Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music




One of the oldest degree-granting music institutions in the United States, Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music combines a nationally ranked music program of conservatory-level intensity with the academic rigor and scholarly resources found only at a world-class private research university. Entering first-year undergraduates show the highest level of achievement in music as well as academics. The school believes that by carefully developing outstanding musicianship and keen intelligence, while nurturing a curiosity about the world, we can best encourage the emergence of each student’s unique creative voice.

Key to all performance majors is intensive one-on-one training with a celebrated faculty that includes members of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestras, internationally acclaimed soloists, sought-after conductors, and distinguished scholars and clinicians. Students work in small classes with these dedicated teachers and artists in a curriculum that comprises music history and theory, aural and piano skills, instrumental and voice lessons, and advanced electives. Special programs include a five-year dual-degree curriculum—enabling students to earn a degree in music as well as one in communication, education and social policy, engineering, journalism, or arts and sciences—and the ad hoc (self-designed) major. Additionally, the world-class music making and other cultural resources of downtown Chicago provide exceptional opportunities for learning outside the classroom.


The Bienen School of Music occupies three lakefront buildings. The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts houses the 400-seat Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, the 150-seat David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room, and the 150-seat Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater as well as administrative and faculty offices, teaching studios, classrooms, and practice rooms. The building connects with Regenstein Hall, which houses the 200-seat Regenstein Masterclass Room, the Office of Bands, rehearsal facilities, faculty studios, and practice rooms. The 1,000-seat Pick-Staiger Concert Hall houses rehearsal facilities and the Concert Management Office.

Musical Organizations

As a part of their program of study, music majors are required to participate in music school ensembles. Students from all other schools of the University are also encouraged to participate in any organizations for which they qualify. Ensembles include Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and Philharmonia; Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, and Wildcat Marching Band; Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, University Chorale, University Singers, Alice Millar Chapel Choir, and Northwestern Camerata; Jazz Orchestra and jazz small ensembles; Baroque Music Ensemble and Contemporary Music Ensemble; Guitar Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble; and chamber music ensembles.

Music Library

Among the nation’s largest music libraries, the Northwestern University Music Library supports all areas of musical study with a broad collection of books, scores, sound recordings, periodicals, and online resources. The facility, located in historic Deering Library, offers a reading room rich in reference materials, a music listening center, and a computer lab equipped with specialized music hardware and software. The Music Library is also distinguished internationally for its extensive collection of contemporary music, which includes one copy of nearly every score published since 1945 as well as many original manuscripts by prominent composers such as Pierre Boulez, John Cage, George Crumb, and Iannis Xenakis. The Music Library’s collections and staff serve the Bienen School of Music, the entire Northwestern University community, and researchers from around the world. For more information see www.library.northwestern.edu/music.

Programs of Study

The Bienen School of Music offers programs leading to the professional degrees of bachelor of music, master of music, and doctor of musical arts. The school also offers two nonprofessional degrees, the bachelor of arts in music and bachelor of science in music.

The curriculum allows flexibility for students while providing an education that is foundational for all musicians. Applicants in all areas who are accepted by the Bienen School enter directly into a program of specialization that begins in the first undergraduate year. The music core studies, taken by all students, require the acquisition of fundamental competencies and provide fundamental and essential experiences that complement the specialized studies in the declared major. Students are also required to complete studies in a number of allied subjects throughout the University.

Bachelor of Music (BMus)

Courses of study leading to the bachelor of music degree include majors in piano, strings, voice, winds and percussion, jazz, music cognition, music composition, music education, musicology, and music theory. Candidates for the degree of bachelor of music must complete a minimum of 48 units. For bachelor of music degree requirements, see the program page specific to the area of study.

Bachelor of Arts in Music (BAMus) and Bachelor of Science in Music (BSMus)

The bachelor of arts in music and bachelor of science in music are nonperformance degrees that offer a broad liberal arts education with a major in music. The requirements of the BAMus are essentially identical to those for the BA in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; the requirements for the BSMus are the same as those for the BAMus except that the BSMus has no foreign language requirement. Within these degrees’ focus on music, there are a wide range of possibilities for study; students may choose to specialize in one of the available academic areas (music cognition, music composition, music education, musicology, or music theory) by fulfilling their Music Electives with courses in their area of interest, they may choose not to specialize (in which case the Music Electives are fulfilled with any music courses), or they may design an ad hoc specialization, consisting of 10 units which substitute for the Music Electives category below.

For BAMus and BSMus degrees, 45 units are required:

Course Title
MUSIC 111-1
MUSIC 111-2
MUSIC 111-3
Music Theory I
and Music Theory II
and Music Theory III
MUSIC 211-1
MUSIC 211-2
MUSIC 211-3
Music Theory IV
and Music Theory V
and Music Theory VI
MUSIC 126-1
MUSIC 126-2
MUSIC 126-3
Aural Skills I
and Aural Skills II
and Aural Skills III
MUSIC 214-0
MUSIC 215-0
MUSIC 216-0
The Classical Canon
and Performers and Performance
and Music in the Present
Three quarters ensemble (1.5 units)
One 300-level elective in MUSICOL, MUS_COMP, MUS_TECH, MUS_THRY, or MUSIC_ED
Music electives (10 units)
Distribution Courses (13 units): Area I Natural Sciences (2), Area II Formal Studies (2), Area III Social/Behavioral Sciences (2), Area IV Historical Studies (2), Area V Ethics and Values (2), Area VI Literature/Fine Arts (2), and English Composition (1)
Other Electives (12 units, 6 of these are foreign language courses for BAMus students)

Overlay Requirement in Business or Finance

All Bienen School undergraduates are required to complete an “overlay” course in business or finance. The requirement does not add to the existing number of courses required for undergraduate degrees; depending on which course is chosen, the course counts toward the student’s general education or free electives requirement. See the Office of Student Affairs in the Bienen School of Music for course recommendations.

For all undergraduate degrees, students must also complete the Undergraduate Registration Requirement along with the degree requirements of their home school.


Music majors must earn a grade of C or above in all courses required in the major, including all music core requirements and all specialization courses, in order to count those courses toward graduation requirements. A grade of D or above (including P grades for non-dual degree students) may be used to fulfill distribution requirements and electives. If a student receives a D in a major course, then takes that course a second time and receives a C grade or above, the initial D grade remains on the permanent record and cannot count toward elective requirements. The second (improved) grade does not replace the first, and the same course cannot be counted twice in the degree.

A maximum of six courses in non-music subjects taken under the P/N grade option may be counted toward the degree. Music students may not take music courses under the P/N grade option, except for those courses graded solely with P/N grades.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend all sessions of courses and ensembles for which they are registered. It is the responsibility of students enrolled in the Bienen School of Music to acquaint themselves and comply with the attendance policy of their departments, class instructors, and ensemble conductors. In addition, students who are absent from classes for three or more consecutive days because of illness are required to notify the Bienen School's Office of Student Affairs.

Outside professional opportunities may arise for music students. If such an opportunity directly interferes in any way with curricular responsibilities, students must first obtain permission from the faculty of record for courses potentially affected, including classes, rehearsals, and performances, along with the signature of the program coordinator and a signature from one of the co-chairs of the Department of Music Performance. Noncompliance may be cause for failure in the courses or ensembles for which a student is registered during that quarter.

Applied Music Study

Bachelor of Music degrees require four years of individual instruction for performance majors in piano, strings, voice, winds and percussion, jazz, and in composition. One year is required for academic majors in music cognition, musicology, and music theory; three years are required for music education. Concurrent registration in a major ensemble is required in each quarter of applied study, with the exception of piano majors and composition majors. Applied study must be with a faculty instructor in the program area to fulfill degree requirements.

Applied Music Courses

Students in degree programs outside of music may have a limit on the number of applied music courses that are allowed to count toward those degrees. The list below specifies courses offered by the Bienen School that are considered to be applied music.

Applied Music Courses

Course Title
CONDUCT 364-0Choral Organizations
CONDUCT 374-0Band Organizations
CONDUCT 378-0Contemporary Music Ensemble
CONDUCT 391-0Chamber Music
CONDUCT 393-0Orchestral Organizations
CONDUCT 395-0Baroque Music Ensemble
GEN_MUS 115-0Non-Major Piano and Organ
GEN_MUS 116-0Non-Major Piano
GEN_MUS 120-0Non-Major Strings
GEN_MUS 121-0Non-Major Guitar Class-Beginning
GEN_MUS 125-0Non-Major Winds/Percussion
GEN_MUS 130-0Non-Major Jazz
GEN_MUS 133-0Non-Major Class Voice-Beginning
GEN_MUS 160-0Non-Major Private Voice-Beginning
GEN_MUS 260-0Non-Major Private Voice-Intermediate
GEN_MUS 315-0Non-Major Piano and Organ
GEN_MUS 316-0Non-Major Piano - Graduate
GEN_MUS 360-0Non-Major Private Voice-Advanced
GEN_MUS 364-0Choral Organizations
GEN_MUS 374-0Band Organizations
GEN_MUS 378-0Contemporary Music Ensemble
GEN_MUS 393-0Orchestral Organizations
GEN_MUS 395-0Baroque Music Ensemble
JAZZ_ST 162-0Applied Jazz for Music Majors
JAZZ_ST 262-0Applied Jazz for Music Majors
JAZZ_ST 362-0Applied Jazz for Music Majors
JAZZ_ST 377-0Jazz Orchestra for Music Majors
JAZZ_ST 391-0Small Ensemble
MUSIC_ED 230-0Woodwind Class
MUSIC_ED 231-0Guitar Class
MUSIC_ED 234-0Double Reeds Class
MUSIC_ED 235-0High Brass Class
MUSIC_ED 236-0Low Brass Class
MUSIC_ED 237-0String Class I
MUSIC_ED 239-0Percussion Class
MUSIC_ED 240-0Classroom Instruments
MUS_COMP 112-0Applied Composition for Music Majors
MUS_COMP 212-0Applied Composition for Music Majors
MUS_COMP 312-0Applied Composition for Music Majors
PIANO 161-0Applied Piano for Music Majors
PIANO 255-0Piano Sight Reading
PIANO 261-0Applied Piano for Music Majors
PIANO 328-1Collaborative Piano-Beginning I
PIANO 328-2Collaborative Piano-Beginning II
PIANO 328-3Collaborative Piano-Beginning III
PIANO 329-0Duo Sonata Class
PIANO 358-0Applied Keyboard for Music Majors
PIANO 361-0Applied Piano for Music Majors
PIANO 392-0Studio Ensemble for Music Majors
STRINGS 141-0Applied Violin for Music Majors
STRINGS 142-0Applied Viola for Music Majors
STRINGS 143-0Applied Cello for Music Majors
STRINGS 144-0Applied Double Bass for Music Majors
STRINGS 151-0Applied Harp for Music Majors
STRINGS 171-0Applied Guitar for Music Majors
STRINGS 241-0Applied Violin for Music Majors
STRINGS 242-0Applied Viola for Music Majors
STRINGS 243-0Applied Cello for Music Majors
STRINGS 244-0Applied Double Bass for Music Majors
STRINGS 251-0Applied Harp for Music Majors
STRINGS 271-0Applied Guitar for Music Majors
STRINGS 319-1Orchestral Repertoire I (Violin,Viola,Cello,Dbl Bass,Harp)
STRINGS 319-2Orchestral Repertoire II (Violin,Viola,Cello,Dbl Bass,Harp)
STRINGS 319-3Orchestral Repertoire III (Violin,Viola,Cello,Dbl Bass,Harp)
STRINGS 341-0Applied Violin for Music Majors
STRINGS 342-0Applied Viola for Music Majors
STRINGS 343-0Applied Cello for Music Majors
STRINGS 344-0Applied Double Bass for Music Majors
STRINGS 351-0Applied Harp for Music Majors
STRINGS 371-0Applied Guitar for Music Majors
STRINGS 374-0Guitar Ensemble for Music Majors
STRINGS 392-0Studio Ensemble for Music Majors
VOICE 110-0Applied Voice for Music Majors
VOICE 210-0Applied Voice for Music Majors
VOICE 310-0Applied Voice for Music Majors
VOICE 351-1Undergraduate Opera Workshop I
VOICE 351-2Undergraduate Opera Workshop II
VOICE 351-3Undergraduate Opera Workshop III
VOICE 355-0Vocal Coaching
VOICE 363-0Opera Performance
VOICE 393-0Repertoire Studies
WIND_PER 111-0Applied Flute for Music Majors
WIND_PER 112-0Applied Oboe for Music Majors
WIND_PER 113-0Applied Clarinet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 114-0Applied Saxophone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 115-0Applied Bassoon for Music Majors
WIND_PER 121-0Applied Trumpet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 122-0Applied French Horn for Music Majors
WIND_PER 123-0Applied Euphonium for Music Majors
WIND_PER 124-0Applied Trombone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 125-0Applied Tuba for Music Majors
WIND_PER 131-0Applied Percussion for Music Majors
WIND_PER 211-0Applied Flute for Music Majors
WIND_PER 212-0Applied Oboe for Music Majors
WIND_PER 213-0Applied Clarinet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 214-0Applied Saxophone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 215-0Applied Bassoon for Music Majors
WIND_PER 221-0Applied Trumpet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 222-0Applied French Horn for Music Majors
WIND_PER 223-0Applied Euphonium for Music Majors
WIND_PER 224-0Applied Trombone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 225-0Applied Tuba for Music Majors
WIND_PER 231-0Applied Percussion for Music Majors
WIND_PER 311-0Applied Flute for Music Majors
WIND_PER 312-0Applied Oboe for Music Majors
WIND_PER 313-0Applied Clarinet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 314-0Applied Saxophone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 315-0Applied Bassoon for Music Majors
WIND_PER 321-0Applied Trumpet for Music Majors
WIND_PER 322-0Applied French Horn for Music Majors
WIND_PER 323-0Applied Euphonium for Music Majors
WIND_PER 324-0Applied Trombone for Music Majors
WIND_PER 325-0Applied Tuba for Music Majors
WIND_PER 331-0Applied Percussion for Music Majors
WIND_PER 360-0Bass Clarinet
WIND_PER 361-0English Horn
WIND_PER 362-0Baroque Flute
WIND_PER 392-0Studio Ensemble for Music Majors
WIND_PER 393-0Repertoire Studies

Double Majors

Students may earn a double major in four years by fulfilling the requirements of both majors. Typically, the double major within the Bienen School of Music combines a specialization in a performance area with one in an academic area, although double majors in two academic areas are also possible. A double major in two performance areas is not permitted.

Four-year music students may also complete a second major outside the music school but may earn only one bachelor’s degree. Second majors from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences are available to Bienen School of Music students without transferring into that school. Majors in the other four undergraduate schools at Northwestern may only be completed by students in that school; in these cases, interested music students may either pursue a dual degree with the second school, or transfer to the other school and complete the music major as a second major, in which case no degree from the Bienen School is awarded. Students in other undergraduate schools may pursue music as a second major.

Ad Hoc Majors

It is possible to design an ad hoc (self-designed) major that cuts across specializations to meet a particular student’s needs and career ambitions. Bachelor of Music degree students may design an ad hoc major as a second major; 12 units are required beyond the core, and may not be double counted in the primary major. Bachelor of arts in music and bachelor of science in music degree students may pursue an ad hoc concentration within the degree; 10 units beyond the core are required for the concentration. Ad hoc programs are designed in consultation with faculty with expertise in the partic­ular area of interest. Specializations have included areas such as arts administration, music criticism, and popular musicol­ogy.

Dual Bachelor’s Degree Programs

The Bienen School of Music offers dual bachelor’s degree programs with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (music and liberal arts), the School of Communication (music and communication), the School of Education and Social Policy (music and education and social policy), the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (music and engineering), and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications (music and journalism). For information on program requirements, see Dual Bachelor's Degrees.

Minor Programs

Music minors are offered in arts administration, general music, music cognition, music composition, music criticism, music education, musicology, music technology, and music theory. The minors in arts administration, music criticism, music education, and music theory are open to music majors only. The minor in general music is open only to non-music majors.

Minor programs include a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 9 courses, of which a minimum of 5 courses are not double-counted toward the major. Students must receive a grade of C or above in all courses counted toward the minor; P/N grades in courses used for minor requirements must be approved by the assistant dean. Students who wish to complete a minor program should fill out a Minor Declaration Form, available in the Office of Student Affairs, and should fill out a minor petition form one year before graduation. Students may pursue more than one Bienen School of Music minor.

Requirements for minors in general music (for non-majors), music cognition, music composition, music education, musicology, music technology, and music theory can be found on the corresponding program page. See below for requirements for minors in arts administration and music criticism.

Minor in Arts Administration (8 units chosen from the list below, music majors only)
  • ECON 201-0 Introduction to Macroeconomics
  • ECON 202-0 Introduction to Microeconomics
  • MUSIC 360-0 Career Innovation in Music and the Performing Arts
  • MUSIC 398-0 Internship
  • Any courses from BUS_INST (Business Institutions), IMC (Integrated Marketing/Communication), or ENTREP (Entrepreneurship)
  • Any courses in ORG_BEH (Organizational Behavior), ACCOUNT (Accounting), MKTG (Marketing), or ADVT (Advertising) through the School of Professional Studies
Minor in Music Criticism (6 units, music majors only)

Program Honors

Each year faculty are invited to nominate graduating students for program honors. To be eligible for program honors, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above and be outstanding contributors to their respective programs. Additional criteria govern the selection of voice majors; see the coordinator of the voice and opera program for details. Faculty select only a small number of students in each program for program honors in a given year; for more information, contact the Office of Student Affairs in the Bienen School of Music.