All students at Berklee College of Music study a principal instrument and will ultimately select a major in their second semester. We offer 12 diverse majors; many students choose performance, the largest major at the college.
As a pianist majoring in performance at Berklee, you will learn the skills, concepts, and methodology required to demonstrate professional-level proficiency on the piano. You’ll achieve this through private lessons, which include proficiency-based final exams, piano labs, and performance studies classes.
You will complete a performance portfolio, including a juried senior recital (supported by recital preparation lessons and classes) that meets current professional performance standards. Most students also engage in extracurricular and cocurricular concert performances, and each performance major participates in ensembles and public performances in the college’s recital halls and venues such as the Berklee Performance Center.
As a performance major, you’ll take specialized courses in ear training and harmonic applications designed to develop your improvisational skills; you’ll also participate in classes given by visiting master performers. Through these activities and interactions, you will develop an aesthetic and critical understanding of the meaning of quality performance, and you’ll be able both to define quality using technical and interpretive musical criteria and to apply those criteria to your own work and to that of others.
In addition to your piano courses, additional activities available through the ensemble program may include recording sessions and on- and off-campus concerts, festivals, and tours. All of these experiences will help you develop a sufficient theoretical, conceptual, and philosophical background in the area of piano performance such that you will be ready to work effectively with others and adapt to changes in the professional music environment.
What Will I Learn?
Upon completion of a major in performance, piano students will:
- synthesize and integrate knowledge of posture, hand position, and instrumental technique into daily practice routine;
- demonstrate technical proficiency on principal instrument, as evidenced by touch, phrasing, and fingering;
- play a wide variety of contemporary and traditional styles;
- read conventional and chord-symbol (lead sheet) notation;
- play alone and in ensembles of varying size, instrumentation, and stylistic orientation;
- apply knowledge of musical styles and harmonic practices in improvisation; and
- synthesize and integrate knowledge of contemporary and traditional musical styles into performance.
Curriculum and Courses
There are 30 credits required for this major. To view the full program of study, which includes core music, liberal arts, and general electives, see sample curriculum for the bachelor's degree.
- IRLE-375: Recital Workshop for Performance Majors
- PIPN-311: Private Instruction - Piano Level 5
- PIPN-312: Private Instruction - Piano Level 6
- PIPN-411: Private Instruction - Piano Level 7
- PIPN-412: Private Instruction - Piano Level 8
- PFSS-351: Survey of Piano Styles
- PSH-xxx: Health and Wellness for Musicians
- PSHR-321: Harmonic Considerations in Improvisation
- RPPN-211: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 3
- RPPN-212: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 4
- RPPN-311: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 5
- RPPN-312: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 6
- RPPN-411: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 7
- RPPN-412: Recital Preparation - Piano Level 8
- 10 credits of approved specified electives—see the sample curriculum for labs and major electives
Discover Your Voice
As a piano student, you'll be given the tools and knowledge to find your own voice through working with faculty at the forefront of the instrument. Beginning with emphasis on technical proficiency, you'll engage many musical styles, from classical to pop, jazz, rock, fusion, and almost anything in between, and pick up the skills you need to book gigs and become a sought-after player.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Learn about financial aid, scholarships, and others ways of paying for your Berklee education.