Music Department

Degree Requirements

At Reed College, we believe that music enriches the life of the mind, body, and soul. We seek to build an inclusive learning community in which students may explore their musical interests, gain knowledge, improve skills, and express themselves. Whether students are continuing their musical journey or just beginning, the music department offers a variety of opportunities for engagement through scholarship, performance, composition, and collaboration. We believe that all music is valuable and that every voice counts. Our diverse curriculum prepares music majors, music minors, and other students wishing to engage with music for a variety of careers after graduation.

Pursuit of the music major prepares students for a senior thesis in music history or analysis, ethnomusicological research, or composition. Majors should complete two units of music theory (Music 210 and Music 310), two units of music history (Music 221 and Music 222), one unit of ethnomusicology (Music 150), and one unit of musicianship (Music 205) before beginning the second semester of their junior year, and take the junior seminar.

Majors are expected to participate in performance activities; therefore, fees for private instruction in one instrument or voice are waived for junior and senior music majors.

Independent study courses (Music 481) in subjects not offered in the regular curriculum are available for junior and senior music majors.

Requirements for the Major

See the college catalog for Music major requirements.

Junior Qualifying Exam

The junior qualifying exam is designed to evaluate a student’s preparedness to proceed to their senior year. It typically assesses three pillars of the current music curriculum at Reed: formal music analysis of notated repertory; critical listening skills involving non-notated recorded examples; and engagement with music as an object of historical and ethnomusicological inquiry. Each of these components are addressed in separate essays of roughly 3–5 pages each that the student will complete over a prescribed period of time, typically over a weekend. In some years, the department has administered the junior qualifying exam in conjunction with the junior seminar. The exam has traditionally been considered a capstone to required coursework and not a launching pad towards a particular thesis project. Each exam is read and evaluated by all members of the department. Within a week of completing the exam, students will be notified whether they pass the exam, are given a conditional pass with a request for a revision or rewrite of a particular component of the exam, or fail the exam. In the case of the latter outcome, the student will be given a second chance to pass a newly designed version of the exam.

Senior Thesis

Before beginning their senior year, students planning to do a thesis in music must demonstrate their competence in the particular area in which they wish to work. That is, they may not use the thesis as an occasion to explore an entirely new area. The thesis may be an extended historical, ethnomusicological, or analytical project, which may include a performance; or a creative thesis in music, which must include a printed score, a recording of a performance, and an analytical essay. At the beginning of the senior year, students prepare short written proposals describing the nature of their theses for discussion with the entire music department prior to submitting proposals to the Division of the Arts for approval.

Requirements for the Minor

The goal of the music minor is a means for nonmajor students to organize and deepen their study of music according to their own interests outside the framework of the major. 

See the college catalog for Music minor requirements.