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Major in Music Theory

What is a music theory degree?

Music theory is often thought of as the language of music. A degree in music theory is the academic study of the elemental constructs that help us understand music and how it is created. Music theory methodically places the ideas and practices of music into a written form whereby they can be analyzed and passed on to the generations.

Violinist

Why study music theory at Furman?

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music since 1938, the Furman University Department of Music is recognized as one of the highest-rated and most comprehensive among national liberal arts colleges, offering degree programs for passionate performers, composers, theorists and music educators. We attract ambitious musicians from across the globe – those who desire to major in music as well as those who wish to major in another discipline while continuing their music.

Offering a conservatory-quality education, Furman’s music program and those who lead it are committed to preparing you for success in the professional world. You’ll sharpen your analytical, listening, creative, improvisation, communication and problem-solving skills, boosting competencies that are readily transferable no matter the career path you take.

In Furman’s intentionally small studios, faculty are free to mentor, help you advance, assist you in exploring the right repertoire, and are integral to your overall growth as a musician. Plan a visit to Furman’s beautiful campus or start your application today. Learn more about the audition process.

How will you learn?

Furman’s Bachelor of Music in music theory provides an opportunity to engage in the analysis and formulation of music. You’ll complete a series of courses designed to develop your overall musicianship and your understanding of the intricacies and beauty of the elements of music. Including basics, written, aural and keyboard components, the music theory course sequence begins freshman year and is taken by all music majors.

Develop your technique through weekly private lessons with master teachers and acclaimed performing artists. Learn a new instrument (or two). Get to know the members of your new Furman music family, who you’ll study with over the next four years.

All students participate in a least one ensemble each semester during their Furman career. You’ll have the option to showcase your work in recitals and in Furman Engaged, a daylong annual celebration in which students come together to share their research, internships, performances, study away, visual art and more. Underscoring the close-knit relationships that emerge among professors and students, one of our jazz students has recently recorded an album with a faculty member, and has learned firsthand what it takes to perform on, co-produce and bring a project to market.

Careers for music theory majors

As a music theory major, you’ll be primed for the workforce with finely tuned skills in analytical thinking, listening, improvisation and communication, which set you up for virtually limitless career options. Many of our graduates seek advanced degrees and go on to faculty positions at prominent universities.

Our music majors have careers such as:

  • Musician
  • Music director
  • Public relations and fundraising manager
  • Worship music assistant
  • University music professor
  • Music teacher, instructor or tutor
  • Music, dance and extracurricular instructor
  • Social and human services specialist
  • Sales manager
  • Business development and marketing manager
  • Product and marketing specialist
  • Producer or director
  • General and operations manager
  • Industrial production manager
  • Chief executive
  • Financial manager
  • Research assistant
  • Computer support specialist
  • Human resources specialist
  • Recruiter
  • Network and computer systems manager
  • Entertainment and recreation manager

Music theory courses: What will you study?

Central to the curriculum across all music majors are weekly one-on-one applied lessons specific to your voice or instrument, a set of core courses, and participation in a major ensemble such as the Symphony Orchestra, Furman Band, Furman Singers, Men’s Chorale, Women’s Chorale, or Guitar Ensemble for every semester you are on campus.

Composition

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Tonal Counterpoint

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100%
Music majors who participate in any engaged learning experience, from recitals to large ensembles, to study away, internships and research
53%
Music majors who complete at least one internship
28%
Music students who double major

What our students say

birds eye view of amphitheater

“The music department quickly became my home for creative growth and inspiration at Furman. There is a rich wealth of musical knowledge within the department, with professors encouraging musical growth in all capacities. The department has been the place where I’ve found not only musical inspiration but also my own identity as a musician.” – Lauren Clifford ’22, B.M., music theory, and B.M., piano performance

Our faculty

Your academic advisor will help you explore your passions, define your interests and achieve your goals. You’ll tap into a widespread network of community and alumni mentors to help you on your individual educational path – and to the opportunities at the end of it. Furman’s music faculty represent decades of study and real-world expertise. Take your first steps by contacting admissions or reading more about how to apply.

  • Mark E. Britt
    Title:

    Professor of Low Brass

    Mark Britt

    Mark E. Britt
    Title:

    Professor of Low Brass

    Phone Number: 8642942116

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  • Omar Carmenates
    Title:

    Professor of Music, Percussion

    Omar Carmenates

    Omar Carmenates
    Title:

    Professor of Music, Percussion

    Phone Number: 8642942406

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  • Anastasia Christofakis
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music, Clarinet

    Antastasia Christofakis

    Anastasia Christofakis
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music, Clarinet

    Phone Number: 8642942117

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  • Anna Barbrey Joiner
    Title:

    Visiting Associate Professor of Music, Viola

    Anna Joiner

    Anna Barbrey Joiner
    Title:

    Visiting Associate Professor of Music, Viola

    Phone Number: 8642943199

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  • Grant Knox
    Title:

    Associate Professor of Voice; Director of Lyric Opera; Coordinator of Voice

    Grant Knox

    Grant Knox
    Title:

    Associate Professor of Voice; Director of Lyric Opera; Coordinator of Voice

    Phone Number: 8642943034

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  • Matt Olson
    Title:

    Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies

    Matt Olson

    Matt Olson
    Title:

    Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies

    Phone Number: 8642943284

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  • Derek Parsons
    Title:

    Professor of Piano; Director, Furman Summer Keyboard Institute

    Derek Parsons

    Derek Parsons
    Title:

    Professor of Piano; Director, Furman Summer Keyboard Institute

    Phone Number: 8642942099

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  • Sue Samuels
    Title:

    Director of Bands, Music Education Coordinator

    Sue Samuels

    Sue Samuels
    Title:

    Director of Bands, Music Education Coordinator

    Phone Number: 8642943193
    Email:

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  • Benjamin Dobbs
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music Theory

    Benjamin Dobbs

    Benjamin Dobbs
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music Theory

    Phone Number: 8642942262

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  • FAQ

    What can you do with a music theory degree?

    An array of skills from improvisation to communication to time management position you for wide ranging career options.

    Many of our graduates seek advanced degrees and go on to faculty positions at prestigious universities throughout the country. Our music majors have gone into professions including musician, music director, public relations and fundraising manager, worship music assistant, university music professor, music teacher, instructor or tutor, music, dance and extracurricular instructor, social and human services specialist, sales manager, business development and marketing manager, product and marketing specialist, producer or director, general and operations manager, industrial production manager, and entertainment and recreation manager.

    Are there opportunities for study away as a music major?

    Train a global lens on your passion for music through “Music in Italy.” The semester-long, conservatory-style program began in 2006 with a partnership with the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo. Each fall, 10 to 14 students study Italian and music history against a Tuscan backdrop.

    On top of the Italian language component offered at the Accademia, you’ll study applied music (voice, instrumental or keyboard) in individual weekly lessons and coaching sessions with Italian music teachers. Furman faculty teach a music history course and an interdisciplinary, experiential course, “Italian Art and Culture,” featuring a series of excursions and lectures revealing the richness of Tuscany’s stunning visual art and architecture.

    You’ll collaborate in several “Movement for Musicians” sessions taught by Accademia dell’Arte faculty, which allow you to spend class time together with the Accademia’s theater students. You’ll take part in performances of chamber music and solo recitals both at the Accademia and in local venues. Regular concert attendance in Florence, overnight excursions, along with independent travel opportunities during a week-long fall break give you ample opportunity to experience the cultural life of Western Europe.

    If a shorter study away is more your style, sign up for courses such as May Experience (MayX) “Opera Overload.” Students split time between Greenville, South Carolina, and New York City, and explore opera, its history in the United States (with a focus on the Metropolitan Opera as an institution), and various topics related to opera, such as elitism, racism and issues of power and sexuality.

    What performance opportunities are offered to students?

    Recitals, concerts, master classes, camps and conferences – with over 260 events typically offered year-round, Furman is a vibrant part of both the Furman and Greenville music scene. Abundant on-stage opportunities for displaying your talent await at Furman. And because we are an exclusively undergraduate program, you are front and center, and need not compete with master’s and doctoral candidates. It bears repeating – Furman is well positioned to expose undergraduate musicians to multiple performances and individualized instruction which prepare you for a life of consequence in the arts world.

    What ensembles are available?

    A large percentage of the Furman student body participates in music. Unique for a school of 2,600 undergraduates, we seat a full all-undergrad symphony orchestra, chamber strings, a jazz ensemble and multiple jazz combos, three choirs, a symphonic concert band, a marching band, a paid pep band, fully staged lyric theater with pit orchestra, and multiple pipe organs.

    What is the average salary for music theory majors?

    The average base salary for graduates with a bachelor’s in music theory is $65,000 annually, according to Payscale.com.

    How long does it take to earn a music theory degree?

    The Bachelor of Music in music theory at Furman is a four-year program.

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