COVID-19 Information for the Bienen School Community

For continued updates regarding Northwestern University's response to COVID-19, visit the link below:
Northwestern COVID-19 and Campus Updates

NOTE: This page will be updated as more information becomes available. Last updated 9/17/2020

Health and Safety Top

Below are important health and safety precautions and items specific to the Bienen School of Music.

  • Face masks are required to enter all Bienen School buildings and must be worn in all public and shared environments on campus in accordance with Northwestern’s policy on face coverings
  • The Bienen School is actively discussing policies regarding the use of face masks while playing certain instruments. We will continue to work with appropriate members of faculty to design protocols specific to each instrument and setting. 
  • Northwestern will provide a welcome kit (bag with hand sanitizer and two re-usable masks) to students, faculty, and staff. There are sanitizing stations at building entrances, hand sanitizer dispensers at various locations, and appropriate supplies in specific spaces. Students are encouraged to bring additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for their personal use.
  • Students are expected to regularly disinfect surfaces in spaces where there is in-person teaching, such as classroom chairs, music stands, etc. Specific office cleaning protocols will be provided to student assistants. 
  • Visual signage is posted throughout buildings, providing a wide range of helpful information and guidance. This is standardized university signage to ensure consistency across campus. Signage promotes social distancing, encourages traffic patterns, shares Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and provides reminders regarding personal hygiene, PPE, and more specific information for high-traffic areas, including restrooms, common areas, and elevators.
  • Northwestern Facilities Management continues to perform preventive maintenance (PM) on the University’s ventilation systems, including cleaning air handling units, completing PM cycles on ventilation equipment, and changing filters on a consistent basis. Facilities Management has also fully disinfected both campuses using an EPA and CDC approved disinfectant and increased cleaning protocols, including regularly disinfecting high touch surfaces.

For more information on the university response to ensure a safe return for our community, please visit the following sites:

Academics Top

Fall 2020 Information

On August 28, the University announced that first- and second-year undergraduate students will not be allowed on campus and will begin the academic year on a remote-only basis. (See all the Latest Developments from the University.) However, academic exceptions have been made for Bienen School sophomore instrumental majors, who will have access to in-person lessons and/or in-person ensembles and chamber music. The Provost’s Office has been in touch with those students regarding the exception.


  • Most academic music classes – music theory and cognition, musicology, music composition, and music education – will be remote. 
  • Select music education and performance classes are planned as a hybrid model of remote and face-to-face instruction.
  • Basic class offerings, including the teaching mode of each class, have been published on the Class Descriptions page, with the full class schedule forthcoming. The final schedule will be posted to CAESAR, prior to registration, during the week of August 10. 


  • Lessons will be primarily conducted online, although our current plans have been designed to allow most students a small number of in-person lessons throughout the academic quarter. The number of in-person lessons will be determined by faculty based on the availability of appropriate instructional spaces, and these will vary by program and instrument-specific needs.
  • Under current capacity and space restrictions, most faculty studios and offices cannot serve as instructional spaces. Therefore, we are developing a schedule for the use of classrooms and other larger spaces to accommodate in-person lessons.

Large Ensembles and Opera

  • The Bienen School and its faculty have fundamentally reimagined how to offer students an ensemble experience. There will be no traditional large ensembles in the fall. However, wind and orchestra conductors will work with students in smaller configurations of instruments (quintets, octets, etc.). We are planning to offer a hybrid model of remote and face-to-face activities for these smaller ensembles.
  • The following ensembles will be offered for instrumentalists during the academic quarter. The size of these ensembles will be reduced based on social distancing requirements and other health and safety guidelines relative to specific instruments. Ensembles will likely feature a rotation of multiple small groups:
         Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra
         Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra
         Symphonic Wind Ensemble
         Symphonic Band
         Contemporary Music Ensemble
         Jazz Orchestra
         Baroque Music Ensemble
         Brass Ensemble
         Guitar Ensemble
         Percussion Ensemble
         Saxophone Ensemble
         Trombone Ensemble
  • In addition, the school will offer a Remote Ensemble option for student instrumentalists who will not be on campus, or who need to satisfy their major ensemble requirement without participating in a face-to-face ensemble.
  • All choirs and classes that include singing will be offered online only following CDC research citing safety concerns of group choral practice.
  • Opera classes will be offered primarily online. Plans are under development for a remote project in lieu of a traditional opera production.

Chamber Music

  • Most chamber music instruction (strings and winds) will be offered via hybrid model with remote and face-to-face opportunities for students.
  • We are developing a schedule for the use of performance venues, classrooms, and large rehearsal spaces for chamber music activities, which will vary by group composition, faculty, and the availability of appropriate spaces.
  • Jazz Small Ensembles will meet face-to-face on a rotation basis each week.

Student Advising

All student advising for fall quarter will be conducted remotely. New students will have multiple advising meetings during Wildcat Welcome prior to registration and will receive a more detailed schedule closer to the start of Wildcat Welcome.

Technology Recommendations

Students are encouraged to obtain the following items in advance of the fall quarter to aid in remote coursework. For additional technology resources, visit the Keep Learning website.

  1. A good, independent microphone that can be positioned to capture the instrument, ideally on a tripod.
  2. An independent webcam, also positionable, so that faculty can assess student technique.
  3. A computer with a minimum i5 processor (4 years old or less), at least 8 GB of RAM, and a SSD hard drive with 30 GB available.
  4. A wired ethernet connection to an internet source or a wireless router that is less than 20 feet away.
  5. An internet connection with a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload. If students are sharing their internet with others in the household during class time, this may need to be at least doubled.
  6. A good pair of headphones, so that the outgoing audio is isolated from the incoming audio.

Important Fall 2020 Dates

Week of August 24

Registration week for returning graduate and undergraduate students

September 6-15

Wildcat Welcome: advising and registration sessions for new students

September 6-20

Wildcat Wellness: modified quarantine period

September 16

Fall classes begin

November 24

Face-to-face on-campus fall classes end

December 2-8

Final exams held remotely


For questions regarding undergraduate programs, contact Linda or Jeff

For questions regarding graduate programs, contact Patrick Zylka or Christina Wouters at

Building Access Top

Access to Bienen School facilities and practice rooms are only available to current Bienen School students who have permission to be on campus (upperclassmen, graduate students, and sophomore instrumental majors). A registered Wildcard is required to enter all Bienen School spaces.

Students have been assigned to specific practice rooms and have received direct communication from Bienen School Music Facilities with their room assignments. On-campus students who have not yet been assigned a room may contact Music Facilities to request one.

It is the Bienen School’s policy that all individual practice is expected to take place in the practice room.

Practice Room Hours

Until Sept 20, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
From Sept 21, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Practice Room Expectations

  • Only ONE OCCUPANT is permitted in a room at a time.

  • WASH YOUR HANDS using soap and water before and after using the practice room.

  • Upon entering, DISINFECT COMMON SURFACES (chair, stand, piano, door knob) with the disinfectant wipes provided in each room (Diversey Oxivir), which are the only ones approved for use on the piano.

  • Do NOT DISINFECT common surfaces when you EXIT.

  • Practice rooms must remain EMPTY FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES AFTER EACH AND EVERY USE so the ventilation system can safely recirculate the air.

  • Only use the room to which you have been ASSIGNED.

  • Students must coordinate EQUITABLE SHARED USE of their assigned room among themselves.

  • Clear and FREQUENT COMMUNICATION is critical for students to properly observe the safety measure of 30 minutes between uses.

  • Complete guidelines for practice room usage are posted in each room.




  • Returning instrumental performance majors who have an instrument locker will be able to access the locker rooms between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. through September 20, and during extended hours (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) beginning on September 21. 
  • New instrumental performance majors should respond to the email from Music Faculty Support to receive keys to their assigned locker. 
  • All other majors (including voice/piano) may submit individual requests for personal lockers after September 21. Students will receive additional information about procuring personal lockers in the coming weeks.

See more about Locker Check-Out Policies

Concerts and Events Top

To safeguard the health of all students, faculty, and community members, no public concerts will be presented by the Bienen School in the fall quarter

Only student recitals required for degree completion will be accommodated in the fall. Students will adhere to strict limitations on the number of people allowed on stage and in the audience.

Students should contact the Concert Management Office to schedule degree recitals. The Student Recital Scheduling webpage will provide more information as it becomes available.



Fall 2021 Admission Questions Top

The coronavirus outbreak has clearly affected how students and families navigate the college admission process. We have compiled FAQs regarding the fall 2021 admission process:

Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions
MM & DMA Frequently Asked Questions
PhD Frequently Asked Questions

Visiting the School Top

The Bienen School of Music is offering virtual undergraduate information sessions via Zoom. All sessions will cover the application process, audition information, financial aid, degree options, and more. The session will include time for questions. You will receive a link to the meeting upon registration.
Register for a virtual information session

The Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Admission and Bienen School of Music have canceled all upcoming information sessions, campus tours, and large group visits. For the most up-to-date information on visiting campus, visit the Undergraduate Admissions website

Trial Lessons

Prospective students are welcome to contact faculty to inquire about trial lessons. If you would like to take a private lesson or arrange a virtual meeting with any of the Bienen School faculty, please reach out to them directly by visiting the Faculty Profiles section of our website. Currently, Bienen faculty are only able to conduct trial lessons through Zoom, FaceTime, or some other online forum. The Office of Music Admission does not schedule lessons on behalf of Bienen School faculty


For information about the Bienen School of Music, visiting campus, or admission, please contact

Teaching Resources Top

Northwestern recommends using Canvas to manage teaching-related materials, announcements, and discussions. Zoom, which is integrated into Canvas, is the preferred method for video interactions (e.g. live classes, meetings, one-on-one teaching, etc.), sharing presentations, and recording lectures, which can be stored online and made available for download from Canvas.

Below are a few resources that faculty may find useful:


Remote Teaching and Learning Guidance (Northwestern Digital Learning)
Resources for Teaching, Learning, and Working Remotely (Northwestern IT)
Keep Teaching (Northwestern Digital Learning)
Example Canvas classes (Canvas)
Getting started with Canvas (Canvas)
Zoom Learning Center (Canvas)
Northwestern Zoom Backgrounds (Northwestern Brand Tools)
Teaching & Learning Technologies: Workshops (Eventbrite)
Troubleshooting Home Internet (Northwestern IT)

Guidelines for Recording Individual Student Lessons

Instructors can determine whether or not they would like to record class sessions or portions of class sessions. Generally, students are prohibited from recording class sessions and are also prohibited from the distribution of class recordings. (See Guidelines for Recording Synchronous Remote Class Content.) However, Bienen School instructors and students may record lessons, as such recordings are legitimate teaching tools. Use of these recordings is restricted for educational use only; copyright still applies.