Music (BA)

Refine your skills in Columbia College Chicago’s Music bachelor’s degree program, which focuses on contemporary, jazz, and popular music. In core classes, you’ll learn theory, composition, improvisation, arranging, technology, history, analysis, and aural skills. You’ll enroll in private lessons for your primary instrument/voice and complete coursework designed to provide collaborative music-making experiences with students and faculty members. You’ll also gain performance experience in ensembles that play a variety of styles and genres.

three musicians on stage

No audition is required for a BA in Music. Music Department faculty members evaluate your music theory knowledge and performance skills before your first semester in order to place you in the appropriate level of coursework. If you don’t have formal training, our curriculum will help you gain the knowledge and skills to develop and refine your talents. If you do have formal training, we will place you in courses that will bring your musicianship to the next level. 

Benefits of a Music BA:

In the Music BA program, you can:

  • Study music and still have room in your schedule to take electives. 
  • Double major or minor in another subject that complements your interests and goals. 
  • Enjoy a well-rounded liberal arts education and take full advantage of Columbia's course offerings outside of Music. 
  • Apply with NO audition required.
  • Audition for and participate in music ensembles.
  • Take private lessons to improve your skills and technique.

Course Requirements 


Other Degrees Available

If you want to study music with greater focus, the Music department at Columbia College Chicago offers two bachelors of Music degree options:

Benefits of BMus Degrees:

  • Prepares students who want a career in performance, composition, or production.
  • Offers more specialized music coursework than the Music BA.
  • Includes the same core of foundational coursework as the BA degree.

NOTE: If you plan to apply directly to the BMus programs, you’ll need to include some additional materials.

BMus Course Requirements

Curriculum Highlights

student band performing in studio with singer

All Music majors (instrumentalists and vocalists in the BA and BMus programs) perform in ensembles as part of their coursework. You’ll gain skills and experience in collaborative music-making. We offer a wide range of ensemble courses in contemporary, urban, and popular styles. Genres covered in ensemble courses include pop, rock, jazz, R&B, fusion, and gospel. All ensembles are directed by our faculty of professional musicians. Columbia also has ensembles dedicated to creating original music, allowing you to gain experience in arranging, rehearsing, recording, and performing.

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student playing stand up bass
Private Lessons

As one of your degree requirements, you’ll take private lessons with faculty members who are experienced professional musicians. The lessons are available across a range of vocal and instrumental genres and styles. During this dedicated time with faculty members, you’ll master your performance skills and hone your distinctive sound.

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Performance Opportunities

Chicago is a great place for students studying the performing arts. You’ll have many performance opportunities in a variety of settings, both on campus as part of your coursework and in Chicago’s vibrant music scene. Columbia’s Music Center hosts more than 200 student, faculty, and artist-in-residence performances and workshops each year.



Music Columbia College Chicago Cory Henry workshop

“To see students take on songs and put their own feelings in them—it’s gratifying.”

-Grammy winner Cory Henry, Artist-in-Residence

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We bring professional musicians to Columbia College Chicago for week-long residencies every semester. You’ll study with these artists and perform with them on stage. They lead workshops and master classes with student ensembles. They also lead recording sessions and public performances. Through your interactions with them, you’ll gain valuable experience and insight into possible career paths.

Some recent artists-in-residence include Grammy-winning, multi-instrumentalist Cory Henry, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, keyboardist Cassandra O’Neal, and saxophonist Donny McCaslin.

Learn more about our Artists-in-Residence program.

Program Snapshot


Music faculty member Cassandra Oneal

Cassandra O’Neal teaches her students lessons from more than 20 years of working as a musician alongside artists like Prince, Mary J. Blige, LeAnn Rimes, and Macy Gray.

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Columbia College Chicago’s Music faculty is a diverse group of professional musicians, renowned as composers, performers, and music educators. They have released solo recordings, written original compositions and arrangements, and toured with well-known bands. They are Grammy, Emmy, and Dove Award winners and nominees. In private lessons with them, you’ll hone your individual skills and techniques in your primary performance area and gain mentoring experiences essential to achieving your career goals.

View all Music Department faculty.

Faculty by Instrument

Music Facilities


With access to rehearsal space, concert halls, and recording gear, you’ll have the space and tools you’ll need to make your music. You can also rent professional equipment for your creative and artistic pursuits.

Take a look at our music facilities.

Alumni Success

Many Music alumni work and perform together, building lifelong relationships and a strong Columbia presence in the Chicago music scene. Many alumni also mentor and collaborate with enrolled students. Music graduates are performers, composers, educators, and music business professionals. Many Music grads also have successful careers in other industries.

Learn more about Music Columbia College Chicago alumni.

Listen to Music at Columbia

Visit our YouTube page to hear music created by Columbia students, faculty, and alumni. ​

Many BA students explore other interests and broaden their career preparation by pursuing a minor. Our innovative Hip-Hop Studies minor will connect you with the local hip-hop community, and our Music Business minor will give you managerial and entrepreneurial experience. Some students explore other passions like cultural studies, photography, acting, or fashion.

Explore all minors.