Caltech Music Program

November 30, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Caltech Music Program

Seniors in high school are accustomed to experiencing anxiety around college applications, essays, SAT scores, and anything else that is associated with the process of applying to colleges. However, they are merely baby stages leading up to the big, scary, anxiety-filled audition day for students who desire to study music through the Caltech music program. The culmination of years spent honing your trade will invariably consist of approximately five minutes spent presenting it in front of a panel of judges.

If you have a burning desire to compose, analyze, and research the history of music in all of its varied shapes and forms, then a major in Music from the Caltech music program is sure to prepare you. Whether it’s Beethoven or Louis Armstrong, the Beatles or Bach, a major in Music from the Caltech music program is sure to satisfy that burning desire.

a female music student playing the drums

Those who have a passion for music have the opportunity to enhance their abilities in areas ranging from composition to music history, education, and theory. This can help you become ready for a career as the next Duke Ellington or as the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Does Caltech have a music program?

Does Caltech have a music program? Yes, it does! Studying and performing in the performing arts, including music, drama, and visual arts, are all encouraged and supported at the California Institute of Technology.

The teaching staff in the departments of Performing Arts and Visual Arts are dedicated to maintaining a high standard of excellence in both their performances and the instruction they provide, and they have a shared mission to assist college students in enhancing and expanding the scope of their educational experiences like that of the Caltech music program.

In addition, the Music Department makes it available to students a wide variety of different chances to engage in many musical groups. Participating students of the Caltech music program also have the opportunity to earn academic credit for their efforts.

The Institute’s mission statement reads as follows: “…educating excellent students to become creative citizens of society.” The Performing and Visual Arts play an essential part in the realization of this objective.

What is the Caltech music program like?

Knowing what the Caltech music program is, it’s natural to wonder what is the Caltech music program like. At Caltech, there are a number of fantastic possibilities available to musicians. Instrumental music groups at Caltech are active and successful. In point of fact, the number of students who take part in instrumental music groups exceeds that of any other activity offered on campus. The Caltech and Occidental orchestras put on concerts three or four times a year, and the quality of their performances is quite exceptional. The acapella singing ensembles are likewise very impressive in their own right.

Students sitting on the steps of a school building.

In addition to this, there is a vast number of smaller ensembles of the Caltech music program, each of which may be assembled with relative ease. One of the best things, on the other hand, is that there is no music major or option at Caltech. Because of this, students who are more interested in studying biology, computer science, or physics are not forced out of the band or orchestra by others who are majoring in music. They are not filled by students who are majoring in music, theater, or drama; rather, they are students who are scientists who also play an instrument.

The majority of participants are of the opinion that it helps your mind rest. The majority of students who aspired to attend Caltech were high performers in their academic careers. Constantly giving thought to the amount of work to be done and the academics. It’s just this never-ending, mentally draining flood of thoughts.

Taking the time to play an instrument like the piano, for instance, might help your mind relax. It is just you, the universe, and the music, and you have to concentrate on it to such an extent that it enables you to forget about everything else that is going on around you.

What are the various Caltech music groups?

So, what are the various Caltech music groups? Auditions for the various groups that fall under the purview of the Caltech music program are conducted in an environment that is welcoming, has a low-stress level, and is intended to guide you toward picking the most suitable ensemble option for you. In the event that you do not yet possess an instrument or do not yet have anything prepared, there is no need for you to feel hesitant about signing up for a meet-and-greet session.

You are welcome to visit them even if it has been a while since you last played your instrument, but please bring it with you. The Music Department at Caltech will be more than pleased to speak with you about your possibilities and provide assistance to you in any manner that they possibly can.

However, for auditions, you should get ready to play two short pieces that are very different from each other and that demonstrate your level of playing. It is perfectly acceptable to try out for the role even if you have not prepared anything. The ensembles at Caltech are developed to work around your class schedules and other commitments.

Young man playing piano in the dark.

Participation often entails attending only one meeting each week, and it offers a welcome opportunity for a pleasant change of pace within a supportive musical and social environment. The Caltech music program oversees the following musical ensembles, which are listed below.

Chamber Music

The chamber music ensembles at Caltech are made up of approximately thirty different trios, quartets, and quintets with a variety of instrumentation. Instrumentalists are organized into groups with other musicians who have abilities comparable to their own, and they practice together once a week in order to get ready for public recitals, master courses, and the occasional opportunity to perform at campus parties.

Ensembles will perform a wide range of music, from Renaissance dances for recorders to Baroque trio sonatas, classical string quartets, piano quartets by Romantic masters, and twenty-first-century compositions for winds, among other types of music. The music for piano four-hands and music for two pianos are also included in the Caltech music program.

The study and performance of music written for instrumental ensembles ranging in size from two to eight players, as well as music written for piano duets and for two pianos. The 16th century all the way up to the 21st century is represented in literature. Students who play string instruments, woodwind instruments, brass instruments, guitar, piano, or harpsichord are eligible to participate.


Provided at three different skill levels, including beginner (for which no prior expertise is required), intermediate, and advanced. The instruction places an emphasis on developing a strong classical technique and also includes an investigation of a variety of guitar styles, including flamenco, folk, and popular music.

Beginning Guitar

You are not required any prior expertise and service as an introduction to fundamental technique and musicianship. It also covers the jazz chord systems in addition to classical, flamenco, and folk music.

Intermediate Guitar

Reading notes throughout the entirety of the fingerboard is a primary focus, and students may expect a more in-depth look at classical technique and musicianship.

Advanced Guitar

Includes an investigation of the extended classical repertoire as well as a comprehensive discussion of musical interpretation and performance skills for the student who is serious about their studies. The range of time covered extends from the Renaissance all the way up to the contemporary era.


The Caltech Orchestra is a full-scale orchestra consisting of 70 different musicians, including students, faculty, and staff at Caltech music program. The Caltech – Occidental Wind Orchestra is comprised of select performers of wind and percussion instruments drawn from the undergraduate and graduate student populations at Caltech and Occidental College, as well as faculty, alumni, staff, and community members from Caltech, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories.

In addition, the Caltech – Occidental Wind Orchestra performs collaboratively with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL).

This ensemble, which consists of roughly 80 musicians at the moment, meets for rehearsal once a week and presents three different sets of repertoire over the course of an academic year. The repertoire is comprised of some of the most outstanding examples of traditional and contemporary music from all around the world.

The orchestra rehearses once per week and performs three separate concert series each and every year. Symphonies by Mahler, Brahms, and Beethoven, in addition to modern compositions, have been featured on recent concert programs. In addition, the orchestra hosts an annual concerto competition in the month of December. This competition is intended to provide particularly talented student soloists with the opportunity to perform alongside the orchestra.

Jazz Band

Wednesday evenings are reserved for rehearsals of the Caltech Jazz Band as well as classes in improvisation. Jazz professionals from the surrounding area are frequently asked to participate as guest artists and clinicians by the various ensembles.

Clinicians and guest artists who have participated in the past include Carmen Bradford, Wayne Bergeron, Andy Martin, Rebeca Mauleon, Pete Christlieb, Eric Marienthal, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Dan Higgins, Poncho Sanchez, Steve Houghton, Greg Bisonette, Bill Watrous, Gary Foster, Bill Holman, Billy Childs, and Bobby Shew, as well as members of the legendary Count Basie and Duke Ellington Orchestras

Glee Club

The Caltech Glee Club is a mixed chorus with a total of fifty voices. Its members include undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, postdocs, staff, alumni, and JPL employees. Glee Club meets twice a week for a total of three hours to practice singing art music in a wide range of languages and musical styles, spanning the time period from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.

The Institute choir gives formal concerts at the end of each term (winter and spring) in addition to performing during the academic year for various Institute activities. Every winter, the Caltech Glee Club performs at the Pacific Southwest Intercollegiate Choral Association Festival in its capacity as a founding member of the organization.

Ivy League students gathered around a room preparing for an activity.

Glee Club frequently works in conjunction with the Caltech Orchestra in order to perform huge choral-orchestral compositions. Some examples of these works include Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass, and Orff’s “Paukenmesse.” Carmina Burana, Vaughan Williams’s “Dona Nobis Pacem,” Benjamin Britten’s “Chichester Psalms,” and Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” are some of the pieces that are performed.

Want to learn more about the Caltech 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.


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