First Year Program - Music Skip Navigation

Music (MUSI)

Chair: J. Swain

The music department’s courses are divided into three groups: theory, history, and performance. The theory sequence teaches the language of music: how music is put together and how to write it. The history courses are designed to give students a deeper understanding of music through a study of composers, historical periods, stylistic performance practice and various cultures. The performance courses offer opportunities for students to engage in the joy and art of performance and if so desired, to gain credit in department-sponsored ensembles and private instruction. The music department is dedicated to many different learning opportunities: for students who want to be music concentrators, for students who are interested in an elective or two as part of their liberal arts curriculum, for students who choose only to perform, or for students who want to learn an instrument or voice.

Students considering a major or minor should elect MUSI 203, Harmony I in their first semester at Colgate. This course prepares students for superior achievement in all other upper-level music courses. Alternative courses to begin a concentration are MUSI 215, Music History I (fall term) or MUSI 216, Music History II (spring term).

It is useful to add that many of our music students are double majors and music majors have gone on to graduate study in every area of music or have entered careers in law, medicine, business, sound engineering, music production, arts management, mathematics, and many other fields.


First-year students are warmly encouraged to perform and to have a short audition for the University Orchestra (MUSI 230), University Chorus (MUSI 234), Colgate Chamber Players (MUSI 217), and the Concert Jazz Ensemble (MUSI 232), although they cannot register for course credit in the first semester. (Normally, two consecutive terms are required for a student to receive a single course credit.) All Colgate students may perform in these organizations; a student does not need to be a concentrator in order to participate. For auditions, see the music department administrative assistant as soon as possible during the first week of classes. Students can also sign up for half-hour or one-hour private lessons each week, in most instruments and in voice. These lessons are provided at all levels. See the music department administrative assistant during the first week of classes for details.

Advanced Placement

Colgate course credit for MUSI 203 is awarded to students receiving a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Music Theory exam. 


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FSEM 170, The Musical Experience
Faculty Profile for Professor Endris

These three composers stand for classical music at its most “Classic.” Their names and some of their music are familiar to all, but fewer people have engaged seriously with this high point of Western culture. This course shows how that can be done with no prior knowledge of music or music theory: its goal is to teach students how to listen to, think, talk, and write about classical music in an informed manner. Students will study Mozart’s iconic “Requiem,” while Haydn’s work is represented by “The Creation,” a musical retelling of the story from Genesis. Among other works of Beethoven, students will study the Ninth Symphony with its “Ode to Joy,” now the European Union's official anthem. Students will study other well-known works outside of the Classical era that further their understanding of its music, such as Handel’s “Messiah.” Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for MUSI 151 and satisfy one half of their Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Professor Endris is Director of Choral and Vocal Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Colgate, where he conducts the University Chorus and Chamber Singers. He has conducted choirs and clinics both domestically and internationally, including Austria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and Slovakia. Currently his research focuses on recording and publishing the music of Antonio Juanas, an 18th-century composer who worked at the Mexico City Cathedral. Professor Endris resides in Hamilton with his dogs Jack and Ollie.

MUSI 103, Basic Music & Songwriting
Introduces students to the fundamental elements of music theory through performance, songwriting, and analysis. While focusing primarily on Western art music ("classical music"), popular song, and jazz, these broad categories represent the roots of many specific genres. Consequently, the practical techniques learned can be applied to many styles. In addition to written and aural assessments, students will perform keyboard hearings and compose several short pieces, culminating in the composition of an original song. (TH)

MUSI 161, The History of Jazz
A study of American jazz from 1920 to the present, through readings, intensive study of recordings, and class lectures. Several topics are studied in depth: listening skills, the quality of swing, group interaction, the development of solo improvisation, the blues, and the evolution of jazz performance practice. Important composers, bands, and soloists are highlighted, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and the Miles Davis groups. (H&A)

MUSI 203, Harmony I
An introduction to the harmonic language of Bach, Beethoven and the Beatles. Students learn to make basic chords and coordinate them with melodies to create sensible progressions in all keys. The course includes ear-training skills. (TH)

MUSI 217, Chamber Music I
The Colgate Chamber Players (strings, pianists, winds) explore and perform a diverse chamber music repertoire in 4-5 yearly concerts, both on and off campus. A bi-yearly concert tour features series concerts, outreach activities and repertoire research. Unless separated by off-campus study, two consecutive terms are required for a student to receive a single credit. (PF)

MUSI 230, University Orchestra I
The 68-member student and professional orchestra offers four major concerts on the music department concert series every year. With the same wide-ranging repertoire of any major urban professional orchestra students learn about the works technically, stylistically, and historically. To earn credit, a student must take two consecutive terms. (PF)

MUSI 232, Jazz Performance I
The ensemble introduces basic elements of jazz improvisation (blues) and includes interaction with nationally and internationally recognized guest artists. Students perform works by the top contemporary jazz writers as well as classic charts from the standard big band repertoire including Bob Mintzer, Thad Jones, Shelly Berg, Bill Holman, Sammy Nestico, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Participation in two consecutive terms is required in order to receive a single credit. (PF)

MUSI 234, University Chorus I
A performance course in choral music. The University Chorus rehearses and performs the choral masterworks, often with an accompanying guest orchestra. Unless separated by off-campus study, two consecutive terms are required in order to receive a single credit. (PF)

MUSI 236, Private Instruction I
Private study in voice or musical instruments is offered to advanced students. The course consists of one-hour lessons each week during the term and may include a public performance. (PF)