Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College
Music Department

Frequently Asked Questions


How big is the music department?  
This is not an easy question to answer, but it is safe to say we have a remarkably active musical life at Skidmore. We graduate about 15-18 majors a year, and have 14 full-time faculty and over 24 part-time faculty, plus three staff accompanists. About 40 students begin the music theory sequence each year. Close to 200 students take private lessons in a typical semester, nearly 100 students perform in the chorus, about 45 students perform alongside 25 professionals in the orchestra, and about 15 students perform in large jazz ensemble, while perhaps 30 are coached each semester in one of the five small jazz ensembles.


What do Skidmore music majors do when they graduate? 
 This article about what Filene Scholars have done when they graduated will give you some idea of the rich world of possibilities to which a Skidmore degree can lead. (PDF)

Some majors go on to advanced study and careers in music; others use their broad liberal arts education, including their music major and perhaps a second major, to launch them in a myriad of careers. Our alumni have gone on to music careers in performance and performance teaching (both in classical music and jazz), in the recording and film industries, in concert and orchestra management, as professors of music theory or musicology, in music publishing, and as music librarians. Our alumni have earned advanced degrees from Yale, the New England Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, NYU's Tisch School, Stanford, the University of Texas School of Music, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and others. 

Our majors and Filene Scholars who have not pursued careers in music are out in the world working as doctors, lawyers, teachers, financial analysts, psychologists, and in many more professions.

Auditions, admission, etc.

Do I have to audition to be admitted to the music department?  
No. We view Skidmore’s B.A. music major as fully embedded in the fabric of the liberal arts education, and Skidmore encourages students to keep an open mind about  their major until they have been on campus for a couple of semesters. You don’t have to audition to be a philosophy major and you don’t have to audition to be a music major.

Should I send a recording of my performances to the Music Department (or to Admissions)?  
Strong classical performers applying to Skidmore generally enter the Filene Scholarship Competition and send a recording that meets its requirements. Students with other musical interests, such as jazz or composition, can send a short recording—just 10-15 minutes of your best playing or singing or composing is most useful—and music faculty will listen to it. The faculty member may then contact you directly, or pass on comments to the admissions office, or both. 


What sorts of performing ensembles does the Music Department have? 
The large ensembles include the Skidmore College Orchestra (students play alongside some of the best professionals of the Capital Region), the Skidmore Concert Band, the Skidmore Chorus (over 100 voices), and the Skidmore Jazz Ensemble. Small, select ensembles include the Skidmore Guitar Ensemble, the Vocal Chamber Ensemble, Small Jazz Ensembles (about 30 students participate each semester in five coached ensembles ), and diverse chamber music ensembles for strings, winds, brass, and low brass.

Do I have to be a music major to be in ensembles? 
No. All music courses, including ensembles, private lessons, and classroom courses in music theory, musicology, composition, and music technology, are open to all Skidmore students, regardless of major.  

Do I need to audition to be in ensembles? 
Most ensembles have some audition requirement. Some ensembles, such as Vocal Chamber Ensemble, or Small Jazz Ensembles, are quite selective. Others, such as the large Chorus, are open without audition, although the students must sing for the director in order to be placed into the appropriate section.

How many concerts a year do the ensembles present? 
In a typical year, the orchestra presents four concerts, two each semester. The chorus and the jazz ensemble usually perform one concert at the end of each semester. Most of the chamber ensembles perform one concert in the Helene Filene Ladd Concert Hall each semester, although there are opportunities to perform in other venues, such as the Payne Room at the Tang Teaching Museum. The small jazz ensembles typically perform three concerts each semester, one at the historic Caffe Lena downtown, one at Falstaff’s coffee house on campus, and the final one in Helene Filene Ladd Concert Hall.

Do student soloists ever perform concertos with the orchestra? 
Every December, students compete in the annual Concerto Competition. One student, and sometimes two, are chosen to perform a concerto movement or an aria or song in one of the orchestra’s spring concerts.

Are there student-run ensembles? 
Skidmore has numerous student-run performing groups, including several a cappella groups, a Cabaret Troupe that performs musical theater, the annual Aids Benefit, among other student-run performance opportunities.

The Music Major

How many majors are there?  
We graduate about 20 majors per year. At any point, we have about 50 declared majors, plus interested first-year students who have not yet declared their major.


Do I have to be a music major to take private lessons? 
No. All music courses, including ensembles, private lessons, and classroom courses in music theory, musicology, composition, and music technology, are open to all Skidmore students, regardless of major. There is an additional fee for private lessons. However, Lesson Scholarships are available and may be applied for online.

Who teaches lessons? 
Our studio faculty includes six full-time Artists-in-Residence plus some twenty part-time instructors in voice, piano, all orchestral instruments, and some non-Western and traditional instruments such as fiddle and banjo. Most have advanced degrees in their performance area; those teaching orchestral instruments generally hold principal chairs in regional orchestras, including Albany, Schenectady, Glens Falls, the Mid-Hudson SO, and the Lake George Opera orchestra.

How much do lessons cost?  
Private lessons, whether taken for credit or as an audit, cost $660 for a semester of thirteen 45-minute lessons, and $880 for thirteen 1-hour lessons.

Is there financial aid to help cover the cost of lessons? 
Students can apply to the Music Department, on a per-semester basis, to receive full or partial aid for lessons through the Charles Kennedy Freeman and Laura Bellini Music Scholarship fund. The Skidmore College financial aid awards are determined before students register for classes, so they cannot factor in whether or not a student will take private lessons.  

Can I perform a recital? 
Students enrolled in private lessons can, with the recommendation of their teacher, audition to give a full or a shared recital. The Performance Handbook outlines all the policies regarding recitals, private lessons, the concerto competition, and more.

Interested in Harp lessons? (click here for more information)


Does Skidmore have jazz ensembles? 
Students can enroll in our big band ensemble or in one of about five small jazz ensembles coached by our faculty. The big band gives one concert each semester. Senior Artist-in-Residence coordinates the small jazz ensembles. The SJEs typically perform three times each semester, once in Falstaff’s, the on-campus student-run cabaret, once downtown at the historic Caffe Lena coffee shop, and once on stage in the Helene Filene Ladd Concert Hall. The best of our student ensembles also find some work in clubs in Saratoga.

Can I take private lessons in jazz performance? 
Absolutely. Skidmore offers private lessons in jazz piano, guitar, electric and upright bass, sax, trap-set and vibes, as well as private instruction in improvisation that is open to other instrumentalists and on-campus student cabaret.

Are there any history or theory courses related to jazz?  
Yes, we have upper-level seminars in the history of jazz and in jazz theory. Occasionally, we offer topics courses that deal with jazz: among these have been an upper-level seminar on Miles Davis.

Can I give a jazz recital?  
Yes. Many seniors who study jazz present a recital as their Senior Project, often featuring their original compositions.


Where do performances take place?  
The striking Arthur Zankel Music Center is located near the College's front entrance, where it serves as the gateway to campus, in which we present concerts by Skidmore students, faculty, and ensembles, as well as a roster of world renowned performers who appear under the Filene Concert Series and the Sterne Virtuoso Series. With approximately 54,000 square feet of teaching, practice, performance, and administrative space, the center is home to the vibrant activities of Skidmore's Music Department as well as an important teaching and performance venue for the College's Special Programs division, which sponsors numerous summer institutes. Zankel features the Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall, a 600-seat acoustically tuned space and the more intimate 90-seat Elisabeth Luce Moore Hall. It is named in honor of the late Arthur Zankel, a financier and philanthropist who was a Skidmore trustee, parent, and longtime supporter.

The Filene Scholarships and the Filene Scholars

What do Filene Scholars do when they graduate? (PDF)