Academic Studies

Area Overview

What is music? Is it simply the ability to recreate what is printed on a page in sound? How do we get beyond simply “getting the right notes” to a deeper understanding? What does music mean? Is there one interpretation or are there many? Is music something written, something heard, or something else?

These are some of the questions that motivate enquiry in the academic core curriculum as we engage in structural analysis, historical contextualization, interpretation, and more. Of equal importance, faculty also address these questions in their own research, which consistently results in nationally-recognized presentations and publications. Studying with such scholar-teachers gives our students a window into larger conversations about the nature and purpose of music while still addressing practical application and questions of individual interpretation.

The tabs above contain information about the experiences offered to students by the academic area, not just in structured settings like the classroom, but also in individualized projects and opportunities far from the Logan campus.

Core Curriculum

The core music classes at USU include music history, music theory, aural skills, and keyboard skills. Aural and keyboard skills improve your sight reading, musicianship, focus, musical understanding, and musical communication. Music history and music theory explore music in depth and in context, helping you gain skills in analysis, composition, critical thinking, and abstract conceptualization. These courses will reveal the inner workings of pieces of music, improve your practical skills, and help you understand social and historical connections. They also develop skills that will transfer to any career or life path, including writing skills and critical and creative thinking.

All incoming students may take a diagnostic exam to test out of MUSC 1105 (Music Fundamentals for Music Majors) but should register for the course to receive instructions. Transfer students and those with AP credit should take a separate placement exam held before the beginning of each academic year. For details, please see the Placement Exams tab on this page.

For information on your specific path through core curriculum requirements, please refer to the CCA online degree maps for your emphasis.

Entrance Exams for First-Year Students

MUSC 1105 Diagnostic Exam

All incoming first-year students should register for MUSC 1105 (Music Fundamentals for Music Majors) but will be given the opportunity to test out over the summer before; instructions will be sent to all students registered for the class. Topics covered include rhythmic values, time signatures (both simple and compound meter), key signatures, intervals, and triad roots and qualities.

Exams for Transfer Students or First-Years Seeking Advanced Placement

Music Theory and Aural Skills Placement Exams

Students who have completed an entire music theory and/or aural skills sequence of at least 4 semesters at another college or university will be automatically exempted from the relevant sequence at USU; contact Cary Youmans to confirm this. Other transfer students and those with significant music theory experience such as AP Music Theory should contact Prof. Timothy Chenette to determine where in the music theory/aural skills curriculum they will be most successful.

If you have additional questions about the Music Theory or Aural Skills placement exams, please email Dr. Timothy Chenette.

Music History Placement Exam for Transfer Students

The music history transfer placement exam is diagnostic in nature, and is administered the week before the commencement of classes in the fall. It will test the student’s familiarity with styles, periods, concepts, and cultures across the history of Western European music, from 800 to 1960, as well as his or her ability to think critically about history and problem-solve. Consequently, the student need not prepare or study for the exam, but rather should show up and make his or her best attempt at completing as much of it as possible. This will give the student and the evaluator the best indication of the student’s aptitude as a critical thinker as well as the range of his or her music history knowledge, allowing the evaluator to place the student appropriately in the music history sequence at USU. The test will consist of listening identification drawn from the history of western music, with each example accompanied by analytical questions. There will also be short answer and essay portions.

Please email Dr. Christopher Scheer if you have any additional questions about the Music History Transfer Exam.

Special Projects & Collaboration

The academic area offers music majors a wealth of opportunities for students to enrich and advance their musical education beyond the classes offered in the core curriculum. These include scholarship and grant opportunities in research and performance, letting students work one-on-one with faculty to deepen their understanding of a specific topic or idea, giving access to visiting scholars and performers who are at the forefront of music research, even providing the opportunity to travel and experience a vast diversity of musics and musical cultures from around the globe.

URCO Grants and the Honors Program

Students can work with a faculty member to apply for Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities Grants through the Office of Research at USU. These grants can allow a student to conduct research on a scholarly or performance question, and can also be used to fund research away from campus at music festivals, with noted teachers, and at important archives around the world.

The Honors Program provides another opportunity for students to delve deeper into their studies.

Guest Speakers

The academic area continues to host a number of guest academics and performers who work with USU music students in both the classroom and one-on-one. A selected list of recent visitors includes:

  • Ron Squibbs, University of Connecticut
  • Jenny Doctor, Syracuse University
  • Sarah Victoria Turner, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Yale University
  • James Mansell, University of Nottingham
  • Anna Gawboy, Ohio State University
  • Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University
  • Craig Trompeter, Director, Haymarket Opera Chicago

Performance Practice Institute

The Performance Practice Institute (PPI) at the Caine College of the Arts embodies a project-based approach to the study of the history of performance, which enriches the intellectual and artistic life of the students involved while making accessible to Utah audiences exciting concerts of lesser known repertoires, especially those from the pre-1750 period. Concerts in this series are held in the spring, with a yearly alternation of larger projects and more modest events that build upon the previous year’s activities.

List of Coming and Recent Performances:

  • Craft, Performance, and Drama: Francesca Caccini’s La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina
  • The Music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd: Politics and Religion in Tudor England
  • Music of the North German Baroque
  • J. S. Bach’s Mass in b-minor
  • The Italian Baroque

Museum + Music

The Museum + Music Series is a vital interdisciplinary effort between the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art and the music department that explores the interconnections between visual and musical arts through concerts that engage the audience with the exhibitions on show in the museum. Students in core curriculum classes participate every year in the December concert, and musicians and scholars who visit campus as performers in the series often interact with music students through academic classes and workshops.

Study Abroad

The academic area offers study abroad opportunities based on student interest, financial viability, and other factors. In 2013, 20 students visited England for a one-month trip, exploring the rich musical and cultural heritage of the country, and earning credit to be applied to core curriculum requirements.


Sara Bakker

Sara Bakker

Assistant Department Head & Associate Professor

Music (Music Theory)

Office Location: UR 111
Timothy Chenette

Timothy Chenette

Associate Professor

Music (Music Theory)

Office Location: UR 117
Stephen Mitton

Stephen Mitton

Faculty Associate

Music (Composition)

Chris Scheer

Chris Scheer

Associate Professor

Music (Musicology)

Phone: (435) 797-8706
Office Location: UR 107