CalArts School of Music rehearsal of Les Espaces Acoustiques featuring the CalArts New Century Players and the CalArts Orchestra conducted by Mark Menzies
CalArts School of Music rehearsal of Les Espaces Acoustiques featuring the CalArts New Century Players and the CalArts Orchestra conducted by Mark Menzies

The BFA program of study is uniquely designed to promote the evolution of “Music Artists” who seek to be distinctive and expressive makers of original work, as well as masters of appropriate existing musical forms from around the globe. 

The program seeks to enable students to develop powerful, effective and singular, musical voices. The program assists students in gaining the tools, technical skills, and creative ideas they need to contextualize and refine their work on the highest levels of artistic realization. Unlike many traditional conservatory approaches, this is done in an atmosphere of curriculum flexibility and adaptation, to help nurture emerging artists to become powerfully distinctive professionals.


When BFA students enter the program, they are regarded as holistic “Music Artists.” As each student gains experience with the spectrum of curriculum offerings available, always in regular consultation with a mentor, they naturally develop particular concentrations of study that best suit their artistic and professional goals. Students have the option of declaring their intention to concentrate their work in a particular curriculum Specialization immediately upon arrival, or they may allow their Specialization to emerge. All BFA students will identify and declare a Specialization by the time of their Mid-Residence Review, which takes place prior to the third year (BFA-3) of study. To be prepared for this, students must have taken any necessary prerequisite courses and have approval from the faculty. In special cases, it may be possible to declare more than one or a combination of Specializations. When students complete the requirements of their Specialization(s), appropriate notations are placed on their official transcripts.

Six major curriculum Areas comprise the course offerings:

  • Theories and Skills of Music Languages in Practice
  • Making Original Work
  • Performing Skills and Realizing Performances
  • Perspectives of Music Cultures, Histories & Literature
  • Career Skills, Professional Agency and Pedagogy
  • Investigating/Mastering New Materials, Methods and Technologies

Initially, BFA students are required to take specific Core Curriculum courses in Theories and Skills of Music Languages in Practice and Perspectives of Music Cultures, Histories and Literature. In addition, to completing their individualized Core Curriculum, each student must accumulate a minimum number of credits in the remaining Areas. Students may proceed at their own pace through the Core Curriculum, bearing in mind that many Core Curriculum courses will serve as prerequisites to qualify them for more advanced Specialization courses in which they may be interested. As students complete these prerequisites, again in close collaboration with a mentor, they may branch out to take courses that customize the skillsets they will master. The BFA Program in Music requires four years of residency. Over time, students build portfolios of work that are regularly reviewed. Eventually, they graduate with individualized portfolios displaying a broad range of expertise and high-level accomplishments.


The Undergraduate Experience

CalArts is committed to providing a broad program of general education designed to enable students to consider aesthetic questions within larger socio-cultural, ethical and political contexts.

Learn more about the General Education curriculum


Interdisciplinary Opportunities

In addition to CalArts' rich and diverse community and naturally collaborative atmosphere, the Institute provides several programs of study that can be pursued concurrently with a student's chosen metier.

Music Theory Minor

The Minor is intended for undergraduate students who wish to receive advanced training and accreditation in Music Theory as a supplement to their major.

Music Theory Minor

Digital Arts Minor

The Minor is designed to help undergraduate students grasp the knowledge to build, engineer and design innovative custom systems.

Digital Arts Minor

Interschool Degree

This option is available to a small number of graduates and advanced third- and fourth-year undergraduates whose skills and artistic interests warrant pursuing a degree in more than one School.

Interschool Degree