Studying music theory is like learning a second language. Just as any spoken/written language has its correct pronunciation, vocabulary, nuances, grammar, and idiomatic, dialectical, and colloquial structures, music has its symbols, rudiments, repertoire of sounds, relationships both vertical and horizontal, and styles particular to any given historical period, culture and composer. To speak the language of music (perform, conduct, etc.) and to teach about it or create original works in it, one must understand its structure and elements, and internalize these in the musical ear as well as the eye and the body. Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts majors take two full years of written theory and musicianship classes to prepare them for professional careers and/or graduate school. Bachelor of Science majors are required to take one full year of theoretical studies.
Modest utilitarian piano and vocal skills are essential for every musician regardless of the field of specialization. The Huntington University Music Department requires four semesters of Class Piano for all Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts majors. These students must pass a basic piano proficiency exam at the end of their sophomore year. Keyboard Musicianship skills include hymn playing and improvisation, scales, sight-reading, reading chord charts, and simple harmonization. All music majors are also given the opportunity to study guitar in Beginning and Intermediate classes which help prepare them to lead group singing in a church or classroom setting.
Musicology, or the study of the history of western art music, exposure to the diversity of world ethnic music, and investigation of the many ways in which music affects and is affected by history, culture, politics, sociology, anthropology, literature, theatre, and visual art, is an essential component of any music curriculum. All music majors take two semesters of a concentrated music history survey that includes lecture, discussion, films, and recordings. Additional courses can be elected in various literature and periods of music. Also, all students begin their music studies with a one-semester Introduction to Music that gives the student a preparatory overview of historical periods, styles, and literature.