Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Department of Music and a School of Music?

A Department of Music is likely to be a smaller academic unit, situated within a liberal arts educational environment. A School of Music is essentially a conservatory (i.e.., focused on training professional performers) that is situated within a University A Department of Music such as ours, for example, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree while a School of Music may offer both a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Music degree.

Do you need piano skills to be in the music program? If not, what options are there for you to learn how to play the piano?

You do not necessarily need prior piano experience, although having some will make the work a lot easier for you. There is a piano class, Music 45M, that gives music majors the opportunity to learn basic piano technique in a group lesson setting. This class is highly recommended for those with little or no piano experience.

What performance opportunities are available in the Department of Music?

The Department offers ensemble courses (the Music 140 series) that are available to all students on the campus, both majors and non-majors alike. Music majors can perform individually or as part of larger ensembles for course credit. All majors must complete three semesters of performance, but are encouraged to do more. For-credit ensembles are African Music Ensemble, Contemporary Improvisation Ensemble, Gospel Choir, Javanese Gamelan, University Baroque Ensemble, University Chorus, University Symphony, and University Wind Ensemble. Other major courses that involve performance are Jazz Theory and Performance (116), Conducting (161A/B), Improvisation (164), Topics in Research and Performance (170A), and Ethnomusicology courses that include performance labs (130-9).

Do I have to audition?

Music 168 and many performance ensembles require auditions for admittance, but an audition is not required in order to major in music. Instead, a placement test is mandatory to place you in the appropriate lower division harmony and musicianship courses. Look for audition details and sign-ups on the bulletin board outside 104 Morrison.

What is the relationship between admissions to the University and declaration of the major?

The Undergraduate Admissions Office handles admission to the College of Letters and Science. For information, see admissions information.
Students can declare the major when they have completed the steps outlined on the Major Declaration page.

What are the degree requirements of the university and major?

There are four sets of requirements: those required by all campuses of the University of California, those required specifically at UC Berkeley, those of the College of Letters and Science, and those of the music department. For the first of three sets of requirements, please consult

Music major requirements may be found on the Music Department website under the Music Major section of Undergraduate Information.

When can I declare the major?

Students can declare the major when they have completed the four steps outlined on the Major Declaration page.

What advising is available from the Department to guide my process in the major?

When you declare the Music Major, you will meet with a Student Services Advisor to refine your program plan. The advisor will make sure you meet all major and University requirements and are able to graduate in a timely manner. In addition, students are encouraged to choose a faculty mentor according to your particular interests.

Can I declare a concentration in composition, ethnomusicology, musicology, or performance?

The only “declaration” process is the declaration of the music major in consultation with a staff advisor. All music majors receive a B.A. in Music. If they wish, students may design a concentration or specialization based on individual interests. Upper division courses in each of the fields listed above are offered every semester. Consult undergraduate careers for planning suggestions, or meet with a faculty member to discuss options. Students are encouraged to select a faculty mentor who will help guide them along the chosen path. This is particularly important for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies or considering a career in music.

What are the degree requirements and policies of the major and the university?

The music department is part of the College of Letters and Science and awards Bachelor’s of Arts degrees (B.A.’s) to undergraduate students. To earn your degree, you must successfully complete the music major requirements and the L&S requirements.

What is the balance between theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge in the Department of Music’s program?

There are many opportunities to apply both. Connections are constantly made between the theory of music and our experiences of it in sound either as a listener or practitioner. Musicianship training (learning to hear and notate, to sing from notation at sight, to listen analytically) comes into use in harmony courses, in history and culture courses, and in performance study. Study of harmony involves musical creativity as well as analysis, often of repertoire that is being performed in our context. Theory, listening skills, analytical skills are important no matter what musical repertoires are being studied.

How big are the major classes in the Department of Music?

Music major courses in musicianship and theory are restricted to fewer than twenty students. Upper division major seminars are smaller. History and culture courses range from 30 to 100 students. Enrollment in performance ensembles is appropriate to the repertoire that be performed and its instrumentation. Our teachers know the students and vice versa. We are a relatively intimate department within the large university.

If I want to take private lessons as music major, how do I do that?

Private instruction is provided for the most skilled musicians among our majors under the course number Music 168. Music 168 is a personalized performance program for the intermediate to advanced performer. Each student works individually with a private instructor while participating in one of the performance ensembles listed above. To enroll, students must be declared music majors.

Is it possible to double major, and still graduate in four years?

Yes, many music majors successfully complete a second major in four years. It often takes careful planning, because the music major has many lower division requirements. Be sure to check in with a faculty member or advisor in the Music Department and in L&S as you choose your courses each semester.

How can majors participate in the governance of the Department of Music?

There is an opportunity as an undergraduates to serve as the Undergraduate Representative on the Undergraduate Committee. This committee holds monthly meetings to discuss issues that directly affect the undergraduate music program. UGC is made up of several student representatives as well as staff and faculty members. This is a good place to let your voice be heard and to discuss the opportunities available to undergraduate music students.

What are some extracurricular music opportunities at the university?

The Undergraduate Composers organize concerts each semester in which Cal students perform pieces by students.
Free noon concerts take place in Hertz Hall every Wednesday. Performers must be affiliated with UC Berkeley, and audition during the semester preceding their proposed concert. Student recitals are also presented in 125 Morrison Hall.

There are many DeCal classes that have to do with music. In order to supplement your classical and theory knowledge, it is a good idea to check out the DeCal classes for hip-hop, funk, or spoken poetry that are usually offered. The list of classes changes, but make sure to take a look at the classes every semester. Their website is: