Studying Music in Paris, France

Studying music in Paris is an engaging, rich, intensive and diversified experience. Students who wish to take music courses in Paris must demonstrate proficiency in the language. Students may stay music for the entire year or for the fall only. Regrettably we are unable to enroll students mid year (spring semester) in music courses as they are year long courses.

The Sarah Lawrence College music program centers around the following institutions:

  • Schola Cantorum—all instruments and voice; solfège; theory and analysis; composition; history; individual and ensemble performance; master classes; special programs in piano pedagogy and organ.
  • Ecole Normale de Musique—all instruments and voice; solfège; theory and analysis; composition; history; individual and ensemble performance; master classes; individual practice rooms.
  • Conservatoire Charles Munch - special programs in Early Music and Baroque Opera and Instrumental music; all instruments and voice; solfège; theory and analysis; composition; history; individual and ensemble performance; big band jazz and jazz theory; individual practice rooms.
  • Université de Paris IV (formerly the Sorbonne)—advanced academic studies include theory and analysis, history, musicology and ethnomusicology.
  • Université de Paris X—theoretical ethnomusicology.
  • Centre de musique médiévale de Paris—special semester-long workshops in Medieval Music, including chant, vocal technique, monody and vocal polyphony, improvisation, notation, counterpoint, and history; various one day workshops on instrumental performance (vielles, ancient harp, lutes, and percussion) and on-stage practice.
  • Cité de la Musique—studies in world music performance include traditional and contemporary music for the gamelan, steel drums, as well as Arabic, Brazilian, Cuban, Indian and West African music; rock and jazz; courses in history, form and structure, and the relationship between music, society and language; electroacoustic and computer music.
  • IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique)—weekend (20-25 sessions) and weeklong (3-5 sessions) programs studying software developed by IRCAM, including MAX, SPAT, MAX4LiVE, JiTTER, AUDIOSCULPT, MODALYS, and OPENMUSIC; advanced work in computer music and seminars in music research on the CURSUS program.
  • Le CIM—studies in jazz include all instruments and voice, theory, history, performance, world music, gospel choir; recording, media and computer labs; interdisciplinary programs with dance and theater; study, rehearsal and social spaces; individual practice rooms.

A music course at Sarah Lawrence College in Paris

Students on the Paris Program take four courses, one of which may be taken in music for which they earn four credits per term. A music course consists of three components:

  • Individual instruction (instrumental performance, composition, electronic music, or voice)
  • Theory or history
  • Performance ensemble

An intensive music program at Sarah Lawrence College in Paris

For the advanced music student, it is possible, although challenging given the complexities of the French musical system, to take eight credits in music. The advanced student must enroll in two additional components in theory and/or history and/or performance. Ideally, students study jazz at I.N.F.I.M.M./C.I.M. for the entire year. This is an intensive program for which they earn eight credits per term. It is also possible to study jazz during the fall term only.

All courses are taught exclusively in French. Music students should be proficient in “fixed do” solfège before enrolling in music courses in Paris. They should also familiarize themselves with basic musical terms – such as the names of notes, accidentals, scales, rhythms and so on – in French. We recommend, as one example, the following book: Abrégé de la Théorie de la Musique, by A. Danhauser (Editions Henry Lemoine, 2002; 41, rue Bayen, 75017 – Paris). There are numerous websites that compare musical terms in different languages. We recommend the following:

Students will audition and be interviewed for individual instruction at the specific institutions to which they are applying when they arrive in Paris. Instrumentalists and vocalists will perform a piece of their own choosing. They may be asked to play a technical exercise as well. They should also be prepared to take diagnostic tests in solfège and theory and harmony, including sight-reading, sight-singing and dictation. Each candidate will be placed at a level of study corresponding to his or her abilities. All students applying to the music program in Paris must be approved by and receive initial guidance from the Director of the Sarah Lawrence College Music Program. Final programs will be arranged and approved by the Director in Paris.

Those students who choose to live at the Cité Universitaire will be able to practice in the rehearsal room. Students who study at the Conservatoire Charles Munch, the Ecole Normale, or at I.N.F.I.M.M./C.I.M. may practice in facilities at those institutions. Students will sign up for these spaces for specific times . Students may also rent rehearsal space at various other places, including I.N.F.I.M.M./C.I.M. and Muses Galantes.