We offer an Honors Program for musical studies majors qualified to do independent research that leads to a BA degree with honors.


Qualified students must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 within the musical studies major. This includes all required courses for the major and the courses the student takes as part of the design of their major.

After consultation with a potential advisor at the beginning of the second semester of the junior year, the student will submit a detailed proposal to the chairs of the Musical Studies Committee by no later than second Monday following spring break.

Entry to the Honors Program is contingent upon the committee’s approval of both the proposal and the student’s choice of advisor.

The subject of the proposal should be an extension of the student’s own program within the musical studies major. It may include performance, but must feature an academic component, such as a paper. 

Students admitted to the Honors Program must enroll in CMUS 400, 401 Senior Honors.


Successful completion of the Honors Program in musical studies include:

  1. Submitting an acceptable scholarly paper or other acceptable academic project (such as a video documentary, established and informative website) on a topic in music. A lecture-recital may be a component. Four copies should be submitted to the Musical Studies Committee.

  2. An oral examination of the project to defend the paper and to discuss aspects of the written examination as well as broad areas of music history and theory related to the honors paper. The oral examination will begin with a summary of 5-10 minutes of the paper by the honors candidate, followed by questions from the candidate’s Honors Committee. The committee will be chaired by a faculty member who has previously served on a Musical Studies Honors Committee. The student’s honors advisor may not be chair of the Honors Committee.
  3. A public presentation of the project, which will consist of a 40-minute summary of the project and its results, followed by 20 minutes of questioning from the public. The candidate will be graded on the clarity of the presentation and the information delivered within the presentation.

At the end of winter term, the advisor will submit a short report to the committee on the student’s progress. If this progress is such that the committee approves continuation of the project, then the normal schedule for the second semester is as follows:

  1. Paper due on the first day of classes after spring break
  2. Oral examination at the beginning of the third week of April
  3. Public presentation at the end of the third week or beginning of the last week in April

The student should contact the chairs of the Musical Studies Committee as soon as possible after submitting the completed paper—during the first two weeks of April at the latest—to schedule exact dates for the comprehensive and oral examinations.

The student may also make recommendations to the chair concerning the makeup of the examination committee. Typically, the committee consists of four to five people: one of the chairs of the Musical Studies Committee, faculty representing the conservatory, a member of the College of Arts and Sciences faculty, and someone from outside Oberlin College (optional). The student’s advisor is invited to sit in on the oral examination as an observer, but will not vote on whether or not the student receives honors.

The student may expect to be requested by the Examination Committee to make a moderate number of corrections in the paper before it is considered ready for inclusion in the Musical Studies Committee archives and the collection of the conservatory library. The student may retain all remaining copies of the paper after the examinations are concluded.

Honors Recognition

The Examination Committee will recommend honors to the college’s Honor Committee based on the following criteria:

  • Honors: for successful completion of the project, adequate passage of the oral defense, and normally a GPA in the major of 3.5 or above.
  • High Honors: for distinctive completion of the project, skilled passage of the oral defense, adequate public presentation, and normally a GPA in the major of 3.66 or above.
  • Highest Honors: for a superlative completion of the project, distinctive passage of the oral defense, an excellent public presentation, and normally a GPA in the major of 3.8 or above.