The Music Department at Union offers dedicated faculty, diverse course offerings, a variety of ensembles and opportunities for collaboration and personal exploration in a creative environment.
Theory courses at Union are taught by composers, with students encouraged to employ theoretical knowledge in compositions of their own almost from the start. An upper-level course devoted entirely to composition is offered on a regular basis. The music history sequence starts with a two-term chronological survey. Topics of upper-level music history courses vary from year to year. Students might study Baroque music one term and Mozart the next; another year they might focus on Romanticism and on Bach and Handel.
Field trips to top concert venues such as Tanglewood and the New York City Opera enhance classroom analysis and discussions. Students in 20th century music history study and perform everything from Debussy to Steve Reich, composing short works in a variety of contemporary styles. Courses in American music feature guest artists as well as excursions to New York to see relevant shows on Broadway. Courses in world music range from a general survey to specific studies of Latin American and East Asian music cultures. Performance workshops are regularly offered in vocal music, chamber music and jazz.
The Department of Music, located in the Taylor Music Center, an all-Steinway facility, also sponsors lectures, performances, recitals and workshops by visiting artists. Union College jazz, choral and orchestral groups, a taiko ensemble and student a capella groups perform regularly. Opened in 2007, the Taylor center contains classrooms, a music technology studio, World Musics Room, faculty offices and practice rooms. Its centerpiece is the Fred. L. Emerson Foundation Auditorium, an intimate performance space for 100.
In addition, the new Peter Irving Wold Center is a hub for those interested in the intersection of music and engineering. The building’s Laboratory for Electrical Engineering and Music Research (“Phasor Lab”) is a collaborative research space featuring a professional-grade recording studio for both scientific measurements and musical activities.
The College’s nationally recognized chamber music series, free to the Union community, presents world-renowned musicians such as the Emerson String Quartet, David Finckel and Wu Han in acoustically-superb Memorial Chapel. Students also enjoy other musical events and concerts sponsored through the Minerva Houses and Student Activities Office. Many students are involved in organizing events through the Concert Club, a standing committee of the Student Forum.
AMU-125. World Religions and Music. Music, deemed by some to be a gift from the Divine, continues to play an important role in the histories of all religions. Through an examination of three religions — Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity — students will come to an understanding of the intricate relationships among music, theology, liturgy, ritual, and human religious expressions in different cultures and at different time periods.
AMU-214. Romanticism. Through a study of scores and historical documents this course examines selected works from a variety of views, ranging from musical analytical to historical. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the individual styles developed by composers such as Chopin, Berlioz, Verdi, Wagner, and Brahms over the course of the nineteenth century.
AMU-234. Balinese Gamelan Workshop. Study of Balinese music and culture, with an emphasis on the performance of Balinese gong kebyar (an orchestral form featuring xylophones, gongs, drums, and cymbals). No prior musical experience necessary.
AMU-012. Union College Taiko Ensemble. In the Union College Taiko Ensemble students will learn to perform on a variety of Japanese traditional drums. The ensemble meets weekly and offers one concert each term and may give additional performances both on- and off-campus. No previous musical experience is required, though students will need to audition/interview at the beginning of each term to determine enrollment.