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The Department of Music seeks to develop the musical understanding of students who desire to broaden their cultural perspective through study of the arts, as well as to prepare students wishing to pursue a professional career in music. The department maintains the goal of demystifying the study of music by helping students to develop the necessary vocabulary to describe what is heard and empowering them to make critical judgments and argue interpretations of aural phenomena. No matter which course one takes in the Department of Music, the faculty promote the idea that listening to music cannot be a passive experience. Music, like the other fine and performing arts, involves the mind, aesthetic perception, emotions, and the body, in both listening and music-making activities.

Music courses are open to all students who have fulfilled the necessary prerequisites or gained permission of the appropriate individual instructors. The Department of Music offers a disciplinary major and both a disciplinary and interdisciplinary minor. To be counted toward the major or minor, all course work must be passed with a grade of C- or better. New York State music education certification is available to students majoring in music.

In courses for non-majors, students are presented a comprehensive survey of the material at hand sufficient to provide non-music students with a broad understanding and to enable students to continue successfully in their music coursework if they so choose. Music, by its very nature interdisciplinary, connects to many programs of study at the Colleges: Asian Studies, European Studies, Africana and Latino Studies, to name just a few. Music study can also serve as a microcosm for a given culture’s macrocosmic view; the relationships between performers and audience, within the performing group, the style of presentation, etc., can communicate in a symbolic way a culture’s underlying structure and values.

It is the Department of Music’s wish that all interested HWS students be able to sing or play in an ensemble or take private lessons, whether that be as a continuation of earlier musical experiences or as a first-time endeavor. Admission to HWS’s choral and instrumental ensembles is obtained by audition, and private instruction in applied music is available to all students for a per-semester fee for a total of 14 half-hour lessons. Private composition lessons are also available as an independent study.

Music majors and minors are expected to develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of music, with the aim of preparing students who are interested in continuing musical studies for graduate-level work. In-depth exploration is a natural hallmark of formal musical training; the music theory, music history, and upper-level courses all embody thorough intellectual engagement, whether through rigorous theory and ear training study, style analysis, or research of a musicological topic. Students also have the opportunity to finish their undergraduate careers with a highly rewarding honors program. The honors program consists of a yearlong course of study, which is developed and pursued in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

disciplinary, 12 courses
MUS 120, 220, 304, 320, 420, 460; two courses from MUS 202, 203, and 204; one elective at the 200-level or above; one additional elective from MUS 130 or above; and two performance course credits (one course credit earned through participation in a major choral or instrumental ensemble for two semesters, and one course credit earned through taking private instruction for two semesters).

disciplinary, 6 courses
MUS 120; one course from the group MUS 202, 203, or 204; MUS 220; one music elective at the 200-level or above; one additional course from MUS 130 or above; and one performance course credit earned through participation in a major choral or instrumental ensemble for two semesters or through private applied instruction for two semesters.

interdisciplinary, 7 courses
MUS 120; one from the group MUS 202, 203 and 204; MUS 220; one additional course from MUS 130 or above; one non-music elective course from art, history, education, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, languages, dance, or another department,chosen in consultation with the adviser (the music and non-music electives should intersect topically); and two performance course credits (one course credit earned through participation in a major choral or instrumental ensemble for two semesters, and one course credit earned through taking private instruction for two semesters).

Students seeking to obtain New York State teacher certification to teach in the public schools (pre-K–12) are required to fulfill all requirements of the regular music major (disciplinary) in the Department of Music, with the following additions:

  • The required music major elective must be replaced by MUS 305 Conducting
  • In addition to the standard ensemble and applied study requirements for the music major—i.e., at least one credit (two semesters) of ensemble participation and at least one credit (two semesters) of applied study on a primary instrument or voice—at least two credits (i.e., four semesters) must be earned through private applied instruction in any four (i.e., one semester each) of the following areas: brass, woodwinds, strings, voice, piano, guitar, and percussion. It should be noted that only two out of the four credits required in this area of ensemble participation and lessons may be counted towards the general baccalaureate requirement of 32 credits for graduation from the Colleges.

Students seeking to obtain New York State teacher certification should arrange early in the process to meet with Professor Mark Olivieri as well as a faculty member from the Department of Education to ensure that all education requirements are being addressed.

MUS 100 Introduction to Music Literature This course is intended to deepen the meaning of experiencing music as a living language from listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed in the concert hall to hearing the soulful strains of blues in a Chicago club, or the “exotic” timbres and tunings of a Balinese gamelan. Each repertory is unique in its materials and methods of organization; each elicits a unique set of values and feelings in response. Each is described and assigned meaning through the cultural filters of our own individual backgrounds. Music utilized in the American tradition based on European models is surveyed, as are representative models from contrasting cultures. (Offered each semester)

MUS 110 Introduction to Music Theory This course introduces fundamentals and basic principles of Western music notation and music theory, as well as aural skills connected to these concepts. Specific topics of study include clefs, major and minor scales, key signatures, intervals, triads, and an introduction to four-part writing, harmonic progressions, and chordal function. (Offered each semester)

MUS 120 Tonal Theory and Aural Skills I This course uses an integrated approach to develop the theoretical knowledge and aural skills necessary to become a listener/performer who can perceive sound in meaningful patterns, express these concepts musically, and think critically and artistically about musical form, style, and content. Review of diatonic scales, intervals, triads, and keys is followed by principles of voice leading, Roman numeral analysis and functional harmony, and non-harmonic figuration. Harmonic topics include tonic, dominant, subdominant, submediant, and supertonic triads in functional contexts; the dominant-seventh chord and its inversions; the leading-tone diminished seventh chord; and the cadential six-four chord. Formal topics include sentence and period phrase structures. Analytical and writing skills are introduced and developed, and aural understanding of the above foci is achieved through singing, conducting, playing, and listening. Prerequisite: MUS 110 or permission of the instructor. (Offered each semester)

MUS 130 Beethoven: The Man and His Music This course deals specifically with the music of Beethoven. Among the compositions carefully examined and listened to are his nine symphonies; his opera Fidelio; concertos such as The Emperor; piano sonatas such as The Pathetique, Appassionata, and Moonlight; selected string quartets; and his Missa Solemnis. Beethoven’s place in history, his personality, his leading the way to individualism and subjective feeling in music, and his vision of human freedom and dignity are also explored. (Offered alternate years)

MUS 135 Music in America: 1750-2000 Investigating the panorama of American Music to reveal its infinite variety and vitality, origins of American music are traced from the Native Americans, to the psalm singing colonials, to the African slaves. Eighteenth century works by Billings and Mason are examined. Emphasis is placed on 19th- and 20th-century music. Compositions include works by Ives, Copland, Gershwin, Crumb, Antheil, and Bernstein. (Offered alternate years)

MUS 160 The Symphony The concert symphony is the type of music most performed by orchestras today. Students in this course study the evolution and ever-changing nuances of symphony. They explore the various periods and work their way through the classical period, the romantic period, and the 20th century. (Offered alternate years)

MUS 180 World Music and Percussion Survey This course will explore the realm of percussion from many perspectives incorporating both history and practice. Students will examine the historical development of percussion including rhythmic concepts and the variety of instruments as well as their use in various cultural traditions, not only in western classical music but in the music of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Students will also consider the way those traditions have influenced one another to shape the use of percussion in contemporary music. (Offered periodically)

MUS 190 History of Rock and Roll The course provides a survey of rock and roll from its roots through contemporary times. Beginning with a study of the development of rock from earlier sources, such as mainstream popular music, rhythm and blues, and country and western, the course proceeds by considering the artists and trends that serve to define rock music through the decades. The course places a strong emphasis on hearing the music that is discussed; students receive guidance in listening to basic musical features such as form, rhythm and meter, and instrumentation. Attention is also given to content of lyrics and to the role that rock music plays as a general, sociological phenomenon. (Offered annually)

MUS 194 Hip Hop: Global Phenomenon The hip-hop movement is one of the most influential cultural phenomena of the late 20th centuries. It is a complex social movement whose audiences are as diverse as the music. This course will trace the history and evolution of the movement-from it's influences in the patter-like toasting of Jamaican DJ's over the albums they were spinning -to its humble beginnings in the Bronx River District in 1978 where the MC's role was still secondary to that of the DJ. Hip hop plays a complex role in contemporary society. It has moved from a subversive cultural movement to its current status as a commercial commodity, which has eroded many of the principles the movement initially stood for. A good portion of this course will be dedicated to examining the interdisciplinary nature of hip-hop, in which poetry, drama, music, art, and dance are inextricably linked. The course will also devote particular attention to hop-hop texts as critical social commentaries addressing larger issues, such as misogyny, homophobia, persona, parody, and authenticity, and the social problems that existed in urban life that gave rise to hip-hop texts have evolved over the years with a change in culture and urban conditions.

MUS 202 History of Western Art Music: Medieval and Renaissance (600-1600) From Gregorian chant and the songs of the troubadours, the beginnings of polyphony, the “new secular style” of the 14th century, and the “sweet” harmonies of the 15th century Burgundian school, through the humanistic currents of the late 15th and 16th centuries, composers created new styles, techniques, and forms, responding to the demand for greater expressivity and more variety. The course surveys tradition and change in music from 600 to 1600 and is based on selected readings, recordings, and scores. (Offered every third semester)

MUS 203 History of Western Art Music: Baroque and Classical (1600-1800) From the early operas of Monteverdi to the oratorios of Handel and the cantatas of Bach, the Baroque composer aimed to “affect” his listener through powerful musical contrasts and rhetorical passions. Haydn, Mozart, and the young Beethoven, on the other hand, were more interested in projecting formal logic and proportional design in their sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, and other instrumental works. The course surveys tradition and change in Baroque and classical music and is based on selected readings, recordings, and scores. (Offered every third semester)

MUS 204 History of Western Art Music: Romantic and Modern (1800-1950) Most 19th century composers pushed the expressive power of chromatic harmony and thematic unity to the musical extreme. By 1910, most of the musical avant-garde no longer found it possible to work within the constraints of the three century old tonal system. New systems and searches for novel sonorities led to the use of natural and electronically generated sounds. Chance happenings were advocated by composers who objected to older music’s predictability. The course surveys tradition and change in romantic and modern music and is based on selected readings, recordings, and scores. (Offered every third semester)

MUS 205 Music at the Movies This course provides a comprehensive survey of film music from the silent era through the present day, exploring its role and relation to the plot and visual elements at small-scale and large-scale (narrative) levels. Topics covered will include general elements of music, musical forms and stylistic periods, as well as film score compositional developments including instrumentation, theme structures, diegetic (part of the film’s narrative sphere) and non-diegetic (purely soundtrack) music, music as narrative participant, subliminal commentary, and music as iconographic character. Films viewed will include those with soundtracks by major 20th-century composers and specialized soundtrack composers. The course is designed for varying levels of musical knowledge; reading musical notation is helpful but not necessary. (Offered periodically)

MUS 206 Opera as Drama “That opera is properly a musical form of drama, with its own individual dignity and force,” informs the content and structure of this course. The central issue of the relationship of words to music and form to meaning and their continuing reinterpretations is examined with respect to solutions offered by Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Gluck, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Berg. Music moves the psyche on several levels simultaneously; it is more holistic than the linearity of verbal syntax can ever be. The ability to follow a score in a rudimentary manner is desirable. (Offered periodically)

MUS 207 Big Band to Bossa, Bop to Blues: a History of Jazz This course studies the development of contemporary styles and techniques in jazz and American popular music of the Western hemisphere since 1900. (Offered annually)

MUS 209 Women in Music This course surveys the careers and works of women composers and performers, primarily of European art music and American popular music, from Antiquity to the present day. Issues explored will include women’s achievements and contributions, women’s roles as composers, patrons and performers, portrayals of women in opera, feminist musical criticism, cultural values that have affected women's participation in musical life, and the way in which women present themselves publicly as women and as artists. (Offered periodically)

MUS 213 Musical Aesthetics This course introduces students to the aesthetic tradition in music by examining its most important and enduring claims. Musical aesthetics is a branch of philosophy whose goal is to provide persuasive answers to questions about music’s nature, purpose, and value: What is art? What is the nature of aesthetic experience? What is a musical work, and what determines its value? What is the relationship between music and other art forms? How would music function in an ideal society? Over the course of the semester, students will critically engage some of the most canonical answers to these questions, and learn to apply them to musical works from a variety of time periods and traditions. (Ability to read music helpful but not required.) (Offered periodically)

MUS 214 Music Criticism in Theory and Practice This course draws from recent critical theory to uncover diverse ways of experiencing, interpreting, and articulating musical meaning. The course combines theoretical and practical components. As budding critical theorists, students will become literate in major contemporary "isms,"-including Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Formalism, Queer Theory, Semiotics, Race Studies, and Postcolonial Theory-interrogating the beliefs, agendas, and biases that underlie these schools and their applications to music. As practicing music critics, students will generate and articulate individual responses to a variety of musical works-including those by Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Shostakovich, Gerschwin, Coltrane, Madonna, Ice Cube, and Radiohead-- in dialogue with the critical methods studies over the course of the semester. Through these combined efforts , students will come to view a musical work as a many-sided entity supporting multiple interpretations; they will grapple with the continuum between objective and subjective experience, and be able to locate interpretive moments on that continuum; and they will deepen their appreciation and understanding of music, while making visible and interrogating their own-as well as broader cultural-biases and tastes. (Offered periodically)

MUS 215 Music and Race in U. S. Popular Culture This course uses music as a lens to examine race and racism in the cultural, political, and economic arenas of the United States from 1900 to the present day. Through non-technical analysis of selected examples from the U.S. popular canon, students will learn to identify ways in which music and performative gesture underscored, subverted, and sometimes transcended racial stereotypes. Through focused engagement with topics including (1) Primitivism in the Jazz Age of the 1920s; (2) Black Power, white Money, and 1960s Soul; (2) Gender, Sexuality and Gangsta Rap; and (4) Racial Cross-Dressing- Minstrelsy from Jim Crow to Eminem, students will learn to hear discourses of race and identity that reside below the surface of popular music in the United States while developing analytical tools for engaging music as an expression of cultural identity. (Offered periodically)

MUS 220 Tonal Theory and Aural Skills II This course continues goals outlined in MUS 120. Further exploration of harmonic analysis and part writing techniques, including supertonic, leading-tone, and subdominant seventh chords; Neapolitan and augmented-sixth chords; major-minor modal mixture; tonicization of and modulation to V in major and III and v in minor; and diatonic sequences. Rhythm and musicianship topics include more elaborate divisions of the beat and polyrhythms, and introduction to alto clef, as well as small binary forms. Prerequisite: MUS 120 or permission of the instructor. (Offered each semester)

MUS 304 Composition Through a progressive series of composition projects, students investigate the sonic organization of musical works and performances, focusing on fundamental questions of unity and variety. Students will learn how to become more fluent improvisers as a means to inform their creative process and divorce themselves from composing works solely utilizing theoretical constructs. Aesthetic issues and intentionality are considered in the pragmatic context of the instructions that composers provide to achieve a desired musical result, whether these instructions are notated in prose, as graphic images, or traditional western musical notation. (Offered annually)

MUS 305 Conducting This course serves as an introduction to the art of conducting. Exploration and development of the necessary skills involved in becoming a successful musical leader generally and conductor specifically are undertaken. Emphasis is placed on the development of a basic repertoire of gestures needed to beget a variety of musical responses. Physical technique associated with both the right and left hand (including baton technique) is emphasized. Topics related to programming, rehearsal technique, score reading, ear training, and mixed meter are also explored. The final project will normally involve each student recruiting players or singers and leading them in rehearsal of a pre-selected piece of music. Prerequisite: MUS 220 (Offered periodically)

MUS 320 Tonal and Chromatic Theory This course builds on skills developed in MUS 120 and 220, and completes the tonal theory sequence with a focus on chromatic harmony of 19th-century Western art music. There is a strong emphasis on all aspects of part writing and analysis, and on aural engagement with theoretical and formal concepts through listening and performance of more complex melodic, polyrhythmic, and harmonic materials. Theoretical and musicianship topics include diatonic modulation to all closely related keys, chromatic modulation and voice-leading techniques, altered chords, polyrhythm, hypermeter, tenor clef, introduction to fugue techniques, and Sonata Theory. Prerequisite: MUS 220 or permission of the instructor. (Offered annually)

MUS 420 Twentieth-Century Theory and Aural Skills This course utilizes the skills gained in the tonal theory sequence to explore the diverse landscape of 20th-century repertoire and theoretical concepts. Repertoire-based development of theoretical and musicianship skills features topics including: high chromaticism; introduction to jazz theory and forms; octatonicism and pentatonicism; set-class and twelve-tone theory; atonality; triadic transformations; unequal meters and complex polyrhythms; and historical approaches and current trends in popular music theory and analysis. Students will produce original written analyses of popular music and atonal/twelve-tone works, one of which will serve as the basis for an analytical presentation and participation in the Senior Symposium, if eligible. Prerequisite: MUS 320 or permission of the instructor. (Offered annually)

MUS 450 Independent Study

MUS 460 Seminar in Music This seminar provides in-depth capstone study of a selected area within musicology, music theory, or composition, as well as research and bibliographic skills necessary for graduate study in music. Subjects vary, with topics ranging from the works of a single composer (e.g., Mozart’s operas, Stravinsky’s ballets, Bach’s cantatas) or specific themes (e.g., text/music relationships,) to large­-scale composition projects and studies, to interdisciplinary, theoretical, critical, analytical, or historiographical investigations. Requirements include active participation in discussion and research projects, as well as a substantive final paper and participation in the Senior Symposium, if eligible. Prerequisites: One of MUS 202, 203, or 204; as well as concurrent enrollment in, or completion of, one 300-level MUS course; as well as permission of instructor. (Offered annually)

MUS 495 Honors

MUS 915 Jazz Improvisation This course provides an in-depth study of jazz improvisations techniques and theory in the context of standard jazz repertoire. Emphasis is on learning jazz repertoire, analyzing song forms, developing one's toolbox of jazz vocabulary, exploring improvisational concepts, playing in various jazz styles, and studying classic recordings from musicians throughout jazz history. This course is available in half- (.5 credits) or full-hour (1 credit) private lessons. Students should have experience on their primary instrument; no jazz experience is required.

MUS 928 Improvisation Ensemble The Improvisation Ensemble performs musical rhetorics that include improvisational elements such as jazz, rock-n-roll, ambient, and open-music. Students will develop their musicianship and theoretical musical knowledge through learning to improvise individually and as ensemble without musical notation.

MUS 906 Cello (Bass)
MUS 907 Jazz Saxophone (Mandel)
MUS 908 Violin/Viola (Zaplatynsky)
MUS 910 Piano (Christiansen, Heaton, Ralston, or Slocum)
MUS 911 Voice (Angela Calabrese, Henion, Murphy, or W. Trowbridge)
MUS 913 Brass (Carolan)
MUS 914 Woodwinds (Berta)
MUS 916 Organ (Hamilton)
MUS 917 Guitar (Ellis or Wachala)
MUS 918 Drums (Curry)
MUS 919 Jazz Piano (Barbuto)
MUS 927 Percussion (Anthony Calabrese)

See the Department of Music's webpage for additional information related to taking private lessons.

MUS 920 Jazz Ensemble (Barbuto)
MUS 922 Classical Guitar Ensemble (Ellis)
MUS 923 Jazz Guitar Ensemble (Wachala)
MUS 924 Percussion Ensemble (Anthony Calabrese)
MUS 926 Colleges Woodwind Ensemble (Olivieri)
MUS 930 Colleges Chorale* (Cowles)
MUS 935 Colleges Community Chorus (Staff)
MUS 940 Colleges Brass Ensemble (J. Trowbridge)
MUS 945 Colleges String Ensemble (Zaplatynsky)

*Members of the Colleges Chorale may be considered for membership additionally in the Colleges Cantori, a chamber vocal ensemble. Cantori is a not-for-credit ensemble.

Note: Students who take private lessons receive one-half course credit per semester. Likewise, students who participate in the Colleges Chorale, Colleges Community Chorus, Classical Guitar, Jazz Guitar, Percussion, String, Woodwind, Brass, or Jazz Ensembles receive one-half course credit per semester.


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