The Major

Major Requirements

Class of 2017 and beyond

A minimum of ten courses are required for the major, as detailed below.

Four courses in Music Theory and Musicianship to be taken in sequence:

  • Music 103
  • Music 104a (Music Theory and Musicianship I) or Music 104b (Jazz Theory and Musicianship I)
  • Music 201
  • Music 202

Three courses in European and American Music History: Music 231, 232, 233

Majors may choose to replace a maximum of any one of these three specific courses with a course in music history covering aspects of the same period from those listed after each specific course number below.

  • Music 231: 163, 164, 171, or 261
  • Music 232: 165, 166, 236, or 266T
  • Music 233: 119, 138, 151, 238, 251, 252, or 254

One course in World Music/Ethnomusicology from the following: Music 111, 112, 113, 117, 120, 125, 126, 211, 220, 221, 222

Two electives: One must be taken in the senior year and at the 400-level to serve as a capstone course. (The second semester of a year-long honors thesis, MUS 494, will satisfy the 400-level elective requirement.) The other elective may be fulfilled in any semester by any Music course but must be taken in addition to courses selected to satisfy the history, theory, and world music/ethnomusicology requirements detailed above.

Majors are required to participate in faculty-directed departmental ensembles for at least four semesters.

Majors must enroll in partial credit music lessons for at least two semesters.

Classes 2015 and 2016

Sequence Courses

  • Music 103, 104 Music Theory and Musicianship I
  • Music 201, 202 Music Theory and Musicianship II
  • Music 231, 232, 233 (formerly 207, 208, 209) Music in History I, Music in History II, and Music in History III
  • Music 402 Senior Seminar in Music

Elective Courses

An additional two semester courses in music, to be selected from the following:

Group A: any 111-180, 222, 236-280, 311-380, 471-480 courses. The department reserves the right to refuse registration in any course for which the student is determined to be over-prepared.

Group B: 203-220, 301-310, 381-399, 491-499.
Department strongly recommends that students elect at least one course from each group. For questions arising from the renumbering of courses, please contact the Department Chair.

It is strongly recommended that prospective majors complete 103, 104, 201, 202 and 231 by the end of the sophomore year.

Performance and Concert Requirements

Music majors are encouraged to participate in departmental ensembles throughout their careers at Williams; i.e., for eight semesters. Majors are required to participate in departmental ensembles for at least four semesters. Under special circumstances the student may petition the music faculty to allow this requirement to be met in an alternative way.

Foreign Languages

Music majors are strongly urged to take courses in at least one foreign language while at Williams.

Musicianship Skills

Music majors are strongly urged to maintain, refine and improve their musicianship skills, such as sight-singing, score reading, melodic and harmonic dictation, and keyboard proficiency, throughout their entire Williams career.

The Degree with Honors in Music

Three routes provide the opportunity for honors or highest honors consideration in the Music major:

a. Composition: A Composition thesis must include one major work completed during the senior year supported by a 10- to 15-page discussion of the student’s work or analysis of a major 20th century or contemporary work. The student’s general portfolio of compositions completed during the junior and senior years will also be considered in determining honors.

b. Performance: A Performance thesis must include an honors recital given during the spring of the senior year supported by a 15- to 20-page discussion of one or more of the works performed. The student’s general performance career will also be considered in determining honors.

c. History, Theory and Analysis, or Ethnomusicology: A written Historical, Theoretical/Analytical, or Ethnomusicological thesis between 65 and 80 pages in length. A written thesis should offer new insights based on original research. A public oral thesis defense is also required.

In order for a thesis proposal to be approved, a student must have at least a 3.3 GPA in Music courses (this GPA must be maintained in order to receive honors), and must have demonstrated outstanding ability and experience through coursework and performance in the proposed thesis area. Students are encouraged to seek the advice of their potential thesis advisor early in the junior year and no later than the first month of the second semester. A 1- to 2-page proposal written in consultation with the faculty advisor must be received by the Music chair by the end of spring break.

Honors candidates must enroll in Music 493(F)-W31-494(S) during their senior year. A student who is highly qualified for honors work, but is unable to pursue a year-long project for compelling reasons, may petition the department for permission to pursue a WS/one-semester thesis. The standards for evaluating such a thesis remain the same. Completed thesis is due by April 15.


See Music 281–288 and Advanced Musical Performance 391, 392, 491, 492 for further information on vocal and instrumental lessons.

Starting Fall 2015, no student enrolled in music lesson courses at Williams will be charged anything beyond the College’s comprehensive fee. All students taking these courses will now receive a full subsidy so that their fee will be $0.

Study Abroad

One study abroad course may satisfy the one free elective requirement for the major, if approved by the department. A second study abroad course might satisfy any one of the specific required courses if the proposed course is clearly equivalent and if the substitution is approved by the department. Majors planning to study abroad should meet with the department chair to propose specific study abroad courses that might be approved to satisfy major requirements under this policy. No more than two courses taken abroad may count toward the major. Music lesson courses and ensemble participation pursued while studying abroad may count toward the performance requirements with approval of the department.