Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduate Programs in Music

Northern Illinois University is strongly committed to artistry and scholarship in all areas of music. Admission to any undergraduate program in music is determined by specific criteria, which must be met by all applicants.

Admission is a two-part process. Prospective students must apply for admission to the university through the Office of Admissions and are subsequently admitted to an undergraduate program by the School of Music after performing an audition and meeting other entrance requirements. Undergraduates who are admitted to NIU cannot declare a major in music without School of Music approval.

Initial requests for information about undergraduate degrees in music and/or application materials may be made by contacting the School of Music Coordinator of Admissions. Further information about the baccalaureate experience and university undergraduate programs can be found in the School of Music Student Handbook and in the Undergraduate Catalog. Application forms, current costs, and other important information can be found on the web page of the Office of Admissions.

Advanced Placement (AP) credit for music courses taken in high school is not automatically accepted by the School of Music.  In the area of music theory, students who have high AP scores may take the transfer student evaluation examination for possible advanced placement in core courses through proficiency credit.

Bachelor of Music (B.M.)

The School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music degree with emphases in music education, performance, and composition.

  • Emphasis 1: Music Education
    Students admitted to this program select an area of study in either instrumental or vocal music and concurrently seek Illinois public school teacher certification, leading to careers as school music teachers.
  • Emphasis 2: Performance
    Students who intend to pursue professional careers as performing musicians select an area of study in keyboard music, vocal music, instrumental music, or jazz studies.
  • Emphasis 3: Composition
    This program is for students who hope for professional careers in composition, or who intend to pursue graduate study in composition/theory after completion of the bachelor's degree.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

The B.A. is designed for students who wish to study music in the context of a comprehensive liberal arts experience.

Bachelor of General Studies (B.G.S.)

The B.G.S. degree is offered by the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and allows students to construct individualized programs of study that are different from the university's regular major and minor programs. Typical B.G.S. programs in music might include computer music and new media studies, recording techniques, and other music-related topics. For information about the B.G.S., contact the Associate Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. While some courses for a B.G.S. program may be in the School of Music, application and admission is made through the college, not the School of Music.

Minor in Music

A minor in music is not currently offered at NIU.


The School of Music has a limited amount of tuition dollar awards (for undergraduates) and endowed cash scholarships (for both undergraduate and graduate students). To apply for a scholarship, you must submit the following to Lynn Retherford in the Music Office (MB 140):  a letter on your behalf including name, Z-ID, current contact info, current large ensemble assignments (including non-for-credit ensemble participation).  In addition, you need to include your current GPA and reasons for requesting the music scholarship (e.g. leadership in studio and ensemble, economic hardship, participation in multiple large ensembles, etc.).

Also required are two letters of recommendation from NIU School of Music faculty; one from your applied teacher and the other from one of your large ensemble directors.  You may also submit additional recommendation letters of support from other faculty members, if you wish.

MOST STUDENTS WHO RECEIVE SCHOLARSHIPS MUST REAPPLY EACH YEAR TO RENEW THE AWARD.  For specific information about renewal requirements, please see the Undergraduate Scholarship Coordinator.

The application deadlines for continuing students to request a new or renewed scholarship are:
• prior to Thanksgiving for the following spring term
• and March 15 for the next fall term

Music Course Fees

Some courses in the School of Music include additional fees that range from $2 to $100 per course enrollment. Total additional music course fees in a semester typically total $75 to $200 per semester and support the following:

  • Maintenance and repair of instruments and equipment provided for student use
  • Course materials such as audio/video recording media, reeds, music provided to students for use in the course
  • Purchase of specialized equipment for use by students in the course
  • Purchase of audio/video recordings used in the course
  • Guest lecturer honoraria
  • Travel/mileage expenses for students/supervisors for course activities
  • Piano accompaniment of vocal applied study