Music Department to Adopt New Curriculum Beginning Fall 2017

The Department of Music will adopt a new undergraduate curriculum beginning in fall 2017, decreasing the number of courses concentrators must take and making more courses eligible for concentration credit.

The roughly 30 current concentrators in the department will be able to choose between fulfilling the current curriculum or requesting the new one.

The new curriculum, approved by the Educational Policy Committee Monday, involves two major changes. First, instead of 13 courses, concentrators will only need to take 10 courses for to graduate. Second, the new curriculum introduces two new concentration tutorials—Music 97a: “Thinking about Music” and Music 97b: “Critical Listening,” as well as the advanced tutorial Music 98, in which students will either prepare to write a thesis or work on a junior project such as a performance or composition.

“We’re very excited about it because it plays on the department’s strengths while still expanding into areas that are important to us. Flexibility is an important concept in the curriculum,” Music professor Anne C. Shreffler said.

Under the current requirements, students enter Music concentration through two introductory theory classes. The new curriculum eliminates the theory requirement and permits students to count certain freshman seminars and General Educations courses towards concentration requirements.

Several Music concentrators, like Dalen L. Ferreira ’19, praised the new curriculum.

“I think it’s a great change. It dramatically changed my plan for the next four semesters and it’s made it a lot easier for me to take classes I’m interested in,” Ferreira said.

While students pursuing a joint concentration in Music and another field still have to take eight Music courses, Isabel M. Lapuerta ’19—a joint Anthropology and Music concentrator—said the elimination of the theory requirement has given her “much more flexibility” in her schedule.

Jake Tilton ’19 agreed. “This new curriculum is a godsend for people like me who love music, but have found their niche outside of traditionally academic subfields within music,” he said.

But, Tilton said, the elimination of most specific course requirements marks a significant shift in the way Harvard teaches music.

“This new curriculum is a really radical departure from Harvard’s previous very strict, defined, and academic curriculum, which was based heavily in theory and musicology,” Tilton said. “This new curriculum, theoretically, allows students to escape filling holes in their musical knowledge that a conservatory environment would certainly fill.”

Shreffler said the new curriculum would not be less rigorous, but would allow students to better tailor their courses to their interests.

“If in an advising meeting, a student expresses that they have a specific goal—graduate school, or Juilliard—then we would advise students to take the courses that they need to pursue that goal. It’s just that not everybody will have to go on the same path.”

--Staff writer Valia P. Leifer can be reached at val.leifer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ValiaLeifer.

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