Areas of Study

After graduation, our students can be found performing in symphony orchestras and jazz clubs, teaching in classrooms, composing scores for films, enrolled in graduate programs, and singing on Grammy-winning hip-hop records.

music performance in light-filled cafe with student playing trumpet, other musicians and a student audience.

One Degree, Many Paths

As one of the only art colleges in the United States with a music department, Cornish has developed a distinct approach to the training of musicians. Where traditional music schools require students to choose a major or area of specialization, we work with our students to find pathways that lead to discovery.

We achieve this by centering our program on four areas: Foundations, Creativity, Integration, and Professionalism.

Foundations of Music

We take foundational training seriously at Cornish and believe that all musicians, no matter where they come from or what style of music they make, share common knowledge. Our Musical Materials and Practice courses equip all students with essential skills in music theory, ear training, piano, and applied music such as composition and improvisation. We also offer foundational courses in music history and musicology, helping our students gain critical and contextual knowledge of how music developed, where it is today, and where it may go tomorrow. As part of their training, students take individual private lessons with a faculty member in the areas of voice, instrumental, composition, or a combination of them all. These lessons become the bedrock of a student’s work at Cornish where they learn from a master artist who also acts as a mentor and role model. Rounding out our foundational training is the ability to study more deeply in areas of interest through upper level coursework in theory, composition, musicology, and performance practice.


We believe that students become better musicians by doing. All of our students are regularly performing or having their compositions realized, whether through Scores of Sound, our 3-day festival of student work that takes place each semester, or through cornerstone and capstone projects, when students perform recitals or take on other substantial projects in their 3rd and 4th years. Each semester we run a variety of ensembles from classical chamber to African drumming to straight ahead jazz, where students can try a new way of making music or go deeper into what they already know. Outside of Cornish, ample opportunities exist for students to perform and many can be found working in Seattle clubs, concert halls, and recording studios.


Integration of art forms has been a defining feature of Cornish College of the Arts from its founding. Today, Music students are frequently collaborating with those in Dance, Theater, Design, Film, and the Visual Arts. This may be through a class that pairs composers with choreographers to create new works, or a Music student performing in the pit orchestra for a Theater production. Integration may also come about through the entrepreneurial spirit of our students as they seek out a Design student to make a poster for their recital or a Film student to work on a video for their band’s new release. The interdisciplinary opportunities that await students at Cornish are not found at many other institutions and reflect the changing nature of the music industry, where musicians are called upon to be true collaborators across many disciplines.


We prepare our students for careers in music through a focus on professional development, where they learn to manifest their passions within a complex music industry. From writing bios to making websites to taking part in internships, Music students leave Cornish with an understanding of the many opportunities that await them. We also equip our students with knowledge of established and emerging technologies in the music industry, helping them become fluid in the ways musicians are working in the 21st century. Our 5.1 surround sound studio is a laboratory for students to experiment, whether laying down tracks for a new single or trying out modular synthesis for the first time. Whatever they choose to do upon graduation, Cornish Music students are equipped with the skills and vision they need to achieve their goals.

You can download detailed degree requirements + course descriptions here:

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