Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Bienen School of Music is committed to remaining a safe place for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or background.

Bienen School faculty, staff and administrators are committed to advancing change to help combat racism in the field of classical music. The goals of our DEI initiatives are to expand the repertoire studied and performed at the Bienen School and present music by diverse composers to the campus and greater Chicagoland communities. Through these ongoing projects, we aim to not only address our mission of training the next generation of musicians but also serve and educate our public audiences.

Black Composer Showcase series

The Black Composer Showcase series features performances by Bienen voice and instrumental students as well as scholarly background information on the works and composers provided by Bienen musicologists and conducting faculty.

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Musicology Core Curriculum

The Bienen School of Music launched a new undergraduate core musicology curriculum in fall 2019. One goal of the revised curriculum is to provide students a more inclusive and diverse representation of classical music. Faculty will continually update these courses, which have been well-received by students.

The Classical Canon

Is "classical music" truly universal? Are there identifiable, qualitative musical differences between music in the canon and other works which have not entered the repertoire? This course seeks to interrogate the processes that made famous "classical" works famous and examine to what extent social factors such as nationalism, racism, and gender influenced the formation of the canon.

Performers and Performance

This core course focuses on what it means to be—or meant to be—a musician at different times of history and cultures. Case studies include the history of conductors, the history of Western classical music performance in East Asia and Asian musicians abroad, jazz pianists and singers, issues of gender and race in opera, Black musicians and crossing boundaries, and the history of bands, among others.

Music in the Present

This course explores contemporary music through its circulation, reception, and mediation. Examples are drawn from Western art, popular, and global musical genres, though students will explore how all these musics share, at least in part, similar modes of distribution.

Recent Guest Artists

Recent Guest Artists

Davóne Tines: Recital, Lecture, and Presentation

Recent Guest Artists

Russell Thomas: Tichio-Finnie Vocal Master Class

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Recent Guest Artists

Sara Davis Buechner: Skyline Piano Artist Series

Recent Guest Artists

Saxophonists Kenneth Tse and Arno Bornkamp with pianist Casey Dierlam Tse

Recent Guest Artists

Nathalie Joachim: Contemporary Music Ensemble

Recent Guest Artists

Kangmin Justin Kim: Tichio-Finnie Vocal Master Class

Recent Guest Artists

Calidore String Quartet with double bassist Xavier Foley: Winter Chamber Music Festival

Recent Guest Artists

Awadagin Pratt: Skyline Piano Artist Series

Recent Guest Artists

Berta Rojas: Segovia Classical Guitar Series

Recent Guest Artists

Kofi Agawu: Music Studies Distinguished Speaker Series

Recent Guest Artists

2018 Nemmers Prize winner Jennifer Higdon and E. Patrick Johnson: LGBTQ+ in the Arts Panel Discussion

Recent Guest Artists

Sherman Irby joins the Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra

Recent Guest Artists

Gloria Ladson-Billings: Music Studies Distinguished Speaker Series

Recent Guest Artists

Brazil Guitar Duo: Segovia Classical Guitar Series

Recent Guest Artists

Lawrence Brownlee: Tichio-Finnie Vocal Master Class Series

Recent Guest Artists

Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson: Bienen Choirs Premiere "Eclipse"

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Select Music Courses

American Art Song

This graduate seminar will survey and conduct new research into American art song traditions, including African American song, with special focus on poetic language and issues of performance. It will query intersections between classical art song and popular cultures and religious practices, and attempt to define elements that differentiate American song from other traditions in English. A core repertoire of songs by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, William Grant Still, Charles Ives, Amy Beach, Samuel Barber, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Ned Rorem will be balanced by attention to lesser known material.

Julius Eastman, Composer Topics

This course introduces students to the life and work of composer-performer-improvisor Julius Eastman (1940-1990). Eastman's musical practices encompassed a range of styles and genres—classical music, experimentalism, disco, punk, and jazz—and was grounded in the Black radical tradition. The course explores not only Eastman's radical Black aesthetics but explores its intersection with his militant homosexual sensibility. The course will explore his collaborations and confrontations with a range of artists.

Music Theory and Aural Skills

The sophomore Music Theory and Aural Skills curricula continue to diversify with a new segment featuring analysis of form in popular music. Some of the composers and artists studied in the sequence include Laurie Anderson, Agustín Barrios, Beyoncé, Lili Boulanger, Teresa Carreño, Ana Carrique, Ray Charles, Chen Yi, John Coltrane, Louise Farrenc, H.E.R., Augusta Holmès, Janelle Monáe, The Penguins, Florence Price, Silvestre Revueltas, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Clara Schumann, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Sia, Amii Stewart, and Thomas Wiggins.

Musical Legacies of Black Feminism, Topics in 20th Century Music

This course investigates musical performance, composition, and improvisation as Black Feminist praxis in the US from the early 20th century to the present. Through close listening to musical documents by significant Black women artists and close reading to related texts by foundational Black Feminist thinkers, students will gain an understanding of the role of sound and performance in the work of social critique and the Black Radical Tradition.

Methods of Music Theory seminar

This required course for PhD students has a dedicated session to race and gender, which includes important writings by Philip Ewell, Associate Professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. 

Opera and Race

The course is designed to provide an overview of a range of issues involving the dramatic and musical representation of race on the operatic stage. Topics include works by European composers depicting non-European characters (Aida, Otello, Madama Butterfly, Turandot), the influence of colonialism as evidenced in Délibes' Lakmé, stereotypes of musical style, the vexed problems surrounding performance practice (such as casting and the tradition of applying makeup to singers in order to darken their appearance), American operas involving racial themes by both Black and white composers, and the complex inter-relations between race and sexuality in many operas both within and outside the standard repertoire.

Women Rock

This course considers the roles of women in rock music from the inception of the genre through today, framed by changing social expectations for women and increasing acceptance of diversity among performers, audiences, and consumers. It grounds the genre in pathbreaking performances by women of color whose popularity in the 1950s and '60s is too often overlooked, and also considers non-binary and transgender performers and performance.

150 Years of Women at Northwestern

The Bienen School of Music participated in Northwestern's 150 Years of Women celebration, which honored women/womxn who have made a significant impact at the University, in their communities, or in the world.

Featured Bienen School women included former faculty member Sadie Knowland Coe; faculty/alumni Maud Hickey ’95 PhD, Mallory Thompson ’79, ’80 MMus, and Gail Williams ’76 MMus; and alumni Margaret Bonds ’33, ’34 MMus, Grace Bumbry ’58, Mary Beth Peil ’62, Michelle Rakers ’91 MMus, and Augusta Reed Thomas ’87. 

Learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at Northwestern

Visit Northwestern's diversity website