Duke Music Program

November 30, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Duke Music Program

Seniors in high school are accustomed to feeling anxiety regarding college applications, essays, SAT scores, and anything else that is associated with the process of applying to colleges. This anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including the college application itself, the essays, and the SAT scores. However, students who are interested in studying music through the Duke music program, are actually just taking baby steps leading up to the day of the big, terrifying audition, which is filled with fear.

The day of the big, scary audition is filled with anticipation. The conclusion of years spent mastering your profession will invariably consist of around five minutes spent presenting it in front of a panel of judges. This will be the case regardless of how much time you put into perfecting your craft.

a person playing the guitar

With a degree from the Duke music program, you will be able to pursue your passion for composing, analyzing, and researching the development of music in all of its myriad guises, whether it be Beethoven or Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, or Bach. This will allow you to pursue your passion in a way that will allow you to fully realize your potential.

This will make it so that you are able to satisfy the raging need that you currently have. Those who have an interest in music and want to improve their skills have the chance to do so in a variety of subfields, including composition, music history, education, and theory. The preparation you receive from doing so can get you ready for a career as the successor to Duke Ellington or as the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Does Duke have a music program?

Does Duke have a music program? Absolutely! It doesn’t matter if it’s the Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, or Symphony Orchestra performing alongside renowned guest artists in Baldwin Auditorium, the Chorale performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in Duke Chapel, thought-provoking classes that encourage both analytical and creative thinking, or world-renowned composers and performers teaching one-on-one master classes; music is ingrained in Duke’s culture.

The Department of Music at Duke is dedicated to preserving an environment that is free of bias and intolerance so that ideas can be freely discussed. This is something that can only take place in an atmosphere that respects everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or any other distinguishing characteristics.

Two people playing a guitar.

It necessitates that the Duke music program remains open to conflicting approaches and value systems that come with the many points of view that we are required to accommodate in our dialogues. This requires that the Duke music program welcome diverse points of view.

These kinds of interactions with diversity can wake the department up to its own structural advantages or disadvantages, helping the Duke music program to have a clearer perspective on identity. The Duke music program is aware that it advances as a community, and in the intellectual and artistic work that it does when it is able to openly debate its presuppositions, confront its biases, and defend its convictions while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual support.

What is the Duke music program like?

Knowing the Duke music program, you might wonder what is the Duke music program like. A way of thinking can be learned through music. It is expressive, nuanced, and rigorous, and it raises us up while also changing us. We are engaged in the process of producing new information whenever we create music, listen to music, or write about music.

During your time as an undergraduate, you will have the opportunity to develop your artistic and academic interests. Whether you consider yourself to be a skilled musician or not, the Duke music program offers a wide variety of courses, both academic and performance-based, that can be tailored to connect to your specific interests. In fact, you are welcome to take part in any one of its programs, regardless of whether or not music is one of your majors or minors.

Students talking in a sofa.

The Duke music program investigates music from every conceivable perspective: as performers, as composers, as students of its history and the intricate languages it employs, and as observers of anything and everything musical that exists in the world around us.

In addition, the Duke University, Department of Music is able to confer a doctoral degree in the fields of composition, musicology, and ethnomusicology. Students are able to conduct doctoral research in the field of music theory within the context of the musicology program, even though there is no separate degree track in the field of music theory. In addition, performance practice can be studied within the framework of the musicology degree program.

There is no provision for postgraduate study in the fields of performance, music education, or music therapy. Only those programs leading to a doctoral degree are open to new students (however, students may earn a Master of Arts en route to the doctorate).

At the Duke music program, learning music helps you become better at both expressing yourself on your own and working with others. Because it is a communal art form, it requires us to look beyond ourselves in order to connect with the audience as well as with the other musicians.

What are the various Duke music groups?

So, what are the various Duke music groups? Auditioning is required to join any of the nine ensembles that are housed within the Department of Music. These ensembles are open to any and all members of the university community. There is no charge involved. Participation in a musical ensemble does not require either a major or a minor in music or individual music instruction. Although participation in an ensemble is not required for credit, you may choose to do so in order to earn a half credit per semester.

There are a variety of music classes that also provide students with the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. The Duke Chapel Choir, which is directed by Zebulon Highben and offers additional opportunities for singers, as well as the Marching Band and Pep Band, which are both directed by Jeffrey Au and administered by the Athletic Department, are two other groups on campus that provide students with the opportunity to participate in musical activities through the use of an audition process. Here are some of the music groups guided by the Duke music program.

Chamber Music

The dynamic chamber music program at Duke’s Music Department features over 20 different groups, ranging from duets to sextets, featuring string instruments, wind instruments, and piano. The Ciompi Quartet, who serve as Duke’s full-time Quartet-in-Residence, as well as pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, saxophonist Susan Fancher, and other faculty members who specialize in strings and winds, provide coaching for the ensembles.

Throughout the course of the semester, various groups provide performances both on and off campus, including in Baldwin Auditorium. The program hosts multiple masterclasses each semester with visiting artists from Duke Performances and the Music Department. Recent residencies have been given by the Imani Winds, the Harlem Quartet, Mari Sato of the Cavani Quartet, and Joel Krosnick of the Juilliard Quartet. In addition, the program also features performances by local and regional musicians.

Students playing music in the school grounds.

It is expected that each group, whether it was formed by the faculty’s proposal or by the students themselves, will rehearse on their own for a total of two hours each week, in addition to meeting with their coach for one hour.

The Chamber Music Program is intended to do two things: allow advanced students to study a vast repertoire in-depth and perform multiple times, and introduce instrumentalists of all levels to the joys and skills of ensemble playing. Both of these goals will be accomplished through the program’s design.

In a society that is more divided than it has ever been, chamber music helps develop abilities such as attentive deep listening, and working together. Audition submissions are welcomed from musicians of any level of experience or skill.

Chinese Music Ensemble

The Chamber Music program in the Department of Music is where students can get the opportunity to participate in the Chinese Music Ensemble. All members of the University community who are interested in playing traditional Chinese music on both Eastern and Western musical instruments are welcome to participate in this event.

The students will engage in a performance at the conclusion of the semester that will summarize the work that has been done during the semester. In addition, Jennifer Chang will direct one weekly two-hour session that they will attend. The consent of the instructor is required in order to enter.

Students of all skill levels, including those who have never played Chinese music before but have some prior experience performing, are strongly urged to get in touch with the instructor in order to obtain additional information. Players of string instruments (violin, viola, cello, and bass) and percussionists are in particularly high demand.


The Duke University Chorale, which serves as the principal choral group for the Duke music program, is made up of between 50 and 55 singers, whilst the Chamber Choir has between 16 and 20 singers. Rehearsals for the Chorale will take place in Bone Hall of the Biddle Music Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., while rehearsals for the Chamber Choir will take place from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. To be considered for membership in the Chamber Choir, singers must first participate in the Chorale.

The repertoire of the Chorale and Chamber Choir includes both sacred and secular music from a wide variety of cultures and traditions, the vast majority of which is performed without accompaniment. This music ranges from Renaissance motets to contemporary works and includes both easier and more difficult pieces.

In recent years, the Chorale has also performed several major works with orchestra, such as Rutter’s Requiem, Philip Glass’s Itaipu, Bach’s St. John Passion, Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, and Britten’s War Requiem. These performances have taken place in recent years.

The Chorale sings not only on campus (in formal concerts as well as occasionally at university events and Duke basketball games) but also throughout the Durham community due to the close relationships it has with both the university and the city (at nursing homes and the Durham Rescue Mission, e.g.).

Their traditional Christmas presentation is geared toward families, and attendees of all ages bring substantial amounts of food to donate to local homeless shelters. The event is held every year in Duke Chapel.

The Chorale has a long-standing history of going on tour during Duke University’s Spring Break. The Chorale was established in 1970 when the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs were united into a single choir. The band has been to China, Central America, and many parts of Europe on previous foreign tours, while their domestic tours rotate between California, the Northeast, and the Southeast on a yearly basis. These overseas tours only take place once every four years.

Djembe Ensemble

When one plays the djembé, one becomes integrally immersed in a storied musical legacy that is just as alive today as it was in years gone by.

The tale behind the Djembe is just as interesting as the instrument’s distinctive tone. The Mandinque people of West Africa hold the djembé in high esteem as a significant piece of musical instrumentation, and the rhythms of their lives are intricately intertwined with those of the djembé.

For events such as wedding ceremonies, religious celebrations such as Ramadan and Tabaski, and day-to-day tasks such as farming and other chores, the Djembé is an essential instrument.

The djembé is an instrument that may be used for both playing for fun and telling stories whenever there is a story that needs to be told. It is also an instrument that can be used to play for fun. Due to the fact that the traditions of the Mandinque are passed down verbally from one generation to the next, each beat has its own unique meaning.

The Duke Djembé Ensemble adheres to this time-honored method of learning rhythms by committing each one and its importance to memory, just as the musicians of Mandingue have done for hundreds of years.

Symphony Orchestra

The Duke Symphony Orchestra is led by Harry Davidson and has a membership of approximately 80-100 players. The majority of its members are drawn from the student community at the Duke music program.

The symphonic repertoire of the 18th through 20th centuries is performed by the Duke Symphony Orchestra, which holds auditions for all members of the University community and is open to the public. Since the spring of 2004, the DSO has been making memorable, annual journeys to Beaufort, South Carolina, to perform benefit concerts for the Duke-affiliated Keyserling Cancer Center.

an orchestra conductor leading a group of musicians

So far, these concerts have raised a combined total of more than $250,000 for the center. The Orchestra Committee, which is controlled exclusively by students, is responsible for the planning and execution of the popular Pops Concert that takes place on the East Campus Quad every year during Labor Day Weekend.

Each year, the programs that are performed by the Symphony are based on an overarching concept, which may be a particular composer and the composers who influenced him, a musical style such as opera, or a group of composers who are connected to one another.

Opera Theater

Baldwin Auditorium is the location of Duke Opera Theater’s productions of staged chamber operas and operatic scenes. Students at Duke University have the opportunity to learn more about stage technique as well as the art of operatic singing through participation in one of the only undergraduate opera programs currently provided among our peer institutions. This program was established in 1958 by John Hanks.

Auditioning is required for participation, however, it is not necessary to be majoring or minoring in music or to be taking vocal lessons in order to participate.

In addition to operas and scenes from operas, the Duke Opera Theater also presents music from “classical Broadway.” Furthermore, the Duke Jazz Ensemble collaborates with the Duke Opera Theater to put on successful swing performances complete with costumes and staging.

Former students of Opera Theater have gone on to successful careers in music, both in the classroom and onstage, both in the United States and in other countries. In April of 2014, the Duke Opera Theater invited several of these very talented alumni to return to the school to perform sequences from La Traviata, Tales of Hoffman, The Marriage of Figaro, Die Fledermaus, and Eugene Onegin alongside current students in the Opera Theater program.

Wind Symphony

The majority of the members of the Duke University Wind Symphony, which is led by Verena Mosenbichler-Bryant and consists of both undergraduate and graduate students who are not majoring in wind or percussion performance, want to push themselves artistically by performing some of the most difficult wind and percussion literature.

The Wind Symphony performs at least four major concerts each year, during which they investigate a variety of musical styles spanning from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. Works for chamber ensembles and pieces that make use of the luxuriant sonorities of a big symphonic group are included in the programs.

Compositions by Susato, Bach, Mozart, Holst, Grainger, Sousa, Ives, Gershwin, and Hindemith, as well as contemporary composers writing for the medium, are played.

Want to learn more about the Duke 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 this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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