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. 


Faculty Profile for Professor Cashman

A survey of the great American art form, Jazz, covering styles from 1920 to the present. We will bring the music and main movers and shakers to life through readings, intensive study of recordings, videos and class lectures. Several topics are studied in depth: listening to Jazz, the quality of swing, group interaction, the development of solo improvisation, the blues, and the evolution of jazz performance practice. As a life-long Jazz musician, the instructor hopes to also provide a behind-the-scenes viewpoint of how the music works, what inspires Jazz musicians, and how performers acquire the necessary expertise to thrive in this improvisational world. Students write several short papers including an artist vignette, a blues lyric assignment, two track reviews and two live performance reviews. There will be mid-term and final exams that have both written and listening components. Weekly Listening Reactions enhance auditory perception. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for MUSI 161 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement. 

Professor Glenn Cashman’s scholarly interests are connected to his ongoing Jazz activities, primarily in Los Angeles and Japan as a performer on saxophone, organ, and composer for his nonet, sextet, and quartet.

Faculty Profile for Professor Cheng

In the sixties, the Beatles revolutionized popular music. Students experience an in-depth study of the music of the Beatles with a focus on their songwriting. The goals are to learn how to analyze their songs, to gain insights into their music and lyrics, and to understand why the songs were so successful. Students discuss how their personal lives intersected with their work. A focus will be on critical thinking. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for MUSI 101 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression requirement. 

Professor Marietta Cheng teaches the History of Rock, The Beatles, and has been the conductor of the student and professional Colgate University Orchestra since 1993. She has served as Chair of the Music Department for 11.5 years. In addition to having been named a Colgate Presidential Scholar, she has received two teaching awards: the Colgate AAUP Professor of the Year and the Colgate University Alumni Board Distinguished Teaching Award.

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)