Applied Music: Lessons and Juries

Private Lessons

The Music Department offers private instruction in voice and a wide variety of instruments for music majors and, in exceptional circumstances, for music minors or other uniquely qualified students based upon talent and department staffing.  In order to graduate in a timely manner, music majors are expected to enroll for applied instruction each quarter.

If a student fails to fulfill obligations of an ensemble or in private lessons, then State funding for future lessons will be withheld.

Registration for private lessons may be done through the Student Center on the Cal Poly Portal, but the call numbers are not available in the class schedule, and may be obtained from the department office.

NOTE: To qualify for free lessons, music majorsmust carry a minimum of 6 units of music, including an approved performance ensemble. Music majors must enroll in a minimum of 6 music units (lessons and an ensemble are required and are one unit each) in fall, winter, and spring quarters. Deviations from this requirement must be requested by the student through the Exceptional Consideration form, approved by the department chair, and communicated to the Music Department Office. Participation in an approved large ensemble is a requirement of the degree program. Eligibility for private lessons is contingent upon department ensemble participation and enrollment in the 6 required music units. Any alterations to lessons must be made before the quarter begins.

Eligibility & Limitations/Governing Policies

Credit will be granted for Applied Study under the following conditions:

  • Students should consult with the Music Department to arrange an audition for placement with a teacher and for level of study.
  • Students are assigned to an applied instructor. Changes may have to be made in the course of a year contingent upon faculty load or other circumstances. Because applied faculty are under contract for an entire quarter, a change of teachers or other alterations should not take place once the quarter begins.
  • Music majors must enroll for applied instruction with Cal Poly Music faculty. This is a graded course for which music majors receive credit as part of their required major curriculum. There is no fee for a 1/2 hour lesson per week or, in some cases, a 1 hour lesson every other week.
  • Eligibility for private lessons is contingent upon participation in an approved ensemble during that quarter and enrollment in 6 total music units.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to contact their applied music teacher at the beginning of each quarter to schedule lessons. Establishing a lesson time with the applied teacher must be a high priority.

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Expectations at Admission

Students entering the music major program at Cal Poly should be able to demonstrate ability as follows:

  • Instrumentalists and pianists should be prepared to perform at least two solo pieces in contrasting styles (total time: 10 minutes).
  • A vocalist should prepare two contrasting songs.
  • Percussionists should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental techniques of each family of percussion instruments.
  • Applicants, such as those interested in composition and electronic music, must still demonstrate performance ability in one of the above areas.
  • All applicants must complete the piano placement and the music theory and musicianship placement assessments – preferably at the time of their in-person audition.

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Additional Information:

  • Make-Up Lessons
    • A faculty member who cancels a lesson will endeavor to make it up. Students who cancel a lesson must notify the teacher as soon as possible and no later than 4:30 p.m. the day prior to the lesson. Make-ups for student cancellations are at the discretion of the instructor.
  • Absences from Private Lessons
    • More than one unexcused absence per quarter is a basis for lowering the grade, one letter grade per absence.
  • Missing Jury Examinations
    • A student who is signed up for a Jury Examination must appear for the exam unless excused in consultation with the jury. Notification must be made in writing before the day of the scheduled exam. Lack of preparation is not an acceptable excuse. An automatic grade of “F” will be given for juries cancelled for that reason. Failure to appear for a jury will result in a contract stipulating conditions for further study.
    • One of either the MU 150 or MU 250 jury levels can be all jazz (but not all 4 jury levels).
  • Graduation Requirement:
      • A music major must complete at least the jury at the conclusion of the MU 250 level in order to graduate.
        • Students who have not completed 9 units of Applied Music should consult their advisors regarding satisfaction of this requirement for graduation.
  • Policies & Procedures for Switching Performance Area (Applied Study):
    • If a music major wishes to switch performance areas to something other than what they auditioned in, they have the right to request this.
    • The student must be able to display entrance-level ability in the area s/he wishes to switch to. S/he will exhibit this ability by interviewing/auditioning with a music jury committee, similar to what happens for incoming admissions auditions.
        • The student must initiate this by submitting the Music Department’s "Petition for Exceptional Consideration" to the Music Department Office. The request should include reason(s) why the change is being requested, and any other pertinent details that may assist the faculty in reaching an informed decision.
        • The student must also arrange to meet with the applied teacher in the performance area they want to switch to, in order for that teacher to submit an assessment of the student's abilities on the proposed instrument/music area.
        • The faculty will review the request and establish a time for the student to audition. Every attempt will be made to facilitate this review process in order that the student may proceed with their degree requirements in a timely manner .
    • Requirements for students to change from performance to composition lessons and juries:
        1. Student has passed the MU 250 performance jury
        2. Student has passed MU 105: Theory II with a grade of C- or better
        3. Student has passed MU 108: Musicianship III with a grade of C- or better
        4. Student has passed one of the following with a grade of B or better:
          • MU 114: Introduction to Composing
          • MU 200 or MU 400: Special Problems for Undergraduates (Topic: Composition)
          • MU 259: Beginning Jazz Improvisation
          • MU 301: Counterpoint
          • MU 351: Jazz and Popular Music Arranging
          • MU 352: Orchestration
          • MU 411: Sound Design: Synthesis
          • MU 412: Sound Design: Composition and Production
        5. Student must submit a portfolio of two original, contrasting pieces of varying instrumentation (no arrangements), including at least one piece that has been composed within the last two years. One of the pieces may be an electronic composition. Recordings are encouraged but not required. The portfolio will be reviewed and approved/denied by composition faculty.
        6. Student may apply during the quarter they are scheduled to perform their 250 jury (before they have passed it).
        7. Student must have a faculty member who is willing/able to give them composition lessons if they meet the requirements.
        8. Juries will be held using the same timeline as performance juries. Students will turn in the compositions for the jury one week before their scheduled time. Juries will be scheduled in 20-minute time slots, during which students will present their compositions (using recordings and/or playing portions of their pieces on the piano or another instrument) and answer questions from the jury panel.


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