Areas of study
Learn more about our degrees offered, admission and audition information, and faculty mentors in each area.
Interested in auditioning for an ensemble? Visit our auditions page for more information.
Please note: Masks are required indoors on campus at all times, including for all ensemble students in Choirs, Concert Band, University Bands, Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, University Strings, and all Jazz ensembles. The wind ensemble will perform chamber pieces for the first concert. Symphony orchestra with rehearse and perform with full string sections and a standard number of wind and brass players (not more than 24) with social distancing in place. All-University Strings will follow the protocol adopted by the Symphony Orchestra strings.
Student Chamber Ensembles
The ensemble $2 Broom is directed by Professor of Horn Daniel Grabois. Participation in $2 Broom is open to any School of Music student on any instrument or voice. The group functions mostly as an improvising ensemble, though members may choose to write for the group as well.
$2 Broom rehearses in EARS (the Electro-Acoustic Research Space), a new state of the art facility loaded with computers, software, MIDI instruments, and more. Students play their own instruments and learn to use the instruments in EARS. All music is improvised, and in rehearsals students learn how to create a piece of music cooperatively.
Typical rehearsals begin with guided improvisations using limiting rules and with free improv exercises. As students become more comfortable at improvisation, the rules tend to vanish and the music-making becomes more intuitive and creative. By the end of the semester, students are able to go on stage with no printed music and perform for an hour or more with complete comfort.
Computer electronics and hardware pedals in EARS can completely transform the sound each player makes.
Chamber, World, and Graduation Percussion Ensembles
The UW–Madison has multiple active percussion chamber ensembles that rehearse and perform regularly. The Chamber Percussion Ensemble (formerly Western Percussion Ensemble) is a chamber group dedicated to performing significant and interesting works. Repertoire from diverse trends in twentieth- and twenty-first-century chamber composition is explored with an emphasis on new compositions for percussion. Guest artists regularly perform with the Ensemble, and guest composers are often featured.
The World Percussion Ensemble is dedicated to the performance of significant percussive styles from around the globe. Traditions from various cultures—Cuba, Brazil, India, the Middle East, and more—are explored through performance and research, and most of the music selected is studied and practiced in the oral tradition. The Ensemble works diligently to present the music performed in its traditional folkloric settings. In 2010, the Ensemble won the Percussive Arts Society International World Percussion Ensemble Competition, resulting in a feature performance at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).
In addition to the Chamber and World Percussion Ensembles, the graduate percussion students perform with the Graduate Percussion Group. This chamber ensemble, which performs regular concerts on and off campus, is uniquely autonomous, allowing members to have primary input in repertoire selection, musical decisions, and more. With coaching from the percussion faculty, this ensemble provides extensive experience in advanced chamber ensemble preparation and performance in a musically democratic environment.
Contemporary Chamber Ensemble
Laura Schwendinger, artistic director
Javier Calderon, director
Marvin Rabin String Quartet
The Marvin Rabin String Quartet is the Mead Witter School of Music’s graduate string quartet. As project assistants, the quartet performs concerts at the Mead Witter School of Music and other university events, as well as performing community outreach. Members work closely with faculty, including the Pro Arte Quartet, and with its principal coach, Prof. Uri Vardi. The Rabin String Quartet has worked with notable guest artists, including violist Nobuko Imai, violist Lila Brown, and members of the Takács Quartet.
Perlman Piano Trio
The Perlman Piano Trio is funded through endowed scholarships generously provided by Dr. Kato Perlman.
UW–Madison Horn Choir
The UW–Madison Horn Choir, founded in 1974, rehearses 90 minutes per week and performs an annual holiday concert at the Chazen Museum. In the spring semester, the group reconfigures as Twisted Metal, an all-horn, rock-and-roll band for which the students arrange all the music. An extension of horn studio class, the Horn Choir is comprised primarily of horn majors and the standard of performance is high. It meets together as a performing group while constantly rotating part assignments, providing students with extensive training toward advanced section playing. Prof. Grabois’s rehearsal direction explores detailed and practical ideas on interpretation, styles and periods of music, section blending, and other significant elements of performance.
The Horn Choir regularly performs at regional and national music conventions and horn workshops. In fall 2005, the Choir worked extensively with composer, conductor, and horn player Gunther Schuller, who conducted and coached the Choir on his monumental work for 16 horns, Lines and Contrasts.
Daniel Grabois, director
UW–Madison Low Brass Ensemble
The UW–Madison Low Brass Ensemble is a collective of the Trombone Choir and Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble. Low Brass rehearses weekly and performs at least one concert each semester, which features Low Brass as a whole as well as the Trombone Choir and Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble. The group plays original compositions, transcriptions, and arrangements of all kinds of music. This ensemble is open to any UW–Madison student who passes an in-person audition. The group also provides a wonderful opportunity for low brass players to double: trombonists can spend some time on euphonium, or tuba and euphonium players can play tenor or bass trombone, for example.
Wisconsin Trumpet Ensemble
The Wisconsin Trumpet Ensemble is directed by Assistant Professor of Trumpet Jean Laurenz. Participation increases ensemble skills and presents the opportunity to study trumpet-specific repertoire. The ensemble includes trumpet undergraduate and graduate music majors and rehearses during the weekly studio class time in the first half of spring semester. Graduate students provide mentorship during rehearsals and are encouraged to take on leadership roles in repertoire selection, concerts, and competitions.
The Trumpet Ensemble’s repertoire spans from the Baroque to recent compositions. Student members have contributed arrangements to the Trumpet Ensemble’s library. In addition to on-campus performances, the Trumpet Ensemble gives outreach concerts at area churches and senior centers, performs at other state schools of music, and competes at the National Trumpet Competition.
We offer many ways for non-majors to learn about and participate in music.
The following courses are offered on a regular basis. Consult the course schedule for details and availability.
660-101 The Musical Experience
This course offers an introduction to music from multiple historical and cultural perspectives. With a broad temporal, geographic, and historical view, the course included units on music and religion, music and drama, music and dance, music/word relationships, and music and popular culture. Within these larger frameworks, we will study works and genres ranging from medieval music to symphonic music, opera, musicals, jazz, disco, and hip hop. This course is designed for non-music majors, and no prior knowledge of music is required. 3 credits
660-103 Introduction to Music Cultures of the World
This course is both about music from around the world and the many different ways people think about this music. Together we will ask: what do we mean by “music”? What do we mean by “culture”? And what do we mean by “the world”? We will focus primarily on Indigenous musics in North America, Irish traditional music, and South Asian Music. Topics include dance, identity, music and social movements, music and ecological crisis, the role of music in public spaces, music as labor, and practices of transmission. 3 credits
-Counts towards the L&S credit requirement
-Fulfills a Humanities breadth requirement
660-105 Storytelling on Stage: Introduction to Musical Theater and Opera
Introduction to musical theater and opera in Europe and America, with emphasis on the ways creators tell their stories through the interaction of music and drama. Topics include the histories and formations of the genres and their relationships to culture and society; principal creators and performers; distinctive features of representative works; relationships to film and other media; and treatments of race, class, gender, and other issues in selected examples of each genre. 3 credits
– Counts towards the L&S credit requirement
– Fulfills a Humanities breadth requirement
660-106 The Symphony
This popular class offers the chance to learn about some of the best-known names in music who wrote for one of music’s most popular ensembles, the symphony orchestra. Music 106 surveys the genre of the symphony from its origins in the eighteenth century through masterpieces of the twentieth century, showing students how to listen to classical music and how to discuss it with others. 3 credits
660-107 Music & Film
A survey of film music by the major film composers. Will include study of film scores by, among others, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone, as well as a discussion of current trends and film composers. In addition, there will be discussion of the contributions of composers such as Aaron Copland, Serge Prokofiev and Leonard Bernstein. The techniques and styles of film music will be explored through lectures, required listening, readings and viewing of relevant films. 3 credits
660-113 Music in Performance
Descriptive lectures on chamber music with performances by instructor and others. 1 credit
660-151 Basic Concepts of Music
This course is a complete and comprehensive study of music theory for the non-music major. Students explore theoretical concepts in the context of real-world settings and projects, and study the use of theory in a historical context through the repertoire of famous composers. Students learn notation, rhythm, melody, harmony, and analysis techniques and apply what they learn in their own compositions. The primary goal of the course is to provide a complete set of tools and understanding of how to use those tools for a lifelong knowledge and interest in music. 3 credits
660-203 American Ethnicities and Popular Song
Examination of the role played by popular song in the formation of ethnic and racial identities in the United States with particular emphasis placed on both music’s role in the perpetuation of racism and its use as a form of protest and anti-racist activism. 3 credits
-Counts towards the L&S credit requirement
-Fulfills a Humanities breadth requirement
-Fulfills Ethnic Studies requirement
660-319 Topics in Music and Ethnicity in the US
This course is taught by several professors in the School of Music and fulfills the Ethnic Studies Requirement. The courses emphasizes understanding music within the contexts of Wisconsin and the larger U.S. and seeing how musical practices shape individual and communal identities. 3 credits
660-497 Special Topics In Music
Exploring of wide-range topics in music history, music theory or music education. Credits range 1-3
Some of these courses may count towards:
-L&S credit requirement
– Humanities breadth requirement
-Ethnic Studies requirement.
Requisites: Sophomore Standing
The following ensembles do not require an audition.
660-43 University Band
University Band offers the non-music major an opportunity to enjoy creating music with limited performance demands. The goal is maximum enjoyment with a minimal time commitment. Auditions are not required and instruments are available if needed. The enthusiastic members of these bands perform challenging literature while taking a brief break from their major disciplines. 1 credit
664-60 All-University String Orchestra
The All-University String Orchestras are open to all interested string players. No audition is required, seating order is voluntary, and there is no ranking within the sections. The Chamber Music Program is open to all orchestra members, with coaching by School of Music string majors. The AUS program endeavors to be a true learning community, serving students from virtually every department and major with the goal of nurturing lifelong engagement in music and the arts. 1 credit
Continue your private vocal or instrumental studies.
Community Music Lessons
Click here for registration and more information.
The Community Music Lessons (CML) program runs under the auspices of the Mead Witter School of Music to provide its students with valuable experience teaching applied music lessons for children and adults. Lessons are provided by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the School of Music who are overseen by individual faculty members, an experienced graduate coordinator, and a staff supervisor.
Lessons are taught on campus, in the Mosse Humanities Building. Music Instructors are matched with University and community learners interested in beginning or continuing study of an instrument or voice in a fun and supportive atmosphere. Flexible scheduling and performance opportunities enhance the CML program, which has exemplified the Wisconsin Idea since 1968.
664-143 Intro to Performance: Voice
Voice for the non-music major beginning voice student; basic concepts of vocal technique, tone production, breathing, and diction for singing; basic musicianship; singing in class by the student individually and in small groups. 1 credit
664-144 Vocal Instruction: Non-Voice Majors
Vocal instruction for the non-voice major. Basics of classical vocal technique; however, repertoire may include other musical styles, such as musical theater or jazz, as approved by instructor. A final, memorized performance exam is required. Contact instructors for audition information. 1 credit
664-200 Elementary/Intermediate Non-Majors Piano
This course is designated for advanced students with the equivalent of six or more years of piano study. Students meet with an instructor for a weekly, 50-minute private lesson. Interested students with sufficient background must audition. For the audition (which will take approximately 10 minutes), please prepare two contrasting repertoire selections (memorization recommended but not required). You will also be asked to play all major scales and all harmonic minor scales (hands together, four octaves), as well as sight read an intermediate level piano piece. 2 credits
Other Instrumental Study
Some professors may accept non-majors into their studios if space is available. For information, please contact professors directly.