Music for Social Impact

Rehanna Kheshgi, Christiansen Hall of Music 236

Louis Epstein, Christiansen Hall of Music 238

St. Olaf is already distinctive among top music programs because musicians at the College can study and perform at a high level without pursuing a major in music performance. This major exists to support the many musicians at St. Olaf whose strengths lie in traditions that may not rely on notational literacy or that may not involve European classical instruments. And whereas other music majors focus primarily on developing proficiency in music performance for the sake of becoming a better performer, this major anchors the study of music in a performance-oriented commitment to community engaged learning, asking the question, "how can we develop and deploy our musical gifts to address the needs of underserved communities?"

Drawing on St. Olaf's longstanding tradition of service learning and academic civic engagement, students in this major will learn to think critically about music's ability to foster connection, strengthen community, and effect reparative justice. Balancing studies in music performance, music theory, musicology, and civic engagement, students will develop habits of critical inquiry as well as deep appreciation for a variety of musical approaches to community building and repair. Students will also develop skills as performers, composers, listeners, and writers, and will apply those skills in the service of a purpose inclusive of - but ultimately broader than - self-improvement.

This major embraces students with backgrounds in diverse musical traditions. The major's offerings introduce students to European music theory as a springboard for developing a more thorough theoretical appreciation of a number of musical traditions. Level one offerings in both music theory and musicology support students in developing critical thinking skills about how musicians use music to create meaning and communicate with audiences. Level two offerings explore the global contexts for local musics and encourage students to apply their developing skills through community engagement. Level three offerings, including a capstone course through which students will collaborate with community partners on projects defined by those partners. 

Students may not double major with Music for Social Impact (B.A.) and any other music major (B.A. or B.M.) 

Admission to the Music for Social Impact Major

Students generally apply for entrance into the music major in the spring of their first year of studies at St. Olaf. A complete application for the major includes a brief statement of purpose and evidence of musicianship, which may take the form of a video, an audio recording, a score, or live performance. Current St. Olaf students should contact the Music Department office by March 1 of their first year for more information. 

Keyboard/Guitar Proficiency

All Music for Social Impact majors must demonstrate keyboard or guitar proficiency at a level specified for the major/instrument, and it is recommended that students complete proficiency by the end of the sophomore year. Students may demonstrate proficiency through successful completion of piano or guitar classes, or by examination. More information

Music Ensembles

All full-time students are eligible to audition for membership in any of these musical ensembles. Participation in these ensembles fulfills ensemble graduation requirements for music majors.

Vocal Ensembles

St. Olaf ChoirChapel ChoirSt. Olaf CantoreiChamber SingersManitou SingersViking Chorus

Instrumental Ensembles

St. Olaf BandNorseman BandSt. Olaf OrchestraSt. Olaf PhilharmoniaCollegium MusicumJazz EnsemblesHandbell Choirs

Additional opportunities for ensemble performance include Collegiate Chorale, Horn Club, Percussion Ensemble, Trombone Choir, Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, and Lars Skjervheim Spelemannslag (Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle group). Participation in these ensembles does not fulfill graduation requirements for music majors.

The Music Department does not offer departmental distinction.  Students may be eligible for membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, the music honor society.