Member of the Division of Humanities
Music, one of the original seven liberal arts, is an ideal vehicle for exploring the core values of a liberal arts education. Studying music at Grinnell College not only provides a rich array of performing opportunities, it also allows students to cultivate more diverse skills and modes of inquiry than usually possible at a conservatory. Courses in performance, composition, and improvisation train students in the arts of communication and critical thinking through creative expression and careful listening; they also provide hands-on application of concepts learned in other music courses. Conversely, courses in music theory, history, and culture challenge students to apply their musical skills: to mediate between the spoken/written word and the nonverbal world of musical expression, to use musical ideas to interpret data and solve problems, and to place music within intellectual and cultural contexts. Furthermore, as a fundamentally interdisciplinary subject, music can intersect with a vast number of other subjects taught at the College — in the humanities (e.g., art, theatre, dance, languages, literature, philosophy, religion), in social studies (e.g., history, anthropology, economics, gender and women’s studies, education), as well as in the sciences (e.g., physics, mathematics, psychology, computer science). Most of these intersections represent important sub-disciplines within the field of music today and can lead to a wide assortment of career options.
With twelve faculty-led ensembles and private lessons in dozens of instruments as well as voice, the Department of Music offers students of all levels significant opportunities to hone their musical skills and participate in public performances.
As of Fall 2017, Grinnell offers all students music lessons covered by the College Comprehensive Fee. Please continue reading for details. All declared music majors may take an unlimited number of lessons at any level without additional charge (majors must declare before the end of the add/drop period in order to receive free lessons for that semester). All non-majors may take one course of 30-minute private lessons (MUS 120 or MUS 220) or group lessons (MUS 122) every semester without additional charge. For a small fee, non-majors can upgrade to 60-minute lessons (MUS 221, MUS 320, and MUS 420) or take 30-minute lessons in a second area. A limited number of competitive awards are available to cover these fees; see the Music Department website for details. Entering students generally register for lessons at the 100-level; registration at the 200-level requires permission of the instructor. Please note: registration in music lessons is subject to enrollment caps, like other courses. Credits earned in music lessons or ensembles are NOT counted in the number of credits that determine whether a student is liable for an “overload” fee (over 18 credits).
Five musical ensembles (MUS 101) are open without audition to all students regardless of previous musical experience. The remaining ensembles require auditions for placement purposes. These take place just before or during the first week of classes in the fall; individual ensemble directors can provide detailed information on auditions for their ensembles. Winners of the Hill Ensemble Scholarships (selected during ensemble auditions) will receive free music lesson upgrades in exchange for participation in a Music Department Ensemble.
Non-majors are welcome in all classroom-based courses. Numerous courses require no previous background in music and have no pre-requisite. These include our new Intro course, MUS 100 (see below), MUS 116 (designed explicitly for non-majors), and five 200-level courses that are open to all students, including first-years (MUS 201, MUS 202, MUS 203, MUS 204, and MUS 205). Non-majors who wish to take additional music courses should begin with MUS 100 and MUS 112, which are pre-requisite for many upper-level courses.
The Music Major Curriculum (effective Fall 2018) provides flexible pathways for students from diverse musical backgrounds. Four foundational courses introduce a broad range of musical styles, genres, and skills. Prospective majors should start with MUS 100 (Fall only), which provides an orientation to music as an essential expression of human culture, identity, and creativity. The accompanying MUS 100 Lab is designed to teach music notation and keyboard skills to those who arrive on campus without prior experience in these areas; students who do have such background should take the Music Placement Exam during New Student Orientation to see if they can test out of the lab. MUS 112 (Spring only) should ideally be taken second semester, note that the music department does not accept AP credit as a substitute for MUS 112. The remaining foundational courses delve into music history, culture, and society from a variety of angles and should be taken within the first two years.
Prospective majors should meet with a music faculty member as early as possible to plan intermediate and upper-level courses and develop a coherent curriculum that is tailored to their interests, abilities, and career goals. Please note that the 36 credits required for the major represent a minimum; students considering graduate study and/or a career in music will need to take additional coursework. It is also recommended that music majors take foreign language courses and participate in a semester of off-campus study.
Music majors are encouraged to take full advantage of their unlimited free private music lessons and participate in Music Department Ensembles every semester. One semester of intermediate/advanced private lessons (MUS 220 or MUS 221) is required under new curriculum; please note that several semesters of MUS 120 may be needed to qualify for placement in MUS 220 or 221. Two credits of ensembles (MUS 101) are also required. Note, however, that additional credits of lessons or ensembles cannot be applied to the 36 required for the music major. This restriction does not apply to majors who declared before Fall 2018, as they can count up to 10 credits of music lessons towards the 36.