Requirements: Music

Fine Arts Division

The Department of Music offers several types of study. Each course, whether it results in a student's own performance or in heightened perception of others' performances, is designed to increase the student's sense of the richness and importance of music in the human experience.

The Kenyon College faculty voted to change from Kenyon units to semester hours. This change will go into effect for all students who start at the College in the fall of 2024. Both systems will be used throughout the course catalog with the Kenyon units being listed first.


The Curriculum

MUSC 101, 102, 105 and 107 are considered especially appropriate introductory courses for first-year students or upper-class students new to the department. As the foundation on which the other coursework is built, these courses are recommended for students considering majors or minors in the department. To facilitate proper placement of entering students, the department administers a music theory exam through which students may be exempted from MUSC 101.

Those who do not take the exam or who wish to develop basic skills should take MUSC 101, which covers the rudiments of music theory and the aural skills needed by practicing musicians. MUSC 102, 105 and 107 are designed to provide both an overview of the subject and the requisite skills needed for active, informed listening. Students with Advanced Placement credit should consult the department chair.

The experience of creating or re-creating music through musical performance is central to understanding the discipline of music. To this end, the applied music program is structured to allow any student at any level of experience to engage in this type of study. End-of-semester juries and timely advancement to established higher skill levels are two of the methods by which the department seeks to evaluate student progress. Lessons are offered as follows:

  • Levels I, II and III: 25 minutes (0.13 units/1 semester hour) or 50 minutes (0.25 units/2 semester hours)
  • Level IV: 50 minutes (0.25 units/2 semester hours) or 100 minutes (0.5 units/4 semester hours — must petition the department for consideration).

Students may earn a total of 0.63 units/5 semester hours at Level I, at which point they are required to advance to Level II in order to continue to receive academic credit. Students may generally earn a total of 0.63 units/5 semester hours at Level II, at which point they are required to advance to Level III in order to continue for credit. However, an additional 0.25 units/2 semester hours may be earned at Level I or II, upon the recommendation of the applied instructor and consent of the tenured or tenure-track faculty members attending the relevant jury. There is no limit on the aggregate credit available for Levels III and IV.

Whether taken for credit or audit, the lessons involve an additional fee. When such instruction is required for the major or minor, the fee is waived. The department's music lesson coordinator can provide all pertinent information about the programs of studio instruction.

As a corollary to the music lesson program, the department offers ensemble work. The instrumental ensembles call for some degree of proficiency and are usually formed by audition.

  • The Chamber Singers — open by audition
  • The Kenyon Community Choir — open to all with a voice-placement audition
  • The Symphonic Wind Ensemble — open by permission of instructor
  • The Kenyon Jazz Ensemble — open by audition
  • The Opera and Music Theater Workshop — open by audition
  • The Knox County Symphony — open by audition
  • The Asian Music Ensemble — open by permission of instructor
  • The Early Music Ensemble
  • String, flute, woodwind, percussion, harp, brass, horn and saxophone ensembles
  • Other groups as determined by student interest

As with lessons, it is best to plan to begin such an activity as early in one's academic career as possible.

Requirements for the Major

The minimum requirement of 5.75 units/46 semester hours is distributed as follows:

  • Theory - two courses (1.0 units/8 semester hours)
    • MUSC 121Y: Music Theory/Ear Training
    • MUSC 122Y: Music Theory/Ear Training
  • History - two courses (1.0 units/8 semester hours)
    • MUSC 102: Introduction to Musical Style
    • MUSC 105: From Hildegard von Bingen to John Cade: Music, Composers and Their World 
    • MUSC 107: Comprehending Music Performance
    • Choose one from:
      • MUSC 202: Medieval and Renaissance
      • MUSC 203: Music History: Baroque and Classical
      • MUSC 204: Music History: 19th Century
      • MUSC 205: Music History: Music Since c.1900
  • Ethnomusicology (0.5 units/4 semester hours)
    • MUSC 206D: Seminar in Ethnomusicology
  • Electives (2.5 units/20 semester hours)
    • MUSC 124: Introduction to Computer Music
    • MUSC 214D: Union of Music and Dance
    • MUSC 302D: History of Jazz
    • MUSC 306: Music History: J.S. Bach
    • MUSC 307: Ludwig van Beethoven
    • MUSC 309: History of Opera
    • MUSC 310D: Music, Human Rights and Cultural Rights
    • MUSC 312D: Music, Film and Culture: Ethnographic Perspectives
    • MUSC 321: Jazz Theory and Arranging
    • MUSC 322: Composition
    • MUSC 324: Advanced Computer Music
    • MUSC 325: State of the Art: Music and Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century
    • MUSC 331: Conducting
    • MUSC 291, 391: Special Topic
    • Additional from:
      • MUSC 202: Medieval and Renaissance
      • MUSC 203: Music History: Baroque and Classical
      • MUSC 204: Music History: 19th Century
      • MUSC 205: Music History: Music since c.1900
      • MUSC 207: Music and the African American Experience
      • MUSC 221: Musical Structure in Tonal Music
      • MUSC 222: Musical Structure in Post-Tonal Music
      • MUSC 224: Songwriting
  • Applied study/performance: (three semesters of 50-minute lessons) compiled from applied lessons at Level II or above (0.75 units/6 semester hours)
  • Senior Capstone

Additional Requirements

For students whose major instrument is not piano, two semesters of 25-minute piano lessons. (Note: A GPA of 3.33 or higher must be earned over the two semesters for these lessons to meet this requirement.)

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in music consists of three components: a research paper, the independent research/performance project and the subsequent oral defense. The Senior Capstone must be completed, in all respects, by May 1 of the senior year.

1. The Paper and the Independent Research/Performance Project

Majors can choose from the following general types of independent research/performance projects:

  • A music theory, music history or ethnography research project of substantial length, culminating in a public presentation based on a paper of approximately 40 pages

  • A composition of at least 15 minutes in length, culminating in a public presentation, accompanied by a paper of at least 20 pages explicating the compositional process
  • A recital of 50 to 60 minutes in total on the major instrument, accompanied by a paper of at least 10 pages concerning all or part of the repertoire being performed

  • A lecture-recital of 50 to 60 minutes in total, combining performance on the major instrument with a research presentation based on a 20-page paper related to the instrument and/or the repertoire being performed
  • An ensemble presentation (conducting or other leadership role) of approximately 25 minutes. A speaking component may be required based upon a paper of at least 10 pages in length

Public presentation is a requirement of all independent research/performance projects. For research projects, this means a department-sponsored public presentation of findings (typically through delivering an abridged version of the full paper). Composition projects, recitals and lecture-recitals are presented through department-sponsored performances. For final approval, all students must perform/present and pass a preliminary hearing, as specified in the department guidelines, two weeks before the official presentation. The written component of the independent research/performance project is due three days before that hearing.  Because the paper serves as the basis of program notes and/or public speaking, it must be deemed acceptable by consensus of the music faculty.  A rewrite of all or portions of the paper may be required before the project can move forward.

In all cases, the student must determine the type of project, decide on the topic/repertoire, obtain an advisor (in the case of recitals, the student's applied adjunct instructor will be one of two advisors), and submit to the department chair a written proposal by May 1 of the junior year. A final, formal written proposal is due Oct. 1 of the senior year.

2.  The Oral Defense

Within three days of the public presentation, the student will contact each member of the faculty to request preliminary questions and additional readings or listening assignments that address specific aspects of the project, both direct and indirect. Additional questions may arise spontaneously in the interview itself, which is held with all faculty present.  

3.  Addendum: Clarification on Retakes

Paper submission 

First Attempt: For purposes of the capstone, the submission of the required paper at the time of the public presentation is considered your first attempt.

Second Attempt: If the faculty decides that the paper is insufficient in terms of content, approach, length or style, you must rewrite the paper according to the feedback you receive from the faculty. This will be considered your second attempt and is due before the final weekend in April. 


If the public presentation is deemed insufficient for any reason, the presentation (in whole or in part) must be repeated before or during the final weekend in April. Depending on circumstances, the second presentation may be given with only the music faculty in attendance.  

Oral Defense

You must answer all questions to the satisfaction of all members of the faculty. If any of your answers are considered to be deficient, you will require a second oral defense, but only on the topics that were deemed to be deficient. All faculty will be present at this second defense.  

All portions of the Senior Capstone must be satisfactorily completed in order for a student to graduate with a major in music.


Music majors of particular merit and possessing an interest in focused, independent work may petition the department for permission to undertake a senior honors project. Each honors student works closely with a faculty member on a project of considerable scope. Honors projects in music require a substantial commitment of student and faculty time and effort. Projects are approved on the basis of their scope and depth, their viability and likelihood of successful completion, and the qualifications of the applicant. Students applying for honors must have previous coursework in the proposed area(s) of study. For instance, students proposing an honors project in composition are considered qualified only if they have already taken relevant courses in music theory and composition. Senior honors is two semesters in duration, with the presentation at the end of the second semester. The completed project is subject to evaluation by the department faculty and an outside expert in the field.

The honors project comprises a second senior-year endeavor, one independent of the applicant's Senior Capstone (and any junior recital). To qualify for honors, applicants must possess (in addition to the minimum College GPA of 3.33 for honors) a departmental GPA of 3.5 or higher, and that standard must be maintained throughout the project.

To have projects considered for honors, music majors must submit a proposal to the chair of the Department of Music no later than May 1 of the junior year. In developing the proposal, students must consult with their advisor and the faculty member most likely to serve as project advisor. The proposal should outline the goals of the project, the steps involved in its production, and the nature of the resulting product as well as the form of its public presentation. Students should also note their qualifications to undertake the proposed project, listing courses completed in relevant areas and any other related projects completed.

Examples of recent honors projects are listed on the department website.

Requirements for the Minor

The minimum requirement of 2.89 units/23 semester hours is distributed as follows:

  • Theory: MUSC 121Y-122Y (1.0 units/8 semester hours)
  • History: MUSC 102, 105 or 107 and one of MUSC 202–206D (1.0 units/8 semester hours)
  • Electives: MUSC 124, 207, 214D, 302-331, 391 or additional from MUSC 202–206D, 221, 222 and 225 (0.5 units/4 semester hours)
  • Music lessons/performance: Three semesters of 25-minute lessons compiled from lessons at Level II or above (0.39 units/3 semester hours)

Cross-listed Courses

Music courses are cross-listed in a number of departments and programs, such as anthropology, women's and gender studies, Asian and Middle East studies, and American studies. Please consult the course offerings of the departments/programs or consult the department chair.