MIT Music Program

December 2, 2022
By AdmissionSight

MIT Music Program

Each academic year, more than half of all undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) take part in activities related to the arts and music. The MIT campus is home to more than 3,500 notable works of contemporary art, a state-of-the-art black box performing arts theater, and the MIT music program that offers everything from training on the level of a conservatory to ensembles and classes that even beginners may participate in.

The MIT music program is open to any and all enrolled students, regardless of their chosen fields of study, who are interested in taking courses in the history and culture of music, composition, and theory of music, music technology, and performance in the fields of classical, jazz, popular, and world music.

Does MIT have a Music Program?

Does MIT have a music program? Absolutely, yes! The MIT Music Program is open to all currently enrolled students at MIT, regardless of their chosen fields of study, who are interested in taking classes in the areas of music history and culture, composition and theory, music technology, and performance in the fields of classical, jazz, popular, and world music. It is possible to earn a degree in Music at MIT with a major (full, joint, or double), a minor, or a concentration.

The MIT music program curriculum is renowned for the incredible breadth and depth of its range of high-quality programs, which are accessible to students with varying degrees of prior musical experience and natural ability.

a person playing the guitar

Its faculty and teaching staff are comprised of prominent award-winning composers, musicologists, and performers. Among them are two Institute Professors, which is the greatest distinction that can be bestowed upon a member of the MIT Faculty and is given to only around a dozen faculty members in total.

The HASS-Arts distribution requirement can be satisfied by taking any of its 12-unit classes. Introduction to Western Music, Introduction to World Music, The Supernatural in Music, Literature, and Culture, and Folk Music of the British Isles are the four courses that meet the prerequisite for the Communication Intensive – Humanities requirement for first- and second-year students.

One of the most common options for satisfying the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences requirement is to study in the field of music (four courses of your eight-subject HASS requirement). A Music minor requires students to take six classes and provides students with experience in all academic areas.

A full major in Music can be completed through one of several distinct courses of study, each of which can be tailored to the student’s specific interests through consultation with the MIT music program faculty and the music major advisor.

There are opportunities for vocalists and instrumentalists (in classical, jazz, and world music) to participate in MIT’s exciting performance activities, which are directed by professional musicians. They are available on a for-credit or non-credit basis and are accessible for an audition to any and all MIT students, both graduate and undergraduate, regardless of the major they are pursuing.

Students who are interested in obtaining individual instruction have the opportunity to do so through the Emerson Program. This MIT music program offers full and partial scholarships to MIT students who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishment and is based on an audition process.

What is the MIT Music Program like?

Knowing what the MIT music program is, it’s natural to wonder what is the MIT music program like. Every year, between five and ten students, make the decision to major in music and earn the degree of Bachelor of Science in Music or the joint major, Bachelor of Science in Humanities and Engineering/Science. These students go on to pursue careers in a variety of fields, including engineering and science.

A significant number of students earn degrees that acknowledge both their musical and other academic pursuits by completing full majors in two or more disciplines simultaneously. Students who are interested in pursuing a music major at MIT are encouraged to get in touch with the department’s Major Advisor as soon as they can but at the very latest by the fall of their junior year.

Two students attending an online class.

The undergraduate MIT music program curriculum culminates in the awarding of the Bachelor of Science in Music degree including a capstone Advanced Seminar in addition to providing students with a grounding in core abilities in music history and culture, performance, and music theory.

120 units are needed to complete the major in its entirety (normally nine 12-unit classroom subjects and two 6-unit performance subjects). Single, joint, or double majors in music have the option of concentrating in music within the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), in addition to using music for their HASS-Arts requirement and for one of their HASS-Elective requirements.

In order to fulfill the requirements for their other course in addition to the General Institute Requirements, graduates with a double major will need to take an additional minimum of five classes (60 units). On the other hand, pursuing both a major and a minor in music at the same time is not permitted.

What are the Various MIT Music Groups?

So, what are the various MIT music groups? All MIT students, whether they are undergraduates or graduate students, have the opportunity to pursue vocal and instrumental studies in a variety of musical genres, including jazz, world music, and classical music.

These include the MIT Symphony Orchestra, the MIT Wind Ensemble, the MIT Chamber Chorus, the MIT Concert Choir, the Festival Jazz Ensemble, a Senegalese drumming ensemble called Rambax MIT, a Balinese gamelan called Gamelan Galak Tika, and the brand new MIT Laptop Ensemble. In addition, the Chamber Music Society is home to jazz combos, jazz choirs, and small classical instrumental and vocal ensembles that all receive excellent teaching and performance opportunities.

If academic credit is sought, participation in any of these performing groups, which are all directed by our hand-picked staff consisting of renowned composers, performers, and historians, is accessible. Here are some of the various music groups of the MIT music program.

MIT Symphony Orchestra

When the first MIT Tech Orchestra debuted on campus in 1884, it was joined by the Banjo and Glee Clubs at the same time. These clubs were the forerunners of what is now known as the MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO).

In the years that followed, the orchestra underwent several iterations of disbanding and reforming before 1947, when Klaus Liepmann (1907-1990), MIT’s first full-time professor of music and the founder of the music program, assumed the role of director of the MIT Glee Club, the Symphony, and the Choral Society. Since that time, the orchestra has remained intact.

The primary objective of the MIT Symphony Orchestra is to contribute to the cultural enrichment of the MIT educational experience. This is accomplished by encouraging MIT students to perform music at the highest possible level of artistic excellence, fostering the creation of new works and the careers of young artists, and cultivating and maintaining the largest possible audience.

View of a conductor giving cues on the musicians in the stage.

The repertory of the orchestra is comprised of works from the entirety of the symphonic canon. These works range from compositions from the early Baroque period to modern works, and they also include music written for film and theater.

The repertoire of the MIT Symphony Orchestra also includes pieces written by members of the MIT faculty. In addition to taking part in masterclasses led by Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Roger Norrington, and Nicholas McGegan, the orchestra recently released a recording of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

Activities of the MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) include frequent collaborations with other groups such as the MIT Concert Choir, the theater department, with members of the faculty, and performances by MITSOlite, a chamber orchestra made of MITSO members.

The students who participate in the MIT Symphony Orchestra come from a wide variety of academic disciplines, some of which are as follows: electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering, biology, mathematics, brain and cognitive sciences, nuclear science and engineering, civil engineering, chemistry, physics, aeronautics and astronautics, management, architecture, and materials science and engineering.

MIT Wind Ensemble

The MIT Wind Ensemble (MITWE) is recognized as one of the most innovative groups of its kind. It was established in the fall of 1999 under the direction of Music Director Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr. Comprised mostly of exceptional undergraduate and graduate students at MIT researching a wide variety of fields within the fields of science, engineering, and the humanities.

Outstanding traditional compositions, as well as new music, are included in the repertoire for full wind ensembles, chamber winds, brass ensembles, percussion ensembles, and woodwind ensembles respectively.

45 new works by some of the world’s most renowned composers have been commissioned by MITWE. Kenneth Amis, an MIT Affiliated Artist as well as a well-known composer and tuba player for the Empire Brass, is the Assistant Conductor of the MIT Wind Ensemble.

Students from elementary, middle, and high schools located around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have worked together with MITWE throughout the organization’s 21-year history. MITWE embarked on its first tour in March of 2019, spending a week in the Dominican Republic.

During that time, the organization performed four concerts, gave many STEAM presentations to students in middle school, high school, and college, and gave the world premiere of the eco-music piece “In Praise of the Humpback.”

MIT Chamber Chorus

Under the guidance of Dr. William Cutter, the MIT Chamber Chorus is a student organization that is very small and puts on two concerts each academic year. This select group was created for the singer who is more experienced vocally and musically.

View of singers performing in stage.

In order to keep them on their toes, they are given a challenging repertoire that includes music for a cappella chorus as well as choral compositions accompanied by small ensembles or the piano. The MIT Symphony, the MIT Wind Ensemble, and the Theater department have all worked together with the Chamber Chorus to stage chamber opera productions and opera scene programs.

MIT Concert Choir

An audition is required to join the huge choral ensemble known as the MIT Concert Choir, which is led musically by Dr. Andrew Clark and is open to graduate students, undergraduate students, and members of the MIT community.

Students learn and perform significant works from the standard repertoire as well as selected shorter and less well-known compositions while participating in the Concert Choir, which serves as a social as well as an academic and musical organization.

Every rehearsal includes exercises that focus on fundamental voice technique, diction, and music reading skills. The culmination of each semester’s worth of rehearsals is a public performance, which frequently includes the participation of a professional orchestra and soloists. Student soloists are also highlighted when it is deemed acceptable to do so.

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Herb Pomeroy, a legendary figure in the Boston jazz scene, is credited with establishing the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (MIT FJE), which has been under the direction of Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr. This advanced big band/jazz ensemble at MIT has anywhere from 18 to 20 members, all of whom are exceptional MIT undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a wide variety of subject areas.

View of students performing a stage.

The members of the MIT Free Jazz Ensemble have come together to form an advanced combo. The MIT Faculty Jazz Ensemble plays jazz ensemble literature from both the classic and modern eras, including student compositions and new works composed specifically for the MIT FJE by prominent jazz composers. The MIT Free Jazz Ensemble experience places a significant emphasis on improvisation.

The FJE has a strong tradition of giving live performances of original music written by composers from all over the world and MIT students. Since 2001, it has been responsible for more than 50 first performances anywhere in the world.

MIT Balinese Gamelan & Gamelan Galak Tika

The gongs, metallophones, hand drums, and bamboo flutes that make up a gamelan come together to produce shimmering layers of rhythmically complex and lyrically nuanced rhythms.

Students will gain an understanding of the fundamentals of this one-of-a-kind musical practice by playing and demonstrating on traditional instruments, with the experience culminating in a performance at the end of the semester. Students will also gain an understanding of the role that gamelan plays in the complex cultural landscape of Bali. There is no requirement for previous experience.

Participation in Gamelan Galak Tika, which will be conducted by Gusti Komin for the 21/22 Academic Year, is open not just to advanced students but also to members of the community. Galak Tika is a group that specializes in traditional as well as contemporary styles of Balinese music and dance. They frequently play in and around the Boston region as well as elsewhere in New England.

Rambax Senegalese Drum Ensemble

Rambax MIT is an ensemble committed to learning the art of sabar, a dynamic drum and dance tradition of the Wolof people of Senegal, West Africa. Sabar is directed by Lamine Touré, a master Senegalese drummer, and the ensemble is dedicated to mastering the skill. Rambax is available to current and former MIT students, teachers, and staff, as well as alumni. Both the fall and spring semesters are open for the recruitment of new members.

Want to learn more about the MIT 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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