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M.M. Contemporary Music

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Graduate placement exams (GPE)

All new graduate students are required to take placement examinations in Theory/Aural Skills, and Music History/Literature. It is the purpose of these tests to determine if prospective candidates for the M.M. degree have adequate musicianship and scholastic preparation. All faculty members who advise graduate students should be informed of their entrance records and should be familiar with policies and procedures for removing any deficiencies revealed by the GPE. All new Music Department graduate students must take the GPE or sign a waiver stating that they will complete the courses related to each exam waived. The GPE covers theory, aural skills, and music history and literature. The examination will be administered once annually prior to the Fall term during new student week. If remedial coursework is assigned based on the results of the GPE, the student must enroll in these courses in the first semester they are offered during a students degree program.

Theory and Aural Skills

  • Aural Perception: Error detection; identification of discrepancies between written scores and the music being played, in rhythm/meter, melody and harmonic sonority.
  • Written Analysis: Analysis of a short composition from the 18th-20th centuries, with respect to thematic, structural, harmonic and other relevant parameters.
  • Sight-Singing: Singing at sight a melody characteristic of the 18th-19th centuries, containing chromaticism and modulation.
  • Keyboard Harmonization: Harmonization (providing an accompaniment at the piano) at sight of a melody typical of the 18th-19th centuries, with appropriate use of various types of altered chords.

History and Literature

The examination is divided into historical periods: Medieval-Renaissance-Baroque-Classic-Romantic-Contemporary. The exam tests the student’s knowledge of the major musical styles and forms, important compositions and treatises, composers and musical terminology.

Guidelines for GPE Results

Minimum acceptable scores are established by the theory/aural skills and music history/literature faculties respectively. Courses are provided for the removal of deficiencies, which are determined by these examinations. All new Music Department graduate students must take the GPE prior to the term they enter WOU. In lieu of taking the GPE, students may sign a waiver form that will obligate them to take the designated courses the first term they are offered (and the student is enrolled) after the student’s initial enrollment. Those students who fail the examination, or portions of the examination, must take the appropriate course(s) the first term the course(s) is(are) offered (and the student is enrolled) after failing the GPE.


If you haven’t found the information you need or are still not sure where to direct your question, contact Dr. Kevin Walczyk- Program Coordinator, Professor or 503-838-8274

"As a composition student, the music program at WOU provided me great hands-on training with accomplished faculty who are excellent teachers, as well as opportunities to work with world-class musicians in numerous clinics hosted by the department. I would highly recommend this program."

Christian Kaltwasser '15
MM in Contemporary Music

"My experiences at Western Oregon University were such a profound part of my educational growth and development. I am so grateful for the opportunities I had to gain real world experience and create a professional portfolio that I could use immediately after graduating. I currently serve as Executive Director of Salem Chamber Orchestra, and continue to do freelance music performance, private music lessons, and various recording and arranging projects."

Terra Hurdle '15
MM in Contemporary Music