Colleges with Opportunities for Music Non-Majors

If you love playing music or being part of a choir, band, or orchestra, but you aren’t looking to major in music, these schools are for you! Some have a dedicated Music Major program, or a separate Music School; others simply provide opportunities for students and community members to play in various ensembles. If you’re looking for something in between, many of these schools offer music as a minor. 

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Ithaca College

Ithaca College Whalen Center for Music
Ithaca College Whalen Center for Music. Photo Credit: Allen Grove

Students at Ithaca College can enroll in private lessons for credit (from a music school professor) or without credit (from an undergraduate or graduate music student). Students also have the option of participating in choir, band, jazz band, and orchestra specifically for non-music majors. These ensembles meet once a week, and perform once a semester. It is also possible to audition for the main musical ensembles, although acceptance into these groups is not guaranteed. 

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Butler University

Butler University's Clowes Memorial Hall
Butler University's Clowes Memorial Hall. KimManleyOrt / Flickr

At Butler, any student may audition for a number of instrumental and vocal ensembles—this includes several choruses, chamber music and percussion ensembles, jazz groups, and the marching band. Music courses such as guitar and vocal instruction are also available. Students are even able to apply for scholarships up to $1,500 a year, if they are accepted into one of the major ensembles on campus.

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University of Colorado at Boulder

University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder. Aidan M. Gray / Flickr

Non-music majors at Boulder are welcome to take a number of music elective courses, including theory, piano, world music, music appreciation, history of jazz, and others. Students have the opportunity to audition for campus ensembles as well—bands, choir, jazz groups, world music ensembles. Private lessons in a range of instruments (and voices) are also open to all students. 

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University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin Madison
University of Wisconsin Madison. Richard Hurd / Flickr

The University of Wisconsin offers courses in a range of music topics—from opera, to big bands, from symphonies to modern music—for any students to take. The school also offers band, orchestra, chorus, and a gamelan ensemble that do not require auditions; interested students may audition for additional groups that are targeted for music majors. Private lessons are also available for instrumental and vocal education.

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Northwestern University

Northwestern University
Northwestern University. Photo Credit: Amy Jacobson

Even if a student is not enrolled in the Bienen Music School, he or she is allowed to take private lessons and to participate in music ensembles within the school. Students must audition for these lessons and ensembles. There is a wide range of courses available as well—including opera history, music theory, composition, music technology, musical theater, The Beatles, and songwriting. Students enrolled in performance courses or lessons have access to practice rooms at the Music Practice Hall (also known as “The Beehive”).

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Lawrence University

Lawrence University
Lawrence University. bonnie-brown / Flickr

The Music Conservatory at Lawrence University has a great selection of courses and ensembles for non-majors to take part in. Courses in musical theater, music around the globe, performing arts, composition, and theory are just a few options open to all students. Various ensembles are another great choice; Lawrence offers spots—some by audition—in percussion, jazz, symphonic, and choral groups. Private lessons are also available.  

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Towson University

Towson Center for the Arts. Photo Credit: Allen Grove

Towson’s non-major music offerings are mostly course-related; any student is invited to audition for the ensembles on campus, but there are several music courses designed specifically for non-majors. These courses include “Women in Western Music,” “Survey of the Music Industry,” and “Elements and History of Rock Music.” Any of these courses satisfy the Arts and Humanities segment of the core curriculum of Towson. 

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Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University Campus
Carnegie Mellon University Campus. brunkfordbraun / Flickr

Known for its music school, Carnegie Mellon has plenty of great opportunities for non-majors as well. Students can take private lessons with or without credit, and have the chance to perform in a student recital at the end of each semester. Many ensembles are open to all students, following a required audition process. However, the “All University Orchestra” is student-run, requires no audition, and is open to all students and community members.  

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DePauw University

DePauw University Performing Arts Center
DePauw University Performing Arts Center. Rovergirl88 / Wikimedia Commons

In addition to the regular ensembles, lessons, and courses, DePauw offers non-majors the chance to perform (by audition) in small chamber groups (such as a flute ensemble or a trombone choir), dance classes (such as ballroom or ballet), or in the school’s annual opera production. Students have the chance to audition for Music Performance Awards their senior year of high school, if they plan on participating in an ensemble each semester they attend DePauw.

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University of Iowa

University of Iowa
University of Iowa. Cbenning / Wikimedia Commons

At the University of Iowa, students interested in pursuing a non-music major still have plenty of music courses and ensembles to choose from. Private lessons and a broad range of courses—from composition to modern rock bands—are available for any enrolled student. There are several orchestras, bands, and choral groups to choose from at UI. Some of them are audition-based, and some are open to any interested students. 

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Vanderbilt University

Neely Auditorium at Vanderbilt University
Neely Auditorium at Vanderbilt University. Photo Credit: Amy Jacobson

The Blair School of Music, within Vanderbilt University, offers a range of opportunities for those wishing to minor in music, or just take a few classes. There are several courses designed specifically for non-majors—topics include the history of rock music, music and business/technology, theory, and musical theatre. Students of any discipline are welcome to audition for a number of campus ensembles, including the steel drum band, jazz band, and choral ensembles.

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University of Houston

M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston
M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston. Katie Haugland / Flickr

All interested students are welcome to audition for brass/wind ensembles, bands, marching band, and several choral groups. Some ensembles require auditions, but are open to any students, regardless of major. There are some scholarships available as well for any interested musicians. Houston also offers a range of courses to non-majors, from class piano, to jazz, to music appreciation, and world music.

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Valparaiso University

Valparaiso University Chapel
Valparaiso University Chapel. Steve Johnson / Flickr

In addition to the opportunities of performing with various music ensembles, and taking core music courses, non-majors at Valparaiso’s music school have the chance to take part in a number of extra-curricular music groups. Students can join the handbell choir, the Matins choir, the pep band, or Sweetwine, a contemporary Gospel band. 

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