Sing Your Own Song

You don’t have to know the first thing about music or be a child-prodigy to take advantage of Hobart and William Smith’s Music Department. The department offers courses in history, theory and performance that are designed to help students develop a musical understanding. Whether it's a desire to broaden a cultural perspective or to pursue a professional career in music, students can create a plan of study that is uniquely their own.

Student Spotlight Making a Musician

Orson Sproule ’21, MAT’22

Orson Sproule ’21, MAT’22

"My time working with the Music Department helped me become the musician that I am today. The professors are extremely passionate about their areas of focus, providing students with the resources to succeed in the classroom and pursue their individual interests. The private lesson instructors are some of the best I have worked with and have helped me get to another level with my instruments. The many different school ensembles provide a space for any musician to grow and perform, with friends. I was also able to complete an honors project focused on hip hop my senior year with Associate Professor of Music Mark Olivieri, which was one of the most rewarding parts of my HWS career.”

Facilities One Home For All Music


Whether you’re singing in a choir or taking music lessons, you’ll get to take advantage of all the Music department has to offer in the 65,000 square foot Gearan Center for the Performing Arts. The center includes an 1,800 square foot recital venue for choral performances, an 1,850 square foot venue for orchestra and multiple practice spaces.


and Research

Music students looking to engage more in their work can study and complete Honors and research projects in their chosen topic with the guidance of a faculty member.

Past examples of Honors projects include:

  • Matthew Nardone ’21: Intersections of Nostalgic and Futurism in Western Popular Music
    Charity Lofthouse, Adviser
  • Ryan M. Klimkewicz ’20: An Inquiry of Quality In The Age Of Streaming:  Exploring Semantic Dimensions and the Erosion of Quality in the Age of Streaming
    Mark Olivieri, Adviser
  • Elena K. Parkins ’18: Pacifism in Song: An Exploration of Select Wartime Works by Benjamin Britten
    Robert Cowles, Adviser

Experiential Education Let the Music do the Talking

experiental learning

Music isn’t just a subject you learn about in the classroom – you perform it. In the Colleges’ Music Department, you’ll be encouraged to join an ensemble or learn a new instrument one-on-one with an instructor.

At Hobart and William Smith, learning goes beyond textbooks and classrooms. You’ll gain high-impact practical experience that deepens learning and opens doors.

Global Education

No Borders: Global Education

Study music’s role as a social reaction to British domination in Ireland or reggaeton’s cultural influence in Denmark.

Wherever you go, our top-ranked global education program will allow you to apply classroom knowledge, develop cultural understanding and build global connections that expand your personal capacity and sense of purpose.

Global Education

Belonging, Diversity and Equity

Studying music is inherently a cross-cultural examination of influences, experiences, cultures and methods. As an interdisciplinary program, courses in the Music Department connect to other departments like Asian studies, European studies, Africana studies, Latin American studies and media and society. Studying music can unpack biases, inequities and racism that persists in the world and can also serve as a specific way to gain a broader view of values and structures in cultures.

Study music and its impact on life, culture and society.

  • MUS/AMST 215 Power, Privilege and the Other in U.S. Popular Music

    Learn to identify ways in which music and performative gesture underscores, subverts and sometimes transcends dominant cultural scripts and narratives.

  • MUS 194 A Historical Genealogy of Hip Hop

    Learn about one of the most influential cultural phenomena of the late 20th Century, from its start in 1970s New York City to today.

  • MUS 205 Music at the Movies

    Explore film music’s role and relation to the plot and visual elements at small-scale and large-scale (narrative) levels from the silent-era to present day.

Alum Impact

Elena Parkins ’18
Academic Success Coach at Nazareth College

Elena was always trying new activities growing up. When the time came to go to college, she didn’t want to give that up. As a William Smith student, Elena was able to pursue her interests in music and psychology, study abroad and perform in four on-campus groups.


Graduates of the HWS Music department have gone on to pursue careers in fields like education, politics, business and the arts.

In addition to their professional careers, many of our students continue their education and earn graduate degrees from top-ranked graduate schools across the country.

Regardless of their subsequent career paths, our students have carried with them their memorable HWS musical experiences and used them to make music an integral part of their lives.

Companies that employ our graduates:

A.H. Harris
Achievement First Hartford Elementary School
All Seasons Tennis Club
Americorps/City Year
Amp the Cause
Bloomberg LP
Bozzuto Group
Clean Ocean Access
Conserva Partners
Evelyn Kirrane Aquatics Center
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Fidelity Investments
Food Network
Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts
Fulbright ETA
Fusion Academy
Gilsenan and Costa Ctr. for Occup. & Speech-Language Therapy
Hanover Research
International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
Justix GmbH
Keseca Veterinary Clinic
Le Cordon Bleu
Long Meadow Ranch
McLaughlin and Stern, LLP
Montgomery County Public Schools
Mount Hope Family Center
Mountview Middle School
MullenLowe Mediahub
New York Sun
Quest Diagnostics Inc.
Red Wagon Bakery
Saratoga Hospital
Serious Cycling
SRC Inc.
SRG Partnership
T3 Trading Group, LLC
The Adirondack Experience
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thomas and Solomon LLP
Women Cross DMZ
Workbridge Associates
Yates County ARC