Musical Opportunities for Non-Majors

Join us!

The School of Music offers dozens of ways that non-majors may learn about and participate in music. Ranging from our very famous “Music in Performance” classes, offered since the 1940s, to courses in music history and lessons for children and adults (see Community Music Lessons). We’d love to have you join us, and appreciate music as much as we do.


The following courses are offered on a regular basis; consult the Undergraduate Course Catalog for details and availability.

660-113 Music in Performance

Descriptive lectures on chamber music feature live performances by instructors, School of Music faculty, staff, and guests.  Along with providing rich listening experiences the course aims to strengthen listening skills and gives students the opportunity to interact with live music from a variety of traditions.  Learn how to register for Music In Performance.

1 credit, M, W & F 1:20

660-101 The Musical Experience

This course offers an introduction to music from multiple historical and cultural perspectives.  With a broad temporal, geographic, and historical view, the course included units on music and religion, music and drama, music and dance, music/word relationships, and music and popular culture. Within these larger frameworks, we will study works and genres ranging from medieval music to symphonic music, opera, musicals, jazz, disco, and hip-hop. This course is designed for non-music majors, and no prior knowledge of music is required.

3 credits

660-103 Introduction to Music Cultures of the World

This course is both about music from around the world and the many different ways people think about this music. Together we will ask: what do we mean by “music”? What do we mean by “culture”? And what do we mean by “the world”? We will focus primarily on Indigenous musics in North America, Irish traditional music, and South Asian Music. Topics include dance, identity, music and social movements, music and ecological crisis, the role of music in public spaces, music as labor, and practices of transmission.

3 credits

For non-majors:

-Counts towards the L&S credit requirement

-Fulfills a Humanities breadth requirement

For music majors:

-For BA/BS Music students: Counts towards the L&S credit requirement

-For BM Music Performance students: Counts either toward the Non-Western Music Cultures requirement or toward the Music Electives requirement

-For BM Education students: Fulfills both the Global Music Cultures requirement and the Global Perspectives requirement (set by the School of Education)

660-105 Opera

Learn how stories set to music have intrigued and fascinated audiences for generations. This survey provides an overview of opera from its beginnings in Italy to its current incarnations.

3 credits + discussion section

660-106 The Symphony

This popular class offers the chance to learn about some of the best-known names in music who wrote for one of music’s most popular ensembles, the symphony orchestra.  Music 106 surveys the genre of the symphony from its origins in the eighteenth century through masterpieces of the twentieth century, showing students how to listen to classical music and how to discuss it with others.

3 credits, MW11:00 + discussion section

660-151 Basic Concepts of Music

This course is a complete and comprehensive study of music theory for the non-music major.  Students explore theoretical concepts in the context of real-world settings and projects, and study the use of theory in a historical context through the repertoire of famous composers. Students learn notation, rhythm, melody, harmony, and analysis techniques and apply what they learn in their own compositions. The primary goal of the course is to provide a complete set of tools and understanding of how to use those tools for a lifelong knowledge and interest in music.

3 credits, MWF 8:50

660-319 Topics in Music and Ethnicity in the US

This course is taught by several professors in the School of Music and fulfills the Ethnic Studies Requirement.  The courses emphasizes understanding music within the contexts of Wisconsin and the larger U.S. and seeing how musical practices shape individual and communal identities.

3 credits (Comm B available)

Audition-Free Ensembles

These ensembles do not require an audition:

660-43 University Band

University Band offers the non-music major an opportunity to enjoy creating music with limited performance demands. The goal is maximum enjoyment with a minimal time commitment. Auditions are not required and instruments are available if needed. The enthusiastic members of these bands perform challenging literature while taking a brief break from their major disciplines.

1 credit; T, W or R 7-9:30pm

660-59 University Chorus

A non-auditioned chorus of approximately 50 singers, University Chorus focuses on choral and vocal technique and sight reading skills while performing musical styles of different periods.  University Chorus has members with no musical training, instrumentalists with no vocal background, experienced choral singers, and more. Everyone is welcome, so register if you’re interested!

1 credit MWF 2:25-3:15

664-60 All-University String Orchestra

The All-University String Orchestras are open to all interested string players.  No audition is required, seating order is voluntary, and there is no ranking within the sections.  The Chamber Music Program is open to all orchestra members, with coaching by School of Music string majors.  The AUS program endeavors to be a true learning community, serving students from virtually every department and major with the goal of nurturing lifelong engagement in music and the arts.

1 credit M 6:30-8 and M 8:15-9:45

Not a music major, but looking for a challenge?  You’re invited to try out for for one of our many auditioned bands, choirs, orchestras, or jazz groups.  Browse our Student Ensembles, then check out Audition Information to learn about dates, registration procedures, and requirements.

Private Lessons

There are many options for those who wish to continue private vocal or instrumental studies.

Community Music Lessons

The Community Music Lessons (CML) program runs under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music to provide its students with valuable experience teaching applied music lessons for children and adults. Lessons are provided by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the School of Music who are overseen by individual faculty members, an experienced graduate coordinator, and a staff supervisor. Lessons are taught on campus, in the Mosse Humanities Building.  Music Instructors are matched with University and community learners interested in beginning or continuing study of an instrument or voice in a fun and supportive atmosphere. Flexible scheduling and performance opportunities enhance the CML program, which has exemplified the Wisconsin Idea since 1968.

Click here for registration and payment information.

664-143 Intro to Performance: Voice

Voice for the non-music major beginning voice student; basic concepts of vocal technique, tone production, breathing, and diction for singing; basic musicianship; singing in class by the student individually and in small groups.

1 credit; T/R 11-11:50

664-144 Vocal Instr: Non-Voice Majors

Vocal instruction for the non-voice major. Basics of classical vocal technique; however, repertoire may include other musical styles, such as musical theater or jazz, as approved by instructor. A final, memorized performance exam is required.  Contact instructors for audition information.

1 credit

664-200 Elementary/Intermediate Non-Majors Piano

664-200 Elementary/Intermediate Non-Majors Piano

664-200 is a 2-credit course designated for advanced students with the equivalent of six or more years of piano study. Students meet with an instructor for a weekly, 50-minute private lesson. Interested students with sufficient background must audition. For the audition (which will take approximately 10 minutes), please prepare two contrasting repertoire selections (memorization recommended but not required). You will also be asked to play all major scales and all harmonic minor scales (hands together, four octaves), as well as sight read an intermediate level piano piece.

Other Instrumental Study

Some professors may accept non-majors into their studios if space is available.  For information, please contact professors directly.