Summer at St. Mary's


Professor Jeffrey Silberschlag conducting the Chesapeake Orchestra at the River Concert Series.

Study abroad in Italy

Choir and Orchestra in Alba

You can participate in the Alba Music Festival, two weeks of intensive music making in the north of Italy.


Start Early if You Want to Study Music (Major, Minor, Double Major, Self-designed Major)

The course of study for music majors is highly structured. If you are interested in pursuing a music major, you should plan your program of study for all four years. You will want to choose an area of focus (voice, instrument, composition, history, theory, ethnomusicology, conducting, education are the most common choices). Please consult with your advisor and read below about the possibilities.

At a liberal arts college,you are a music major––not a voice major, a piano major, etc. This unity of spirit is important to the concept of liberal arts study.


The college curriculum is designed to encourage students to refine basic intellectual skills and to gain knowledge in many areas.

Even so, you must not delay in taking music courses, particularly theory and performance (lessons and ensembles). In the fall of the first year, most students will have begun lessons, ensemble participation, and music theory, adding music history in the spring.  Even if you are unsure of your major, it is wise to start the core and performance courses right away. The longer you delay the start of your musical studies, the more difficult it will be to graduate in four years.

If you are leaning towards music, or know for sure that music will be your major, you should select a music faculty member as an advisor.  This person will be responsible for helping guide you through your years at St. Mary’s College, and can be a valuable resource for many things, including career planning.

The focus areas of study are not mentioned on your diploma when you graduate, but they are an important part of your degree program. Choosing a focus area does not preclude you from studying outside of the focus area. In fact, one of the most exciting things about a small college is that you can study many things, not just one. For example, if you are pursuing a vocal focus, you can also play in an instrumental ensemble, study music composition, and so on. The most popular focus areas are:

Vocal focus

This provides the background necessary for students to begin on the road towards becoming performers or teachers.  Students studying music with a vocal focus should study foreign language as much as possible (German, French, Italian, Spanish, as well as a diction class offered in the music department on a regular basis).  The vocal student will participate in the choirs and, when offered, Opera Workshop––and, of course, look for any opportunity to sing (recitals, theatrical productions with music, etc.).

Instrumental focus

This provides the background necessary for students to begin on the road towards becoming performers or teachers. Students studying music with an instrumental focus should participate in all appropriate ensembles (Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Chamber Music) and seek all opportunities for other performances (recitals, playing for theatrical productions, etc.). Pianists fall under this category, but for an ensemble, they often become members of the Choir or the Chamber Singers. Pianists also seek opportunities to accompany others in performance.

Music Education

Many of our students choose to pursue one of the areas above while also preparing themselves for teaching at the primary or secondary level. We believe that the most important thing prospective grammar school, middle school, or high school teachers can do is to have a solid and thorough basic music education, preparing themselves as if they were planning to pursue performance (vocal or instrumental) as a career. Thus, students working towards teaching certification, while taking all of the prerequisite courses for the M.A.T. program, will also usually pursue a music degree with a vocal or an instrumental focus.

Other possibilities

Students who have the desire can pursue other paths besides the three most popular ones. In the past, some students have focused on Conducting, Composition, Music History, Ethnomusicology, Music Management, Music Theory, and Music Therapy. If you are interested in one of these areas, or if you have an idea for a different career involving music, you should discuss this in detail with your music advisor, who can help you realize your ambitions.

Double majors, Minors, Self-designed majors

Some students have chosen to major in two fields. Some have pursued two fields for a while, but ended up concentrating major efforts outside of music, while continuing music activity through the minor.  Some others have found that there is no one major that fits their particular interests, and have chosen to design their own majors. If you plan to pursue one of these options, and if music is to be part of your double or self-designed major, or your minor, it is especially important to work closely withyour advisor(s), and to plan early.

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