir Harrison Birtwistle (composer), Neba Solo (Malian balafon musician), and jazz pioneer Geri Allen.

Music Lessons (off-campus)

Does Harvard offer music lessons?

The faculty do not offer lessons. Students who want to pursue lessons during their time at Harvard find their own teachers, usually drawing from the large pool of music instructors in the Boston area. Lists of local teachers and information can be obtained through the Office for the Arts at Harvard []. Lessons are arranged privately between the student and his/her instructor, and are usually considered extra-curricular. Some students have their current instructor recommend teachers in the Boston area. Some find their instructor through the bulletin board in the Music Department or seek recommendations from fellow students.

The Office for the Arts also maintains a Lesson Subsidy Program and may fund a portion of the cost of music lessons. There is a late September deadline and all application material is to be obtained from them. An audition may be required for students requesting subsidies for the first time.

Is it possible to get academic credit for music lessons?

It is possible to receive course credit for lessons by creating an INDEPENDENT STUDY course.
Independent Study is designed to provide credit for private music lessons given by instructors not on the Harvard faculty and is governed by the guidelines published in the Handbook for Students issued each year by Harvard College. The catalogue number for Independent Study is "9999." Only students concurrently engaged in at least one of the following activities are eligible for Private Music Lessons as Independent Study in Music:

1) Music Concentrators/Joint Concentrators
2) Members of:

Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum
Radcliffe Choral Society
Harvard Glee Club
Harvard University Choir
Harvard University Jazz Band
Harvard Wind Ensemble
Harvard Jazz Band

3) Students enrolled in a Music Department course (not including Core or GenEd)

The following procedures must be followed:

1. Obtain Application for Independent Study forms (two copies) from your House Resident Dean. Have them filled out and signed.

2. Include in the petition for Independent Study a statement as to why course credit for lessons is desired and what you hope to achieve in the lessons.

3. Fill out the Independent Study Form (from Assistant to the Chair in the Music Department) and obtain signature from Private Instructor.

4. Both forms (Application for Independent Study and Departmental Independent Study Form) must be completed and signed and in the Department Office for the Music Department Advisor's signature four working days before your Resident Dean's due date. You are responsible for picking up the signed forms from the Department and returning them to your Senior Tutor. Please be aware that individual Resident Deans may have different deadlines.

5. At the end of the term both you and your Private Instructor must submit a brief report to the Music Department. Each of these reports should outline what pieces have been worked on and should include an evaluation of your progress. The deadline for the reports is the first day of Reading Period. The reports will be accepted by the Assistant to the Chair and passed on to the appropriate Advisor. Both reports must be received or no credit will be given. You are responsible for making sure that the Private Instructor submits the report by the deadline.

Note: Lessons must be paid for by the student, as the Music Department does not fund private study on any instrument. Independent Study is for upperclassmen only. Independent Study proposal forms are available in the front office of the Music Building and the Resident Dean's Office. Independent Study may not be counted for concentration credit and is not available to Freshman.

Practice Rooms and Instrument Storage

There are fourteen practice rooms in the music building; all but one of them have pianos (and one has a harpsichord). Anyone with a valid Harvard I.D. may use the practice rooms, including all student in all of Harvard's schools and divisions, faculty, and staff. Practice rooms are available on a first come, first served basis. There is a two-hour limit.

To use a practice room you go to the front office at the Music Building (Reception area) and sign the log book. Practice room keys hang on a wooden stand nearby. Leave your ID and take a key. When the offices of the Music Department are closed, the keys will be at a security desk near the practice rooms inthe basement.

Professional lessons are not allowed in the practice rooms. Neither are amplified music and percussion instruments.

**There are also practice rooms in other campus locations, and 60 of Harvard's buildings have pianos in them. There is a percussion practice room in Sanders Theatre. Piano practice rooms exist in all the houses, in SOCH (Student Organization Center at Hilles-one room), in Loker Commons (two rooms plus storage space for large instruments and percussion), in the Freshman dorms [one between Wigglesworth C and D basements, one in Wigglesworth D basement, two in Straus basement (A and C), one in Greenough basement, and two in (wheelchair accessible) Matthews basement; all available from 9 am to 11 pm with the exception of Straus, which is open 24 hours/day. The Freshman Music Rooms are open only to first-year students [more on the practice rooms for freshmen HERE.

There are a total of 220 pianos on campus.

**These are not under the jurisdiction of the music department.

Music Department Practice Room Hours

REGULAR (fall and spring term) PRACTICE HOURS ARE:
Monday - Friday: 8:30 am to 11:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm

Intersession (through June 22, 2014): 9am-4:15 pm, Monday-Friday (closed weekends)
Summer School session (June 23 - August 8)
9am-8:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-4:15pm Friday (closed weeends)
Intersession (August 11-29, 2014): 9am-4:15 pm, Monday-Friday (closed weekends)

REGULAR HOURS RESUME Wednesday, September 2nd

Practice rooms are closed during all legal holidays, and over the December holiday break (normally December 23-January 2).

During January and reading period, hours are curtailed. Please call for details.

Where can I store my instrument?

There are a limited number of lockers in the music building. Ask to reserve one at the Receptionist's desk. There is additional instrument storage in the Memorial Hall/Sanders Theatre complex; contact about storing harps.

Does Harvard rent instruments or repair pianos? Can I buy an instrument through Harvard? Would Harvard buy my piano? How often should my piano be tuned?

Please visit the Piano Technical Services website for answers to these questions and more about pianos at Harvard. We do not rent, purchase or sell instruments.

Resources: Supporting Student Performers and Composers

Hydra sound diffusion system set up in Paine Hall. The Music Department offers courses in composition and student works are often give a performance as part of the class. In addition, there are both graduate (HGNM) and undergraduate (Harvard Composers Association) composer's groups on campus that produce concerts of new student works.
Room 33 in the Music Department, which serves as the main classroom for electroacoustic composition. In addition to discrete eight-channel spatialization, the workstation is used for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound with both standard- and high-definition editing.
John Knowles Paine Concert Hall
(Music Building)
Other Performance Venues
OFA Funding for Student Performances/Projects
Music Library: Scores & Recordings
Quad Sound Studios
Harvard Box Office
Office of the Arts at Harvard
Collection of Musical Instruments
SOCH Recording Studio
Electroacoustic Music Studio (HUSEAC)
Harvard Group for New Music
Hydra Sound Diffusion System
Composition Prizes
Sound Studies Lab
Harvard Composers Association (undergraduate composers)

Concert Venues

John Knowles Paine Hall is located on the second floor of the music building, and is a concert hall that seats 437. Other performance venues exist across campus including the beautiful, 1166-seat Sanders Theatre and Lowell Hall (seats around 200). Several of the Harvard houses also offer opportunities for musical performance. For instance, Dudley House hosts several graduate student music groups including a chorus, orchestra, jazz band, and traditional music ensemble.

Many of the Harvard houses also have common rooms that can be used for music performance. Most houses also have their own music tutor or tutors and all of the houses have piano practice rooms and pianos available for students.


Left to right: Paine Hall, Sanders Theatre, and Lowell Hall

Concert Series

The Parker Quartet are the current Blodgett Artists-in-Residence. They coach classes and give public concerts, read student works, and participate in the musical life of the department. The Quartet also premieres the winning composition of the Blodgett Composition competition.

Blodgett Chamber Music Series

The Blodgett Chamber Music Series produces several concerts each year featuring the artists-in-residence. These concerts are free and open to the public, and take place in John Knowles Paine Concert Hall. The Parker Quartet are currently the Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence.

Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. The New York Times hailed the quartet as “something extraordinary,” and the Boston Globe acclaims their “pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.” The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009- 2011 seasons.

The Fromm Players at Harvard

The Fromm Players at Harvard present a series of two concerts each year dedicated to new music such as that of Cage, Martino, Kampela, Gompper, Davidovsky, Berio, Fedele, Ung, Sierra, Leon and many other composers working in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Fromm Players concerts seek to program works not normally heard in Boston. In 2010, for example, the concerts (curated by Joel Sachs and featuring New York's internationally renowned ensemble CONTINUUM), explored the music of international composers working where cultures collide and fuse. Each year's curator is different, and each year the concerts focus on a new area of work. In 2009, for example, Jeffrey Milarsky programmed a set of new works performed by Manhattan Sinfonietta and in 2012 Harvard's Hans Tutschku created a program of electroacoustic work performed by Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

The concerts are sponsored by the Music Department and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard. They are free and open to the public.

Portrait Concerts and Special Events

The Music Department also produces a number of concerts each year that showcase the work of a specific composer, performer, or theme. "On My Music" featured the compositions of Visiting Composer Helmut Lachenmann (2008), for example, and pianist Ursula Oppens performed a concert of "Music of the 21st Century" (2010). 2013-14's Norton Lecturer was Herbie Hancock, who gave a series of six talks, illustrated with music. For upcoming special concerts, please see our the Events Calendar.

Concerts Around Campus

Music Department concerts represent only part of the concert schedule at Harvard. Student groups produce concerts, as do other academic departments, the Harvard museums, libraries, and churches, student societies, and the Office for the Arts. There are musical events taking place on campus nearly every day during the academic year.

To learn more about music events on campus, go to the Harvard Box Office
To see a listing of daily events at Harvard, go to the Harvard Gazette Calendar
To see a listing of all arts events on campus, go to the Harvard Arts portal



Student Music Groups

Music performance, like all performing arts at Harvard, is considered extracurricular. Musical groups on campus are all student-governed, and each handles its own auditions, operations, touring, and funding.

The following is a partial list of student music groups on campus. A more complete list (including opera, musical theater, and many more chamber choral and world music groups) is available on the Office for the Arts website.

Click for FULL Listing of Music Groups at Harvard



Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum [photo Mark Haveli, OFA]


Kuumba Singers [Photo by Harvard News Office]


The Holden Choirs:
-- Harvard Glee Club
--Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus
--Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum
Radcliffe Choral Society

Kuumba Singers
University Choir
Dudley House Chorus

A Capella Groups

Harvard Din and Tonics
Harvard Low Keys
Harvard-Radcliffe Callbacks
Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones
Mizmor Shir
Radcliffe Pitches 
Harvard Krocodiloes


A rehearsal of he Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the largest and oldest on campus. The HRO is conducted by Federico Cortese. [photo: Harvard Crimson]


Bach Society Orchestra
Dudley House Orchestra

Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra
Harvard Pops Orchestra
Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
Mozart Society Orchestra
River Charles Ensemble
Toscanini Chamber Orchestra

Chamber Music & Ensembles

Brattle Street Chamber Players
Mather House Chamber Music Program
Harvard Wind Ensemble

Early Music

Harvard Early Music Society
(on Facebook)

Concert Bands

Harvard University Band

Jazz Bands

Dudley House Jazz Band
Harvard Jazz Bands (Sunday and Monday bands)

Instrument-Dedicated Groups

Harvard-Radcliffe Organ Society
T.H.U.D. (The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers)
Harvard University Flute Ensemble
Harvard Piano Society


Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players
Dunster House Opera
Hasty Pudding Theatrical
Lowell House Opera


New Music

Harvard Group for New Music
Harvard Composers Association

World Music

Dudley House Traditional Music Ensemble
Han Ma-Eum (Korean Drummers)
Mariachi Veritas


Gamelan Si Betty, Studio and Information


Gamelan Si Betty is modeled on the court gamelan of central Java, and is perhaps the largest American-built gamelan in terms of numbers of instruments. It accommodates over 30 instrumental players as well as vocalists. Gamelan Si Betty is in residence at Harvard.

Join in! [Gamelan sessions happen each Thursday night throughout the academic year). READ ABOUT IT


Prof. Richard K. Wolf, above, on vina, performs in concert with guest artist Umayalpuram Mali, mridangam.


Harvard University is blessed with a rich and varied collection of organs. The magnificent 1958 Flentrop is perhaps its most famous example. Championed by the playing of E. Power Biggs, it remains one of the great examples of classic organ building principles, and is still revered by organists the world over. In addition, the university houses a 1911 Skinner in Andover Hall, as well as a Hutchings in Divinity Hall. Several of the undergraduate houses have instruments, as well as a number of churches in Cambridge that house organs on loan from the university.

The newest addition is the Fisk Op. 139, pictured right, housed in Memorial Church.



Collection of Early Instruments

The Harvard University Collection of Musical Instruments comprises 165 objects including instruments, both Western and non-Western, the Isham and Hewitt Collections, and a small group of musical miscellany. A growing number represent the cultures and traditions of many parts of the world including Europe, North America, the British Isles, and the mid- and far-east, especially China. 

Here you'll find a piano made by Streicher & Sons of Vienna in 1869; the piano Brahms would have played. The collection also features reproductions of the fortepianos of the likes of Mozart and Beethoven, a William Dowd harpsichord, and a Dolmetsch clavichord once played by virtuoso Gustav Leonhardt. Other highlights include Baroque viols, French 19th-century clarinets, a carved walnut Serpent D'Eglise, and a Pardessus de Viole created in the French city of Metz in 1730.





c 2014 President and Fellows of Harvard College