Undergraduate Programs

NEC offers a rich undergraduate curriculum designed to suit the individual needs of emerging artists. Intensive musical study is paired with a broad education in the liberal arts and access to an array of electives across the conservatory. Combined with numerous cross-registration opportunities and the vibrant academic atmosphere of Boston, the educational opportunities here are endless!

Bachelor of Music Degree

Most undergraduates at NEC pursue the Bachelor of Music degree (BM), a four-year program of immersive training in performance or composition, thorough instruction in music theory and music history, and an education in the liberal arts.

The prerequisite for entry into the BM is a high school diploma or equivalent. The BM serves as the qualifying degree for entry into master's degree programs.

The BM is offered in the following majors:

  • Brass: Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba
  • Composition
  • Contemporary Musical Arts
  • Jazz Composition
  • Jazz Performance
  • Percussion
  • Piano
  • Strings: Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Harp, Guitar
  • Woodwinds: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone
  • Vocal Performance

Liberal Arts and General Education

The student experience in the Liberal Arts is an essential part of what it means to study at NEC. Our goal is not simply to train musical masters, but to give you the critical thinking, reading, writing, interpersonal, and collaborative skills you will need to have a successful career.

All BM students at NEC must fulfill a general education requirement (40 credits of the 120 required for graduation) to  broaden their intellectual perspective through coursework in the Liberal Arts, Entrepreneurial Musicianship, and Music History. This balance of academic coursework with musical training mirrors the curriculum one would find in any accredited Bachelor of Music program in the U.S.

The teachers in the Liberal Arts department are serious scholars and artists who love working with creative and culturally-aware musicians like you. Classes are kept small, so we get to know our students very well. We offer a broad range of courses in literature, history, politics, cultural studies, environmental studies, science, math, and foreign languages.

Academic support is provided by the professional writers in The Writing Center, a tutoring service where students can work on writing projects at any stage of the process.


Full-time NEC undergraduates have cross-registration opportunities at Tufts University and schools in the ProArts Consortium (Emerson College, MassArt, Berklee, Boston Architectural College). Cross-registration allows NEC students to explore academic areas not offered at NEC (lab sciences, advanced foreign languages, etc.); courses cannot be taken that duplicate NEC offerings. Any credits taken through cross-registration apply directly to the BM program at NEC. There is typically no additional fee for cross-registration. Please note that cross-registration at Tufts for NEC BM students is not the same as enrollment in the five-year Tufts/NEC dual degree program.

Entrepreneurial Musicianship

Entrepreneurial Musicianship (EM) at NEC fosters a proactive mindset of that will be your foundation in creating a life in music. The EM department provides individualized resources including advising, workshops, internships, fellowships, grants, and gig opportunities to help each student build a creative career. In addition, all undergraduates take a required course, The Entrepreneurial Musician, usually in the junior year, to develop a toolkit for professional success.


NEC students can pursue a Minor in the Liberal Arts where they work closely with a faculty advisor to concentrate in a focused area of study. The minor allows students to gain more depth in a particular academic area of interest, while also providing an additional credential that can be useful for further study and careers beyond NEC.

The Minor in Music Theory prepares students for further theoretical study, graduate placement exams, and teaching assistant positions at graduate schools. The minor consists of ten credits, including a Capstone Project, and is available in four tracks: Performance and Analysis, Studies in Contemporary Music, Music Theory and Applied Composition, or Research in Music Theory.


BM students may also pursue concentrations in Music Technology or Music-in-Education.

The Music Technology Concentration allows students to focus some of their coursework on innovative uses of technology. Areas may include, among others, performance with electronics and multimedia, scoring for new media, synthesis, real-time processing, spatialization, recording/mixing, technology-based analysis techniques, algorithmic music, etc. Students in the concentration combine six credits of coursework with a two credit capstone project.

The Music-in-Education Concentration is an entry point for students to develop their awareness as potential musician/educators. Students receive the concentration by completing a minimum of four MIE courses and two guided internships. Please note that NEC does not offer a degree in Music Education.

Double Majors

Conservatory study requires intense focus in a specific area, so NEC allows double majors on a limited basis. While applicants may apply to more than one major (submitting a separate application and fee for each major), students may initially enroll in only one major. BM candidates can apply at the end of their second year for a double major combining performance with Music History or Music Theory. BM candidates can also apply at the end of their first year for a double major in two performance areas or a performance area and composition. A double major requires approval of both department chairs, the academic advisor, and the Dean of the College. Students approved to pursue double majors must be in residence at NEC for five full-time years and will be charged additional tuition.

NEC-Educated Person

Overview: NEC’s Bachelor of Music curriculum is designed with the expectation that an NEC-educated person will be

  • a musician with artistic integrity,

  • an active life-long learner in both musical and academic disciplines, and
  • a responsible citizen.

Definition of an NEC-Educated Person: Bachelor’s Degree Level

A person graduating with a bachelor’s degree from NEC demonstrates significant achievement of professional competence in the chosen musical discipline—through the acquired body of knowledge and skills in performance, musicianship, history, theoretical analysis, composition, and repertoire—and displays an ability to interpret music with a sense of individual expression, enriched by both traditional and innovative approaches to musical training. An NEC-educated musician demonstrates knowledge of fundamental concepts of music theory, and a basic familiarity with historical developments in Western music, including a more thorough understanding of at least one specific period or idiom. He/she will be able to use technology and the tools of scholarly research effectively to further his/her musical education, work, and exploration.

The NEC-educated person has developed college-level skills in analytical reading, critical thinking, academic writing, and oral presentation and discussion; can work both independently and in collaboration with others; and has a basic proficiency with technology and information resources. An NEC-educated person broadens his/her intellectual perspective by choosing from elective offerings in history, politics, economics, literature, cultural studies, philosophy, mathematics, science, languages, music education, and the creative arts. In doing so, students explore and deepen their creativity, and examine and reflect on the social, political, and cultural issues that affect their lives as students, musicians, and participants in the global community. The NEC-educated person has developed the professional skills necessary to pursue a career in music or in other fields.

An NEC-educated person is an active life-long learner in both musical and academic disciplines, and a responsible citizen. As such, the NEC-educated person develops the skills to be a proponent for the role of music and musicians in society; is committed to outreach and community service through music; and supports the creation and growth of music and other arts organizations.

The NEC-educated person has an awareness of current events, both locally and globally; has an awareness of and respect for other cultures; is able to develop and express independent views; and is able to engage in respectful conversations or debate while honoring diverse perspectives.Understanding that learning is a process of discovery, NEC students graduating with a bachelor’s degree will be able to apply their acquired knowledge, understanding, and skills beyond their undergraduate education, enabling them to continue critical studies, explore ideas and contemporary issues, deepen their creative work, and commit themselves to vital roles in their communities.


Dual Degree Programs

Students who have dual passions in both music and another field can pursue five-year dual degree programs with Tufts and Harvard that give them access to the world's best resources for both pursuits.

Undergraduate Diploma

The Undergraduate Diploma consists of three years of full-time undergraduate study in performance or composition. It does not include the general education and liberal arts study required to earn a bachelor's degree. It therefore does not serve as a qualifying degree for entry into master's degree programs. This program is usually most appropriate for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree in another field but want to now pursue serious musical study. Please contact the Admissions Office for information about applying to the Undergraduate Diploma.