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The Music BA: Jazz & American Music Studies Track

If you’re interested in exploring the rich musical traditions of the Americas–jazz, musical theatre, folk, rock ‘n roll, hip hop, the list goes on–the Music BA with a focus in Jazz and American Music Studies may be just what you are looking for. One of the most exciting aspects of this program is that students can tailor it to suit their passion(s). Are you interested in performing jazz? You can join SUNY Geneseo’s Jazz Ensemble and take a class in jazz harmony. Are you interested in performing traditional music? You can join SUNY Geneseo’s String Band. Are you less interested in performance and more interested in music history? Once again, this degree program has you covered.

In this program, you’ll learn to approach the study of music as a humanistic discipline, critically examining a variety of musical practices and their histories in classes such as “Thinking Through Music,” “Jazz in America” and “Folk Music in America.” You’ll also learn to connect and situate your study of American music to disciplines outside music, drawing on coursework in American Studies, Black Studies, English, and History. The structure of the Jazz and American Music Studies focus is largely elective driven. Students work with an advisor to identify their particular interests and learning goals, leading in many cases to a portfolio of original scholarship or creative work.

Meet our Jazz & American Music Faculty
Monica HershbergerJames KimballWilliam Tiberio


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Program Requirements (45 credits)

Every student declaring a Music BA elects to focus in either Music Performance; Musicology HiTEC; Jazz and American Music Studies; or Music Business, Recording, and Production. Regardless of area of study, all students begin with a set of basic requirements that balance training in musicianship with methods for critical inquiry. Students electing to focus in Jazz & American Music Studies complete additional, specialized coursework as described below. 

Musicianship and Critical Methods Requirement

Total Credits: 26

Musicianship Requirement

  • MUSC 139, 140  Piano I and II (2cr)
  • MUSC 189  Elements of Music Theory (3cr)
  • MUSC 256 or 258 Elements of Diatonic Harmony and Polyphony, OR Elements of Jazz Harmony (3cr)

Critical Histories and Methods

  • MUSC 226 Music History I: Music in the European City, 1685-1803 (3cr)
  • MUSC 227 Music History II: Key Figures in Music History, Beethoven to Beyoncé (3cr)
  • MUSC 315 Music Analysis (3cr)
  • MUSC 236, 327 Thinking through Music I and II (6cr) 
  • MUSC 331-339 Seminar in Musicology or Ethnomusicology (3cr)

Critical Histories and Methods

Additional Jazz and American Music Requirements

Total Credits: 19

Required courses (6 cr)

  • MUSC 217 Jazz in America (3cr)
  • MUSC 232 Folk Music in America (3cr)

Electives in MUSC, chosen from the following courses (6-10cr)

  • MUSC 165  Jazz Ensemble or String Band (1-3cr)
  • MUSC 222  History of American Musical Theatre (3cr)
  • MUSC 258  Harmony I: Elements of Jazz Harmony (3cr)
  • MUSC 291  Music and Ideas (when applicable; 3cr)
  • MUSC 332  Music, Gender, and Sexuality (when applicable; 3cr)
  • MUSC 337  Music, Race, and Ethnicity (when applicable; 3cr)
  • MUSC  338 Folk Music in New York State (3cr)
  • MUSC 339 Folk and Popular Music Studies (when applicable; 3cr)
  • MUSC 346  Jazz Harmony and Improvisation I (2cr)
  • MUSC 347  Jazz Harmony and Improvisation II (2cr)
  • MUSC 439  Portfolio Review (2-3cr)

Related Requirements outside of MUSC (3-7cr)

  • HIST 164  African American History from 1844 (4cr)
  • AMST 201 Topics in American Studies (4cr)
  • BLKS 200 Introduction to Black Studies (3cr)
  • ENGL 318 Black British Literature and Culture (4cr)
  • ENGL 337 African American Literature (4cr)
  • ENGL 439 American Ways (when applicable; 4cr)

Program Design

The Music BA with a focus in Jazz and American Music Studies is organized around three pillars of study: Musicianship; Critical History, Theory, and Analysis; and Research and Integrated Inquiry. Each are contributes to the achievement of specific learning outcomes. 


The first year centers around a year-long course in musicianship, with students receiving instruction in basic solfège, written harmony, keyboard, and aural skills. In addition to written mastery of all music theoretical rudiments, learning outcomes for the first-year musicianship course focus on the development of skills necessary for creative expression in music. These include a conceptual understanding of the rudiments of music theory, including scales, keys, and chords; an ability to sing and transcribe diatonic melodies as well as those that modulate to closely related keys; and an ability to provide a written three- or four-part harmonization of a diatonic melody or bass, as well as those that modulate to closely related and relative keys, making appropriate use of standard cadential and sequential patterns. Students interested in composition continue on to a second year course that focuses on the composition of more complex musical textures along with keyboard and accompaniment technique. 

Critical History, Theory, & Analysis

Students in their second year take a variety of courses introducing them to basic question and methods in music history, ethnomusicology, criticism, and analysis, including the foundational course in "Thinking through Music." These courses provide students with a critical vocabulary for discussing, analyzing, and evaluating claims made about music and its myriad cultural-historical contexts. Following these foundational courses, students may choose from a variety of musicological subfields ranging from ethnographic and archival work, to cultural theory and formal analysis. Upper-division courses also emphasize engagement with scholarly literature and method. 

Research & Integrated Inquiry

In the final year, students have the option to complete a final portfolio of written or creative work. Beginning in their junior year, students work with their advisor to formulate guiding questions meant to help students direct their research and creative work. The final contents of the portfolio are determined in consultation with the student's advisor. Students frequently present their work at undergraduate conferences or at Geneseo's day-long symposium of undergraduate research, GREAT Day.