A smiling violinist.

Students may choose General Music, Applied Music (Performance), Theory and Composition, or Music History. Many students combine music with a second major in Business, Engineering, English Literature, Writing, or Communications and Media Studies. Students who wish to prepare for careers in music and worship are encouraged to add the Ministry Leadership Minor with a Music in Worship emphasis.

Calvin’s liberal arts program in music is designed to provide breadth of general studies combined with studies in musicianship and an area of emphasis in music.

Becoming a music major 

If you plan to major in music it is important that you notify the registrar’s office as soon as possible after enrolling at Calvin College. Some music major programs require four consecutive years of courses to graduate, so you want to be sure you are assigned to a music department faculty advisor who will guide you through the process of completing all of your graduation requirements. No entrance audition is required.

Step One: Discuss the requirements for majoring in music with a faculty member.

Step Two: During your first year of study (two semesters) complete the following:

  • Overall GPA of at least 2.5
  • A grade of C or better in Music 101 Introduction to the Musical World (offered every fall semester)
  • A grade of C or better in Music 108 Music Theory I and credit for passing Music 108L Music Theory I Lab
  • Evaluation of keyboard proficiency
  • A grade of C or better in two semesters of private music lessons (100 level or higher)
  • A passing grade of B- in the performance jury

Completing the music major

The faculty of the music department wants you to become a well-rounded and versatile musician, so, in addition to taking courses, ensembles and private lessons, you are expected to complete some important departmental requirements before you can graduate with a music degree:

Piano Proficiency

All music majors must pass levels 1 and 2 of the piano proficiency exam.

Level 1

  • Major and minor (natural, melodic, harmonic) scales in all keys, 2 octaves, hands together, in eighth notes, metronome at quarter note = 72 minimum, conclude with I-IV-V-I cadence
  • Tonic triad and inversions in all major and minor keys (blocked, broken), one octave, maintaining a steady, consistent tempo
  • Sight reading using both hands, 4-8 measure length in treble and bass clef
  • A prepared piece: difficulty about Royal Conservatory Syllabus level 3; You may use music
  • Improvisation in single line, 4-8 measures, using major or minor scales

Level 2

  • Chord progressions (primary, secondary chords), including transposition
  • Harmonizing melodies using primary and secondary chords, transposition included
  • Realization of figured bass
  • Melodies in C clef (alto, tenor) or written for transposing instruments, with 10 minutes for preparation.
  • Playing from lead sheets
  • Blues scale, improvisation (12-bar blues form)

Recital Hour

Recital Hour (MUSC 180) is a weekly seminar for music majors and minors that provides experience in public performance for music students as well as opportunities to hear performances of a wide range of music literature. Additional topics related to music study are offered throughout the semester. Attendance at Recital Hour is required for all music majors and minors as determined by their program. Music majors must attend additional concert events and complete music major cards.


The final exam for your private lesson each semester is called a “jury.” The jury is a panel of music faculty and private lesson instructors who listen to you perform what you’ve studied during the semester, provide helpful feedback and evaluate your progress in applied music. The Applied Music Approval Jury is a special jury exam used to evaluate a student’s readiness to be approved for the applied music emphasis, enroll in advanced private lessons and prepare to present a required recital.

Student Recitals

If you plan to complete the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in music and an emphasis in applied music you must perform both a half-recital program (approximately 30 minutes) and a full-recital program (approximately 60 minutes) after receiving approval of your major. Students in other music programs (general music, music theory and composition, music history) may present recitals, but these recitals are for personal enrichment only and do not fulfill music degree requirements.

Course Requirements


Students who wish to graduate with honors in music must meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 and total of six honors courses (18 hours minimum) overall, including at least two honors courses outside the major.
  • Minimum GPA in Music of at least 3.3.
  • Completion of three honors courses in other departments.
  • Completion of three Music courses with honors credit with a minimum grade of B+; at least one of these must be at the 300-level.

  • Course code:
  • Credits:
  • Semester:
  • Department: