Music

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Program Overview

Fairfield University’s music program offers the intimacy of a tight-knit arts community embedded within a broad liberal arts education. Our majors and minors develop their creative skills by exploring the many dimensions of music, while also building their critical, analytical, and aesthetic thinking skills. This approach results in the cultivation of our student’s love and life-long commitment to music.

At Fairfield, the study of music is not just about preserving knowledge of the past. It is a field of study that provides forums for debate and action, and delivers content that gives context to learning. It provides insight into culture and history and illuminates what is happening here and now. We not only want students to understand, evaluate, and analyze music, but we also want them to make music a meaningful part of their lives. Our goal is for students to find the passion in music and to actively engage with the issues and the contexts surrounding, impacting, and influencing it.

Our faculty provides critiques in classes, lectures, and immersive workshops, and our students have the option of supplementing their classroom learning with private lessons and performing group experiences. Throughout the program, majors and minors collaborate with peers across disciplines and through internship opportunities. This training allows students to become cultured leaders on the forefront of music, music education, and other related fields.

Have a listen to "Truth," an original piece by Professor Brian Torff performed by Fairfield University Jazz Ensemble.

The Sounds of Fairfield

Requirements & Curriculum

Required Courses

At least two (2) courses from American Music, European Music, and Experiential Music
At least one (1) 3000-level course
At least one (1) Pre-20th Century music course
Remaining credits can be fulfilled with a combination of an Internship, Independent Study, additional course(s) from any of the above three (3) areas, or performance ensembles
One (1) Music History course
One (1) Applied Music course
Two to four (2–4) Music elective courses
Performance credits (lessons or ensembles)

A detailed list of course requirements, offerings, and more can be viewed in the University’s course catalog.

Stag Spotlight

Joe Barbieri headshot

Joe Barbieri

Class of '20

Get to Know Joe

Joe Barbieri
Class of 2020
Musician and Composer

What were your reasons for choosing Fairfield University?
So many reasons come to mind! Fairfield has a strong music program and film department where I was able to get a lot of one-on-one experience, improving my piano playing and composition work. The location of Fairfield's beautiful campus (and the beach) was also a factor. Since I grew up in New York City, the quick train ride between Fairfield and Grand Central was also a big factor.

What would you tell a student considering coming to Fairfield as an undergraduate?
Fairfield University has so much to offer. It gives you the opportunity to study many different subjects, and helps you discover your passions and interests. On top of that, Fairfield offers hundreds of clubs and activities, which allows everyone on and off campus to stay involved.

What went into your thinking as you selected your major?
I knew I wanted to study music before going into college. However, I wasn't sure what I would do for a career once I graduated. After studying with some of the music faculty like Brian Torff, Mac Cooney, and Jamie Finegan (to name a few), I developed a passion for composition, and improved on my Jazz piano playing. I learned that there were so many opportunities for playing and composition within the music field. Thanks to my major, my career decisions were easily made.

What were the best aspects of your experience at Fairfield?
I really made some of the best friendships at Fairfield. The people, students, faculty and staff, really made the school feel like a second home.

Please describe any interesting project, research opportunity, internship, leadership opportunity, or anything else you were a part of while at Fairfield.
On top of the performance groups I was apart of, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Film Department and student film makers. I scored music for many student films, some of which were accepted into Fairfield's Cinefest film festival, as well as other film festivals nationally. At one point, I was an intern within the Music Department, where my main job was to work with the film capstone students and score music for them. I was also the Student Music Director of the Fairfield University Music Ministry Choirs.

What are you currently working on, or studying, and what about it inspires you?
I am always working on something different. Currently, I have begun to build my career as a composer / jingle writer for media and commercials. I am a freelance musician and composer for an abundance of musical projects, as well as the in-house composer of Story Real Studios, a media company specializing in commercials. I also teach private piano, voice, and Jazz lessons.

How have the opportunities offered to you through Fairfield such as research, internships, alumni network, faculty relationships) helped you move closer to achieving your career goals?
The relationships and networking at Fairfield helped me a lot. One great example: My New Student Leader was a film major, and introduced me to many of his film friends. The first film I ever scored was a project he directed. After that, we started to work together constantly. Now, even after graduating, we both collaborate on projects for work!

What student activities (clubs, athletics, honor societies) were you involved in on campus? Please include any honors you may have received.
I was a part of the Jazz ensemble, Music Ministry Choirs and the WVOF radio station. I received the Mary Louise Larrabee award for further study in music, as well as the Contemplatives in Action Jesuit award.

Which school were you enrolled in?
College of Arts and Sciences.

Please add anything else you wish us to know.
Being a Covid graduate, it was very difficult to say goodbye to Fairfield sooner than was expected. That being said, I am very lucky and grateful to have had faculty and mentors reach out to me and work with me during the months of quarantine in 2020. They helped me start my career off strong. They are still mentors to me, even after graduation. I think that is an important trait that Fairfield's Music faculty has; they really care about their students.

Robert Schwartz headshot

Robert Schwartz

Class of '16

Get to Know Robert

Name: Robert Schwartz '16
Undergrad Degree: Double Major in Music and Biology
Hometown: Orange, CT
Extracurricular Activities: Jazz Ensemble, Bensonians, Glee Club, Pep Band, Praise Project (6 p.m. mass), Lord’s Chords (9 p.m. mass)
Honors/Awards/Scholarships: Dean’s List Fall semester 2012 and 2013

(* Image: Schwartz poses with Ellis Marsalis, famous jazz pianist and father of musicians Branford and Wynton Marsalis.)

Why did you choose to study your major at Fairfield University?

I've played piano since I was 6 years old but I didn’t know until after I was accepted to Fairfield that I wanted to be a music major. Fairfield’s music program is really excellent because it is small enough for students to really get to know the professors through working with them in class and performance ensembles, but it also offers substantial performance opportunities. Being close with the professors is not only a great academic resource, but I've also been able to make extra-curricular contacts and have different experiences through them. Also, a few years back, I was involved in Professor Brian Torff’s summer jazz program, which allowed me to get a feel for how the music is run here. That program ended up influencing my choice to study music at Fairfield, even though it was a long time ago. 

Was there a particular class or professor who has really inspired you? If so, how?

I’ve taken two music theory classes here- Classical Theory II with Dr. Laura Nash and Popular Music Theory and Composition with Professor Torff. Both vastly enhanced my understanding of how music works, allowing me to really think critically and analytically both when I listen to and when I compose music. Classical theory knowledge is a great thing to have because it is the basis for all composition- classical and otherwise. The pop music class was excellent because it was especially relevant to what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. By analyzing popular music, we were able to identify things that make truly great music. It was inspiring because it gave me a significant number of tools to achieve one of my goals (however lofty it may be): to make good music popular and to make popular music good. Both Dr. Nash and Professor Torff inspired choices that I now consciously make when I write music- instrumental, vocal, pop-oriented.

Joseph D'Alessio headshot

Joseph D'Alessio

Class of '12

Get to Know Joseph

Joseph D'Alessio
Class of 2012
Director of Music and English Teacher at Loyola School in Manhattan

What were your reasons for choosing Fairfield University?
I absolutely loved the campus and class sizes. Academically, Fairfield University offered everything that I was interested in, and a core curriculum comprised of courses I wanted to try. It is close enough to NYC that I could gig regularly. When visiting, I saw common kitchens in Regis hall, and knew that would be where I would spend most of my free time.

What would you tell a student considering coming to Fairfield as an undergraduate?
It is an amazing school, with a ton to offer. When passing someone in the quad, chances are that you'll know who they are. There are constantly activities on campus, plenty of sporting events, and a wealth of courses to choose from.

What went into your thinking as you selected your major?
When applying to all schools, I knew that I wanted to focus on music and English. I knew since my sophomore year of high school that I wanted to be a teacher. Fairfield University has small class sizes, so I knew I would get an individualized experience and that my professors would know me personally. I was excited to see that music was offered as a major, and I could focus on performance as well.

What were the best aspects of your experience at Fairfield?
The community was my favorite part of Fairfield. Everyone was so welcoming and open. I made some incredible friends, and developed my skills and passions. I was able to participate in the Jazz Ensemble and Pep Band all four years, and really felt at home.

Please describe any interesting project, research opportunity, internship, leadership opportunity, or anything else you were a part of while at Fairfield.
While I was at Fairfield University, I was a Resident Assistant and Orientation Leader. I was also able to take classes in Music Technology, which paved the way for me to form my own production company. While playing with the Pep Band, I was on nationally-televised broadcasts very regularly.

What are you currently working on, or studying, and what about it inspires you?
Currently, I am the Director of Music at Loyola School in Manhattan. I have developed a curriculum of history, theory, performance, and production, all inspired by my time at Fairfield University. I am also an English teacher at Loyola School, utilizing both of my majors. Outside of the classroom, I also direct all of Loyola School's ensembles. It is amazing seeing how these students use their passions to set the world on fire.

How have the opportunities offered to you through Fairfield such as research, internships, alumni network, faculty relationships) helped you move closer to achieving your career goals?
During my senior year, Professor Torff invited me to co-direct an ensemble at a local high school. He knew that not only did I want to be a working musician, but I also wanted to be a teacher. He made sure that I had every opportunity and experience.

What student activities (clubs, athletics, honor societies) were you involved in on campus? Please include any honors you may have received.
Jazz Ensemble, Pep Band

Which school were you enrolled in?
College of Arts and Sciences.

More About Music

Life After Fairfield

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Life After Fairfield

Graduates with a major in music have the credentials to pursue a variety of professional fields, including but not limited to:

  • Music Education: Elementary, Secondary, and Post-Secondary
  • Studio/Individual Teaching
  • Music Therapy
  • Performance/Professional Musician
  • Church/Temple Music Director
  • Composer (Arranger/Orchestrator/Copyist) and Conductor
  • Music Librarian
  • Arts Administrator
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Music Software Programmer
  • Manager / Booking Agent
  • Music Dealer: Management / Sales
  • Newspaper Critic / Entertaiment Reporter
  • Tuner, Technician, Instrument Repair
  • Copyright / Clearance Administrator
  • Music License Administrator
  • Music Editor, Producer, Composer
  • Sound Mixer
  • Post-Production Scoring
  • Disc Jockey / Video Jockey
  • Radio Program Director 
  • Music Researcher

School of Communication, Arts, and Media Alumni Panel

Once a year, the College of Arts and Sciences’ invites alumni from each of the School of Communication, Arts, and Media’s four departments (Communication, Visual and Performing Arts, English, and Modern Languages and Literatures) to participate in an interactive panel discussion. From public relations professionals to digital managing editors, the panelists represent a wide breadth of careers and share their professional advice and personal journeys with current students.

Learn how Fairfield's Career Services can support your post-graduate goals, and how our tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

Visit the Career Center

Jazz Ensemble

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Jazz Ensemble

The Fairfield University Jazz Ensemble is an 8-10 member student group led by renowned bassist and Fairfield director of jazz and popular music, Brian Torff. The group performs a wide variety of jazz, including Traditional, Modern, Blues, Rock, and World music.

For more information regarding Fairfield's performance ensembles, students are encouraged to contact either Dr. Nash or Professor Torff.

Student Resources

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Student Resources

Since Fairfield University is a liberal arts college and not a conservatory, we offer a BA in music without a designated specialization. As a result, our classes, performing groups, and private lessons are open to all students, regardless of their major.

Applied Music Lessons

The Visual and Performing Arts Department offers students private lessons with professional musicians in most areas of music performance. Instruction carries an extra charge beyond tuition ($575) and includes ten, one-hour private lessons per semester. Lessons are worth two credits and are arranged individually with the instructor.

These credits do not count towards the 38 three-credit courses required for graduation, but six may be counted towards the music major or minor. Students interested in registering for lessons may do so via online registration as they would any other course, and must do so before the end of the add/drop period as identified on the University Academic Calendar.

For more information, please contact the department coordinator, Melissa Roberto, or Dr. Laura Nash.

Clubs and Organizations

Fairfield University offers a variety of music clubs and organizations including:

  • Orchestra
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Chamber Music
  • Glee Club

The University's Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble each carry 1 credit, which either counts as an elective or up to 6 credits total (including lessons), which may be applied to a major or minor in music.

To join one of the student music organizations or arrange for private lessons, contact Laura Nash at lnash@fairfield.edu.

Performance Spaces

Gonzaga Auditorium
Located on the first story of Gonzaga Residence Hall, Gonzaga Auditorium is a theater-style venue with state-of-the-art audio-video and projection and plush theater style seats. Most Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra concerts are presented in this performance space.

Gonzaga Hall
Four practice rooms, which include pianos, are available for reservation in the Gonzaga Residence Hall.

Faculty

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Faculty

The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff, industry professionals, and accomplished scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the members of our Music faculty.

Meet the Faculty

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