Entrance Auditions

For New Students

All new students must complete an entrance audition in their primary applied area. Auditions for Fall 2016 are:

  • Saturday, February 20, 2016
  • Saturday, March 5, 2016
  • Saturday, March 12, 2016

Please keep in mind that potential students must apply to the University no later than November 30, 2015.

Other audition times may be made available on an individual basis (contact the School of Music and Dance recruitment office at (408) 924-4643 or musicdancerecruitment@sjsu.edu).

If travel distance is prohibitive—generally, if you live more that 250 miles away—a high-quality audio or video recording may be substituted. Please see the Recorded Audition Guidelines  for information on how to submit recorded auditions.  Recordings should be received by March 5, 2016, and live auditions completed by the final audition day for students to be considered for scholarship assistance from the School of Music and Dance.

All Freshmen students will complete a Systems/Theory placement exam during the first class meeting of Music 1A or Music 9 course.

Ensemble auditions are held just previous to the opening of classes in the fall semester.  Exact dates and times are listed in the current Schedule of Classes.  Please contact the appropriate ensemble director for more details.

Bachelor of Music Degree

The Bachelor of Music is a professional degree that is screened by audition only. Students should express interest at the first placement audition and follow instructions given by the  by the respective applied faculty. If approved, students may audition into the B.M. degree at any time but must note that all requirements must be completed for the B. M. degree. See catalog for advisement sheets for concentration requirements for the B.M. in Performance, Composition, and Music Education.

Applied Music Placement Auditions

Each music major must declare, with approval of the appropriate applied committee, a principal performance medium and carry on continuous study in one of the following areas: 

• Bass (acoustic/ electric)

• Euphonium

• Oboe

• Trombone

• Bassoon

• Flute

• Organ

• Trumpet

• Cello

• French Horn

• Percussion

• Tuba

• Clarinet

• Guitar (acoustic/ electric)

• Piano

• Viola

• Composition

• Harp

• Saxophone

• Violin

• Electro-Acoustic

• Harpsichord

• Studio Arts

• Voice


Major Ensemble Auditions

All new and transfer music majors must complete a major ensemble audition in their principal area of study before finalizing registration. Without a placement audition, students cannot be officially accepted as music majors. Auditions in the following areas are held during registration week:

Performance Level Placement

For transfer students, these auditions will place each student at one of the following levels consistent with the Music program's performance standards:

• Level One                        
Freshman, First Semester
• Level Two
Freshman, Second Semester
• Level Three
Sophomore, First Semester
• Level Four
Sophomore, Second Semester
• Level Five*
Junior, First Semester
• Level Six
Junior, Second Semester
• Level Seven
Senior, First Semester
• Level Eight
Senior, Second Semester
• Level Nine
Graduate Unclassified
• Level Ten
Graduate Classified


Students may be placed at an applied level below their university standing. Once any remediation has been completed, a student may request to be placed at a higher performance level at their regular semester-end applied jury. All students must pass a SJSU Junior Qualifying Jury prior to placement in level five or above.

Suggested Audition Literature

Bachelor of Music

Applicants who wish to pursue the Bachelor of Music degree will prepare a variety of selections, totaling approximately 20 to 30 minutes. In choosing your musical selection, remember it is better to perform a simple selection well then to struggle with a difficult composition.

Here is a list of suggested audition materials. 

Audition/Portfolio requirement to the BA-Music Technology emphasis

While an emphasis in Music Technology may be declared from the freshman year, admission to individual studio arts instruction and permission to advance to upper-division standing is predicated upon the following:

  • Successful completion of first-year requirements in applied lessons on an instrument or voice.
  • Completion of MUSC 170A, 170B, and 167 with a grade of B- or better.
  • Presentation of a portfolio of well constructed audio CDs of at least one live ensemble concert and one full studio recording involving multiple instruments, voices, and/or sound effects, each over one half-hour in length.
  • Short projects demonstrating original sound composition and/or combined media techniques.

Major Ensembles

All undergraduate majors must enroll in a major ensemble each semester they are enrolled in Music. All students enrolled in applied lessons must be enrolled in a major ensemble. Graduate students may apply 3 units of ensemble credit to the graduate requirements of 30 units. For more information on each ensemble, see Performance Ensembles.

Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion

Wind Ensemble/Symphonic Band is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Sign up for an audition time outside the music office (Music Building, Room 179). The Orchestra conductor and the Wind Ensemble director will make Orchestra wind and percussion assignments in consultation with applied faculty. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read.


Orchestra is the appropriate performing ensemble. Students must play a prepared piece and sight read. Auditions take place the two days before classes begin each semester.  Sign-up for auditions.

Vocal Majors

Concert Choir is the appropriate major performing ensemble. Auditions take place the two days before classes begin each semester. Sign-up for auditions

Jazz Studies

The Jazz Orchestra and Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble are approved major performing ensembles.

Piano Students

Consult with the Director of Keyboard Studies for appropriate major ensembles. 

Music Systems & Theory  (Music Theory and Ear-training)

Music Systems & Theory is the study of musical structure: what makes musical compositions work. The goal of music system & theory studies is to provide a formal description of the musical intuitions of a listener who is experienced in a musical idiom. Or, to put it another way, the goal of music systems & theory is to find a good way to hear music, and to communicate that way of hearing to other people.

Undergraduates at the School of Music & Dance complete a four-semester core sequence of music theory & theory and of ear-training with further opportunities for advanced study in upper-level offerings. The focus of the four-semester core is musicianship, which is taught as an integrated approach consisting of three inseparable components: technique, knowledge, and expression. Aural Skills courses (MUSC 1B-4B) are an essential component of integrated musicianship, and students enroll in the four-semester Aural Skills sequence concurrent with the Music Systems & Theory sequence (MUSC 1A-4A). In addition, all undergraduate majors must complete a proficiency course in piano, which typically involves three semesters of class piano (MUSC 25A-C). The third semester comprises the proficiency exam period.

For questions regarding the Music Systems & Theory area, please contact Dr. Brian Belet. For questions regarding the Keyboard area, please contact Dr. Gwendolyn Mok

Information for New and Transfer Students:  

           Music Systems & Theory Placement Examination

All new and transfer music majors are required to take a Music Systems & Theory Placement Examination, which determines the appropriate Music  Systems & Theory course for each student.  For Freshmen: In fall 2015, the examination will be given during the first meeting of MUSC 9 or MUSC 1A. Attend the first class meeting for either course, as the 45-minute exam is identical.

For Transfer Students:  In fall 2015 the examination will be given on Wednesday August 19 at 9:30AM-12:30PM in Room 250.  Click here to sign up for the exam.

Transfer Students:  Please be aware that your previous educational institution may have an "course to course articulation agreement" with SJSU. This agreement may determine your music systems placement level. Many agreements include the clause, "Subject to Completion of Theory Placement Exam."  If you have questions about the articulation agreement between your previous educational institution and SJSU, please see the SJSU Articulation page.  

Students who miss the scheduled examination will have to wait until the following semester for advanced placement in the Music Systems and Theory sequence.


The purpose of the following is to help entering music majors better prepare themselves for freshman level music classes. While much of this material will be discussed and reviewed in classes, it is in the student's best interest to have a working knowledge and familiarity with some theory, terminology and music history.

Entering students should be familiar with following tasks:

  1. Reading both treble and bass clefs;
  2. Understanding basic rhythmic notation for both notes and rests;
  3. Knowing major and minor key signatures;
  4. Understanding whole- and half-steps as they relate to scales (scale patterns);
  5. Understanding simple triads (three-note chords);
  6. Understanding basic musical terminology as related to tempo, style and performance;
  7. Understanding a brief overview of musical periods and a basic knowledge of significant composers from each era.
  8. For additional references, please consult from among the following sources:

Text sources: 

Henry, Earl, Snodgrass, Jennifer, and Piagentini, Susan Fundamentals of Music: Rudiments, Musicianship, and Composition (6th Edition). Pearson; ISBN: 978-0205118335

Houlahan, Michael and Tacka, Philip From Sound to Symbol: Fundamentals of Music. Oxford University Press, USA; ISBN: 978-0199751914 

Electronic sources: 

eTheory: Music Theory Fundamentals in Four Weeks

eTheory is the Eastman School of Music's online course, which can be used by non-Eastman students for an introduction to 
theory fundamentals, including intervals, counterpoint, chords and figured bass, and phrase models. The online course
includes over 200 sets of writing, playing, listening, singing, and conducting exercises, and provides immediate feedback
on all new concepts.

Musictheory.net provides free content—lessons and exams—for the content listed in the numbered bullets (#1-6) shown above.

Online Music Theory Flash Cards are helpful with testing yourself on music rudiments.


All transfer students are required to take the Transfer Placement Exam, which is administered prior to the start of classes. For Fall 2015, this exam will be administered on August 19, from 9:30AM – 12:30PM, as listed above. No make-up exams will be offered; students who miss the exam will be placed into MUSC 1A & 1B by default. This exam evaluates analytical written and aural skills equivalent to the SJSU four-semester core sequence. There is no Pass or Fail, and no grades: rather, this exam is used to determine a student’s proper placement within our core sequence. A student who demonstrates mastery of all four levels will be advanced to upper-division status within the Music Systems & Theory Area.

The first hour of the exam is devoted to aural skills: Dictation examples are performed from each of our four courses (MUSC 1B, 2B, 3B & 4B). Examples include intervals, triads, seventh chords, melodies, and SATB harmonic phrases of increasing levels of difficulty. The final two hours address written analytical theory questions: interval and chord notation, scales, and tonal harmonic analysis.

For review, transfer students should consult the materials outlined in the most current edition of Koska, Stefan  Tonal Harmony (Book & Workbook). McGraw-Hill Education; ISBN: 978-0078025143  or equivalent theory text.

Piano Proficiency Exams

All music majors must be enrolled in Music 25A or 25B until they have passed their piano proficiency exam. Instructors will determine student placement in 25A or 25B. For those students with a piano background who feel they are capable of passing the piano proficiency exam prior to enrolling in the class, the exam will be administered once each semester. For Fall 2015, auditions will occur Tuesday August 18 from 2:40-5:30PM.  Please contact  Director of Keyboard Studies for more information.  If a student has passed the piano proficiency exam, he or she does not need to enroll in 25A or 25B.

We encourage all lower-division majors to pass the piano requirement before reading upper- division status. Freshman in particular should inquire immediately about 25A, as the skills acquired will help in Music Systems. Upper-division transfer music majors must enroll in class piano each semester until their proficiency requirement has been passed.

It is possible to receive a passing grade in 25A or 25B and still not pass the proficiency exam. Often a student will make enormous progress during a given term but still not pass each area of the exam. You must complete the exam even if both 25A or 25B appear on your transcript. The complete piano proficiency exam sheet will be placed in your student file.

All students must be enrolled in 25A or 25B in order to take the proficiency exam. No proficiency exam will be held outside of normal 25A or 25B classtime.


Play a composition of intermediate difficulty approved by the instructor. Suggestions include literature comparable to Easier Piano Classics (Hal Leonard Publishing), a Sonatina of Clementi or Kuhlau, a Bach Two-Part Invention, or other repertoire approved by the instructor or Area Coordinator. In order to pass, the student must demonstrate careful execution of the notation (dynamics, articulation, tempo, continuity, etc.), stylistic character, and musicianship. Correct use of the pedal must be demonstrated if appropriate.

Play a choral-style or four-part hymn, a Twentieth century composition provided by the instructor, or an accompaniment to a piece in your area (with instructor approval). Your choice should be appropriate with your degree objectives.

Technical Skills

  • Play major and harmonic minor scales, two octaves, ascending and descending, hands together (eighth-note = 80) with correct fingering. Speed is not as critical as consistency and continuity. The instructor will choose which scales are executed.
  • Execute natural and melodic forms of a minor scale chosen by the instructor.
  • Play an alternate scale system or mode (one hand is acceptable) such as whole tone, chromatic, octatonic, pentatonic, or mode.
  • Play major and minor chord progressions in keys chosen by instructor: I-IV6/4-I-V6/5-I (two-hand harmony). Instructors will provide handouts.
  • Play above progression in inversions (one hand only, see instructor).

Sight Reading and Harmonization

  • Sight read an elementary level piece.
  • Harmonize a simple melody at sight using I, IV, and V chords in the left hand.

Make-up Ensemble Auditions

A student who misses his or her performance audition should contact the area coordinator for information on make-up auditions. Make-up auditions might not be scheduled in all areas, in which case the student's audition would be postponed until the following semester. Therefore, students should make every effort to audition during scheduled audition times.