Music, Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music, BA

Whether you’re a singer-songwriter, a rock guitarist, a rapper, a producer or just starting out, you’ll find and refine your creative voice in the Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music (CUP) program. You’ll take core Music courses that are tailored for CUP students, including music history, business, and technology. You’ll learn practical recording and creative skills under the guidance of experienced music producers. 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, as well as ensembles dedicated to original music performance and creation. Coached by our experienced faculty, you’ll learn how to communicate musically while gaining experience in arranging, rehearsing and performing.

What to Expect Your First Year

You’ll begin with the Music core, which includes courses in theory, keyboard and ear training. If you can’t read music, we’ll help you learn. You’ll also take courses in music history and repertoire to build a solid foundation for your craft. You’ll perform in one of several ensembles, learning how to communicate, collaborate and play with other musicians. From the very start, you’ll gain a great deal of onstage experience: auditioning, rehearsing and performing.

What to Expect Your Last Year

In your senior year, you’ll continue to gain experience on stage as you audition, rehearse and perform, either as a soloist or with ensembles. Each year, you’ll have the opportunity to study and perform with esteemed artists in residence. You also may choose to take elective courses on topics such as pop/jazz theory, arranging, or a dedicated course in demo production so you can create your own EP. Because the BA track allows flexibility to explore your passions in other disciplines, you may be finishing up a minor of your choosing, such as Music Business Management, Education, Arts in Healthcare or even Photography or Web Development.

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 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.


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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