Music Courses Open to Students in All Disciplines

These courses, offered by the Conservatory of Music, are open to students in all disciplines (excluding music majors, unless otherwise noted). Additional courses may be added each semester.

SOA 1000–2999 (lower level)
SOA 3000–4999 (upper level)

Lower Level

Hand Drumming Workshop
SOA 1500
/ 1 credit / Every semester
An exploration of the ancient musical tradition of hand drumming found in many cultures. Hand drumming techniques from Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, and Asia are learned and practiced in an ensemble setting to energize, build unity, and heighten creativity. Students gain experience with djembe, guiro, conga, shakers, and clavés, as well as other percussive and rhythmic instruments. No prior musical experience is required.

Klezmer Ensemble
SOA 1510
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
The study and performance of traditional and contemporary repertoire from the Eastern European Jewish music tradition known as klezmer. Students develop improvisational skills using the traditional ornaments and modal melodic language. They also learn the klezmer approach to ensemble playing, which combines unison playing, call and response, and improvised solos. This course culminates in a performance as final project. Offered as MPE 1360 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Soul Voices Ensemble
SOA 1520
/ 2 credits / Every semester
A mixed vocal ensemble that explores the music of the African-American experience, including spirituals, gospel, soul, rhythm and blues, funk, and jazz. The semester culminates with a public concert on campus. Open to students in all disciplines, including music majors.

Purchase Symphonic Winds
SOA 1525
/ 2 credits / Every semester
An ensemble comprised of wind, brass, and percussion instrumentalists. Repertoire is chosen from the vast spectrum of literature written and transcribed for concert band setting. The ensemble engages in rigorous preparation that culminates in an end-of-semester concert performance. Membership is by audition for all Purchase College students as well as community residents. Offered as MPE 1800 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Purchase Latin Jazz Orchestra
SOA 1530
/ 2 credits / Every semester
Focuses on the music of the Machito Orchestra, Tito Puente, Chico O’Farrill, and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. The conversion of standard jazz repertoire to what is currently known as Latin jazz is emphasized through an in-depth study of clavé (the rhythmic pulse found in Afro-Caribbean music) and the variety of rhythms incorporated in this genre. Orchestra members are encouraged to contribute original arrangements. Offered as MPE 1600 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Jazz Ensemble: All Majors
SOA 1550
/ 2 credits / Every year
Provides students from other disciplines an opportunity to participate in a small jazz combo. Emphasis is on standard jazz repertoire, understanding of the jazz vernacular, and jazz improvisation. A background in performing in similar ensembles in high school is beneficial. Taught by a faculty member of the jazz studies program.

Introduction to World Music
SOA 1560
/ 2 credits / Spring
The music of Japan, India, West Africa, Cuba, and Brazil is compared and contrasted. Topics include the use of music in each respective society; musical forms; types of instruments; and the impact of history, religion, and politics on the music. Offered as MTH 1560 for music majors.

All-College Chorus
SOA 1600
/ 2 credits / Every semester
A mixed ensemble of vocal performance with students from all areas of the campus. The chorus performs a varied repertoire of music and presents concerts on campus and in touring venues with orchestra and professional soloists.
Prerequisite: Prior choral experience

Introduction to Studio Recording
SOA 1630
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
An introduction to the recording studio, designed especially for students with no background in music. Students will gain an overall understanding of the principles of studio recording and multitrack mixing.

Songwriting I
SOA 1700
/ 2 credits / Fall
Introductory study of the craft of songwriting: analysis of lyrics, rhyme, emotional projection, melodic contour, and formal verse-chorus practice. Offered as MUS 1320 for music majors.

Songwriting II
SOA 1710
/ 2 credits / Spring
A continuation of SOA 1700. Further study of the craft of songwriting. Offered as MUS 1330 for music majors.
Prerequisite: SOA 1700

Survey of Music History II
SOA 2505 / 3 credits / Spring
Traces the history of Western concert music, providing an overview and foundation. The course begins with a focus on world music, placing Western concert music in the greater context of its relationship to other cultures. The musical cultures of India and the Arabic countries of North Africa are examined for their impact on Western concepts. Offered as MTH 2520 for music majors.

Introduction to Jazz
SOA 2570
/ 2 credits / Fall
An introduction to jazz music, from Africa to the southern U.S., the centrality of New Orleans, the northern migration, and the transformation and expansion of styles during the 20th century. The various musical characteristics of jazz—including blues, Dixieland, swing, bebop, and fusion—are analyzed, and the works of renowned musicians are examined.

World Music and Jazz Traditions
SOA 2580
/ 2 credits / Fall
An overview of world music and an introduction to the indigenous American art form of jazz. Students explore music from many cultures, including Africa, the Caribbean, India, China, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, the Middle East, and Latin America. The course also surveys traditional jazz styles and their roots, including the blues, Dixieland, swing, and bebop. These varied musical traditions are presented within both their unique cultural contexts and a modern global context. Offered as MTH 2230 for music majors.

Introduction to Classical Music
SOA 2600
/ 3 credits / Every semester
In this course, students gain a deeper appreciation of popular music by addressing its origins, from Greek music to Middle Eastern folk traditions, the birth of notation, and the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods of Western music.

Upper Level

Lyric Writing
SOA 3500
/ 2 credits / Spring
A practical study of the craft of writing contemporary lyrics. Analytical and creative focus on effective musical structures, plus rhyme forms and schemes, line and unit densities, text and subtexts. Studies may include Langston Hughes, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Chuck D, Tupac Shakur, and others. Prior musical accomplishment as a lyricist and a desire to collaborate are required. Offered as MCO 3420 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Melody Writing
SOA 3505
/ 2 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
A practical study of the craft of writing contemporary melody. Analytical and creative focus on effective melodic practice, plus musical rhyme, dramatic pitch curve, repetition and excursion, bridge, prechorus and chorus writing, melodic psychology and hooks. Studies may include Franz Schubert, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Billie Holiday, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman, and others. Prior musical accomplishment as a melodist and ability to read notation are required. Offered as MCO 3415 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

The Music of Beethoven
SOA 3540
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A study of the stylistic influences surrounding Beethoven’s music; the history of its reception; its formal, thematic, and harmonic construction; and how it interrogates other works. The tripartite division of Beethoven’s life is scrutinized and evaluated for its applicability (or lack thereof) to various parts of his repertoire. Students give a lecture-demonstration of one work (or one part of a work). Offered as MTH 3620 for music majors.
Prerequisite: SOA 2500 and 2505 or equivalent, and LWR 1110

Electroacoustic Music I
SOA 3550
/ 2 credits / Fall
A historical overview of electroacoustic music, beginning in the late 1940s with the devotees of musique concrète, recorded natural sounds, and synthesized tone construction. Students learn about the gradual evolution of technology and composition and its impact on many music traditions and trends. Offered as MTH 3180 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Electroacoustic Music II
SOA 3555
/ 2 credits / Spring
An overview of current creative trends in electroacoustic music. Contemporary digital music systems offer unprecedented dynamic control over timbre. This course reviews aspects of musical acoustics and psychoacoustics and explores electroacoustic simulation through recent experimental examples. Offered as MTH 3190 for music majors.
Prerequisite: SOA 3550 or permission of instructor

Ritmica Method
SOA 3560
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Develops in students a deeper understanding of rhythm as a musical element, moving beyond the arithmetic function of rhythm to explore its melodic and intuitive functions. Offered as MUS 3060 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

The Music of J.S. Bach
SOA 3600
/ 2 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Bach and his music are engaged from historical, social, generic, analytic, and performance-based perspectives. Students examine Bach’s inventiveness in cross-pollinating genres as well as his contrapuntal genius, fascination with musical instrument building, and expansion of the professional life of musicians. In addition to written assignments, each student gives a lecture-demonstration on a work (or segment of a work) by Bach. Offered as MTH 3600 for music majors.
Prerequisite: SOA 2500 and 2505 and LWR 1110

Private Study
SOA 4500
/ 3 credits / Every semester
Please refer to Private Lessons and Recitals, and contact the Conservatory of Music for further information.
Prerequisite: Permission of the Conservatory of Music director

Opera History I and II
SOA 4590 and 4595 / 1.5 credits (per semester)
I: Fall; II: Spring
A chronological survey of major operas and opera composers from the early 1600s to the present in cultural context. Participants research and write critical analyses based on documentation of early performances and, when available, archival recordings. SOA 4590 is offered as MTH 4211 and SOA 4595 is offered as MTH 4212 for music majors.

History of Recorded Music I: Blues to Bebop
SOA 4600
/ 2 credits / Fall
American popular music and its recording techniques (to 1950): ragtime, gospel, blues, vaudeville, New Orleans brass band, swing, Tin Pan Alley, bebop, and early rhythm and blues. Analysis and performance. Offered as MTH 4120 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, or permission of instructor

History of Recorded Music II: Bebop to Hip-Hop
SOA 4610
/ 2 credits / Spring
A continuation of SOA 4600. Cool, mainstream, progressive/free jazz, rhythm and blues, country and western, Broadway, rock ’n’ roll, reggae, soul and Motown, fusion, disco, punk, metal, and hip-hop. Analysis and performance. Offered as MTH 4130 for music majors.
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, or permission of instructor

For updates during 2013–2015, please visit

Arrow up icon | << Conservatory of Music home