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College of Liberal Arts

Studying music allows you to explore and understand its impact in today's culturally diverse world.

San Luis Obispo, California

As a music major, you are encouraged to think creatively as you study a broad curriculum, which includes applied study, composition, conducting, ethnomusicology, jazz, music education, music history, musicianship, performance, piano skills, sound design and theory.

Music Curriculum


By studying composition, you’ll expand your skill set through a variety of hands-on electives, including orchestration, sound design, jazz theory, counterpoint, conducting and more. You’ll also get to hear your compositions as our performing ensembles hold regular reading and recording sessions of our student's compositions.  
Explore the Composition Focus Area


Through jazz, you’ll get the opportunity to refine your improv and arranging chops, as well as perform and compose your own charts. You’ll also collaborate with visiting guest artists, participate in clinics and spend time in the recording studio.

Explore the Jazz Focus Area  

Music Education

With music education, you will learn skills to help you teach high school, middle school or elementary school music programs. By taking state approved electives, you will be able to enter directly into a teaching credential program, bypassing some additional testing and requirements.

Explore the Music Education Focus Area 


Studying ethnomusicology allows you the opportunity to examine musical cultures from around the world. You will learn about instrumentation, aesthetic principles, musical style and performance practices. This curriculum also explores commodification, identity, ritual, gender and political empowerment. 

Explore the Ethnomusicology focus area

Music History 

As a performer, understand the journey of music-making through time gives you invaluable context and all you’ll need to play each piece authentically, in the correct style. In addition, you’ll receive training in research and writing normally found at the graduate level. 
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Music Performance

Focusing on performance means you will deepen your artistry and further develop your technique, tone and rhythmic accuracy with the mentorship of a professional musician. There are many performing ensembles to audition for as well as masterclasses, recitals and even a solo competition.   
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Music Technology

In the classroom and music studio, you’ll learn everything from acoustics and microphones to setting up a Digital Audio Workstation and configuring a MIDI studio setup. At the completion of this curriculum, you’ll use these new skills to present a collaborative, technology-based performance.   
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About the Program

CLA Choir performing

The music program offers a rigorous grounding in fundamentals, as well as the opportunity for musical and intellectual exploration.

The program combines the ancient and the modern and pairs traditional music disciplines with technology and popular and world music. You will be able to pursue your own musical path and develop the discipline, skills and knowledge needed to play a role in the musical world, whether it be in performance, composition, technology, education and more. Cal Poly is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.

Learn by Doing

With more than a dozen student performances a year in the beautiful Performing Arts Center, there are many opportunities for learning in a professional environment on campus and around California. Beyond performance, you can learn how to present and teach music, compose your own film scores, produce albums and more.

The Mustang Marching Band performing in San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade.

Perform for a Crowd

The Mustang Marching Band is more than 200 strong and performs at all home games.

Our Graduates

The skills, discipline and creativity you learn can be applied to many career paths. Graduates are prepared to begin specialized study at the graduate level or to enter a wide variety of professional careers, including teaching, performing, composing and producing.