Denison’s Music department welcomes students of all backgrounds and levels of ability, while standing out as a premier destination for the serious musician who wants rigorous training within the context of a liberal arts environment.
Denison’s Music program is unique
Individual instruction. Our 47 faculty members cover all instruments and areas, so you can major or minor in music in a variety of areas, from performance to history, composition to bluegrass. One-on-one lessons are free to majors and minors, and there are plenty of scholarships to cover lessons for non-majors/minors as well.
Music is a focal point of Denison life—major, minor, or neither. Whether you see music as central to a future career, as an aspect of life you want to continue to cultivate, or as something you “do for fun,” Denison’s Music department has a place for you. We fill around 1,000 seats in music courses and ensembles every semester, with almost 600 students participating in lessons or ensembles.
Our students make music! We offer 28 ensembles, including both “traditional” ensembles (Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Choir) as well as the Bluegrass Ensemble, Balinese Gamelan, Early Music Ensemble, Gospel Choir, Latin Jazz Percussion, Musical Theatre (Singers Theatre Workshop), New Music Ensemble, and more. Students serve as concertmasters, section leaders, soloists, and managers, helping develop their skills as leaders and stewards for the arts.
Our home in the Michael D. Eisner Center for Performing Arts provides a top-tier facility. The Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts comprises Sharon Martin Hall (a flexible 400-seat proscenium theatre), Burke Recital Hall (a 225-seat recital hall, fully remodeled in 2018), and a large rehearsal room (a 2,400-square-foot, two-story space with theatrical lighting and AV systems). It also features sound-proofed rehearsal spaces for chamber groups and vocal ensembles, piano labs, instrument lockers, and a state-of-the-art recording studio.
Denison’s music curriculum is intended to provide music majors and minors with the skills needed to excel in their area of emphasis—performance, bluegrass, composition, music history, or general music—while cultivating the artistic pursuits of liberal arts students.
Acknowledging the need to examine the contributions of various cultures, the curriculum covers a broad spectrum of musical influences (western European, jazz, world music, American folk, African American musical traditions, and computer music).
In addition to core courses in theory and music history, music majors and minors can choose an area of emphasis.
American Roots Music (including Bluegrass)
American Roots Music majors take courses in the history of American folk, country, and bluegrass music along with private lessons and American Roots ensemble. They also complete the music composition seminar and do junior and senior recitals.
Music composition majors take composition seminars and private lessons along with courses in conducting and orchestration, 20th century music, computer music, and other electives, along with a senior recital or project.
General music majors take private lessons and participate in core ensembles each semester. They also complete the music composition seminar and either a senior recital or project.
Denison is also one of the few colleges that offers for-credit courses in the Alexander Technique.
Music history majors take at least four advanced history courses and participate in private lessons and ensembles, along with the music composition seminar and senior project.
Music performance majors (accepted by audition) take private lessons and core ensembles, a course in conducting and orchestration, and the music composition seminar, as well as junior and senior recitals.
Outside the Classroom
Denison’s Ensemble-in-Residence program is unlike a traditional artist residency program. In addition to offering music students enriching experiences, knowledge, and opportunities beyond the curriculum, they fulfil Denison’s liberal arts mission by collaborating with faculty and students from across the campus.
Since 2014, acclaimed New York City-based string quartet ETHEL has been spending up to two weeks per semester on campus. In 2019, Grammy award-winning Third Coast Percussion joined us. We are thrilled to have these two ensembles enriching our experiences.
Their work has covered everything from debuting student composers’ works to creating an exhibition showcasing the sounds, images, and music of farms with environmental studies students. They’ve worked with creative writers and scientists. They’ve collaborated with dancers and athletes. They’ve helped students investigate issues within psychology, physics, communication, and studio art, among others.
Many students travel the country and the world participating in Denison’s Off-Campus Study program. Through summer programs and semester programs at European musical centers, students supplement their Denison education with amazing opportunities to learn and continue their musical studies.
Denison’s Summer Scholars program offers many opportunities for students to work in depth on a project with a Denison faculty member, whether it is research into performance practices, creating new music, or studying various performance techniques, students have delved into many areas of inquiry during the summer.
In addition, students serve as Vail Series Interns, supporting visiting artists and ensembles, and as Middleton Arts Liaisons, serving members of the community. Others have found internships in arts organizations and recording studios. As Denison expands opportunities in Columbus, even more opportunities await.
Many of Denison’s ensembles tour both domestically and internationally. These have been amazing experiences to share our music with others, whether here in the Midwest, on the East Coast, or in Italy, Bulgaria, China, or Iceland. Where will we go next?
Denison’s students and ensembles have been selected to perform and compete at statewide, regional, and national conferences and competitions. They have excelled at these opportunities.
What do music majors do after Denison?
Our graduates have pursued careers:
- As teachers in private and public schools and colleges and in private studios
- In music therapy, music management and arts administration
- As critics and freelance writers
- As conductors and organists for sacred music
- In performance as soloists, orchestral and chamber musicians, and conductors
- In composition as composers, arrangers, orchestrators and copyists as music librarians
- In audio engineering in recording studios or as acousticians
- In music marketing
- And more!
The Denison University Department of Music equips students with the skills, knowledge, and experience to shape a 21st century global society as creators and intellectuals. The department’s curriculum is based upon our belief that the performance and intellectual study of music mutually deepen and strengthen one another. Students attain fluency in music through rigorous study and synthesis of music analysis, culture, and performance.
Deeply grounded in the liberal arts, the department offers exposure to a broad array of musics across time and place. Classes, lessons, and ensembles are open to the entire campus, making music not only an integral part of life at Denison, but also a tool for connecting our students with the broader community. By modeling a vibrant community of musicians and audiences, we foster a culturally and ethically informed citizenship with a lifelong passion for the arts.