The Music Major

Table of Contents

Section I - General Information on the Music Major
Section II - Requirements for Acceptance into the Music Major
Section III - Performance Ensembles
Section IV - Transfer Students
Section V - Requirements for the B.A. Degree with a Music Major
Section VI - Application to SUNY at Stony Brook
Section VII - Music Education
Section VIII - Scholarships and Prizes


The Music Major

The undergraduate major in music balances studies in the performance, composition, theory, and history of Western art music with the broad general education implied by a liberal arts degree. The department offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with no specific "tracks" in performance, history, composition, or theory. All students take the same general program and are encouraged to select electives that reflect their individual interests and potential careers.

While the Department of Music does not offer degrees in music education, music therapy, or other specialized professional fields, students may obtain such degrees at the graduate level often after one year of additional study. Students interested in music education should see Section VII below.

The departmental curriculum concentrates on Western classical music, but course offerings include a broad range of classes in popular music and jazz, world music, and music and technology. Many of these also fulfill general university graduation requirements as part of the Diversified Education Curriculum.

The Department also offers two Classical Music minors (General Track and Theory Track) and two Jazz minors (General Track and Theory Track). There is also a minor in Music and Technology.  For the Classical Music minor, students with minimal prior training in music may take the General Track. Students with sufficient training to qualify as music majors, but who do not wish to complete all of its requirements, may take the Theory Track. The same distinction applies to Jazz minors. The General Track requires less expert musical background while the Theory Track requires advanced study in musical theory and musicianship. Please see the Undergraduate Bulletin and Undergraduate Studies Director for music minor requirements and prerequisites for course registration.

Scholarships:  The Department of Music offers a limited number of competitive scholarships to incoming students --- first year or transfer, which is determined during the February application process. Students may compete for scholarships in the areas of performance, composition, music theory, or music history. For additional information please see "Scholarships and Auditions" under "Undergraduate Information" 

Requirements for Acceptance into the Music Major

Students must pass a rudimentary exam in Music Theory and Musicianship (ear-training) and an audition on an instrument or voice.

Students wishes to become a Music Major beginning Fall, 2016 must take the Musicianship Placement Examination if they have not done so already. The Theory exam is scheduled for Tuesday, August 30th, 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm in room 2310.

Please notify the department if you wish to take this exam by calling (631) 632-7351. Bring several pencils with erasers to this exam and plan to arrive 15 minutes before the exam begins. If you have questions about the exam or auditions for the major, please contact Undergraduate Studies Director Margaret Schedel at

pdfClick here to download sample test.

Students who wish to audition for lessons (either as a major, minor, or non-major) should sign up for an audition (on an instrument or voice), which are typically held during the first week of classes. Sign up sheets are posted outside the music office (room 3304, Fine Arts I).  Please come to the department or call Germaine Berry, at 631.632.7350 to assist with sign-up.  Students should prepare 2-3 pieces in contrasting styles and character. The audition is 10 minutes (see "Auditions" below for more information).

Description of the Undergraduate Musicianship Exam: The exam is designed to measure a student's ability to hear, remember, notate, sight-sing, and tap musical excerpts. The exam begins with simple exercises and becomes progressively more difficult. The first part of the exam is written and the second oral. The exam consists of:


  1. Melody Dictation
  2. Rhythm Dictation
  3. Triad Recognition (progressing from triad recognition in root position and inversion to seventh chord recognition)
  4. Interval Recognition (melodic and harmonic)
  5. Chorale Dictation (requiring bass and soprano voices and roman numeral and inversion symbols)


  1. Pitch Dictation
  2. Rhythm Matching
  3. Clef Reading (bass and treble, later alto and tenor)
  4. Sight-Singing of Rhythms
  5. Sight-Singing of Tonal Melodies
  6. Sight -Singing of Atonal melodies

The exam presumes prior training in music theory and musicianship. Students unfamiliar with notated music should take MUS 119, The Elements of Music. Students who have prior training with more skill in theory but are unable to pass the ear training part of the exam will be assigned to MUS 120, Elementary Sight-Singing and Musicianship. This course focuses on the skills necessary to pass the Undergraduate Musicianship Exam. Students may also choose to work with a private tutor in order to pass the exam. References for tutors may be obtained from the Department of Music.

Only students who place into MUS 121, 220, 221 or 331 and pass an audition/jury on an instrument or voice (see "Auditions" below) are considered music majors.


To qualify as a music major, students must demonstrate proficiency in vocal or instrumental performance, preferably in the classical repertory. Undergraduates study with either a faculty member or a teaching assistant (an advanced graduate student in performance). The auditions in February for new students competing for scholarships in instrument or voice will serve as both the audition into the major as well as for lessons. (Performance Study, MUS 161-187 and MUS 361-387). Students arriving on campus the first week of campus with no prior contact with the department may audition for lessons and take them if accepted, but admission to the major may be deferred until their first jury, held at the end of their first semester of lessons. Auditions are normally about 10-15 minutes long.

Performance Study with Faculty--There are a limited number of openings for undergraduates to study with our distinguished performance faculty. Any student wishing to work with a faculty member should contact the department during the fall term of the year prior to the year of intended study to request an application for scholarship auditions, which generally take place in February. The Department is especially interested in bringing in highly gifted pianists, at an advanced enough level to study with Professors Kalish and Dahl.

If a student is acceptable for lessons but not developed enough to study with senior performance faculty, a Graduate Teaching Assistant will be assigned as their teacher. The graduate teaching assistants are instrumentalists or vocalists currently studying in the doctoral program, which ranks as one of the best programs in the country. These artists have considerable teaching experience and often already have substantial professional performing careers. They work in close consultation with the performance faculty. Even if assigned to a teaching assistant, undergraduates may work with performance faculty in the context of master classes and chamber music coaching sessions. Performance faculty also hear the juries which are played at the end of each semester.

Performance Study co-requisites. All students who take a Performance Study course (MUS 161-187 and 361-387) must simultaneously enroll and participate in an ensemble course, except for pianists, guitarists, and a few other instruments (see the Director of Undergraduate Studies if in doubt). Pianists and guitarists are encouraged to enroll in Chamber Music (MUS 391). Instrumentalists should enroll in the University Orchestra or Wind Ensemble (MUS 262 or 263), or the Big Band Jazz Ensemble (MUS 264) or Jazz Combo (MUS 267) Vocalists should enroll in the Stony Brook Chorale (MUS 261), or in the Big Band Jazz Ensemble (MUS 264).

Auditioning for Lessons:

Piano and Instruments--Be prepared to play two pieces of contrasting style drawn from the classical literature. Students with little experience in this literature should make every attempt to play at least one classical piece but may play music from other traditions. Choose pieces that best demonstrate your abilities. In most cases, an accompanist for instrumentalists will not be available.

Voice--Select two or three contrasting songs or pieces from the classical or literature. Performance from memory is preferable. An accompanist will be provided. Choose pieces that best demonstrate your abilities.

Percussion--To audition for percussion lessons students should prepare a solo or etude for snare drum, 2-mallets, 4-mallets, or timpani

It is not likely that beginners, or even low intermediates, will be accepted for lessons. If someone wishes to learn to play an instrument, appropriate teachers can be recommended.

Performance Ensembles

MUS 261 Stony Brook Chorale - Regular rehearsal time: MON 7:15-9:45 p.m. room 0113, Staller - Shoshana Hershkowitz, conductor - Office: Staller 2344 632-7329 or 632-7330
MUS 262 University Orchestra - Regular rehearsal time: TU 6:30-9:30 p.m. room 0111, Staller - Susan Deaver, conductor - Office: Staller 2342 632-7328 or 632-7330
MUS 263 University Wind Ensemble - Regular rehearsal time: WED 7-10:00 p.m. room 0111, Staller - Bruce Engel, conductor - Office: Staller 2342 632-7328 or 632-7330
MUS 264 Jazz Ensemble - Regular rehearsal time: THU 3:30-6:30 p.m. room 0111, Staller - Ray Anderson, conductor - Office: Staller 3356 632-7344 or 632-7330
MUS 267 Jazz Combo - Rehearsal Time: TBA
Ray Anderson, supervisor - Office: Staller 3356 632-7344 or 632-7330
MUS 268 Marching Band - Meeting time: MON 6:30-8:30 p.m., FRI 3:20-5:20 p.m. - John Leddy, director - Office: Student Activities Center (222) 632-7368
MUS 391 Chamber Music - Meeting time: WED 5-6:20 p.m. - Joanna Kaczorowska, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies: 632 7330 or 632 7026

Undergraduates studying at an advanced level (MUS 361-387) may qualify for a graduate ensemble. See the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information:
MUS 565 Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra
MUS 579 Opera Workshop, David Lawton, director
MUS 584 Baroque Chamber Ensemble, Arthur Haas, director
MUS 596 Contemporary Chamber Players, Eduardo Leandro, Gilbert Kalish, directors
Auditions for Performance Ensembles--Any student wishing to participate in the performance ensembles at Stony Brook must audition. Auditions take place during the first week of classes. Information about the audition for specific ensembles is given below:

MUS 261 Stony Brook Chorale --Auditions are held at the first rehearsal. Please prepare a solo song in any style (classical, musical theater, folk, etc.) in the proper key for your voice. Bring extra music for our accompanist. At the audition, singers will be asked to identify the names of selected pitches and rhythmic values.
Criteria for selection include: tone quality, intonation, rhythmic precision, and musical sensitivity. The ability to read music is required, excellent sight-reading is not.

MUS 262 University Orchestra --Auditions open to Undergraduate Music Majors. Qualified Non-Music Majors on the Undergraduate and Graduate level at SUNY are encouraged to audition. Openings may exist for gifted High School & USB Pre-College students. Audition by appointment with Conductor Susan Deaver. Audition appointments may be made in the week prior to the beginning of the semester--Call the Department of Music--632-7330 or sign up for an audition at room 2342. Students should prepare excerpts from a solo, concerto, or etude with contrasting sections to demonstrate their musical and technical skills. Sight reading of orchestral excerpts may be included in the audition.

MUS 263 University Wind Ensemble --Auditions will be held at the first rehearsal with Conductor Bruce Engel. Call the Department at 632-7330 for additional information. Performers are required to play excerpts from two contrasting pieces or exercises. Additionally, performers will be asked to sight-read.

MUS 264 Jazz Ensemble --Call the Department of Music for audition information in the week before classes begin--632-7330. For the audition, performers should be prepared to play a standard jazz tune or popular song and to improvise on it. Additionally, performers will be asked to sight-read.

MUS 267 Jazz Combo-- Call the Department if Music for audition information in the week before classes begin--632-7330. For the audition, performers should be prepared to play a standard jazz tune or popular song and to improvise on it. Additionally, performers will be asked to sight-read.

MUS 391 Chamber Music --Audition at the first class meeting--first Wednesday of the semester. Check the Bulletin Boards in the Music Building for other announcements regarding Chamber Music. Call the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, Joanna Kaszorowska, for further information--632-7330.

Transfer Students

Admission: Acceptance to SUNY at Stony Brook does not automatically mean acceptance to the music major. All transfer students must pass the Undergraduate Musicianship Exam and the audition to become music majors. This is true even for students who were music majors at other schools

Advising: It is very important for all transfer students to get advice from a Music Faculty member about appropriate courses, exams, and major requirements. Students may consult the Music Department representative at transfer orientation sessions or contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Transfer Credit: Most credits earned in music at other institutions will count toward general requirements for a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Stony Brook. Students who wish credit towards the music major for most upper-division required courses in history and theory must take equivalency exams. Like the Undergraduate Musicianship Exam, these exams are advisory in the sense that they allow the Department to determine which Stony Brook course corresponds to a transfer student's training. If an equivalency exam is not passed, the student must take the specified Stony Brook course. For this reason, many transfer students find it necessary to take an extra semester or two to complete requirements for the music major.

Equivalency exams: For courses such as the Music Theory Sequence, 321, 322, 323, or the Music History Sequence, 350-352, it is best to take the equivalency exams before the semester begins, and no later than 8 days into the semester. Sample exams are available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.


Requirements for the B. A. with a Music Major

1)  Performance:  Performance study consists of individual lessons, occasional master classes with faculty members, and term-end juries. Students playing instruments for which we have no teachers (for instance, tuba, harp, and organ) may study with off-campus teachers and receive Stony Brook credit. These lessons are supervised by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in consultation with the performance faculty. Students having a preferred off-campus teacher must submit that person's resume to the Director of Undergraduate Studies at least one week before the beginning of term. The teacher must then be approved by appropriate performance faculty. Even students studying off-campus must take and pass the initial entrance audition and must also participate in the term-end juries. All students studying off-campus must pay for their own lessons, but they will receive Stony Brook credit that will fulfill requirements for the major.

Requirements: Students must complete at least four semesters of performance study, MUS 161-187 or MUS 361-387. This is a minimal requirement; students are encouraged to take lessons each term of study at Stony Brook.

Recitals: There is no official recital requirement for the music major; however, at least three undergraduate group recitals are held each semester and students are encouraged to perform. Individual recitals are also encouraged and may be arranged with the permission of the student's teacher.

2) Performance Ensembles
Requirements: Students must complete four semesters of participation in one of the performance ensembles--Stony Brook Chorale, University Orchestra or University Wind Ensemble. Jazz Ensemble or Chamber Music may count for two semesters of the four-semester requirement. The co-requisite for lessons is to participate in a performance ensemble.

3)  Upper-Division Writing Requirement
see catalog p. 149 for description of this University-wide requirement

4)  History, Theory, and Musicianship
Musicianship: Four semesters: MUS 121, 220, 221, and 331.

Theory: Five semesters: MUS 321 Tonal Harmony I, MUS 322 Tonal Harmony II, MUS 323 Compositional Techniques of Late-Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Music, MUS 421 Tonal Analysis, and MUS 422 Analysis of Twentieth Century Music.

History: Four semesters: MUS 101 Introduction to Music (or Music 130 Sound Structure), MUS 350, 351, and 352 History of Western Music (survey).

Upper-Division Electives: Two additional music history courses numbered 450 (each semester a different topic will be offered) or one additional history course numbered 450 plus one other elective selected from the following: MUS 432 Counterpoint, MUS 434 Orchestration, MUS 439 Composition, MUS 487 Independent Project. All 487 projects which are to used to fulfill the elective requirement must be approved by the Undergraduate Studies Committee one semester before the course is to be undertaken. Such projects may include a lecture-recital or full recital with researched program notes. 

Flow Chart of Music Major Requirements

Courses in the major have a rigid prerequisite structure that is schematized in the flow chart shown below. All courses in the same row are Co-requisites. The Prerequisite to MUS 121 is the Undergraduate Musicianship Exam; thereafter, the Prerequisite to each course is that one listed immediately above.


Semester Musicianship Keyboard Harmony Theory History
Fall MUS 121 (2cr)
Musicianship I
MUS 122(1cr)
Beginning Keyboard
MUS 321 (3cr)
Harmony I
MUS 131 (3cr)
Sound Structure DEC D
Spring MUS 220 (2cr)
Musicianship II
MUS 141 (1cr)
Keyboard Harmony A
MUS 322 (3cr)
Harmony 2
MUS 350 (4cr)
Western Music before 1600 DEC G
Fall MUS 221 (2cr)
Musicianship III
MUS 142 (1cr)
Keyboard Harmony B
MUS 323 (3cr)
Techniques of Late19thand 20th-Century
MUS 351 (4cr)
Western Music 1600-Early 19th-Century DEC I
Spring MUS 331 (2cr)
Musicianship IV
MUS 421 (3cr)
Analysis of Tonal Music
MUS 352 (4cr)
Western Music of the 19th-and 20th- Centuries
Fall MUS 422 (3cr)
Analysis of 20th- Century Music
*Upper Division Elective 1
Spring *Upper division electives 2

* In addition, a minimum of four semesters in performance study and four semesters of ensemble are required for the degree. Students taking lessons through the department must also play in an ensemble while taking private lessons.

*During the junior or senior year, majors must take 2 Upper-Division Electives: either 2 semesters of MUS 450 (a repeatable topics course) or one semester of MUS 450 and 1 Theory course (MUS 432 or 434), or Composition MUS 439, Electronic Music MUS 437, Conducting MUS 491, or Introduction to Technologies MUS 340. Prerequisites for the History courses vary according to subject matter; see Bulletin Supplement for details.

All music major courses must be passed with C or better in order to count for Music Major. Any courses which a student fails and/or gets a grade lower than a C, must repeat the class in order to graduate.


All undergraduate applications to Stony Brook are made through the Office of Admissions. If you are not a United States citizen, be sure to consult the information on International Students.

  Application packets are available at secondary schools in New York, or write to:

SUNY at Stony Brook
Stony Brook, NY 11794-1901

You may also request a packet or apply online through the Admissions Office website.

If you would like printed information on the undergraduate music program request it by contacting Ms. Germaine Berry at or by phone at 631-632-7350.

Music Education

The Department of Music does not offer degrees in music education. However, students with a B.A. in music from Stony Brook may obtain teacher certification by completing the remaining undergraduate education requirements and student teaching at colleges with certified programs.

Undergraduates thinking of a teaching career should take at least one semester of conducting (MUS 491 Conducting, offered yearly), and at least one course in developmental psychology (such as PSY 211 and 311). Students might also consider taking summer courses at other institutions in subjects such as Education Psychology, Philosophy of Education, or Child Development.

Prizes & Scholarships

Several kinds of scholarships are available through the Music Department and University. Bright Lights Scholarships, nominated by the Music Department's Undergraduate Studies Director and available to talented musicians with excellent academic credentials, typically offer full tuition and fees scholarships for four years. Partial tuition scholarships for four years are available through the Music Department. In addition, scholarships are available through the Honors College (for information please call (631) 632-4378). A limited number of Provostial Scholarships have also been made available to the Music Department.

Bright Lights, Provostial, and Music Department Scholarships are determined by yearly scholarship auditions, which take place in February. Students may apply for scholarships in the areas of music performance, theory, history, or composition. Please see Scholarships and Auditions under Undergraduate Information.

Additional scholarships and prizes are offered to continuing students through the department. These include the Lambert Scholarship, Palmedo Scholarship, Bane Scholarship, Elizabeth Ball Kurz Scholarship, the Salvo Prize, and the Suffolk County Piano Teachers Forum Prize.
 Application forms are now available and are due IN THE MUSIC OFFICE, no later than Monday, January 20th.

For those students who miss this deadline, an additional audition day may be set for late April. However, it is unlikely that any scholarship money will be available at that time.

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