Prospective Music Students

Ariel view of crowd gathered on the Performing Arts Center plaza looking out at the bay.

Welcome prospective undergraduate music students! Here, you'll find introductory information about our program, including programs of study, transfer credits and assessments, FAQs, and links for further exploration. 

Prospective graduate students, please visit the Master of Music page.

Current music students are encouraged to navigate to the Current Music Students page. 

A pianist playing with a violinist.

How to Study Music

Why Study Music?

  • Expand your mind and develop skills for lifelong enjoyment and personal growth.
  • Enjoy positive effects on emotional and mental health.
  • Enhance your understanding of different cultures and traditions.
  • Engage socially through collaboration.
  • Prepare for a fulfilling career in music or music-related fields.
  • Prepare for a fulfilling career outside of music.
  • Prepare for graduate study in or outside of music.

How to Study Music

To begin a music major or minor in music, students must complete a Music Admission and Scholarship Audition. 

All WWU students can study music through general survey classes, ensembles, and lessons. Explore Opportunities for all WWU Students.

Prospective graduate/master's students should review the Master of Music page for information on their audition/application process.

A solo violinist playing against a dark background of the concert hall.

Introduction to Music Programs of Study

Core Sequences and Degree Descriptions

The major core music sequence comprises music theory, aural skills, keyboarding skills, and music history, and is repeated every year starting in the fall quarter. Piano competency is not required for admission to most music programs, but all students must complete keyboarding skills courses. Prospective piano majors or minors should have prior experience with the instrument.

Music Core Sequence Tracks

There are two tracks to complete the music core sequence. These courses are designed to be completed as a set each quarter and students should plan to do so unless they test out (through assessments) or do not meet the minimum requirement in one of the subjects.

  • Track One (Recommended): Incoming freshmen are recommended to complete track one. This covers two years of theory, aural skills, and keyboarding skills, followed by a year of music history, for a total of three years.
  • Track Two (Accelerated): Students who have passed music theory III (MUS 126) can choose to complete track two, an accelerated two-year sequence that combines the 200-level core classes with music history. Please note, this track does not guarantee earlier graduation, and students should consult the Current Music Student page for advising information.
Year Fall Winter Spring


  • Music Theory I, MUS 122 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills I, MUS 121A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills I, MUS 121B (1 cr.) or Advanced Keyboarding I, 221C (2 cr.)
  • Music Theory II, MUS 124 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills II, MUS 123A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills II, MUS 123B (1 cr.) or Advanced Keyboarding II, 223C (2 cr.)
  • Music Theory III, MUS 126 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills III, MUS 125A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills III, MUS 125B (1 cr.) or Advanced Keyboarding III, 225C (2 cr.)


  • Music Theory IV, MUS 222 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills IV, MUS 221A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills IV, MUS 221B (1 cr.)*
  • Music Theory V, MUS 224 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills V, MUS 223A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills V, MUS 223B (1 cr.)*
  • Music Theory VI, MUS 226 (2 cr.)
  • Aural Skills VI, MUS 225A  (1 cr.)
  • Keyboarding Skills VI, MUS 225B (1 cr.)*


  • Music History I, MUS 341 (3 cr.)
  • Music History II, MUS 342 (3 cr.)
  • Music History III, MUS 343 (3 cr.)


* Students placed into the advanced keyboarding sequence (MUS 221C-225C) will not enroll in the 200-level "B" sequence keyboarding classes. 

The Minor in Music is a 30-credit program that can be completed in one year and does not have a specific concentration. The program includes core courses in music theory, aural skills, and keyboarding skills, as well as an introduction to different music genres and optional ensemble and private instruction. Music theory, aural skills, and keyboarding skills must be taken together.

All music majors and minors take the same first-year core sequence, and the minor cannot be combined with a BA in Music or BMus major. Students can audition for the minor after their first year and still graduate on time.

Explore the coursework for the Minor in Music.

The 29-credit Jazz Studies minor is designed for music majors who have an interest in a higher level of jazz education performance. The jazz studies minor is open to all current Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts in Music students. This minor consists of advanced jazz theory and improvisation, jazz history, private jazz lessons, and jazz arranging and composition. To declare, students should audition for jazz ensembles and then set up a meeting with the Jazz Area Coordinator, Kevin Woods to discuss their interests and permission to declare.

Explore the coursework for the Jazz Studies Minor.

The Bachelor of Arts in Music (BA) is our music major without a concentration. It includes core courses in music theory, aural skills, and history, as well as private instruction and ensemble performance. With 60 credits, this program offers flexibility for students to pursue an additional major or minor.

The BA is designed to take two to three years to complete. Students can choose to take the second and third years of core sequences together to finish the major in less than three years. Note that students must earn a minimum of 180 credits, including 60 upper-division courses (300 and 400-level). Students with minimal or no transfer credits should expect to take at least 3.5 years to graduate with any bachelor's degree.

Explore the coursework for the BA in Music Major.

Bachelor of Music in Composition (BMus)

The BMus in Composition major (110+ cr.) is designed to provide students with private composition training, advanced music theory, music history, conducting, lesson, and ensemble performance experience. While composition instruction covers all modes, genres, and periods, students may elect to concentrate their creativity on one or more specific areas.

The degree typically takes around four years to complete for an average incoming music student. Students who qualify for assessments may be able to finish sooner. Students who test out of core classes should still expect to take a minimum of 2.5-3 years to finish the total major.

Explore the coursework for the BMus Composition Major.

Bachelor of Music in Musicology (BMus)

The BMus in Musicology (110+ cr.) is ideal for students who are interested in musicology or ethnomusicology. In addition to the core sequences of music theory, music history, aural skills, and keyboarding skills, musicology majors concentrate their advanced work on musicology seminars and have the opportunity to take independent studies with our Musicology Coordinator.

The degree usually takes approximately four years to complete for the average incoming Musicology major. Students who qualify for assessments may be able to finish sooner. 

Explore the coursework for the BMus Musicology Major. This major was previously called History & Literature.

Bachelor of Music Education P-12 (BMus)

The BMus Education major (130+ cr.) is ideal for a student who wishes to teach music in the P-12 music classroom setting. This includes teaching general music, conducting choir/band/orchestra, and other. Students who finish this major, including the combined certification program, will graduate with certification to teach P-12 general/choral music and/or general/instrumental music. The program consists of a variety of pedagogy labs, conducting, and music education-specific courses, including a student internship at a public school. 

This major is structured to take approximately 4.25-4.5 years to complete for the average incoming music student. Students who qualify for assessments may be able to finish sooner. Based on the sequence of classes, all academic coursework can be completed in four years, followed by 14 weeks (1 quarter) of full-time student teaching the following fall or winter quarter. The Music Education Coordinator will assist students in their application to the Woodring of College of Education to complete the combined P-12 certification, this is typically takes place during the third year in the music major. 

Explore the coursework for the BMus Education P-12 Major.

Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus)

The BMus in Performance emphasizes high-level performance and pedagogy. Students receive comprehensive instruction on their primary instrument, gain a variety of solo and ensemble experiences, and perform two recitals in addition to completing a core set of courses in music theory, aural skills, keyboarding, and music history.

The degree usually takes approximately four years to complete for the average incoming music student. However, students who qualify for assessments may be able to finish sooner. 

Explore the coursework for the BMus in Performance Major.

Students will declare a music major or minor after being accepted through entrance auditions. This typically takes place for incoming freshmen/running-start at Fall Advising & Registration and through an individual advising appointments with the music advisor for current WWU students or transfer students. 

Sample Schedules and Credit Load

A typical incoming music major will have the following music schedule for their first quarter. 

  • Music Theory, 2 cr. (MUS 122)
  • Aural Skills, 1 cr. (MUS 121A)
  • Keyboarding Skills, 1 cr. (MUS 121B) OR Advanced Keyboarding Skills, 2 cr. (MUS 221C)
  • Private "Applied" Lessons, 1 or 2 cr. (200-level) 
  • Major Ensemble, 2 cr. (200 or 400-level)

Voice Performance majors must also take Intro to Voice Studies, 2 cr. (166A

A typical incoming music minor will have the following music schedule for their first quarter. 

  • Music Theory, 2 cr. (MUS 122)
  • Aural Skills, 1 cr. (MUS 121A)
  • Keyboarding Skills, 1 cr. (MUS 121B) OR Advanced Keyboarding Skills, 2 cr. (MUS 221C)

Our music courses are designed to allow students to take music degree requirements alongside other general university requirements, without exceeding the 18-credit cap for full-time undergraduate tuition. However, even though music courses are fewer credits, they are still challenging and require the same amount of studying and preparation as a typical 3-4 credit course. Given the reduced credit amount, students will often not reach 12 credits with just required music courses until getting into more advanced coursework.

Music students typically take 12-18 credits per quarter, depending on factors such as their degree program, year in the music program, transfer credits, and general university requirements (GURs). We recommend that incoming music majors take 12-14 credits during their first quarter.

A student watching a presentation.

Transfer Credits and Assessments

Transfer Credits

We directly accept transfer credits from ensembles, lessons, survey classes, and general music courses as the agreed transfer equivalency. While we directly accept credits, music majors must enroll and participate in lessons and ensembles at WWU regardless of previously completed credits. 

Credits for music theory, aural skills, and keyboarding skills are initially transferred as general credits (1TT/1XX) until a music core equivalency assessment determines the appropriate equivalency. 

We offer optional assessments for new music students who wish to test out of one or multiple quarters of our core sequences. Students with transferrable credits in our core sequence subjects must complete an assessment for the equivalency to be determined. 

First-Quarter Course Challenge Assessment

During the first week of classes, new 100-level music theory and aural skills students will be given the option to take the final for music theory and aural skills to potentially test out of the first quarter of core music classes only. This is completely optional and there are no consequences for scoring low on this assessment.

Music Core Equivalency Assessments

We offer assessments in music theory, aural skills (ear training) and keyboarding skills (class piano) to determine the placement in our core sequences. Music Core Equivalency Assessments are available to students with transfer credits in music theory, aural skills, and/or keyboarding. AP Music Theory students must earn a 3 or higher to take the assessments and are not eligible for keyboarding assessments unless they have transfer credit in that subject from a college or university.  

Students are not guaranteed placement at their preferred level and may be required to repeat courses previously taken at other institutions. Students who opt out will begin at the 100-level of core music classes.  

Assessments are offered online in May and in person in September for incoming fall quarter students. Winter and spring entrants can schedule appointments with the undergraduate music advisor.

Students must show proof of eligibility through either AP test scores or unofficial transcripts before they may take assessments.  

Assessment Study Guide and Topics

Review the assessment guide intended to help students review alongside your previous institution's course materials or AP exam study guides. 

Assessment Format 

The music theory and aural skills assessments are an overview of the two-year curriculum. Students are encouraged to answer what they know. The music theory assessment is a timed (120 min) multiple choice and written assessment. Students taking the assessment online must download and save the Music Theory Written Portion PDF which must be uploaded to the assessment in the last question as a scanned PDF or photo. 

The aural skills assessment will be an individual 15-20 min appointment either on zoom or in-person. The aural skills assessment is an individual appointment for sight singing, sight reading, and listening for intervals and seniorities. 

The keyboarding assessment has a prescreening portion via an online form for students to upload or describe their most recent course curriculum.  After this, students may be required to schedule an individual in-person appointment at a later time. The in-person assessment is an individual appointment that includes the Keyboard Proficiency Exam. During the assessment, eligible keyboarding assessment students will play what they can from the KPE, and the accompanied piece will be played at a later date.

A view of the concert hall from the audience during a performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

An entrance audition is required to start the music major and minor core classes. These classes include music theory, aural skills, and keyboarding skills, music education courses, composition courses, and music history courses. 

Students who choose not to audition for our program have many opportunities to participate in our department. Students can enroll in ensembles, music GURs, MUS 101, and applied/composition lessons. While students can enroll in University Choirs without an audition, all other ensembles will require an audition to enroll. Some studios may require a studio audition or instructor permission to join an applied area or to enroll in composition lessons.

Yes! Music students can double major with any degree outside of the department. Students who complete two majors are not necessarily awarded two diplomas or two degrees. If the two majors are the same degree type (B.A, BMus, BS, etc.) or overlap by more than 50% then one diploma is awarded and the second major is listed as completed in degree notes.  Within the music department, students can complete multiple concentrations.

Students should be aware that scheduling conflicts are common when completing a double major. Students who decide to double major should plan to meet with each department advisor at least once a year to go over academic planning and coursework.

Earning an AA/DTA can assist music students by fulfilling general university requirements (GURs). However, earning an AA/DTA does not guarantee a student may graduate faster from any degree program. 

Students must complete all major and general graduation requirements to earn a degree from WWU which may not include courses previously completed at another institution. In addition, music majors meet technical and music benchmarks in private lessons that cannot be determined through previous academic coursework. Students who are eligible for course equivalency assessments offered to accepted music majors and minors may be able to graduate faster depending on the results.

The Department of Music offers HUM or AGCM GURs during the summer. At this time, we do not offer core music classes, ensembles, or lessons during the summer quarter. 

While students may perform musical theatre repertoire, our department does not offer a major or minor in musical theater. Students at WWU can study musical theater through the Department of Theatre & Dance. Please see the Theatre Concentrations page on the Department of Theatre & Dance website.

Students interested in these subjects are encouraged to look at the Audio Technology, Music, and Society Minor through WWU Fairhaven College. Fairhaven allows for interdisciplinary majors and boasts an excellent audio engineering program (with a professional studio), as well as other music classes including songwriting. While BMus Composition students may elect to take a course in computer or electroacoustic music, this is not the primary focus of the degree program. 

Yes. Students must apply to WWU through the Admissions Office. Students can audition for our program at any time before or after submitting an admissions application. Students do not need to wait for WWU acceptance to audition. Please note, acceptance to the music major or minor does not guarantee admission to the general university. Students must eventually be accepted through the WWU Admissions Office to enroll as a music major or minor and it is possible for a student to be accepted to our major or minor and not be admitted through the WWU Admissions Office.

Students may enroll in Symphonic Band or University Choir any quarter without placement. The only exception is music majors, minors, and scholarship recipients who must complete an ensemble audition for placement. For all other ensembles, students will complete an Ensemble Audition. 

All students must register for an ensemble to participate. The only exception is Viking Band, which is not offered as a course. Each course is repeatable for credit and may be used towards graduation requirements such as upper-division (300 and 400-level courses), electives, and the 180 credits required to graduate from WWU.

Explore Ensembles and Ensemble Auditions.

Questions or Concerns?

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Department of Music
Performing Arts Center 273
Mailstop 9107
516 High Street
Bellingham, WA, 98225
(360) 650-3130