Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduate Programs

At the UCI Department of Music, we work hard to provide our students with the inspiration and resources necessary for engaging with music on a deep level. This page contains links with information about your degree program, our musical ensembles, and student resources. This page should be the first port of call for any questions regarding your experience as a student at UCI.


Why Study Music at UCI

Both our undergraduate degrees (BA and BMus) provide a secure foundation in the academic and applied study of music. Students will receive rigorous training in music across a range of genres, styles, and historical and geographical frameworks. Areas of faculty specialization at the Department of Music include Persian music, Jazz, Karnatic music and South Indian dance; African-American music, the historic silk road, European art music, popular music, hip-hop, electronic music, and music technology. Undergraduate and graduate students are exposed to all of this music. They have the opportunity to embrace the creative an­­­­­­d intellectual opportunities that the department has to offer from singing in choral ensembles, participating in the opera, playing in the symphony orchestra or one of our other large ensembles (wind ensemble, or jazz orchestra), engaging in the rich chamber music culture, and pursuing the study of the history, theory, and critical theory of music. After graduating, many music majors go on to earn masters and doctoral degrees in performance, musicology, composition, or music theory, while others immediately pursue careers as professional musicians and teachers. At the same time, other music majors use their music degrees as a more general educational qualification, continuing on to graduate study and careers in diverse fields.

Given the wide range of transferable skills developed in the undergraduate music major curriculum, music graduates are highly desired by law schools, medical schools, and business schools among many others. Employers and graduate schools understand that being a successful music major requires perseverance, discipline and self-direction, analytical skills, as well as the capacity for excellent collaboration and teamwork. Music majors at UCI also learn to write and think critically and creatively. The improvement in speaking and writing skills that comes with this effort is of great benefit to music graduates regardless of their academic interests or career pursuits. With a degree in Music from UCI, students will find that many career paths lie before them.


Which degree pathway: BA or BMus?

All undergraduate students at the UCI Department of Music pursue a common core curriculum in their first two years. Following this, they choose to pursue one of two pathways, the BA or the BMus. Students interested in a concentration on the research skills associated with thinking critically about music in a number of cultural contexts should pursue the BA. Students who wish to pursue excellence in the performance of jazz or European art music should pursue the BMus. The BA offers two years of private lessons. The BMus offers four years of private lessons. Our undergraduate Honors Program in Music & Culture offers select students the opportunity to excel even further in our undergraduate programs.


Musicianship & Music Theory as Core Skills

  • Musicianship and Music Theory are core competencies in our undergraduate programs. All students must pass these courses in order to succeed in obtaining their BA or BMus degree.
  • Placement exams for Musicianship and Music Theory are required for all new undergraduate students, including incoming freshman and transfer students, and current UCI students newly admitted to the program. 
  • Placement exams take place during Welcome Week, just prior to the start of fall classes.
  • Placement exams DO NOT take place during auditions. They only apply to admitted undergraduate students.


UC EAP (foreign exchange students):

  • Applicants may be considered, but are not afforded the same privileges as Music majors. They do not receive private lessons, and do not have access to practice rooms.


View the UCI Handbook for Music Majors (2022–23) which contains a wealth of useful information and advice.


Key Contacts


Chair of the Department of Music

Professor Michael Dessen, mdessen@uci.edu


Undergraduate Director

Professor Lorna Griffitt, lgriffit@uci.edu


Department Manager   

Peter Chang, pechang@uci.edu


Department Analyst 

Esther Chae, eschae@uci.edu


Ensemble Directors

Chamber Singers – Irene Messoloras, imessolo@uci.edu

Concert Choir – Irene Messoloras, imessolo@uci.edu

Jazz Ensembles – Michael Dessen, mdessen@uci.edu

Symphony Orchestra – Geoffrey Pope, popeg@uci.edu 

Wind Ensemble – Kevin McKeown, mckeownk@uci.edu


School Supports and Resources


Student Clubs

CTSA Student Affairs

CTSA Inclusive Excellence

CTSA Peer Academic Advising Program


University Supports

UCI Centre for Excellence in Writing and Communication

Campuswide Honors Collegium