Musical kids at WPI

Just wanted to mention this here to those considering WPI – My daughter is a sophomore, and I have been SO impressed by the many musically talented students at WPI. There are so many opportunities there for musicians, whether they sing or play an instrument, or multiple instruments! I guess I was somewhat surprised by this. Wasn’t expecting such a wide range of musical offerings at a smallish engineering school… I have enjoyed a number of wonderful performances there.

For those of you interested in acappella, there are FIVE wonderful groups! Their coed group will be competing this weekend in the ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate Acappella) competition.

I know there are at least a couple of other WPI parents of musical kids who can chime in or answer any questions you may have about musical opportunities there.

Are there any opportunities for percussion? I don’t think they have a marching band and the pep band is fun but rather small I believe.

My son plays the violin. Not sure how the music and gym classes fit in with schedules. Seems like they can do one or the other while taking 3 courses. That is something we wanted to find out about.

There’s an orchestra, jazz band, concert band and pep band. And the pit musicians for musical theater productions… For classes, there are theory-based classes ranging from intro music theory to jazz theory. Most students who are involved in a music ensemble and are taking it for credit usually do overload and do these things in addition to their normal course load. Same goes for gym classes, which are each 1/6 of a credit. Music classes like theory or practicum would be 1/3 credit and count as a full academic course.

Yes, there are a lot of musical options… and wide variety of sports/gym classes… and a lot of required academic courses for each major. So the kids who love music usually do overload. They are very, very busy! And they also seem to really enjoy it.

Chiming in to add to @cameo43 – Pep Band is certainly small but growing and they do a marching show each fall so they are technically also our marching band. They play in the stands for basketball and hockey (sometimes) and you get PE credit for participating in either the marching show or playing stands.

For classical, there’s the orchestra which is a string ensemble in which everyone can participate, and wind players can audition for the limited wind, brass, and percussion seats. There is also a concert band in which all wind players can participate, and an audition-based brass ensemble. There is a string quartet which you can audition for and carries a modest scholarship and professional gigs. We also sometimes, based on interest and instrumentation, have a flute choir and wind quintet but those are mostly for fun.

There are (at last count) three jazz groups on campus–jazz lab (for fun/club), jazz ensemble (selective combo), and stage band (“big band”). All but jazz lab are audition based.

For academic classes that would be part of your regular course load, i.e. for humanities, there are certainly music theory courses like fundamentals and orchestration, but also music history, world music (ethnomusicography), and music technology including music robotics.

Be sure to ask about private lessons! WPI will connect you with a local teacher. There is an extra charge paid directly to the teacher. You can do one term of lessons as a 1/3 independent study.

As for course load, ensemble participation is a 1/6 credit per semester, and you can take up to a full year for credit. You can pair it for a semester with a regular 3/3 + 3/3 course load plus a gym credit and not technically have a full overload, just 3/12 beyond your 6/3. (Yes, the fraction system confuses me still.) The A Term musical is usually offered as a 1/3 independent study credit but you can only do that once.

Also, I’m a music minor here and those are super easy to get. If you do your humanities concentration in music, you can double count three 1/3 courses, then take an additional 2 x 1/3 courses plus a minor capstone (for me a recital).

Thank you for adding more information GoatGirl19.I was looking at the music options. My son plays the violin, but not as a major interest. He is a software programmer on his robotics team, which is his first passion. But I was interested in how that would fit into his schedule if he wanted to use music for his humanities concentration with the odd fractions and gym also.

The Humanities concentration is baked into every student’s academic program. This required humanities minor can be in music This means every student is studying the equivalent of 18 semester hours in the humanities. For the most part I believe these are “academic” classes. Participating in a group is an extra-curricular activity as done with a sport. Despite popular rumors to the contrary, there is room here to get serious about your minor.

Many WPI students do get serious about their genuine interests in the arts.

Some students will use this part of the program to select a mix of humanities courses which may fit a theme of interest to them. See Humanities minors at

@benee16 the academic music courses are 1/3 credit and actually count toward the student’s major as part of the humanities and arts requirement (this is basically WPI’s replacement for general education credits). They would be part of a regular course load (for example, one term I had World Music as one of my three courses). Ensembles can be done for credit but are usually done in addition to the regular classes because they don’t count for a full “class” worth of credit for any given term, but the credits you get from them can also be added to the major humanities requirement.
As of right now band and orchestra rehearsals are weeknights between 5 and 7 PM, not during regular course time, so it’s easy to fit into a student’s schedule.

One WPI “unit” equals approximately 18 traditional, semester credit hours. Every seven weeks, the normal workload equals one WPI unit. This works out to 36 semester hours per year. I only put in this translation because “WPI talk” can be a foreign language to students looking at other Universities.

It is encouraging to see that today’s undergraduates are comfortable with their native language!

If this is who I think it is, congratulations on you GS admissions!

Thank you GoatGirl19!!

My daughter is thinking WPI is the school for her. She plays the trumpet,enjoys band, but Pit orchestra is her passion. Is there an opportunity for that?

"The Symphonic Association Presents the WPI Orchestra and Brass Concert Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (The New World’), directed by Douglas Weeks. Free admission.

This does not sound to me like a “Pit Orchestra.” This was performed last February. “Spring Concert” is performing today. See

You and Prof Weeks are probably busy today, but can you help here?

This is not your typical “Tech” university. We may be a little weaker on the “Pep Band” side, but working on it.

Happy to clarify @retiredfarmer! Thanks by the way!
If your daughter is interested in pit orchestra, @mom1118, I would recommend that she get in touch with VOX—it’s our campus musical theater group. Pit for musicals is separate from the symphonic/concert groups and is by invitation only, but they’re always looking for enthusiastic pit members! There are two licensed shows a year (A & C Term) and a Cabaret (a concert of musical theater numbers) each D Term. VOX is entirely student run—students direct, produce, act, crew, and play in the pit. The most recent full shows include “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, “Pippin”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and “The Addams Family Musical”