Music Courses: Music Theory

Music theory classes at Interlochen offer instruction in musicianship skills essential for the serious music student. The class objectives are to provide complete and thorough training in all basic musicianship skills; to offer advanced, college-level theory for the highly motivated student; and to stimulate and encourage exploration of the creative process through composition of concert art music ("classical"). 

Music Theory Requirements (for all music majors)

Music Theory & Musicianship classes are run concurrently for Academy music students. 

Music Theory

Music majors attending the Academy for one year must successfully complete two of the following one-semester classes: Theory A, B, C, and D (see below for class descriptions). Students are placed in one of the four classes based on the results of a music theory diagnostic exam given during orientation.

Music majors attending the Academy for multiple years must successfully complete Theory C and D. Depending on their results on the music theory diagnostic exam (administered during orientation), students may be required to complete Theory A and/or B before moving on to Theory C and D.

The music theory diagnostic exam is a tool used to assess the current knowledge of basic written musicianship. For materials covered in this test, please see the course descriptions below. An ear training diagnostic is incorporated with the exam. Further auditory, sight-singing, rhythm reading, and other musicianship skills are assessed once the semester begins. 


Musicianship is divided into three levels. Students are assessed during the first two weeks and placed into Musicianship 1, 2, or 3 based on background, experience, and facility. Musicianship builds aural and oral skills using sight-singing with solfege, rhythmic reading, melodic and harmonic ditation, and basic keyboarding. 

Text/materials needed:

  • Melodia by Samuel Cole & Leo Lewis
  • Basic in Rhythm by Garwood Whaley

Musicianship classes are year-long and run concurrently with the semester theory classes. Academy students must successfully complete the appropriate Musicianship course while enrolled in a Music Theory course. Any music theory-related questions can be emailed to Dr. Thomas Childs

Course Descriptions

Music Theory A & B

This course is designed for the music major with little or no formal music theory training.  The student will be introduced to basic written theory. Topics include foundational materials such as intervals, scales, key signatures, rhythmic notation, triads and seventh chords. 

Text/materials needed:

  • 3-ring binder
  • 8.5 x 11 manuscript paper
  • Texts: None, materials provided by instructor

Music Theory C & D

These courses are designed for the music major with music theory training that is equivalent to the Interlochen Arts Academy Theory A and B courses. The student will substantially increase his or her knowledge of written theory and analysis. The course covers material that is on a par with more than a year of the typical college-level music theory curriculum. Topics include (but are not limited to) diatonic analysis, part-writing, beginning chromatic analysis, modulations, and form. Additionally, students craft creative projects (utlizing concepts from analysis) and learn practical application of theory to performance. 

Text/materials needed:

  • 3-ring binder
  • 8.5 x 11 manuscript paper
  • Texts: None, materials provided by instructor

Advanced Theory (Elective) 

A form and analysis class, this semester-long course utilizes the full spectrum of common practice period harmony and analysis. This course includes an intensive study of Classical and Romantic musical form capped with either a formal analysis or composition project. 

Text/materials needed:

  • 3-ring binder
  • 8.5 x 11 manuscript paper


Dr. Thomas Childs

Chair of Music Foundations and Instructor of Music Theory, Interlochen Arts Academy

Thomas Bara

Instructor of Organ and Assistant Director of Music, Interlochen Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Camp

John Bragle

Choral Conductor, Interlochen Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Camp; Conductor, World Youth Honors Choir, Interlochen Arts Camp

Dr. Bryan Conger

Instructor of Clarinet, Interlochen Arts Academy; Instructor of Clarinet, Interlochen Arts Camp

Dane Philipsen

Instructor of Oboe, Interlochen Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Camp; Woodwind Coordinator, Interlochen Arts Camp; Adult Band Camp Double-Reeds Faculty, Adult Chamber Music Camp Oboe Faculty, Interlochen College of Creative Arts

Guest Oboist and English Horn Player, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Laurence Smith

Instructor of Music Theory and Accompanist, Interlochen Arts Academy