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About the Music Department

The department lives in a suite of buildings along Hope Street. The Orwig Music Building – a handsome brick mansion in the beaux arts style – houses classrooms, faculty and staff offices, and a state-of-the-art music library. The library holds over forty thousand books and scores, and an equivalent number of LPs, CDs, DVDs, and videos. Behind Orwig are Grant Recital Hall, Fulton Rehearsal Hall, and the Morrison-Gerard Studios; down the street is Steinert Hall, which contains the choral room, a collection of practice rooms, and the meme@brown studios.

These buildings support an astonishing variety of faculty and student activity, from seminars to lectures, private instruction to choral, orchestral, and world music, the Brown Band to Klezmer bands, and opera workshops to computer installations.

Add to this the prize-winning work of our faculty, whose projects have ranged from theoretical and ethnographic topics to digital signal processing and documentary film, and it is no wonder that each semester more than a thousand students pass through our doors.

Music students at Brown pursue one of two different degree options: either the Bachelor of Arts or the doctorate.

In keeping with the ethos of the department as a whole, the B.A. in Music is a general degree; all aspects of music study come together in a single liberal concentration. Students can, however, choose from three tracks. The first track emphasizes theory, history, and composition, studying the traditions of thought that have surrounded European and American art music from its origins to the present day. The second track emphasizes ethnomusicology, and focuses on people making music throughout the world. The third and final track emphasizes computer music and multimedia, and explores the technical, aesthetic, and cultural issues surrounding music created by electronic and digital means. Qualified undergraduates have the opportunity to take advantage of graduate courses as part of their concentration, a unique opportunity that enhances their experience here.

The Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology was established in 1968, and the new Ph.D. in Computer Music and Multimedia welcomed its first students in 2005. The presence of the graduate programs has had a significant impact on the curriculum as a whole, forging links with other humanities and science departments on campus. Faculty in ethnomusicology have made connections with the Anthropology, Religion, Psychology, American Civilization, and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies departments; those in multimedia work the MCM, Theatre and Dance, Literary Arts, Visual Arts, Computer Science, and Engineering departments. These connections make the Music Department at Brown an interdisciplinary enterprise. To study music at Brown is to increase one’s awareness of a whole range of related fields.

Performance, of course, remains a vital part of any academic study of music. Once again, the opportunities at Brown are vast. The department sponsors over 100 concerts each year – an astoundingly high number for the size of our department.

Students can sing in the University Chorus, play in the University Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Band, learn bluegrass or the blues, and have hands-on experience with the music of Java, Ghana, the Middle East, Appalachia, and the Caribbean. Students also have the opportunity to perform in chamber ensembles and small jazz combos, to sing and play in master classes, and to travel around the world with our larger ensembles.

Ensemble experiences are enhanced by private instruction from over twenty-five professional singers and instrumentalists from the greater New England area, including Providence, Boston, and New York City. Our proximity to Boston means direct access to instructors from the New England Conservatory, the Berklee School of Music, and other institutions, not to mention a wealth of professional music performances.

Some Brown graduates go on to pursue professional degrees in performance. Others become arts administrators, composers, theorists, philosophers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and even rock and Broadway stars. The broad and liberal nature of the musical experience at Brown opens doors that continue to make our graduates successful, not only in music, but in life.

The history of the department can be found in the Encyclopedia Brunonia.