Music Theory Major | Baldwin Wallace University

BW's music theory major features small class sizes, faculty mentoring and opportunities for in-depth scholarly research.

Music Theory

Conservatory of Music

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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.

  • Keyboard lesson

    Small classes, personalized attention and faculty mentoring are a key part of BW’s music theory program. BW's faculty-student ratio is 7:1 for the Conservatory of Music.

  • photo of Steinway piano

    BW is among an elite list of conservatories worldwide boasting an All-Steinway School classification. This distinction elevates a student’s learning experience by having lessons and performance opportunities be on the same quality instruments that are the standard in concert halls.

  • Photo of Boesel Musical Arts Center

    Striking Boesel Musical Arts Center is a four-building complex that houses 50 soundproofed practice rooms, instructional space, practice studios and impressive rehearsal halls that can accommodate the latest technologies for teaching and performance. 

  • Photo showing a Mens Chorus performance

    BW’s undergraduate-only Conservatory provides students with valuable opportunities to perform, compose, conduct, teach and manage. Alumni can be found at top graduate schools and employed with renowned organizations.

  • Photo of Beth Hiser performing

    BW’s Conservatory of Music faculty are established professionals with real-world experience, impressive credentials and networking connections. They bring decades of experiences to the classroom, studio and clinical settings. Pictured here is Beth Hiser, chair of the music theory department, who has decades of performance experience. 


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


Baldwin Wallace has achieved the elite All-Steinway School designation for its Conservatory of Music. In 2015, BW joined a prestigious list of just 14 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.


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. 


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.


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. 

The music theory major prepares students to:

  • Given a piece of Western art music, be able to identify significant musical structures, relate the procedural narrative created by those structures, and attribute aesthetic meaning to the use of both process and structure in the composition
  • Demonstrate the ability to analyze, describe, and emulate discrete musical styles using appropriate analytical and compositional methodologies
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct and accurately document research on a specific topic in music theory
  • Demonstrate the ability to present the rules of research orally and in writing
Course Catalog

Course Descriptions

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


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:


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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

BW music composition graduates are finding their success. 


Rina SugawaraRina Sugawara '14 is pursuing a Master of Music in clarinet performance at the University of Michigan. At BW she had a holistic experience, studying and performing with Cleveland Orchestra members, studying with a Bach scholar and working with renowned composers, conductors and performers.

Keane SouthardKeane Southard '09 is composer intern at Bennington College and a freelance composer and pianist. After completing his Master of Music in composition at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he did research in Brazil as a Fulbright Scholar. BW prepared him to conduct research and develop his talent in composition.

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

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



Full-Time Faculty

Beth Hiser
Chair, Academic Studies Department
Associate Professor
Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Kent Cleland
Ph.D., University of Cincinnati–College-Conservatory of Music

Mary Dobrea-Grindahl
Chair, Keyboard Department
M.M., Ithaca College

Jessica Narum
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Michael Strasser
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Gene Willet
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Adjunct Faculty

Jennifer Conner
D.M.A., Cleveland Institute of Music

Christine Dorey
Ph.D., The University Kentucky

James Hirt
D.M.A., University of Cincinnati–College-Conservatory of Music

Megan Kuhar
M.M., The University of Akron

Andrew Machamer
D.M.A., University of Minnesota 

Marta Perez-Stable
M.M., Ithaca College

Gregory Upton
M.M., University of Cincinnati–College-Conservatory of Music

Sarah Weiss
M.A., Kent State University