Music is a deep and wonderful aspect of what it means to be human. In one way or another it plays a constant part in the lives of all of us, and some musical works and practices are among the greatest accomplishments of human kind. We try to offer our students glimpses of the many meanings and consequences of musical thought, observation, and activity and for those interested in pursuing professional careers, a basic education that will form a solid foundation for future development. In most cases, but not all, studying music here is a continuation of childhood involvement. Typical music majors are those for whom music holds a special meaning.
There are two main aspects to studying music here. The first is to build a firm basis for further study, to learn fundamental and basic things, particularly about Western music yesterday and today. The second is to engage an area of special interest, which may have been a student's overriding passion for the past 10 years, or may be something unfamiliar that proves irresistible. In any case, the department provides a set of resources in the form of a variety of courses on music history (Western and non-Western), music theory, composition, music technology, and performance-related projects and activities. In addition, independent projects, senior theses, student-initiated seminars, and a rich musical life in and around Princeton provide a good environment for learning and growth.
The study of music at Princeton may encompass any of a wide variety of subjects, aims, and interests. For some it may involve preparation for a career as a professional performer. While we are not a conservatory, we hope that the broad and intense areas of study we offer in composition, music history, and music theory, as well as opportunities to combine these with performance work, add a depth and range to the training of a performer that is not available at any conservatory. We have had several majors who have gone on to successful performing careers, including the pianist Robert Taub, jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, and singer Mimi Fulmer.
Majoring in music may also mean preparing for a career in composition. The department has been among the leaders of the field in graduate education in this area for the past 40 years, and more recently we expanded our offerings in the undergraduate arena. Here we have a variety of resources, including music theory courses that stress compositional work, electronic and computer synthesis facilities, beginning and advanced compositional workshops, independent projects, and senior theses in composition. Some of our former majors have gone on to graduate study in composition and careers as professional composers of concert music, while others have made careers in arranging and commercial music.
For others, music history becomes a focal point of their studies. Here again, the department has an outstanding graduate program and a prestigious faculty. The study of music history, music in history, or music as history is an extremely broad field, and individual approaches and interests are encouraged once a student has a working knowledge of the underlying principles of the field. Course work ranges from the study of composers' manuscripts to work in ethnomusicology, opera, 20th-century music, Medieval and Renaissance music, and other special topics. More detailed information regarding the requirements and the curriculum of the Music Department can be found in the Undergraduate Announcement.
Finally, a significant percentage of music majors do not go on to professional careers in music but go into law, medicine, business, or some other profession. For many of these students, their time at Princeton is all the more valuable in that it is the last chance to devote themselves fully to musical studies before plunging into demanding careers that leave little time for music.
Students rarely major in music "by default." Most majors are people who care deeply about music and find their lives enriched by it. The music department is small but does its best to accommodate as wide a range of interests, abilities, and aspirations as possible.