Learn all about our Precollege curriculum at Manhattan School of Music.
The curriculum of the Precollege Division has been devised to assure a thorough musical education. The basic tuition package includes a lesson, theory, ear training, and ensemble.
Each student is entitled to one 60-minute lesson for 29 weeks. The 30th lesson is reserved for juries.
Juries will occur once a year near the end of each spring semester. Juries ensure that a student’s progress merits continuation in his or her program of study. Jury scores are also a determining factor in evaluating eligibility for scholarship for the following year.
Students must audition for positions in large ensembles and are placed according to their ability. Assignment to all large ensembles is made by the Precollege Administration, in consultation with the conductors and directors, and is based on audition.
Senior Select Chorus
Jazz Big Band
Double Bass Ensemble
French Horn Ensemble
Chamber music is an elective and placement is made by the Precollege Administration. Pianists may be required to audition for chamber music. Because of the difficulties in matching students by level and requests, there is no guarantee that all students will be placed in a chamber music group each semester. Students wishing to be considered for chamber music must complete the Chamber Music Request Form by May 1st of every year.
Courses in music theory and ear training are a mandatory part of every student’s study and complement private instruction.
Elementary Theory and Ear Training (grades 4 and below)
Elementary Theory provides students with a fundamental background in the development of coordination and rhythmic awareness, listening awareness, responses to pitch, dynamics and tempo, and emphasizes basic reading skills. There are multiple levels of both theory and ear training, which follow the general outlines of the Junior Theory and Ear Training curricula. Parents are encouraged to sit in on classes.
Junior Theory and Ear Training (grades 5-8)
This level involves study of scales, intervals, chords, melody harmonization, and form with appropriate analysis and creative work. The ear training levels stress the singing, aural recognition, and writing of all elements studied in the theory classes. The materials used are selected from music literature appropriate to the age level and degree of advancement of the students.
High School Theory and Ear Training (grades 9 and above)
This level is a comprehensive study of the elements of music from rudiments through chromatic harmony. Areas covered include melody, harmony, part writing, form and analysis, counterpoint, orchestration, and some elementary compositional techniques. Corresponding ear training courses cover rhythmic solfège, melodic sight singing, rhythm and movement, diatonic-modal improvisation, harmonic perception, contemporary sight singing, dictation, and advanced choral literature survey.
Jazz Theory I
This course covers jazz theory on a basic level, and it is designed to help students develop the necessary theoretical foundations in order to be able to improvise, arrange, and compose.
Jazz Theory II
The Jazz Theory II curriculum involves a study of topics such as chord function, extension and alteration, common chord progressions, scales, key relationships, superimposition, form, modulation, re-harmonization, rhythmic permutation, voice leading, counterpoint, composition, arranging, and ear training. Traditional or classical harmonic principles and their relevance in jazz settings will also be studied.
Jazz Theory III
Jazz Theory III focuses on the practical application of theory to the students’ writing and playing. Subjects covered in Jazz Theory I and II will be reviewed and utilized as a basis for compositional techniques.
Jazz Theory IV (Theoretical Applications in Jazz Arranging and Composition)
This course will include guided instruction in jazz arranging and composition using the tools and techniques learned in Jazz Theory I, II, and III. Laboratory groups will include members of the class as well as school ensembles.
Jazz Ear Training A
This class will cover, with an emphasis on fluency, intervallic dictation and singing, rhythmic dictation and tapping, simple harmonic dictation to the 7th degree, simple sight-singing, and simple melodic dictation, as well as an introduction to the art of transcription of jazz solos.
Jazz Ear Training B
This class will cover, with an emphasis on fluency, melodic dictation, sight singing, harmonic dictation to the 9th degree, and harmonic singing (arpeggios of common chord progressions to the 9th degree in jazz standards), as well as a continuation of the art of transcription of jazz solos.
Jazz History/Styles/Analysis I
This course provides a yearlong overview of the history of jazz music, including its major innovators, trends, and musical examples. Students will learn about artists and their work and will acquire critical listening skills.
Jazz History/Styles/Analysis II
This course is a continuation of Jazz History/Styles/Analysis I and serves to broaden the base already provided by using more in-depth listening, research, and comparative analyses of works.
Electives are offered in a variety of subjects. With the exception of chamber music groups, all classes must have a minimum of five students.
Elective courses are offered for an additional fee. See Tuition and Fees for details.
Acting for Singers
A class primarily for voice majors of high school age, but open to all students who wish to learn more about stage presence, acting, and audition techniques. Audition required for non-vocal majors.
Advanced Counterpoint Workshop
Counterpoint literally means “point against point”, or “note against note”, and is the study of how melodies blend together, yet maintain their individuality. Counterpoint is the study of the horizontal aspects of multi-voice composition while harmony is the study of the vertical aspects of composition. This is a convenient way of dividing the aspects of composition; however, this distinction is merely theoretical. In practice, the study of counterpoint incorporates much harmony and leads to a better understanding of the harmonic forces, as well as the melodic forces, that move the composition.
In the advanced counterpoint workshop we will summarize the basic 16th century counterpoint that is part of the general curriculum and proceed to the higher forms of the 16th century style such as the canon and the motet, as well as a study of counterpoint that leads to the fugue – arguably the most sophisticated form of composition, combining counterpoint and harmony in perfect balance. The class will also compare and contrast traditional and non-traditional forms including chromatic and non-classical counterpoint.
Prerequisites: Successful completion of HS Theory III/JR Theory IV and Ear Training C.
Audition Techniques and Preparation
This course, designed for instrumentalists and vocalists, will offer students tools to investigate, select, and prepare audition material appropriate for entrance auditions, juries and orchestra auditions. The course includes opportunity to play mock auditions, exercises in sight reading, and offers a discussion about pacing, stamina and focus at the time of the audition.
Brass Ensemble offers Precollege brass students an opportunity to be challenged both technically and musically while focusing on improving each player’s ensemble skills. Using repertoire ranging from the Renaissance through Contemporary periods, the class focuses on developing a group sound while refining intonation, blend, and balance. Recent performances have included works by Bach, Cheetham, Ewald, Ewazen, Gabrieli, Hindemith, Holst, Ives, Koetsier, Mozart, and Purcell among many others.
Chamber Music PLUS
Chamber Music PLUS is an introduction to the emerging field of interdisciplinary performance. Students will work in small groups of varying instrumentation to co-create new performance pieces that combine music with theater, creative movement, storytelling, poetry, and other arts. The class combines basic skill-building work (theater and movement games adapted to include musical instruments) with a collaborative creation process, culminating in an original performance. Students will learn to perform from memory, to construct new performing works from both existing sources and from their own improvisations, to incorporate speaking into musical performance, and to work creatively and collaboratively with colleagues.
Clarinet Ensemble explores the rich variety of repertoire available to clarinets, including arrangements from the standard repertoire and pieces written expressly for clarinet ensemble. The group will perform several times throughout the year. Students are offered the opportunity to switch parts, affording them the experience of playing solos as well as inner voices.
Classical Improvisation for Pianists
Many of the great composers were great improvisers, and what fun they must have had! In this class, students will learn the basics of improvisation with models from Bach to Mozart to Chopin. Students will draw upon the pieces they play for ideas, and discover a new way of looking at the piano.
Students interested in composition are placed according to their levels into small groups, which range from beginning to advanced. Students receive individual attention and develop techniques and skills for writing for small ensembles and orchestra. Exploration of style, both traditional and experimental, is encouraged.
A class in which students learn the fundamentals of orchestral conducting techniques and score reading. Two levels, beginning and intermediate, are offered.
Dance Technique and Energy Flow
Dance Technique and Energy Flow is a class designed to deepen physical awareness and teach basic movement skills valuable to all types of performance. The focus will be on both performative techniques, such as ballet and jazz, and experiential somatic movement techniques, such as Bartenieff Fundamentals and Continuum Movement. The class is appropriate for beginners and all levels of previous experience.
Diction for Singers
Diction for Singers will explore phonetics and pronunciation in English, Italian, German, and French. One semester will be devoted to each language, with an introductory study of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the standard system used to represent and transcribe sounds in any language. The individual vowel and consonant sounds of each language will be studied, with both spoken and written work, and then applied in singing.
Discovering Secrets within Musical Compositions
This elective is based on the theories of Claude Debussy, who encouraged “souls destined for music” to look within ourselves and our surroundings to discover the most beautiful ideas music has to offer. This course will offer a fascinating look into the minds and methods of composers throughout the world and across all styles and genres, including (but not limited to): Bach, the Beatles, Samuel Barber, Beethoven, Luciano Berio, Borodin, John Coltrane, Debussy, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Hermeto Pascoal, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Thelonious Monk, Radiohead, Schumann, U2, William Grant Still, Vivaldi, and Neil Young.
In addition to lectures, each student will be required to give a 15-20 minute performance presentation, where they will identify, prepare, perform, and discuss a selection (or excerpt from a larger work) of their choice, highlighting those influences found in the environment and specifically how these influences are expressed in the language of music. The class will collectively discuss how this knowledge has shaped their interpretation of the piece. Promising to offer a unique and memorable experience, this elective is open to all high school aged students.
Double Bass Ensemble
This class offers double bass students the opportunity to rehearse and develop the many skills necessary to create a high-performing musical ensemble. The class explores the vast repertoire of compositions and arrangements written for double bass ensemble, and presents these pieces in concerts throughout the year. Emphasis is placed on the goal of creating a musical, cohesive ensemble sound which also serves to hone skills that will carry over into orchestral section playing, chamber music, and solo performances.
Entrepreneurship in Music
A practical course that focuses on topics such as innovation in the arts, application of critical thinking and business skills, and crafting personal branding. Topics discussed include majoring and minoring in music, careers in music, clarifying your vision of a career in music, crafting a resume, building a music resume, writing personal statements, and preparing for interviews. This course aims to develop skill sets of communication, leadership, and advocacy.
Exploring Music of the 20th and 21st Centuries
The objective of this course is to provide students with a basic understanding of 20th & 21st century music; specifically, music that is based on systems other than traditional major-minor tonality. Students will engage the music through various activities aimed at offering different views of the pieces being studied. Activities will include listening, playing, sight-singing, composition exercises, and basic post-tonal analysis. Students must have completed or passed out of JR/HS Theory I and JR/HS Ear Training A.
Introduction to film scoring provides the student with an overview of the fundamentals he/she needs to acquire in order to function in this medium. Film scoring is a highly specialized, creative, knowledgeable, and unique form of composition. The film composer must combine traditional and contemporary training, as well as have a wide understanding of the technical, historic, and creative aspects of marriage between picture and sound, some understanding of the film-making process, and considerable compositional skills. The class will cover a wide variety of topics with strong emphasis on student projects and participation.
Flute Ensemble is open to all MSM Precollege flutists as well as woodwind doublers wishing to improve their skills as a flutist and ensemble player. This ensemble provides students with a broad performance experience of repertoire written for flute ensemble – from trios to larger flute ensemble pieces – and pieces for multiple flutes with piano, and on occasion with solo vocalists. Each semester the Flute Ensemble performs on a Performers Showcase and also presents a formal concert towards the conclusion of the semester. Repertoire is selected from the Baroque Period to the 20th Century, which provides members of the Flute Ensemble with a valuable ensemble experience and knowledge of available flute ensemble music.
Guitar Ensemble is a class in which guitar majors explore the growing repertoire for multiple guitars. Works examined and performed are written by prominent contemporary composers for the growing number of professional ensembles around the world. There is also a sizeable number of transcriptions of works by the great masters, such as J. S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and Franz Josef Haydn. Rehearsal skills are stressed, sight-reading is enhanced, and the sense of belonging to a musical community is a goal of the class. All Guitar Ensemble students must be currently enrolled in a primary or secondary guitar lesson with a Precollege Faculty member.
Harp Ensemble is designed to introduce each student to the range of professional harp literature. The class is a combination of harp ensemble and study of music drawn from the orchestral, choral, opera, and ballet repertoire. Each semester, students will become familiar with a large number of pieces through listening and preparation of excerpts.
Harp Workshop (non-harp majors)
Harp Workshop is step-by-step introduction to the harp offered in a group setting, covering basic to intermediate harp technique and repertoire. While the class is open to all instruments and levels, a background in piano is helpful (but not required).
Jazz Improvisation for Non-Majors
Jazz Improvisation for Non-Majors is a course designed to provide the classical major with fundamental concepts needed to compose spontaneously. Blues and basic jazz forms are covered through performance and recordings. Exploration of jazz rhythm is central to the class.
Jazz Keyboard Harmony
This course is an introduction to common jazz keyboard techniques, chord symbols, and chord voicings. The focus is on current jazz performance practice.
Music History: The Symphony
This class is a survey of significant orchestral masterworks composed between the classical period and the 20th century. Class presentation will focus on the formation of the symphony in the classical period and its features and developments in the romantic period and early 20th century. Each student will read orchestral scores and listen to works by key composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and more.
Music History: Lieder (The Art Song)
This course offers an in-depth look into the Lieder (art song) with works by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and more. Students will explore the history, development, and beauty of this art form. We will discuss the important role of the piano as a collaborative partner and the complexities in writing this unique, short-form music. The course will feature some of the best historic recordings of Lieder, and students who wish to will have the opportunity to perform in class.
Musical Theater focuses on contemporary Broadway literature through a combination of applied voice, acting, and movement technique. The first semester is devoted to developing the skills necessary to perform this exciting and ever-evolving genre, while the second semester is spent working on a performance selected to utilize the gifts of the ensemble. Audition required.
Opera Workshop is designed for high school students who are interested in opera performance. The class works on performance and audition techniques and presents a public performance at the end of the spring semester. Audition required.
Orchestral Excerpts for Cellists
This course consists of an overview of major orchestral excerpts for Cello from Beethoven to Mahler, and aims to build skills studying orchestral excerpts. Along with familiarizing students with the works by listening to historic recordings, this course will offer the opportunity to play mock auditions and increase students’ exposure to technical and musical elements required for successful orchestral audition preparation and performance.
This performance ensemble is designed to develop chamber music and rehearsal skills while acquainting the student with the vast and growing body of ensemble music for percussion instruments. Repertoire covered ranges from classics of the genre to newer works, as well as improvisation, giving the student an overview of the requirements of being a contemporary percussionist. The ensemble is open to Precollege classical and jazz percussion majors.
Piano Lab (non-piano majors)
A group class in elementary to intermediate piano for non-piano majors. Students having some or no prior training may register.
Piano Literature I (grades 6 and above)
The piano literature is among the richest collections of works in the cannon of classical music. Throughout music history, the instrument has been an important vehicle to communicate a composer’s most personal thoughts and emotions. In this course, students will explore repertoire from the earliest keyboard works to the beginning of the 20th-Century. From Bach to Debussy, students will learn to discern styles and forms, and examine important works from the repertoire.
Piano Literature II (grades 7 and above)
As an instrumental form, the true classical concerto possesses unique dramatic possibilities which, when in the hands of genius, create some of the most captivating moments in music. This class is an up-close-and-personal look at what makes a concerto such a powerful and yet elusive form. Students will come away with a history of the concerto, its tradition, and the breakdown of that tradition by innovative composers.
Piano Literature III (grades 8 and above)
How has piano repertoire evolved in modern times? In the 20th Century, composers experimented more than ever, and the piano repertoire expanded immensely. In this hands-on course, students will experience the new sounds of the 20th Century starting with Impressionism and ending in the present day. They will explore extended techniques, graphic scores, clusters, and other experimental ideas of important composers of this period.
Piano Literature IV (grades 8 and above)
The vast piano repertoire is full of unknown gems! This course will explore repertoire of underrepresented composers whose music is just as impactful and important as those we know so well. Repertoire by composers from different cultures, countries, and viewpoints will be covered, as well as women composers, BIPOC composers, and repertoire by lesser-known composers of all eras. Students will be able to draw from these works to expand their own repertoire and be able to find music with which they have a personal connection.
The art of making reeds for the oboe is an essential part of the tonal, aural, and acoustic development as an oboist. As the student’s concept of how to use their air changes in conjunction with the demands of the music, so does the reed – thus, the need for the skill to continually and subtly change the reed to meet these new demands. This class will focus on each stage of the reed-making process such as cane selection, tying, scraping, pre-gouging, and gouging.
Saxophone Ensemble is a workshop which includes highly motivated saxophonists (majoring in classical or jazz) who are encouraged to write and perform their own transcriptions, arrangements, and original compositions. Assigned repertoire consists primarily of classical and contemporary selections, chosen to facilitate a thoughtful chamber music experience. The ensemble (usually a quartet) performs one concert per semester, and is responsible for determining the concert order and providing program notes. Students, performing without a conductor, learn to take responsibility for elements of tone quality, intonation, dynamics, phrasing, style, and stage presentation. Discussions include saxophone history, performance practice, and how to prepare for a career in music as a saxophonist.
Solving Technical Complexities at the Keyboard
A course for advanced high school piano students with emphasis on essential aspects of performance. Various options for solving difficulties found in repertoire will be discussed. Each week, topics are explored and presented with supporting examples from the standard piano literature. Students may bring excerpts of their choice. Class participants will benefit from mutual observation and gain further awareness of the piano repertoire. Students must have permission from their major teacher to register.
A class for high school pianists who are interested in learning skills that are necessary in order to be a successful accompanist. Students will cover repertoire including art songs, Broadway selections, concert and operatic arias, choral music, and popular music. Skills covered in the class include sight-reading techniques, preparation of the score, improvisation, transposition, matters of style, and ensemble issues specific to singers. Students will have the opportunity to accompany professional singers as well as students.
Women in Music
“Women” and “greatness” – throughout the course of history these two words have not been used in the same sentence often enough. Certainly, in the case of music history, it is as if there was a sort of mental programming to exclude women from the realm of great legacy and powerful contribution. This course will provide a fascinating exploration into the lives and stories of women who enriched music history in spite of many obstacles. Our journey will begin in the Middle Ages and conclude with the current times. We will explore a great variety of musical careers, placing our main emphasis on the study of the life and work of such great composers as Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, and Tania Leon. We will also celebrate trailblazing women on the concert stage, from the prima donnas of Italian opera to the great female conductors on the world stage today. The goal of the course is to shed light on the music composed over an entire millennium that may still be undiscovered, and to better understand the sociopolitical circumstances that many of these women had to overcome to bring their gifts to the world.
The MSM Precollege Woodwind Ensemble is open to all woodwind players – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn. The Woodwind Ensemble, varies in size from 5 to 15 players. This ensemble was created to give woodwind students an additional opportunity to experience playing woodwind chamber music in addition to their orchestral experience together. Repertoire has included Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, Cello and Bass, wind serenades by Mozart and Beethoven, music for double woodwind quintet and various mixed woodwind ensemble repertoire including trios, quartets, quintets and large ensemble pieces. Past semesters have also included themed concerts such as a focus on operatic transcriptions for woodwind ensemble and 20th-century repertoire. The MSM Precollege Woodwind Ensemble presents performances each semester.
The Precollege Division encourages performance and thus offers several opportunities in the form of recitals, showcases, and concerts. Students are not required to attend each week, but they are always invited to listen.
Chamber Music Festivals
Chamber Music Festivals are scheduled twice a year to showcase Precollege chamber music groups. Requests to perform are submitted by the chamber music coach to the Precollege administration.
Students are chosen by faculty in consultation with the Dean to perform at one of the Honors Recitals scheduled during the academic year.
Studio & Student Recitals
Studio recitals are an opportunity for students to perform with other members of their teacher’s studio. Non-graduating student recitals and studio recital requests are submitted by the teacher.
A graduating senior is permitted, but not required, to schedule and perform an entire 40-minute graduation recital.
Chamber Music Competition
The Chamber Music Competition takes place in January of every year. Applications are due by December 1.
Concerto competitions are held annually in various categories. Winners appear as soloists with one of the Precollege orchestras in a public concert.
Precollege Classical Program
Precollege Jazz Program
Tuition & Fees
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