Music Theory

Beth Hiser, Chair of Theory of Music Department
(440) 826-2368,

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The analytical, comprehensive study of music theory offers rewarding opportunities to explore and understand the structures and relationships within musical compositions.

Baldwin Wallace offers a rigorous, theoretical and practical study in music theory. It provides outstanding preparation for graduate school.

Through your studies, you'll gain technical, professional and artistic skills. You'll receive individual attention and faculty mentoring. The faculty-student ratio is 7:1.

In your senior year, you'll complete in-depth scholarly research and accompanying work reflective of graduate-level studies. You'll also participate in a practicum offering professional leadership opportunities. These impressive experiences have helped BW students gain admittance to top graduate programs.

BW Conservatory faculty are established professionals with real-world experience, impressive credentials and networking connections.

They're published authors, musicians, composers and researchers. Their interests include Renaissance music, world music, film music, post-tonal theory, pedagogy of music theory and harmonic function, to name a few.

You'll also benefit from BW's proximity to Cleveland – home of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Playhouse Square and more.

Career Opportunities

Many music theory students pursue graduate degrees. You'll receive excellent preparation through BW's liberal arts-focused curriculum and Conservatory of Music coursework and practical experiences. Career possibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Composer
  • Arranger
  • Professor

All-Steinway School

BW is closing in on achieving the elite All-Steinway School designation for its Conservatory of Music. Once accomplished, BW will join a prestigious list of 11 conservatories worldwide that boast this renowned classification. The addition of 88 Steinway pianos will further elevate your learning experience by having lessons and performance opportunities on the same quality instruments that are the standard in concert halls worldwide.

Vibrant Facility that Engages Students

Striking Boesel Musical Arts Center is a picturesque four-building complex that houses BW's Conservatory of Music. It's a seamless blend of historic architecture and modern design. The facility houses 50 soundproofed practice rooms, instructional space, practice studios and impressive rehearsal halls that can accommodate the latest technologies for teaching and performance. 

Exceptional Learning Experiences

Innovation, excellence, and outstanding hands-on learning and performance opportunities make Baldwin Wallace's Conservatory of Music a proven choice for students nationwide. The undergraduate-only Conservatory provides an exceptional learning environment for students to take lead roles in performing, conducting, managing and teaching. Alumni can be found at top graduate schools and working with the best orchestras, operas and theatres. Other alumni are employed in rewarding positions in teaching, arts management and music therapy.

Conservatory Students are Talented, Intelligent

BW Conservatory of Music students are achievers. Over the past three years, the average ACT score for incoming students was 26. The average SAT score was 590 for verbal and 570 for mathematics.


Rigorous coursework coupled with intensive and extensive practical experiences provide comprehensive learning.

Through your studies, you'll learn to employ analytical methods and modes of inquiry similar to those used in other disciplines – language, literary criticism, mathematics and psychology.

Music theory offers an outstanding foundation for graduate school. It can be studied as a single major or companion field of study for a double major or minor. It also can be added as a music emphasis to any Conservatory major.

Course descriptions, requirements for the major and additional information can be found in the University Catalog.

Special Degree Emphasis

Students can apply to participate in one of the Conservatory's emphasis programs. Music emphasis programs may be added to any Conservatory major to provide more intensive, focused and experiential study of a particular area of music. Emphasis areas include chamber music, composition, conducting, jazz, music history, music theory, pedagogy (studio teaching) and sacred music.

Master Classes

Master classes are an integral part of the education of every Conservatory student. Each year, BW brings to campus guest artists to interact with students. These include professional composers and performers.


Student success is a top priority. Small class sizes, individual attention and faculty mentoring are at the core of BW's Conservatory of Music programs.

Experiential learning bridges classroom study with real-world opportunities. Numerous solo and departmental opportunities to perform put you at the forefront of career preparation. With more than 325 events a year, Baldwin Wallace's Conservatory of Music offers an impressive array of performance opportunities

Among small ensembles, BW has a Brass Choir, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band and Flute Ensemble, to name just a few.

On a larger scale, competitive auditions are held for positions in BW's Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Motet Choir and University Choir. Other impressive large ensembles include the Symphonic Band, BW Singers and Women's Choir.

Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music has outstanding campus performance traditions and collaborations with regional and national organizations. A few examples include:

Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival

The three-day campus event is the oldest collegiate Bach Festival in the country. It features lectures, BW performance groups, faculty members and renowned professional soloists and musicians. Baldwin Wallace students consider the unusual opportunity of participating, as colleagues, with world-class professionals a high point in their performing experience. The festival is evolving to include year-round events, such as Bach Haus, that explore Bach's influence on a broad spectrum of music.

FOCUS Festival of Contemporary Music

The biennial festival features the music of a contemporary composer who visits Baldwin Wallace for a week-long residency. At the conclusion of the week's rehearsals and symposia, the composer's music is performed in a series of concerts, including large ensembles and chamber groups.

Art Song Festival

BW Conservatory of Music is home to this week-long biennial event that brings international concert artists, singers and pianists to campus. The festival focuses on the unique relationship between singer and pianist in the performance of art song repertoire. It provides an opportunity to hear renowned artists in both recital and master classes.

Learning Resources

At Baldwin Wallace, student learning experiences are enhanced by exceptional resources that include:

Riemenschneider Bach Institute

The Institute houses rare items related to J.S. Bach and his circle, as well as historical reference materials, scores and a collection of classic recordings. It has one of nation's most impressive holdings of Baroque manuscripts and first editions. It attracts scholars from around the world.

Ferne Patterson Jones Memorial Music Library

A valuable campus resource, the library offers 18,000 scores, 7,000 books, and more than 10,000 sound and video recordings. Online resources to which the library subscribes include over one million tracks of streaming audio and video. Help with research is available by appointment, on a walk-in basis or through email.

At Baldwin Wallace, you'll experience personal and professional growth in a supportive community that challenges and inspires you to succeed.

Conservatory students who have pursued master's and doctoral degrees have been accepted to some of the best schools:

  • The University of Rochester – Eastman School of Music
  • The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
  • Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University
  • Yale University School of Music
  • Brandeis University
  • The University of Michigan School of Music
  • Westminster Choir College
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder College of Music

BW Music Theory Majors Find Success:

Rina Sugawara '14 is pursuing an MM in clarinet performance at the University of Michigan. She had a holistic experience at BW, studying and performing with members of The Cleveland Orchestra, studying with a Bach scholar and working with renowned composers, conductors and performers.

Keane Southard '09 is a composer intern at Bennington College and a freelance composer and pianist. After completing his MM in composition at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he studied Brazil's El Sistema-inspired education programs as a Fulbright Scholar. BW prepared him to conduct research and develop his composing.

Samantha Inman '07 is lecturer of music theory at the University of North Texas. The training she received across various musical disciplines served as the foundation of her music career. While teaching, she recalls crucial lessons learned at BW and emulates aspects of pedagogical practices used by her professors in the Conservatory.

Rob Kovacs '04 is a self-employed musician and piano teacher at Aurora School of Music. His education in music theory helped him gain the confidence to work as an accompanist, musical theater pit musician, music director, dueling pianist, rock band leader, songwriter, film scorer, composer for e-cards and a lounge pianist.


Kent Cleland
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Ph.D., College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati
M.L.S., Duke University; M.M., Indiana University
B.M., Ohio University School of Music

Jennifer Conner
Lecturer in Music Theory
D.M.A, M.M., Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music
B.A., Music, Dance and Fine Arts Interdisciplinary from the University of California Irvine

Mary Dobrea-Grindahl
Assistant Professor of Piano, Piano Pedagogy, Instructor of Solfege and Dalcroze Eurhythmics
B.M., Ithaca College
M.M., Diplome Jaques-Dalcroze, Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Geneva, Switzerland

Christine Dorey
Lecturer in Musicology

James Hirt
Lecturer in Music Theory
D.M.A., M.M., College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati
B.M., Capital University

Beth Hiser
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Chair of the Music Theory Department
Ph.D., M.M., The University of Texas at Austin
B.M., The University of Florida

Marta Perez-Stable
Lecturer in Piano and Music Theory
M.M., Ithaca College
B.M., Baldwin Wallace University

Michael Strasser
Professor of Musicology
Ph.D. in Musicology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
M.A. in Musicology, Louisiana State University
B.A. in Music Education, University of West Florida

Gregory Upton
Lecturer in Music History, Appreciation
M.M., College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati
B.M.E., Bradley University

Gene Willet
Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin
M.M., Baylor University
B.S., The College of Idaho