Overview

It's all about being plugged in. When you join Cornish’s Music department, you’re also joining one of the most incredible music and art scenes in the country.

Seattle’s a city that changes the world, in music as in tech and business. Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Sub Pop, Macklemore—all of that music is in the air. So is the legacy of the most influential composer of the last 100 years, Cornish composer John Cage. And, most importantly, so is the music of recent Cornish alums like Catherine Harris-White from TheeSatisfaction, Eyvind Kang, and Mary Lambert. The Cornish music department is a laboratory for creativity, innovation, and experimentation—regardless of genre. More than a conservatory, it’s a laboratory of new ideas.

At Cornish, you’ll be mentored by professors who are themselves working musicians, eager to share their connections and resources with you. We don’t wait to unleash you into the world after graduation. We help enmesh you in a thriving music city as
soon as you get here.

Our program revolves around collaboration and improvisation. You’ll have opportunities to team up with, for instance, Film+Media students or Dance Department instructors, and together you’ll generate not just new work, but new ways of working together. You will be tracking, editing, and mixing your own compositions and you’ll have access to renowned studios such as Bad Animals, Jack Straw Productions, and London Bridge. We have relationships with preeminent organizations such as Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera, as well as genre-busting multimedia performance groups like the Degenerate Art Ensemble (co-founded and led by Cornish Music alum Joshua Kohl).

That’s what being plugged in is ultimately about: building those skills and experiences that carry you forward—no matter what stage you’re playing on.

Letter from the Chair

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” --Plato

Welcome to the Music Department at Cornish College of the Arts! We are proud to offer a program rich in history that is poised for the future. We are seeking exceptional students who are interested in both building on a legacy of experimentalism, started here when John Cage invented the prepared piano more than 70 years ago, and dreaming up new and bold ways of being a musician in the 21st century.

The Cornish Music Department gives you space and time for experimentation and exploration, as well as personal mentorship from faculty and guest artists. Our program will provide for you an education of great depth, which will help you to acquire the skills you need. But we also strive to be flexible and broad-based, which allows you to understand and articulate the context within which you can generate your artistic work and foster collaboration.

We offer a Bachelor of Music in composition, instrumental performance, vocal performance and jazz studies. You can explore new technologies and innovation in electronic music, improvisation, and original works. We also offer an Artists Diploma in Early Music for post-baccalaureate students. Cornish will also foster a wealth of opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty from Art and Design, Film and Digital Media, Dance, Theater, and Performance Production.

As a student in the Cornish Music Department, you will find yourself working with a distinguished faculty (who are themselves practicing composers and musicians), a dedicated staff, and friendly and caring student-colleagues. We believe that Cornish is the right place for you if you are a student who is:

  • Creative
  • Interested in improvisation and collaboration
  • Dedicated and hard-working
  • Open to exploring new possibilities
  • Ready to realize your dreams and create the music of the future

My first priority is and will continue to be the student experience, and it is my promise to you that every program, class, workshop, and interaction that you have here will be continually examined through the lens of the student experience.

Welcome to Seattle, and welcome to Cornish!

Tom Baker, DMA
Interim Chair, Music Department
Cornish College of the Arts


Concentrations

No matter which program of study you elect to pursue, you’ll receive highly personalized training through weekly, hour-long individual lessons with a primary artist/mentor. Read on to discover which program is right for you.

INSTRUMENTAL PERFORMANCE

The Cornish Music Department offers a Bachelor of Music curriculum in instrumental performance with a special focus on contemporary or classic chamber music. You’ll work closely with one of our faculty members to hone your craft while participating in a variety of mixed chamber ensembles, percussion, guitar, or string quartets. Cornish also offers you the additional opportunity of playing with any one of a number of Seattle orchestras.

VOCAL PERFORMANCE

The Cornish Music Department offers a Bachelor of Music curriculum in vocal performance with degree tracks in both jazz and classical singing. Whatever path you choose, you’ll benefit from the highly personalized training, mentorship, and individualized attention that has remained a hallmark of Cornish’s intimate, intensive, performance-oriented program. All vocal students will have opportunities to perform with instrumental ensembles, in jazz vocal ensemble and chamber singers, and participate in the student music festival and in larger music productions such as opera and music theater.

JAZZ

The Cornish Music Department offers a Bachelor of Music curriculum in jazz with programs of study in three focus areas: instrumental performance, vocal jazz, and composition. If jazz or other creative improvised music is your passion, Cornish offers you the chance to sharpen your skills in our Latin, bebop, fusion, free jazz or contemporary big band ensembles. Jazz vocalists gain valuable experience through immersion in an intensive program focused on learning the jazz vocal repertoire and developing the skills necessary to create their own arrangements. You’ll work closely with Cornish faculty members, who not only coach all ensembles, but play in them too, contributing valuable insight gained through their real-world experience touring, recording and performing as professional, practicing artists. Learn more about jazz.

COMPOSITION

The Cornish Music Department offers a Bachelor of Music in Composition. As a composition student you may explore jazz, classical, electronic, or other musical traditions from around the world as sources of inspiration. You’ll be invited to explore private instruction in a broad range of styles and skills-based and survey courses that offer a chance for collaboration and feedback. These include classes in advanced harmony, counterpoint, 20th and 21st century techniques, orchestration, arranging, music notation, songwriting, electronic music, and digital audio recording techniques. students who otherwise might be admitted to Cornish as vocal or instrumental performance students but who also want to pursue in-depth studies in composition may want to inquire about the Composer/Performer concentration.


Faculty & Staff

Chair and Core Faculty:

Staff:

Adjunct Faculty:

Curriculum

The Cornish Music Department offers a Bachelor of Music curriculum with concentrations in Instrumental Performance, Vocal Performance, Jazz, or Composition. Students receive highly personalized training through weekly, hour-long individual lessons with a primary artist/mentor as well as public performance opportunities throughout all four years.


Music Degree Requirements

MUSIC MODEL PROGRAM

Model Programs are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s model programs for this program. Students should refer to the model program that was in effect for the year and term of their entrance to Cornish. View archived catalogs and model programs.

Music Course Descriptions

​Music courses develop a broad knowledge of the practice, theory,history, and production of music, with different areas of expertise expected of students in each of the three majors (instrumental, vocal, and composition) and in specific areas of concentration. Individual instruction begins in the first year so students will develop technical mastery of an instrument or voice or control of compositional technique.

Course descriptions are updated at the beginning of each academic year. For this year and previous years, please refer to the online archive of catalogs

Music Learning Outcomes

  1. Be proficient in all aspects of musicianship skills, including theory, ear-training, keyboard, rhythm, sight-reading, and improvisation.
  2. Employ a diverse knowledge of the music industry and music career options, and apply the life and learning skills necessary for a successful career in music.
  3. Think critically, practice self reflection, and implement spoken, written and listening skills necessary to engage with peers for performance or discussion in all aspects of music.
  4. Apply a sense of citizenship reflected within and beyond the Cornish community through a spirit of collaboration and an awareness of the power of music to enrich the culture and impact social change.
  5. Be effective leaders, active collaborators, and strong communicators who will give and take feedback constructively.
  6. Synthesize diverse elements of musical knowledge in the practice, theory, and production of music.

For Composition:

  1. Master compositional technique (melody, polyphony, harmony, form and texture) with an understanding of diverse compositional approaches and striving to create innovative and original work.

For Performance:

  1. Master primary instrument with strong musicality and stylistically versatile performance skills and a dynamic and professional stage presence.

Resources

FACILITIES

Music classes take place in the studios and classrooms at Kerry Hall, an historical landmark in the popular Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Productions are presented on campus in two black box studio theaters, as well as the larger flexible Ned and Kayla Skinner Theater in the Raisbeck Performance Hall, the PONCHO Concert Hall/Theater in Kerry Hall, and the Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center. Off-campus performance venues have included the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill.


News & Events

First Slide

February 14, 2017

Historic Seattle Lecture Explores Cornish History

David Martin, the curator of Cascadia Art Museum exhibition on Cornish College of the Arts' history, will lecture on the history of the school on March 6, 7 p.m., at PONCHO. This event is part of the Historic Seattle 2017 educational program for lovers of buildings and heritage.

“Miss Aunt Nellie” as she was affectionately known, was arguably the most important figure in Wa...

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February 11, 2017

Black Music Matters At PONCHO

This semester, Creative Corridor’s "Black Music Matters: History/Context of Black American Music" has brought numerous artists to campus and hosted a series of open lectures at PONCHO.

Creative Corridor at Cornish College of the Arts is a series of elective classes open to students in...

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February 2, 2017

Alumni In The News - February

Lots of alumni success to report from New York City as well as shows closer to home.

Julia Sirna-Frest '05 is getting a lot of notice for her work in the title role in Porto&n...

First Slide

January 31, 2017

We All Thrive In An Interconnected World

The following was sent on Monday by interim President Chris Kevorkian to the Cornish College of the Arts community. In a typical academic year, the college has students from more than a dozen countries on campus. In the last few years, students have come from Bermuda, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, and Thailand, among others.

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Trustees, and other members of our community, I write to you today...

First Slide

January 27, 2017

NUMUS Northwest Debuts At Kerry Hall

A day-long event dedicated to the creation, performance, and experience of new music in Seattle comes to Cornish College of the Arts.

A one-day new music festival, NUMUS Northwest, will be held this Saturday (January 28) at Kerry Hall...

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January 26, 2017

Jim Knapp Retires Big—With Scrape Performance

Longtime Music Professor Jim Knapp Scrape reminds Cornish and the Jazz community what they’ll be missing with a Cornish Presents performance of Scrape on January 27.

Jazz has been taught at Cornish College of the Arts since the 1960s, but came into its own when a yo...

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January 24, 2017

Recent Grad Boehlke Brings It For Velocity Challenge

Another Cornish grad on a fast track, Renee Boehlke, fresh from receiving her BFA in Dance, wins a Velocity Bridge Project Creative Residency. Projects begin Thursday, January 26.

Well, that didn’t take long. Renee Boehlke ’16 graduated in May. With the ink barely dry on...

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January 9, 2017

Alumni in the News - January

Cornish alumni have been busy: producing art, furthering their academic careers, making the world a better place, and winning awards. Find out where a Cornish education has taken them.

Design grad Grace Reyer '16  who also studied film at Cornish, wrote Film+Media Chair ...

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December 13, 2016

Music Graduate Reports On Life After Cornish

Jason McCauley was a well-known figure in Cornish’s administrative offices. His beautiful playing of the classics and his own compositions on the six-foot Steinway grand in the vestibule was the soundtrack to our work for several years. A graduate of the Music Department, McCauley has taken his BM and gone an exciting and unexpected direction: graduate study for a master’s degree in liberal studies at venerable, rigorous St. John’s College of Annapolis and Santa Fe. He plans to continue on to a doctorate. McCauley’s study is a vibrant reminder that Cornish teaches not just the arts, but the liberal arts.

From Jason McCauley, Class of 2016: I started at St. John's College right after graduation, in t...

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September 16, 2016

Midday Music Offers Free Afternoon Entertainment

Each semester, the Music Department in Cornish College of the Arts hosts free concerts that benefit both Cornish students and the community.

The Music Department's popular Midday Concert Series offers a collection of hour-long afternoon conc...

Music Alumni Accomplishments

Cornish students are routinely accepted into many of the top graduate music programs in the nation including Northwestern University, New England Conservatory, Yale University, University of Michigan, University of Illinois, and Indiana University.

Some graduates pursue teaching careers; others pursue performance careers. Graduates have signed with major record labels, been nominated for Grammys, and toured regularly.