Musical Studies

Honors Program

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 the end of the eighth week of the semester.

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 creative or pedagogy project or combination (for example, a video documentary or curated website) on a topic in music.
  2. An oral examination of the project to defend the paper and to discuss 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 may also be the student’s honors advisor.
  3. A public presentation of the project with time to respond to questions. The candidate will be graded on the clarity of the presentation and the information delivered within the presentation and the question-and-answer period.

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 in the ninth week of classes (in 2024-25: March 31-April 4)
  2. Oral examination by the tenth week of the semester (in 2024-25: April 7-11)
  3. Public presentation by the twelfth week of the semester (in 2024-25: April 21-25)

The student, advisor, and chairs of the Musical Studies Committee will meet prior to the start of the spring semester to schedule exact dates for the comprehensive and oral examinations and public presentation.

The student may also make recommendations to the chair concerning the makeup of the examination committee. The committee will be comprised of three or four faculty members: the Honors advisor; a member of the Musical Studies Committee; one additional faculty member or two if the advisor is also a Musical Studies committee member. An external examiner may be engaged. (The college dean’s office offers guidelines on external examiners. In 2021–22, participation of external examiners will be remote without prior approval from the Associate Dean overseeing Honors, Michael Parkin.) The student’s advisor is invited to sit in on the oral examination as an observer, and will vote on the award of honors (or no honors) and determination of the level.

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 College and Conservatory libraries.

Honors Recognition

The Examination Committee will recommend honors to the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, currently Associate Dean Michael Parkin, who oversees the college’s Honors program. The recommendation will be 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.