Walnut Hill School for the Arts


Courses in Music

January Project

During the time between winter break and the beginning of second semester, the Music Department collaborates on an annual community-wide project focusing on the in-depth study and performance of a major work. All music students and many faculty participate in this process-oriented exploration, culminating in a performance at an all-school assembly in late January. Regular arts classes are suspended to allow the Music Department to focus on the project in depth. In addition to rehearsals, activities include topical workshops, field trips, masterclasses, presentations by outside speakers, and more.

Chamber Music

Chamber Music plays a central role in our on-campus Music Major for classical instrumentalists. Through the study of repertoire from the 18th Century to the present, students learn crucial skills including score study; rehearsal techniques; non-verbal communication; group dynamics; and expressivity and interpretation. Our students participate in at least one chamber ensemble for all or most of the semesters they attend Walnut Hill. Chamber music at Walnut Hill includes weekly coachings, regular independent rehearsals, masterclasses, and performance opportunities both on and off-campus.

Departmental Masterclass

Our weekly masterclass is an ongoing required course for all Music Majors. Topics rotate and include performance seminars taught by renowned musicians from the Boston area and beyond; workshops including civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and career-building; and related classes on such topics as yoga for musicians, hearing health, and music technology.

Composition Seminar

Composition majors and other advanced composition students are exposed to some of the major influences in contemporary music through detailed analysis of scores and representative styles of music. This course includes in-class composition projects and readings; once-a-year readings of student works by a professional ensemble; and a study of instrumentation and orchestration. All of these elements are designed to motivate and inspire students to write their own music and to acquire the technical means to express themselves. Composition students’ works are presented in concerts at Walnut Hill three times a year. Required for all composition majors.

Composition for Non-Majors

Composition for Non-Majors is a one-semester course designed for music students with little to no previous experience in writing music down on paper. The class is exposed to music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and representative styles. Issues of notation, writing for specific instruments and developing a musical idea are covered. This project-based class culminates in students writing music for their classmates and having it performed by the end of the semester.

Music Theory 1

Music Theory 1 is a yearlong course that begins with a review of fundamentals and covers beginning counterpoint and an introduction to four-part harmony. Students also learn to appropriately harmonize bass and soprano lines. This course is taken in conjunction with Ear-Training and Solfege. Prerequisite: “C “or better in Fundamentals of Music, or through the placement process.

Music Theory 2

Music Theory 2 is a yearlong course continuing the study of species counterpoint in two voices; four-part diatonic harmony; melodic and rhythmic figuration; harmonic analysis of all chromatic chords, and an introduction to form in tonal music. This course is taken in conjunction with Ear-Training and Solfege. Prerequisite: A grade of “C “or better in Theory 1, or through the placement process.

Form and Analysis

Form and Analysis is a one-semester required course that follows Music Theory 2. Students in this class study the major forms of Western music including binary, ternary, rondo, sonata, variations, rondo variations and sonata rondo forms. Detailed analysis of representative works at the phrase and sectional levels and long-range harmonic goals of the composer are studied.


New and returning students take an ear-training placement test at the beginning of the year. Students in ear-training classes take melodic, harmonic and rhythmic dictation in classes and complete assignments using Musica Practica ear-training software. Some students test out of ear-training courses.


Solfège classes meet once a week and are required for many music students enrolled in music theory courses. Placement into an appropriate class is determined by a test given to new students at the beginning of the year, or a returning student’s work in the previous year. Some students test out of solfege. Students use fixed-do solfege syllables to sight-sing and prepare melodies, rhythms and clef exercises from the Dannhauser and Weber books each and every week.

Music History

Music History is a one-year course required of all Seniors. This course sees music as an essential form of expression across cultures and historical periods. While the main focus of the course is Western music and its social contexts, it also explores musical traditions from the students’ countries of origin. Course content includes listening, discussion, score analysis, and practice in writing about music.

Jazz Ensemble

This small jazz combo includes a drummer, a bassist (electric and/or acoustic), one or two chordal instruments (piano or/and guitar), and any number of melodic instruments (woodwinds-including free reeds, brass, voice, and pitched percussion). The coach will play with the ensemble and act as its arranger. Repertoire consists of a variety of jazz and related music styles from many different eras of history from the 1920s to the present. The pieces will include improvisation, accompaniment and articulation styles appropriate to the pieces that differentiate the musical language of the repertoire. Each semester concludes with a public performance on or off campus. Concert recordings will be reviewed in class. All Jazz Majors participate in the Jazz Ensemble. For non-majors who wish to participate, private jazz instruction is required to help work on the pieces. This two-hour class meets twice per week.

Voice Master Class

Weekly class for Voice Majors in the traditional master class format. Students perform and receive constructive feedback regarding musicality, phrasing, dramatic presentation, artistry, musical style, performance practice and technical challenges. Each singer performs at least twice per semester to prepare and improve pieces being presented in recital performances and auditions. Lead teacher for this class is Head of Voice, Teresa Winner Blume. Guest teaching artists include professional opera singers as well as faculty from top music conservatories.

Voice Repertoire

Voice Repertoire meets weekly to study classical vocal music from the Baroque through contemporary art song. Students also learn language translation skills through online resources and the vast music library at New England Conservatory. In addition, students have the opportunity to rehearse their recital songs with piano in preparation for the fall Voice Department Recital. In the spring semester, students rehearse for the opera and recitals and learn to prepare a printed concert program.

Diction for Singers

This class for Voice Majors takes a three-fold approach to studying languages to enhance clarity and communication, as follows:

  • Lyric pronunciation
  • Phonetic symbols to notate the sounds
  • Inflection of the language through grammatical structure.

Languages studied include Italian, English, German, French and Latin.

Voice Skills (6 week units)

This is a weekly voice and opera workshop class which introduces and explores a wide range of concepts and skills that enhance Vocal Performance. Class is lead by Head of Voice, Teresa Winner Blume in addition to a variety of guest teaching artists who are experts in their fields. In past years we have covered topics such as Acting and Song Text Interpretation (Blume), Acting through Language and Improvisation (Paula Plum), Poetic Analysis (Matt Anderson), Vocal Anatomy and Pedagogy, (Beth Canterbury), Theater Tech: Costume Design Concepts and History (Jen Bennett), Movement and Alignment for Singers (Sarah Whitten), Spatial Awareness and Moving Through Music (Diane Arvanites), Stage Combat (J. T. Turner), Professional Communication in the Arts (Margaret Funkhouser), and more!

link to classical instrumental
Link to voice page
link to jazz

Music Programs Faculty

Whitman Brown

Whitman Brown

Titles: Head of Theory and Composition
Jennifer Elowitch

Jennifer Elowitch

Titles: Director of Music
Teresa Winner Blume

Teresa Winner Blume

Titles: Head of Voice, Voice Teacher, Classical and Musical Theater; Opera Director
Laura Thielke

Laura Thielke

Titles: Director of Chamber Music
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