Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music, BMus

Whether you’re a singer-songwriter, rock guitarist, rapper, producer or just starting out, you’ll find and refine your creative voice in the Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music (CUP) program. As a BMus student, your classes will empower you to create your own music and present it to the professional world. You’ll take a variety of advanced, rigorous courses on topics covering the creation, recording, performance and marketing of original music. You’ll learn practical studio skills like multitrack recording, looping, signal processing and virtual instrument software. You’ll study and perform with a faculty of working musicians and acclaimed artists in residence.

All CUP students—instrumentalists and vocalists alike—perform in ensembles such as the R&B Ensemble, Pop Rock Showcase and the Gospel Choir, and create their own projects in recording and performance ensembles. With the guidance of our experienced faculty, you’ll gain extensive experience in arranging, rehearsing and performance as you pursue your unique musical passions.

What to Expect Your First Year

You’ll begin as a BA student with the Music core, which includes courses in theory, keyboard and ear training. You’ll also take courses in music history and theory to build a solid foundation for your craft. You’ll perform in one of several ensembles, learning how to collaborate with other musicians. You’ll begin on a path that will lead to a great deal of onstage experience: auditioning, rehearsing, recording and performing. In your first or second year, you’ll have the opportunity to audition for the BMus program.

What to Expect Your Last Year

In your senior year, you’ll put all your skills to work for a capstone experience in which you create, perform, record and market your original music. With the guidance of professional producers, you’ll collaborate with Music Business students to produce a professional portfolio, including headshots, your web presence, and other promotional material. You’ll take a dedicated course in demo production, and by graduation you’ll complete a three- to five-song EP with one of your collaborative projects and present your own artistic vision in your senior recital. You’ll also take courses in pop/jazz theory, arranging and orchestration, which will give you a competitive edge as you enter the industry. You’ll continue to gain experience on stage and in ensembles, and will have the opportunity to study and perform with esteemed artists in residence.

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

As a Music student, you’re encouraged—and expected—to perform in a variety of settings, both on campus as part of your coursework and in Chicago’s vibrant music scene. Chicago is a robust, diverse and accessible place for a working musician, even if you’re just starting your career. Columbia students often start their own bands and launch their own projects in collaboration with students in other disciplines. Our Music Center hosts more than 200 student, faculty and artist in residence performances and workshops each year. Our department also offers exchange programs with Conservatorio Luisa d’Annunzio in Pescara, Italy, the Popakademie in Mannheim, Germany and other EU partner institutions.

What are my internship options?

You’ll have the opportunity to intern at recording studios, record labels, production companies and radio stations or as an assistant to composers, musicians or music business managers. However, your real-world training will most likely be playing at local venues, special events, campus happenings or with the artists in residence who not only teach but perform with our students. If you’re ready to play professionally, your instructors will help you find gigs.

Which minors complement this major?

This program is credit intensive. If you pursue a minor, your academic enrollment may extend beyond four academic years. However, if you have a significant number of advanced placement or transferred credits, you may be able to complete the minor in a timely fashion. Please consult with the College Advising Center before officially declaring a minor.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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