Academic Programs




Lewis & Clark strongly believes that there is no better place for young composers than in a liberal arts setting. Composers are individuals with hungry minds, who live for the collection and synthesis of knowledge, and for insight into the humanity of the audience and art they serve. Studies in the classics, the social sciences, the physical sciences, mathematics, the contemporary humanities, and the allied arts contribute to individuals of real distinction: not mere musicians, but great and deep human beings.

Your First Year

Your first year is a time of adjustment to college social life, to new and higher expectations for intellectual achievement, and to the rigors of a major that requires a base level of facility in the areas of Music Theory, Aural Skills, Performance, and Music History before Composition Lessons are taken. Thus, we may not recommend that you begin the composing sequence until your sophomore year, even if you have satisfied the necessary prerequisites. Students with significant experience and ability in composing intent on the composition major will be given the opportunity to enroll in Composition Lessons.

Study Abroad

Study overseas usually takes place in the spring of the junior year. Composers are strongly advised to travel on the London program, since this will best serve to enrich their musical education while overseas. The London Program will generally necessitate missing a course from the core sequence in composing, so special arrangements must be made to acquire necessary skills, whether through correspondence or on-site in London.

Independent Study

Composers are strongly encouraged to pursue their own musical interests in fields not necessarily covered by the electives or core sequence. They may avail themselves of the music faculty and their individual strengths for independent study, keeping in mind that professors’ schedules may not allow them to take on independent study in a given semester. All such study is at the discretion of the faculty member in question.

The Senior Project

The senior project is a full-length recital of original music produced, directed, advertised, and rehearsed by the composer. The recital takes place in the spring of the senior year, and contains no less than 35-40 minutes of music, over half of which must involve acoustic instruments. The core sequence requires approximately 12 minutes of music per semester, so all senior composers will have written at least the minimum required by the time of the recital. Every composer prepares their recital under the supervision of a director and two faculty advisors.

The Composer’s Voice

Lewis & Clark does not subscribe to any school, style, or process of composing. Works created by student composers reflect a wide diversity of aesthetics and approaches. We believe firmly that the discipline of careful compositional thought benefits all composers, regardless of their eventual voice and affinities. Composers must be a part of their own culture, and learn to respond to and shape the musical life of those around them. In order to do this, they must also have rigorous training.


A small number of scholarships may be available for qualified composers. Please include a representative portfolio of your scores and recordings with your application. Contact the Department of Music for audition dates.

Performance Opportunities

Performance Opportunities for student composers abound at Lewis & Clark College.  In addition to regular Composition Program Recitals, students have the opportunity for their works to be performed on department colloquia.  Students may also schedule sophomore, junior, and non-degree recitals. Our faculty ensemble directors are very receptive to considering the possibility of reading and performing works by student composers. The Lewis & Clark College Symphony Orchestra schedules reading sessions of works by all students enrolled in Orchestration.

New Music in the Portland area

Portland is well known for being a city that values culture and the arts.  There is a vibrant “New Music scene,” which includes many fine ensembles and organizations.

For a list of musical ensembles in the Portland area, see



Michael Johanson
Associate Professor of Music
Composition core sequence, Theory I, 20th Century Theory
Artistic Director, Friends of Rain faculty new music ensemble

Jeff Leonard
Instructor of Electroacoustic music
Electronic Music elective sequence


The Theory and Composition Curriculum

All composers are expected to take Music Theory 4: Contemporary (MUS 300), Orchestration (MUS 341), and Counterpoint (MUS 342). Composers are also strongly encouraged to enroll in at least one course in Electronic Music.

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Ethnomusicology / World Music

Does culture make music, or does music create culture?  How do musical structures relate to social structures?  How does music relate to politics and political activism?  What can the study of music tell us about gender, religion, class, and personal identity?  Gain the tools you need to explore these questions and more in ethnomusicology courses at Lewis and Clark.


Ethnomusicology Course Offerings (Taught by Kaley Mason):

MUS 106: Introduction to World Music

MUS 236: Music of Asia

MUS 237: Music of Latin America

MUS 142: Music and Social Justice

MUS 307: Advanced Seminar in Music (Alternates between ethnomusicological and musicological topics)


World Music Performance

One of the best ways to understand a musical culture is to learn to play, sing, or dance.  Lewis & Clark houses an African marimba ensemble, a gorgeous antique Indonesian gamelan, and offers instruction in other traditional music from around the globe, from North Indian vocals, sitar and tabla to Zimbabwean mbira and Flamenco guitar. Every semester the students will have the opportunity to perform on campus as soloists or in the ensembles of their choice, thus sharing their experiences with the rest of the campus community.  In odd-numbered summers, the music department-affiliated overseas program in Accra, Ghana provides students with the opportunity to study culture, music, and dance with Ghanaian masters. 


Course offerings

MUP 121: Gamelan Ensemble (Mindy Johnston)

MUP 125: African Mbira Class (Nathan Beck)

MUP 138: Beginning African Marimba Ensemble (Eric Miller)

MUP 150: Beginning Ghanaian Music and Dance (Alex Addy)

MUP 250: Intermediate Ghanaian Music and Dance (Alex Addy)

MUP 152: Hindustani Voice Class (Michael Stirling)

MUP 153: Hindustani Voice Private Lessons (Michael Stirling)

MUP 154: Beginning Indian Instrumental Music Class (Joshua Feinberg)

MUP 155: Sitar Private Lessons (Joshua Feinberg)

MUP 157: Tabla Private Lessons (Ravi Albright)

MUP 158: Charango Private Lessons (Freddy Vilches)

MUP 159: Cuatro Private Lessons (Freddy Vilches)

MUP 161: Fiddle Private Lessons (Luke Price)

MUP 166: Folk Guitar Private Lessons (Julia Banzi)

MUP 169: Flamenco Guitar Private Lessons (Julia Banzi)

MUP 197: Ghanaian Percussion Private Lessons (Alex Addy

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Jazz Studies

All students at Lewis & Clark are welcome to participate in the jazz program, regardless of major. There are multiple jazz combos, consisting of four to ten musicians, which perform in a wide variety of jazz styles and also play original arrangements and compositions. Students work collaboratively to develop material and receive instruction in improvisation; all interested students are encouraged to audition for them, whether they have previous jazz experience or not.

Our jazz faculty is comprised of outstanding Portland-area professional musicians, all of whom are active performers in Portland as well as for regional and national audiences. Private jazz instruction is available for all students on guitar, piano, drums, acoustic and electric bass, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. 

In addition to combos and lessons, performances  and workshops by local and touring musicians occur several times each year. Recent concerts on campus have included artists such as Brad Mehldau, John Scofield, Danilo Perez, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Julian Lage, Randy Weston, Ron Miles, Oregon, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Cyrille Aimée, and John Hollenbeck.

Jazz Combos

The Lewis and Clark Jazz Combos are dedicated to the concept of “the individual within the collective.” These small groups offer and require each member to be an integral and important part of the ensemble: responsible for soloing, suggesting repertoire, writing arrangements, and even composing if the student wishes. Even with these demanding expectations, students of all levels are welcome to participate as we strive to be inclusive of all interested and dedicated students.

Led by Dan Balmer (, these groups perform at least two concerts a year in Evans Auditorium, but are encouraged to seek other opportunities to perform on campus and within the vibrant Portland, Oregon music scene. Members of the top combos are often employed by the college for special events.

The L&C Jazz Combos study jazz of all styles from bebop to swing, funk to Latin, free to fusion, and always try to accommodate the students’ interests while offering comprehensive instruction in all these areas.

L&C Jazz Combo participants also have the option, and are encouraged, to study with the adjunct jazz faculty, considered by many to be the finest in the Portland area.

Previous L&C graduates have continued their music careers in Portland and throughout the country. Included in our graduates are numerous recording artists; members of the faculty of Yale University, Central Washington University, University of Washington, and Lewis and Clark; and still others working in many levels of the music industry, from audio engineer to record executive.

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Musicology / Music History

Musicology is essentially about telling stories, true stories about composers, their music, and cultural environment in which they flourished.  A musicologist conducts research to uncover truths about music, the most ambiguously beautiful of all the arts.  Topics might include Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved, Schumann’s progression towards insanity, Ruth Crawford Seeger’s String Quartet, Philip Glass’s film scores, and Kendrick Lamar’s hip hop.  Musicology is unique in the context of a liberal environment because it is one of the few disciplines in which one learns not only to research the life of a composer, but as a music major, one also learns to play the music and compose your own.  Indeed, all musicologists play an instrument and find great satisfaction working through a musical problem on the piano or another instrument.  

Unique to Lewis & Clark College is an interdisciplinary approach to musicology.  Students are encouraged to understand music through the lens of its sister disciplines, such as art history, literary criticism, and philosophy.  For instance, students may study the representation of musical instruments in the work of Michelangelo or musical metaphors in Zora Neale Hurston’s prose.  At Lewis & Clark College, students interested in focusing in musicology take the required courses for music majors: theory, aural skills, piano proficiency, and performance lessons and ensembles. They are encouraged to take electives in advanced musicology topics in order to prepare for a senior musicology thesis. 

Musicology students are also encouraged to participate in the London Overseas program, offered by the college every other spring.

Students typically complete their senior thesis during the spring term of their senior year.  The thesis is a research project whose subject is chosen by the student in consultation with their advisor.  Examples of past projects include the life and music of Alma Mahler, the work of Doreen Carwithen, Jimi Hendrix’s late style, Shostakovich’s Testimony, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  Student theses run between 30 and 50 pages and contain complete bibliographies and footnotes.  Students meet with their advisor once a week to monitor the progress of their work and submit drafts for review.  Once the complete is draft is done, it is sent to two other members of the music faculty for their comments and suggestions, which the student incorporates into the final draft.  The student will present their findings to an audience of their peers and faculty at a colloquium set up in the music department.  The colloquium is generally 30 minutes in length.  Students may also wish to do a lecture/recital.  Students interested in writing a thesis in musicology must complete MUS 490. This will ensure the student ample time to complete their project.


All music majors begin with an overview of the History of Western Music: 

MUS 162: History of Western Music I

MUS 163: History of Western Music II

They continue with at least four credits of upper-level musicology coursework. Students interested in a senior musicology thesis are encouraged to take as many upper-level musicology courses as possible, from among our offerings: 

MUS 307: Advanced Seminar in Music (may be repeated with change of topic; past topics include Music as Art, Women in Music, and Music and Philosophy)

MUS 361: Music and Language

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Lewis & Clark has students who wish to focus intensively on performance within the liberal arts setting, many of whom continue to graduate study in performance. These students dedicate time toward their musical practice, studying with our excellent performance faculty and collaborating in large and small ensembles.

Music majors who decide to focus on performance will work toward a senior recital on their major instrument.  Repertoire requirements for the senior recital vary by instrument and field and are supervised by the student’s major instrumental teacher, with additional feedback provided by a senior recital committee. 

In preparing for the senior recital, each music major is expected to perform a sophomore or junior recital on campus (one may be performed per year if desired). The purpose of the earlier recital is to allow each student the opportunity of learning the process associated with envisioning and preparing a major performance, as well as to experience the endurance and concentration necessary to perform at an excellent level before the senior recital. Each student must also pass a Degree Recital Review, which must be scheduled with their senior project committee no later than three weeks before their recital date.

Numerous other solo performance opportunities are available for performance practice. On campus, students may present informal lunchtime recitals in Seitz Lounge, may participate in masterclasses with visiting artists, and perform in studio classes with their major teacher. Off-campus opportunities include playing at a number of hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities in the local area, as well as in the vibrant Portland musical scene.

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