Professor Thomas Forrest Kelly, Head Tutor

The concentration in Music provides an understanding of music in diverse cultural and historical contexts as well as a solid foundation in composition, theory, analysis, and criticism. While the Department of Music is not in itself a school of music with a performance department, we strongly encourage performance activities.

Students begin the concentration in Music with two foundational pillars: Music 97a, 97b, and 97c provide extensive knowledge of the history and literature of Western music as well as the principles of ethnomusicology and world music repertories; Music 51a, 51b, 150a, and 150b teach skills important in musicianship, theory and analysis. Students who enter with a significant background in theory may bypass portions of the theory sequence through the placement exam at the beginning of the semester. While it is possible to complete the concentration requirements within five semesters, we encourage potential concentrators to enroll in Music 51 as early as possible to allow for the greatest possible flexibility in the path through the concentration.

Students are then offered a wide range of advanced, specialized electives that build on the foundations laid in Music 97 and Music 51/150. A variety of courses in music theory, composition, musicology, ethnomusicology, and performance-related areas allow students to engage with musical questions at a deep level. In musicology and ethnomusicology, these courses take the form of proseminars for small groups that explore in detail selected musicological issues and direct students toward significant independent projects. Several advanced courses in acoustic and electronic composition are given each year, along with occasional offerings in orchestration and other specific compositional topics. Advanced theory and analysis courses include such topics as tonal and post-tonal analysis, jazz harmony, and modal and tonal counterpoint. Performance-oriented courses include chamber music, historical performance practice, and conducting.

Students are welcome to take a term of Supervised Reading and Research (Music 91) as an elective. This consists of individual work with a faculty member of the student’s choice. A term of Music 91 is especially encouraged for juniors intending on pursuing a senior thesis. For those writing senior theses, a year of senior tutorial (Music 99) is required. Options for senior theses include research papers, original compositions, or senior recitals. There are no general examinations for undergraduates.

The department welcomes joint concentrations with other departments that allow them. Joint concentrators need to fulfill a reduced number of course requirements, as outlined below. A senior thesis is required on a topic in which both fields are represented.

For students who wish to pursue a program with more emphasis on performance, the department offers a five-year program. Students approved by the department and the Administrative Board for this program take the normal number of courses in their freshman year, but then work at the three-course rate for the four years following. This permits more intensive work in performance. These students are expected to give a senior recital.

Students who have taken college courses in music at other institutions may receive concentration credit for work done elsewhere. This ordinarily involves a written petition to the faculty and may require taking an examination in the materials of the course for which credit is requested.

Basic Requirements: 13 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Music 51a and 51b: Theory I.

    2. Music 150a and 150b: Theory II.

    3. Music 97a and 97b: Western Music History and Repertory; and Music 97c: World Music History and Repertory.

  2. Required categories:

    1. Topics in Musicology: Any two courses chosen from Music 190r through Music 194r, Music 182r or Music 183r.

    2. Advanced Theory: Any two courses chosen from Music 151 through Music 159.

    3. Electives: Any two from the following:

      1. Composition: Music 160r through Music 167r.

      2. An additional half-course from those listed in 2a above.

      3. An additional half-course from those listed in 2b above.

      4. Music 180r.

      5. Music 91r.

      6. Conducting or orchestration: Music 121a through Music 125b.

  3. Tutorial: Music 97: See item 1c.

  4. Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Students interested in the music concentration are encouraged to take Music 51a as early as possible.

    2. A theory placement examination is given at the beginning of the fall term. See Professor Alexander Rehding (617-495-2791) for more information.

    3. Courses counting for concentration credit may not be taken Pass/Fail, except that one Freshman Seminar graded (SAT/UNS) may be counted for concentration credit with departmental approval.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 15 half-courses

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements, plus two terms of Music 99r, senior tutorial (see item 2).

  2. Tutorial: Two terms of Music 99r, senior tutorial, are required. Independent study in the junior year through Music 91r is strongly encouraged, but not required.

  3. Thesis: Required of all honors candidates. May be an original composition, a senior recital, or a verbal thesis. Plan or subject to be approved by the department at the end of the junior year. Early in the second term of the junior year, students wishing to submit a composition as their thesis are required to submit a portfolio of work for consideration by the composition faculty, and students wishing to pursue a recital must submit a representative recording for consideration by the performance committee. Any change of plan must be resubmitted to the department.

  4. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Joint Concentration Requirements: 8 half-courses

  1. Required courses: Music 51a and 51b, Music 150a and 150b, and any two semesters of Music 97 (a, b, and/or c).

  2. Electives: Two additional upper-level courses (taken from item 2 under Basic Requirements). The remaining semester of Music 97 may also count as one of these electives.

  3. Tutorial: Students should enroll in two terms of 99r in their primary department. A faculty adviser in Music will be provided in any case. Will not count towards music concentration credit.

  4. Thesis: Required. Plan or subject to be approved by both departments by the end of the junior year.

  5. Examination: None.


All students are required to confer with the head tutor or the assistant head tutor at the outset of their concentration or joint concentration, in order to develop an overall plan for fulfillment of requirements. All concentrators will continue to be advised by one of these two officials at the start of each term.

For up-to-date information on advising in Music, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library offers an outstanding collection of books and scores, as well as listening equipment for its extensive recording collection. An electronic music studio is available. Instrumentalists have access to the practice rooms, all of which have pianos, and a limited number of instrument lockers are provided. The many musical organizations on campus include the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, the Bach Society Orchestra, the Mozart Society Orchestra, the Harvard Glee Club, the Collegium Musicum, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Memorial Church Choir, the Group for New Music at Harvard, and the Organ Society. Students interested in composition may submit works for performance at concerts offered by the department and for the Harvard University Prizes. The Office for the Arts offers a special lesson subsidy program (by audition), as well as information on private teachers in the area. See Chapter 9 for more information.


For further information, please contact the head tutor, assistant head tutor, or assistant to the chair in the Music Building (617-495-2791). You may also wish to consult the department website.


Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Historical Study A

Historical Study B

Literature and Arts B

Literature and Arts A

Literature and Arts C

Moral Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning

Science A


Science B


Social Analysis


For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.


Number of Concentrators as of December













Music + another field






Another field + Music