The Music Program at Rockford University operates within the Performing Arts Department and offers one degree, the Bachelor of Arts in General Music. This major consists of core requirements and supporting requirements in addition to the General Education requirements for a B.A. degree (these may be found in the university catalog). The Music Program also supports those students who are pursuing the B.F.A. degree in Musical Theater Performance.

In addition to courses intended for music majors and/or musical theater majors, the Performing Arts Department also offers a number of courses and opportunities for students who are interested in music but do not wish to pursue it as a major. We’ll look at those opportunities first, and then turn to guidelines and requirements for our majors.

Rockford University is proud to employ some of the finest musicians in Northern Illinois to teach private lessons to our students. Whether you’re interested voice, piano, guitar, violin, flute, percussion, trumpet, or any other instrument, you’ll find a professional of the highest caliber ready to teach you. Students may register for one or two credits of private instruction. A one-credit lesson provides you twelve 30-minute lessons over the course of the semester, and a two-credit lesson provides you with twelve 60-minute lessons during the semester. The $200 per credit lab fee helps to maintain the practice rooms and tune the pianos. Practice rooms are intended only for students that are enrolled in private lessons through the university.

Students who have registered for private lessons will be notified during the first week of classes and given contact information for his/her teacher. Private lessons begin during the second full week of classes, so you and your teacher will have a few days to make initial contact and set up a lesson time. If you are not notified of your teacher, or if you are unable to reach your teacher by the end of the first full week of classes, please contact Prof. Sarah Simmons, Music Program Coordinator at 815.226.4148 or

When you register for voice lessons for the first time at Rockford University, you may be asked to attend a Voice Orientation meeting before you are assigned a teacher. You will be asked to sing something (a prepared song or even “Happy Birthday”) and answer a few questions in order to help the faculty select the best teacher for you.


Student recitals occur four times each semester at 4:00 pm on Mondays in Maddox, Cheek, or Fisher Chapel. One of the four recitals is a “Classical Only” recital. All Performing Arts majors are required to attend at least three of the four recitals. Music majors and musical theater majors are required to perform on at least two recitals per semester. First year students must perform on at least one recital during the first semester at the university and must also perform on at least one Studio Class (see below).

Songs performed on recital must be from memory, with the exception of songs from oratorio. (Oratorio arias should still be well learned; and while the music may be used on recital, eyes should not be buried in the music during the performance.) All music should be well rehearsed with the accompanist. It is customary to acknowledge audience applause by bowing at the end of a performance, after which the performer should also acknowledge the collaborative pianist (accompanist), who should also bow.

Students should notify Professors Adams and/or Simmons via e-mail by 5:00pm on the Friday preceding the recital if they wish to perform on Monday’s recital. Please indicate the following in your e-mail to Timm or Sarah: song, show or opera the song is from (if applicable), and composer(s) or arranger (please check the spelling!). Most musical theater pieces have a lyricist and a composer, so be sure to include both first and last name of the songwriters in the e-mail.

Recitals are formal affairs, so students should be dressed in business or audition attire when performing. Our department should always be a safe place to perform, so the utmost courtesy and respect should be given the performers.


Studio class is a wonderful opportunity to perform for and listen to students within your own voice or piano studio. Each teacher will schedule his/her own studio classes throughout the semester, although they are generally held on Mondays at 4:00 pm. This is a chance to perform songs that might not be fully polished and to garner feedback from your peers prior to performing on a recital or at an audition. Each teacher will have his/her own studio class requirements and protocol, so please refer to your MUSC 134 or 334 syllabus for more information.


What an unfortunate name! Juries are a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to the faculty the progress you have made during the semester. This is a chance to get essential feedback from faculty members other than your private lesson teacher, and the department considers them to be an important part of your musical and theatrical growth.
Juries are required for the following students:

Musical Theater Performance majors
Music majors
Students enrolled in 300-level private lessons

What is a jury? At the end of each semester, the students listed above will be assigned a jury time on a given date. At the jury, the student will select a song from the songs that he/she prepared during the semester to perform for the faculty. Typically, the faculty will then request one more song to be performed by the student. Simple as that!

Jury Guidelines:

1. Students will be assigned a jury time at least two weeks in advance of jury day, which is usually during finals week at the end of each semester. Times will be e-mailed to students and will also be posted outside Timm’s office and Sarah’s office. It is imperative that students check their final exam schedule to be sure their jury does not conflict with another final. Students must communicate any conflict with his/her jury time within 48 hours of the jury e-mail or posting. Any conflict should immediately be communicated to a. your teacher and b. Sarah Simmons (
2. Students will fill out a Repertoire Sheet in advance of his/her jury. The student will list all songs and performances that were worked on during the semester. There is a place for “prepared” songs (songs that are ready for performance) and “songs worked on” (not ready for performance and thus, not subject to selection by faculty members). The student will make several copies of the Repertoire Sheet to bring into the jury with him/her (the specific number will be indicated at the time of the jury posting).
3. Please dress up for your jury! Business or audition attire is mandatory (ask a faculty member, if you have questions). You will make a much better impression at your jury if you look and feel your best. This will also give you a psychological advantage.
4. An accompanist will be provided for the jury and for one 15-minute rehearsal prior to the jury. Students will be notified when the sign-up sheet for rehearsal with the accompanist is posted. Rehearsals will be scheduled at the convenience of the accompanist in the two weeks prior to juries. Additional rehearsal time is encouraged, but must be paid for by the student.
5. Student will provide a Xerox copy (back to back and three-hole punched) of each song that might be performed at the jury for the accompanist on the day of the rehearsal or beforehand (preferred).
6. All songs performed at the jury must be memorized. An exception will be made for arias from oratorio, for which the student may use a music stand or hold the score. Oratorio arias must still be very well learned, and the score should be used only for an occasional glance.
7. Bear in mind that performance at a jury should not be a fully staged or choreographed number. Songs from musicals should not be performed in the full context of the show. Minimal movement is recommended and encouraged.
8. Preparation is the key to a successful jury! All songs should be memorized at least two weeks in advance of the jury. Foreign language pieces should be memorized weeks in advance of the jury. If you have memorized your song within the last week of the semester, it’s very unlikely that you will remember all the lyrics and notes under the pressure of the actual jury. Inform your performance, which means know the song inside out, and practice, practice, practice!

It’s unfortunate that these 10-minute showcases are called “juries” because it puts such a negative spin on the whole ordeal. Please consider this an opportunity to shine rather than a time to be judged. Keep in mind that faculty members are rooting for you and very much want you to succeed. Keep your mind on your objective, remain in the moment, and envision yourself successfully completing your songs.


Music Theory placement exam will be given to all incoming music majors and musical theater majors during the first few days of class each fall semester. This exam will help the faculty know how best to advise you in your music theory coursework. Music minors may opt to take this exam if they are unsure whether or not they need Fundamentals of Music before taking Music Theory. It would be a good idea to brush up on your music theory before this test, but there’s no need to be nervous. This will give you an opportunity to test out of Fundamentals of Music, if you already have some theory/music reading background. Scoring poorly on this exam will not penalize you in any way.

Music Theory requirements

Music Majors
Music Theory I (MUSC 102) and Aural Skills I (MUSC 104)
Music Theory II (MUSC 103) and Aural Skills II (MUSC 105)
Music Theory III (MUSC 202) and Aural Skills III (MUSC 204)
Music Theory IV (MUSC 203) and Aural Skills IV (MUSC 205)

Music Minors
Music Theory I (MUSC 102) and Aural Skills I (MUSC 104)
Music Theory II (MUSC 103) and Aural Skills II (MUSC 105)

Musical Theater Performance Majors
Music Theory I (MUSC 102) and Aural Skills I (MUSC 104)

For students with little or no theory background, the following courses may be required before registering for Music Theory I:
Group Piano for Beginners (MUSC 131), offered each fall semester
Fundamentals of Music (MUSC 101), offered each spring semester
• Piano Lessons I (MUSC 132), offered each semester. The focus of this course is not necessarily music theory, but if you have some knowledge of reading music already, this would be a good refresher course.

The music theory placement exam will include the following topics.

1. Circle of fifths
2. Pitch identification
Major and minor key signatures
4. Time signatures
Major scales
6. Minor scales (natural, harmonic, melodic)
Chord analysis (I, IV, and V only)
Keyboard familiarity (finding pitches on the piano, playing a major scale)



Regent Singers (MUSC 243) is a mixed (SATB) performance ensemble that performs a wide variety of choral music ranging from the Renaissance to Contemporary and from classical literature to folk songs and spirituals. Much of the music performed by Regent Singers is a cappella, although there is occasional piano accompaniment and even collaboration with chamber orchestra. The culmination of each semester’s preparation is a final performance at the Winter or Spring Performing Arts concert. Meets MWF 12:00 – 12:50 each semester.

The Vocal Collective is a highly select mixed vocal ensemble that numbers 12 to 20 singers and sings everything from Renaissance polyphony to jazz. Established in 2004, this scholarship group learns music quickly and performs often, usually a cappella. The ensemble serves as an ambassador for the university, performing at university functions and representing Rockford University at community events such as sports games, corporate events and city gatherings. Members of the Vocal Collective often tour during spring break and past tour destinations have been Florida, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Auditions for the Vocal Collective occur during the first week of classes each fall semester and are open to all students.

Women’s Ensemble (MUSC 242) is open to all women on campus. A wide variety of music written for treble voices is studied and performed, including arrangements of pop/jazz/show tunes. The culmination of each semester’s preparation is a final performance at the Winter or Spring Performing Arts concert. Meets T-Th, 12:00 – 12:50 most semesters.

The Gospel Choir (MUSC 241) is OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS and brings to Rockford University the tradition of gospel music in American culture. This performance ensemble explores the rich repertoire and performance practice found in the gospel tradition and exists in part to preserve and affirm the African American culture in the city of Rockford. Meets Thursdays, 6–8 p.m. most semesters.

Opera Workshop (MUSC 24) is offered every other year in the spring, and offers students the opportunity to explore the classical side of the ever-popular marriage between music and theater. The course addresses the preparation, study and performance of representative scenes from the opera repertoire. The semester’s work culminates in an Evening of Opera Scenes, which are fully staged.

Opera Ensemble (MUSC 276) will be occasionally offered during semesters that Opera Workshop is not offered and when there is interest to do so. Focus will be on learning and performing duets, trios, quartets, and larger ensemble pieces from the operatic literature without a staging component.

Band (MUSC 276) at Rockford University is fairly new and growing. This ensemble plays a variety of styles from jazz and popular arrangements to Dixieland and classical music. They also serve as the university Pep Band, performing at football and basketball games.

Student musicians with more advanced playing experience are encouraged to audition for the pit orchestra for the two full-scale musicals produced each year by the Performing Arts Department. These are paid positions, providing modest compensation, and require a nine or 10-day commitment for rehearsals and performances.



Prospective music majors must audition and demonstrate an acceptable level of proficiency or aptitude in the major applied area of study (voice, piano, strings, etc.). Please prepare two contrasting selections on your primary instrument and be ready to discuss your desire to study music at Rockford University.

Special Requirements for Music Majors

• All entering first-year music majors must take the Music Theory Placement Exam. See “Music Theory Placement Exam” above.
• All music majors must attend three out of four student recitals each semester. See “Student Recitals” above.
• All music majors must participate in a department-sanctioned ensemble for a minimum of five semesters.
• All music majors must be enrolled in private lessons each semester they are taking classes on the Rockford University campus. Exceptions may be made for two of those semesters for extenuating circumstances:

A minimum of four credit hours of private instruction must be in the same applied area (voice, piano, etc.)
A minimum of four credit hours of private instruction in the major applied area must be at the 300 level.
All music majors will be evaluated in performance at the end of each semester of private instruction in the major applied area. See “Juries” above.
All music majors must demonstrate a basic proficiency in piano by successful completion of the piano proficiency examination no later than the end of their junior year. See “Piano Proficiency” below.

Piano Proficiency
Music majors are required to pass a piano proficiency exam before graduating. This is an important part of your growth as a musician. Because keyboard skills are so essential to almost any career in music, it’s imperative that students prepare early for this important exam. Piano teachers are prepared to assist with this preparation as a part of your private piano lessons (MUSC 132 or MUSC 332).

The piano proficiency exam consists of the following:

  1. Each student will be required to present a piece of his/her choice from memory. This should be at grade 2 difficulty or above.
  2. Each student will be required to play two major scales and two minor scales (one harmonic and one melodic) of the committee’s choosing (see preparation suggestions below)
  3. Each student will be required to harmonize a melody in two different ways
    • with chord notation (lead sheet: C, F, G7, etc.)
    • with Roman numeral notation (I, IV, V, etc.)
  4. Perform transposition of Amazing Grace in key of committee’s choice (F, G, or B-flat)
  5. Sight read one selection of the of the committee’s choice.

Preparation for the Piano Proficiency

  1. Technique:
    • Prepare all major scales, hands together, two octaves: minimum speed: 80/note; up to 5 flats and 4 sharps
    • All harmonic and melodic scales; single hands, two octaves; up to 4 flats and 3 sharps
    • All major and minor cadences, hands alone, (I, IV, V7, I)
  2. Harmonization:
    • Simple melodies with a chord lead sheet
    • Simple melodies with a Roman numeral lead sheet
    • Transpose Amazing Grace into keys F, G, B-flat
  3. Sight playing:
    • Be able to sight read at an appropriate skill level.
  4. Repertoire:
    • Grade 2 difficulty or above