Music Theory and Composition
Music Theory and Composition
Craig Levesque, Department Head
The Conservatory offers private instruction in theory, ear training (musicianship), and composition. Private instruction in theory and ear training is available to any student, and may be structured to prepare the student for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (MDP), or the Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Prospective composition students are invited to take a short diagnostic test and interview to help determine the best course of study. There is a student composition recital in the spring where young composers are encouraged to share their work. Summer private lessons are available for those students wishing to continue their studies, or to begin the fall semester at a higher theory level.
The minimum age for study is 6 years. Materials fees not included.
Westminster Conservatory offers a wide range of classes and ensembles to meet the needs of every student, from the beginner to the most advanced student, regardless of age. Some classes are intended as an introduction to music, and require no previous experience. Others are designed to complement private instruction.
Music Theory Classes
See below for class descriptions
|Class Name||Number of Classes
|Introduction to Music Theory
|Theory Class Level 1
Age 10 and up
|Theory Class Level II
Age 11 and up
|Theory Class Level III
Age 12 and up
|Theory Class Level IV
Age 13 and up
|Music Theory AP Prep
|Ear Training AP Prep
Registration for classes is for the full academic year (most classes run 32 weeks per year). Class length is based upon minimum enrollment (3-person minimum for 45-minute class; 4-person minimum for 55-minute class). Some classes may be offered with a smaller enrollment by reducing the class length. In this case, the tuition remains the same.
- Introduction to Music Theory
Introduction to Music Theory is intended for students who have never studied music theory before and have limited experience with private instruction. Students will learn basic reading and writing skills, focusing on pitch, rhythm, and musical vocabulary. Fun and accessible, this class serves as a great introduction to the world of music theory and composition.
- Theory Class Level I
Age 10 and Up
In Theory 1, the focus of the class is on the fundamental building blocks of musical language. At the completion of Theory 1, students will be able to identify all pitches in treble and bass clefs; identify all diatonic scales; identify and construct simple ascending intervals; compose and perform simple rhythms in simple and compound time; analyze and construct tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords; and transpose melodies by an octave, and from treble to bass clef. Students will be prepared to take the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (MDP) exam. Materials and optional exam fees are not included. Placement test required.
- Theory Class Level II
Age 11 and Up
Theory 2 begins to integrate the basic elements of theory into more complicated harmonies, melodies, rhythms, and compositions. Students begin to focus on composition and analysis in a more comprehensive way, as they learn to understand the form and structure of music in a more sophisticated manner. At the completion of Theory 2, students will be able to identify and construct all major and minor scales; identify and construct all intervals, ascending and descending, and their inversions; compose and perform complicated melodies and rhythms in simple and compound time; identify scale degrees by function name; transpose melodies by any simple interval; identify and write full (perfect) and half (imperfect) cadences. Students will be prepared to take the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (MDP) exam. Materials and optional exam fees are not included. Placement test required.
- Theory Class Level III
Age 12 and Up
Theory 3 continues to explore the skills and concepts covered in previous levels, and introduces functional harmony and music analysis. There is an increased focus on composition, as students learn to write and harmonize simple melodies. At the completion of Theory 3, students will be able to transpose melodies into closely related keys; identify and construct all scales, including diatonic, pentatonic, octatonic, blues, and whole tone; build major, minor, augmented and diminished chords in any position; identify and compose all cadences; analyze and construct all chords within a key, using Roman numerals and figured bass; compose and harmonize melodies; analyze simple compositions in the classical style. Students will be prepared to take the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (MDP) exam. Materials and optional exam fees are not included. Placement test required.
- Theory Class Level IV
Age 13 and Up
Theory 4 begins to deal with form and harmony in earnest, and prepares students for the challenges of the Advanced Placement courses. The focus shifts further toward music from the classical repertoire as students analyze more complicated forms, and a greater emphasis is placed on Roman numerals and figured bass. At the completion of Theory 4, students will be able to voice-lead simple progressions in a major or minor key, using Roman numerals and figured bass; complete a two-voice composition in a traditional form based upon a supplied beginning; analyze the form and structure of simple pieces of music from the Classical repertoire; notate a four-voice vocal score in either chorale or open format; transpose a melody for any of the common orchestral instruments; construct and perform a melody in mixed, complex, or changing meter; construct all triads and seventh chords in isolation, or in a key. Students will be prepared to take the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (MDP) exam. Materials and optional exam fees are not included. Placement test required.
- Music Theory Advanced Placement Prep
The Conservatory offers a two-year course to prepare high school students for the Advanced Placement exam in music theory. Students may begin in year two upon completion of an equivalency exam. Class focus is on voice-leading, analysis, and advanced harmony. At the completion of AP Prep, students will be able to write functionally correct chord progressions in the Classical style; voice-lead complicated progressions involving modal borrowing, tonicizations, and simple modulations to closely related keys; identify and construct simple chromatic pre-dominants; complete significant compositions in standard forms from a supplied beginning; and analyze complicated works from the Classical and Romantic repertoire. In addition, there is an aural skills component. Two optional practice AP exams, which are graded by Conservatory faculty, will be offered in the second year. Please note that the Conservatory does not administer the AP exam; students must take it through their respective school district. Materials and optional exam fees are not included. Princeton location only.
- Ear Training Advanced Placement Prep
Ear Training is the companion class to Music Theory Advanced Placement Prep and is open to students taking either AP Prep 1 or 2. Designed to prepare students for the aural portion of the Advanced Placement exam, the curriculum focuses on sight singing, melodic dictation, harmonic dictation and aural interpretation of recorded scores. Princeton location only.
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