Music Theory at Lawrence University is a comprehensive and collaborative pre-professional training program in music theory focusing on advanced theoretical and analytical concepts, methods, and techniques.

Develop a deep and wide theoretical foundation with instruction in 16th and 18th-century counterpoint as well as more advanced topics of theoretical inquiry (e.g. Schenkerian analysis), tonality after the common practice, pitch-class set theory, and performance analysis. You will also engage analytically with specific repertoires, such as minimalist music, film music, and contemporary opera. (Music theory majors complete an audition to the conservatory on an instrument.)


  • Pulling apart pieces of music to analyze their structures and forms in detail
  • Understanding the theoretical methods of composing music and how these methods have changed over time
  • Understanding the intricacies of written music
  • Music history and musicology, study of ancient and early music through the study of contemporary modern music
  • Music Composition
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • English
  • Music education
  • Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Theatre arts
  • An instrument in one of our applied studios (required)

Life After Lawrence

Lawrentians can enjoy careers in...

Composition, teaching, performance, writing, research, therapy, social work, arts management, sales, engineering, business and finance

Recent employers include...

Appleton Group Wealth Management; Blue Bassoon Pictures, Debevoise & Plimpton; Oberlin College; Old Town School of Folk Music; Texas Tech University

Lawrentians can earn advanced degrees in…

Library science, music theory, musical arts, counseling, psychology, sociology, religion, law

At places like...

Boston University; Harvard University; University of Michigan; SUNY-Buffalo; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Yale University


Strengthen your theoretical foundation even before day one.

Con Brio is the Lawrence Conservatory’s web-based virtual residency for new students, available during the summer leading up to your first day on campus. In delivering content-based activities, Con Brio will provide a view of the life and activity of Conservatory, and will help you understand how to launch a successful life in the program at Lawrence.


Build your knowledge and your network through on-campus professional conferences.

Within the last five years, Lawrence has hosted the MusicTheory Midwest (MTMW) conference as well as the Society of Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) conference, one of the primary organizations that promotes the creation and performance of electroacoustic music.


Meet and greet guest composers and theorists.

Theory/composition students enjoy frequent contact with internationally known composers such as Elainie Lillios, Evan Chambers, David Maslanka, Stephen McNeff, Samuel Adler, Philip Gladd, Gunther Schuller, Michael Torke, Joan Tower, Augusta Read Thomas, Chen Yi, Scott Lindroth, Maria Schneider, Rodney Rogers, Allen Winold, Janet Schmalfeldt and Fred Lerdahl.


Grow your music career exponentially with internships.

Our summer internship program offers a number of experiences with musical entities around the country (e.g., Lyric Opera, Deep Listening Institute, New York Jazz Academy, Merit School of Music, etc.) that directly complement and accelerate your musical education, often while providing substantial compensation in the process.

Components of the Major

  • Music and Analysis (5 terms)

    Aural Skills (5 terms)

    Sight Singing (5 terms)

    Keyboard skills (or demonstrated proficiency)

    Western Music History I & II

  • One advanced musicology course

    Applied music individual instruction

    At least two terms of ensemble performance study

    Ensemble participation every term in Appleton

    Two courses in counterpoint

    Two upper-level courses in theory and analysis

  • Two courses in composition and arranging

    Two electives from:
    Semiotics; Gesture Studies; Cognitive Linguistics; Aesthetics of Music; Physics of Music; Psychology of Music

    Language study—preferably German, because of its prevalence in music theoretical scholarship

Course descriptions and more courses

The Chandler Senior Experience

The topic of the Senior Experience in music theory will arise from your encounter, in upper-level courses, with advanced theoretical and analytical concepts, methods, and techniques. Your Senior Experience may be a substantial original (and publishable) essay; a critical exegesis of a monograph; a lecture-recital; a software applciation for music theory pedagogy or analysis.

Recent Senior Experiences include:


Pieces written for and performed by the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles

Recitals and portfolios of original music