Berkeley Music Program

November 30, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Berkeley Music Program

At colleges and universities all around the United States, students can choose to major in a wide range of different types of music. Some of the most prestigious college music programs may place an emphasis on performing, whereas others may place more of a spotlight on composition or music theory. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in music have access to a wide variety of programs, such as the ones provided by the Berkeley music program, from which they can select the one that is most aligned with their individual passions and aspirations.

To pursue a career in music, on the other hand, is not a choice that should be made on the spur of the moment. It is incredibly competitive and needs a lot of practice and schooling over a long period of time. The Department of Music at Berkeley is one of the oldest and most important in the country.

Group of students talking to a teacher in a library.

It is home to a distinguished collection of musicians, scholars, and composers who are all at the top of their fields. The Berkeley music program is consistently regarded as one of the best in the country. Therefore, we’ll have a better understanding of the Berkeley music program and the various ensembles that fall under it.

Does Berkeley have a Music Program?

Does Berkeley have a music program? It does! Through its undergraduate and graduate study programs, as well as its public concerts and talks held in Hertz Hall, Morrison Hall, and other locations on campus, the Department of Music encourages the development of music on the university’s main campus. The Berkeley music program provides a major in music to undergraduate students in addition to a large number of nonmajor courses that are designed for those with little to no prior expertise in music.

Depending on the student’s background and interests, courses that count toward a music minor can come from either the major or the nonmajor track. The Berkeley music program leading to the Master of Arts/Doctor of Philosophy (MA/PhD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in musical composition, history, literature, or ethnomusicology are offered by the department to graduate students.

Ear training, harmony, counterpoint, and analysis are some of the topics covered in the theory classes offered by the Berkeley music program. Students will gain an introduction to the components of musical composition. The history and literature classes provide an overview of Western music as well as an in-depth study of the principal time periods that contributed to its evolution.

Unidentified person writing on a music sheet.

The study of particular subgenres of world music, both on a broad and more in-depth scale is one of the primary focuses of ethnomusicology classes, which also serve as an introduction to the fundamentals of research methodology. All students and auditors are welcome to audition for performance classes, which may include orchestra, chorus, and a variety of other ensembles. These classes from the Berkeley music program provide students with the opportunity to perform a diverse range of repertoire.

What is the Berkeley Music Program like?

So, what is the Berkeley music program like? In addition to undergraduate majors and minors in music, the Music Department also confers graduate degrees leading to a Master of Arts/Doctor of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy in the fields of music composition, ethnomusicology, and music history and literature.

The College of Letters and Science is home to the music program at the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley music program is also supported by a faculty that is recognized all over the world and adheres to the philosophy that excellence in teaching stems directly from excellence in scholarly and creative activity.

Unidentified man playing piano and guitar.

If there is one word that can be used to describe our approach to teaching, it would be “integration.” Integration in the curriculum refers to the inclusion of all of the different subfields of music study that we instruct. This ensures that all of our undergraduate students are able to develop their musical skills and gain experience in areas such as historical and cultural studies, music theory, composition and improvisation, and of course, performance.

Students are given the opportunity to investigate a variety of disciplines of study that are connected to the music department itself as well as the greater university. Those who have graduated from the Berkeley music program have gone on to key roles in illustrious musical institutions all around the country and the world.

What are the Various Berkeley Music Groups?

With the knowledge of the program, what are the various Berkeley music groups? The degree to which performance experience and study are integrated into every aspect of the academic program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Music is unique among the great music departments in the country.

This is true whether the focus is on honing musicianship skills, acquiring knowledge of the music of diverse cultures and traditions, studying the history and literature of European music, or contemporary music life in the United States and elsewhere. It shows up as a requirement only in one form, students majoring in music are required to take at least three semesters of performance from either the 140 or 168 series.

Participating in one of the Berkeley music program ensembles that present evening and weekend concerts, presenting a noon concert, auditioning for the opportunity to perform a concerto with the university orchestra, performing in concerts of the Berkeley Undergraduate Composers Club, and performing in other venues are all ways for undergraduates and graduate students to take advantage of the numerous performance opportunities available to them.

Here are some of the music groups guided by the Berkeley music program.

African Music Ensemble

Since its first year of existence in 1972-1973, the African Music Ensemble has prospered under the direction of master Ghanaian musician C.K. Ladzekpo. The inaugural year of the ensemble was 1972-1973. Ladzekpo took a leave of absence from his employment at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana in order to join the Berkeley faculty for the duration of one year. Professor Olly Wilson, a composer, and expert in African American music was responsible for recruiting Ladzekpo.

It was decided to start an African dance course in the Department of African American Studies, as well as a music ensemble course in the Department of Music. The two different student groups eventually collaborated on performances.

Ladzekpo was enticed to begin teaching at the non-profit East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in 1974 by the communal activities of the organization, which offered free music lessons to “students who couldn’t pay.” Ladzekpo began working there as well.

As his connections in the Bay Area became stronger, one year led to the next, and the University has profited from his presence for more than three decades at this point. C.K.’s response, when asked why he decided to remain in the United States, is that he appreciates the new difficulties of promoting West African music to students and audiences in the United States.

He is keenly interested in the creation of educational strategies that will enable him to effectively communicate his music to students from other countries, and as a result, he has devised a method that entails the extensive transcription of traditional repertoire in order to generate new pieces that can be performed.

The African Music Ensemble is part of the Department of Music, and for a number of years it has included both musical and dance education. All of the students in the ensemble have participated in all of these components. There is typically only one concert held during the spring semester of each year.

UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra

The University of California, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra is the oldest performing arts ensemble in the whole University of California system. It was established in 1923. Students and other members of the school community have had the chance to enhance their musical talents throughout the orchestra’s long history.

At the same time, the orchestra has presented remarkable musical concerts to the communities of the campus and the greater Bay Area.

View of musical instruments placed next to each other on the stage.

The likes of Modeste Alloo, Albert Elkus, Joaquin Nin-Culmell, Michael Senturia, and Jung Ho-Pak have all held the position of the conductor in the past. Since 1996, David Milnes has held the position of Music Director for the University Symphony Orchestra.

In addition, David Milnes is the Music Director for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Since its inception, one of the orchestra’s primary missions has been to rehearse and perform the works of Berkeley’s faculty and graduate student composers.

Additionally, the Berkeley Symphony’s performance schedule routinely includes the world premiere of a significant new work by a Berkeley composer.

In addition, the orchestra has given the world premiere performances of compositions by a number of well-known composers. Now, over the course of each academic year, the University Symphony Orchestra gives a number of concerts in the evening and at midday, sponsors a chamber orchestra, and continues its work as the UC Berkeley Summer Symphony during the warm weather months.

The top soloists in the orchestra compete in a yearly concerto competition, the winners of which perform concertos with the orchestra. Additionally, a number of experienced musicians from the Bay Area provide regular tutoring for each section of the orchestra.

University Baroque Ensemble

At this time, students of the violin, viola, cello, bass, recorder, flute, keyboard, guitar (or lute), and vocal performance are eligible to participate in the UBE. Players of double reed or brass instruments who are interested should get in direct contact with Professor Brandes. Lessons and coaching are offered to students who are already proficient in playing the modern versions of these instruments in order to assist them in bridging the gap between the traditional playing approaches and the more modern ones.

The music of the Baroque period, which lasted from about 1580 to 1740, is performed by the University Baroque Ensemble on instruments that were in use during that time period. Additionally, the ensemble employs performance styles that are based on the performance practices of the various national styles.

Early consort music, Purcell, Lully, Rameau, and the giants of the high Baroque, including Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Telemann, are only some of the composers whose works are included in the repertoire.

The University Baroque Ensemble is one of a kind when compared to other university baroque ensembles in the United States due to the fact that many of the students in the ensemble play on original instruments dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Ensemble strives to play directly from scores from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries whenever it is in their power to do so. By doing so, they are able to become familiar with the completely different types of musical notation that were employed in earlier eras.

Chamber Chorus of the University of California

The University of California, Berkeley Chamber Chorus is the most prestigious concert choir in the university. The Chamber Chorus is well-known for providing its singers and audiences with an entertaining musical experience. Throughout the course of each year, the group performs a cappella and accompanied music in a variety of languages, with the repertoire spanning the last 800 years.

The approximately 35 members of the Chamber Chorus are chosen through a competitive audition process from among the singers and musicians who are members of the wider campus community, including undergraduates, graduate students, instructors, and staff.

There is a possibility that the ensemble could include singers who are not immediately connected to the university in any way. It is expected of members of the chamber chorus they have a high level of musicianship ability, a large amount of vocal and choral experience, and that they have a strong commitment to singing in chamber choirs.

UC Berkeley Wind Ensemble

The UC Berkeley Wind Ensemble is available for students interested in the study and performance of both modern and traditional wind band material. The UCBWE has a long and illustrious history at the University of California, Berkeley, dating back to before the 1930s when Charles Cushing was in charge of directing the group while it was still called the Concert Band. James Berdahl became the director of the company in 1950 and stayed in that role until the late 1970s.

The UCBWE was brought back to life in 1995 when Robert Calonico was appointed to the position of Director of Bands. The ensemble gives performances on campus and in the surrounding community on a regular basis, including at least two times each semester at Hertz Hall.

Wind Ensemble I rehearses twice a year, in the fall and the spring. The only way to become a member is to audition for the group. Those who were accepted in the fall may have the option of skipping the spring auditions. Every semester, WE I will put on at least one-noon performance, in addition to either two evening or weekend concerts that will take place in Hertz Hall.

Members of WE I are eligible to enroll in WE II on a secondary instrument if they receive consent from their instructor. Students who have tried out for WE I but have not been selected to participate are highly urged to sign up for WE II.

Wind Ensemble II meets during spring semesters only. Although anyone can become a member of the group, you will still need to audition in order to be cast in roles. You are welcome to audition for both Wind Ensemble I and Wind Ensemble II at the same time. At least two evening performances and/or weekend shows are put on by WE II every month in Hertz Hall.

Jazz and Improvisation Ensembles

JIM is an organization that was founded at UC Berkeley by and for music students under the guidance of Myra Melford. The major goal of the organization is to provide financial assistance to students of jazz and contemporary improvised music.

In addition to working toward the establishment of an endowment, JIM’s goals include expanding the number of performances, master classes, and coaching sessions that feature musicians of the highest caliber, as well as acquiring new instruments and audio equipment.

View of Saxophones played by musicians.

By fostering a vibrant community of musicians, the JIM program provides students with the opportunity to study, perform, and collaborate on a wide range of approaches to improvisational music.

Want to learn more about the Berkeley music program? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college. Contact us today for more information on our services.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.