Chicago Music Schools with Degree Program Summaries

The Chicago area has a few colleges and universities that offer music programs. Learn about the degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three of these schools to make an informed education decision.

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Comparison of Chicago Music Schools

Chicago-area students seeking a music degree have several viable options to choose from. Northwestern University, located just outside Chicago, offers the most music degree options of any program in the area. Through its Bienen School of Music, students can earn bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in a variety of concentrations. DePaul University is located near downtown Chicago and is the largest Catholic university in the nation. Degrees are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level; these include classical and jazz degrees, as well as a degree in music recording. Columbia College Chicago, in the heart of downtown, offers unique bachelor's degree programs in music that allow students to focus on contemporary and popular styles and genres. A specialized master's degree program is also available in composing for visual media.

Northwestern University DePaul University Columbia College Chicago
Music Programs Offered -Bachelor of Arts in Music
-Bachelor of Music with several concentrations
-Master of Music with several concentrations
-Doctor of Music with several concentrations
-Doctor of Philosophy in Music
-Bachelor of Arts in Music
-Bachelor of Music in Performance, Composition or Jazz
-Master of Music with several concentrations
-Bachelor of Arts in Music
-Bachelor of Music with several concentrations
-Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition for the Screen
Related Programs Offered -Dual Bachelor of Arts and Music in Music and Liberal Arts
-Dual Bachelor of Arts or Music and Bachelor of Science in Music and Engineering
-Dual Bachelor of Arts or Music and Bachelor of Science Journalism with Music Journalism concentration
-Bachelor of Science in Sound Recording Technology
-Bachelor of Music in Performing Arts Management
-Bachelor of Arts in Acoustics
-Bachelor of Arts in Radio
-Bachelor of Fine Arts in Audio Arts and Acoustics
School Type 4-year; private, not-for-profit 4-year; private, not-for-profit 4-year; private, not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2011) 20,959* 25,398* 11,625*
Campus Setting Small city Large city Large city
Tuition and Fees (2011-2012) $41,983* $30,618* $20,644*
% of Incoming Full-Time Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2010-2011) 67%* 91%* 79%*
Acceptance Rate 23% in 2010* 64% in 2011* Open admissions policy*
Retention Rate (2010-2011) 97% of full-time students* 86% of full-time students* 67% of full-time students*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (For students starting in 2005) 86% in four years; 94% in six years* 49% in four years; 66% in six years* 29% in four years; 41% in six years*
Relevant Facilities -Nearly 100 practice rooms
-Four computer labs
-Four large ensemble rehearsal spaces
-1,000-seat Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
-300,000-volume music library
-New music building opening in 2015
-Several performance and rehearsal spaces
-Concert Hall of the Music Center
-Three practice room spaces
-Ensemble rehearsal spaces
-MIDI/CUP lab
-MFA lab
-148-seat concert hall
Noteworthy The Institute of New Music presents festivals, symposia, residencies and workshops, providing opportunities for students to connect with contemporary musicians of note Faculty members are professional musicians, some of whom are members of prominent Chicago music organizations, such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra The concert hall hosts over 400 concerts annually, free for students
Distance from Downtown (Driving Time) 20.3 miles (33 min) 5.4 miles (13 min) 0.6 miles (4 min)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics - College Navigator.


Degrees at Northwestern University

The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University contains 125 faculty and 620 students, with 410 at the undergraduate level and 210 at the graduate level. Founded in 1895, the school provides undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate music degree programs.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

The B.A. in Music is a liberal arts degree with a non-performance concentration. However, prospective students must audition in order to be admitted. Students fulfill foreign language requirements and complete required liberal arts courses in fine arts and literature, ethics, logical reasoning, history, natural sciences and social sciences. Students must participate in performance ensembles and take core music courses in music history, music theory and aural skills. Areas of concentration are composition, musicology, music cognition and music theory. Students can apply to concentrate in multiple areas. The B.A. in Music culminates in a senior project.

Bachelor of Music

The B.M. is a performance-oriented program with concentrations in jazz, musicology, composition, music cognition, music education, music theory and instrumental performance in voice/opera, piano, strings, brass, percussion or woodwinds. Students in the music education program may choose whether to specialize in choral or instrumental music and are also prepared for teacher certification in the state of Illinois. Students may also self-design programs by combining concentrations. Specific course requirements for the B.M. vary from major to major, but all require six courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Core music courses are in music theory, aural skills, music history and conducting, and there is coursework in the area of specialization. Some programs, such as performance and music theory, require classes in keyboard skills; any majors have ensemble requirements. Programs may also require a junior and/or senior recital.

Master of Music

The Bienen School of Music offers one-year and two-year M.M. degrees. Two-year programs include concentrations in music education, jazz, conducting or performance in brass, percussion, piano, voice, strings or woodwinds. Instrumental students may choose to combine their instrumental studies with pedagogy studies. The M.M. with concentrations in music theory or pedagogy may be fulfilled in one year. Concentrators in music education may complete their program in one year if they are already certified or two years if they are seeking certification along with the degree. Students may concentrate in more than one area. Specific requirements vary greatly across concentrations because most coursework is within the specific area of concentration. However, most performance concentrations require ensemble participation, a final recital and a final examination. Some concentration areas may have language requirements in German or French.

Doctor of Music

The D.M. degree program at the Bienen School of Music emphasizes both music scholarship and music performance and is available with concentrations in conducting, composition or instrumental performance in the same instruments that are offered at the undergraduate level. Piano concentrators may also choose to focus on piano accompaniment or pedagogy. The D.M. requires two years of residency, which includes intensive study in an instrument and/or the area of concentration. The program also requires reading knowledge of German or French. After completing coursework, students must pass a qualifying examination. After this point, studies require the development of teaching skills through an internship or other teaching experience, three or four professional recitals and submission of a body of written work, either in the form of one large document or several smaller documents.

Doctor of Philosophy in Music

The PhD program focuses primarily on music research in two areas of concentration: the first in music theory and cognition, music education or musicology and the second in a non-music field. The program requires full-time residency for nine academic quarters, though students entering with a master's degree can complete the residence in six quarters. Students seeking the concentration in music education are required to have a master's degree and three years of teaching experience. All students must pass a portfolio assessment after their first year, gain proficiency in a foreign language and complete a teaching demonstration. In order to have their dissertation prospectus approved, students must pass a written examination and oral defense. Students must complete and defend a dissertation by the end of their course of study, as well as create a presentation or paper that is open to the public.

Degrees at DePaul University

DePaul University's School of Music has 110 faculty and grants the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science and Master of Music degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the school granted music degrees to over 60 students in 2010-2011.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

The B.A. in Music is more academic in focus than the B.M. because students learn about music in the context of a liberal arts curriculum. Required liberal arts courses include three science classes and two classes each in the following: art and literature, philosophy, religion, society and history. Students must also take a foreign language for one year. Required music coursework covers music theory, aural skills, conducting and music history, musicology or ethnomusicology. B.A. students must take 16 quarter hours of private lessons in their instrument and participate in a performing ensemble every semester. In order to graduate, students must gain field or work experience and complete a research assignment called the Senior Capstone Seminar.

Bachelor of Music

Students in the B.M. program may concentrate in performance, composition, jazz and music education. There are also related programs in performing arts management. The curriculum for performance is further divided into brass, percussion, woodwind, piano, strings, guitar and voice. Performance concentrators take private lessons for their instrument and courses in pedagogy and music literature. They must also perform in ensembles. Composition students receive private composition lessons and take classes in contemporary music, counterpoint, orchestration and music analysis. The concentration in jazz includes instruction in jazz performance, improvisation, history, theory, pedagogy, arrangement and composition.

Master of Music

The M.M. at DePaul has specializations in jazz, music education, composition and performance in the same instrumental areas offered at the undergraduate level. All concentrations involve core music coursework in music history, theory and research; performance and jazz concentrations require participation in performance ensembles. The remaining classes are focused on the area of specialization. The specialization in jazz requires instrumental lessons and coursework in jazz improvisation, arranging, pedagogy and/or composition. Composition students have quarterly opportunities to have their work performed. All M.M. programs are two years with the exception of music education, which lasts just over two years and includes summer and evening classes. The M.M. in Music Education focuses on both the theory and practice of education and requires that applicants have a bachelor's degree in music education, a year of teaching experience and teacher certification. All concentrations conclude with a final comprehensive exam. Performance and jazz concentrators must also perform a graduate recital, composition concentrators must submit a final composition and music education concentrators must submit a final project or paper.

Degrees at Columbia College Chicago

With over 15 faculty, Columbia College Chicago offers students the opportunity to earn Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees, with particular emphasis on popular and modern genres. A Master of Fine Arts in visual media composition is also offered.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

All undergraduate students in music begin their studies in the B.A. in Music program, which is a liberal arts degree with five concentrations: composition, contemporary music and instrumental, vocal and jazz performance. All students seeking a B.A. in Music must take 42 credits in the liberal arts and sciences. Students concentrating in composition have opportunities to work with large ensembles and take coursework focusing on melody, tonal and chromatic harmony, counterpoint, tonality and orchestration; later in their studies, they take private composition lessons. The concentration in contemporary music deals with genres such as Latin or R&B and involves training in performing, songwriting, arranging and recording, with coursework related to popular music history and theory; students also have opportunities to perform in genre-specific ensembles. Instrumental concentrators develop both ensemble and solo playing abilities through a program designed to meet the individual student's needs and abilities, through private music lessons and courses emphasizing such musical styles as blues, rock, jazz and musical theatre. The voice program, focused both solo and ensemble stage performance, also involves private lessons in in classical voice and a variety of popular genres. The jazz concentration requires: private lessons; performance in jazz combos, ensembles and orchestras; and coursework in jazz improvisation, history, theory, composition and arranging.

Bachelor of Music

Students seeking a B.M. from Columbia College Chicago begin their studies in a related B.A. in Music program; after earning 45-60 credits, they may audition in order to gain entry to the B.M. program, where they may concentrate in composition or contemporary music. The B.M. with emphasis on composition requires more specialized coursework than the B.A. in Music, with classes in counterpoint, analysis, composition, electronic music, orchestration and conducting. The contemporary music B.M. is a targeted degree designed to prepare students to be professional musicians. Students train in songwriting, arranging and studio recording, with additional coursework in music technology, business, history and theory. With an emphasis on a variety of popular styles and genres, through ensemble and solo stage performance, students culminate their studies by creating, performing and recording original music with a band. The program also involves study abroad opportunities at European sister schools of Columbia College Chicago.

Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition for the Screen

Students seeking a graduate degree in music at Columbia College Chicago can earn an M.F.A. in Composition for the Screen, a targeted degree designed to teach students the professional skills needed to work in this field. Students work with industry-standard equipment to create their own composition portfolios with the aid of teachers who are working professionals in the field. Required coursework covers: scoring for film and games, composition, film aesthetics, genre and style, music editing, career skills, conducting and independent projects. During their final semester, students fulfill an apprenticeship or internship. They must also create a final composition for an advanced student film project, which is then recorded with a live studio orchestra, to be conducted by them.

Other School Options

In the city of Chicago, other music school options are Roosevelt University, VanderCook School of Music and University of Chicago. Students can earn a degree in sacred music from Moody Bible Institute. Other schools in the Chicago area with music programs include Concordia University-Chicago and Elmhurst College.

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    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
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