The UBC School of Music: 
An Overview

The University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is a comprehensive and research-intensive university located in Vancouver, Canada, which celebrated its centennial in 2015. UBC now educates more than 59,000 students per year from Canada and 140 countries, on the main UBC–Vancouver campus, and the newer UBC–Okanagan campus in Kelowna, British Columbia. 

UBC is a top-ranked university, among the top 35 universities internationally in the Times Higher Education ranking for the past 5 years.  The UBC School of Music is a unit within the Faculty Arts, which includes 22 departments and schools representing the humanities, social sciences, and the creative and performing arts.

The UBC School of Music

The UBC School of Music has been a leading Canadian university music program for seven decades.  It was established formally as a Department of Music in 1947, initially offering B.A. degrees with a major in Music.  The B.Mus. program was established in 1959, and a variety of graduate programs were designed and launched in the 1970s.  The D.M.A. programs in performance and composition were the first in Canada.  To recognize the enlarged scope of professional and scholarly music studies at UBC, the Department became a School of Music in 1986.

With about 450 students in a full range undergraduate and graduate programs, the School is the largest university music institution in Western Canada.

The B.Mus. program comprises a comprehensive range of options, including keyboard performance, orchestral instrument performance, voice, opera, composition, music education, and music research scholarship (music theory, historical musicology, and ethnomusicology).  There are also numerous interdisciplinary opportunities, including dual degree programs in Music and Science (B.Mus./B.Sc.), Music and Education (B.Mus./B.Ed.), and Music and Management (B.Mus./M.M.), and numerous options for a second major in the Faculty of Arts, a minor in Arts or Science, and a Minor in Applied Music Technology.

At the graduate level, the School offers a comprehensive array of music performance and research programs:  M.Mus. degrees in Composition, Orchestral Instruments, Guitar, Harpsichord, Piano, Opera, Organ, Voice, and Choral Conducting; D.M.A. degrees in Composition, Orchestral Instruments, Piano, and Voice; and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in ethnomusicology, music history, and music theory.

The School has a long history of strength in all the academic areas—composition, ethnomusicology, music history, and music theory.  Among the performance areas, the opera program has grown very rapidly in the last two decades, establishing a national and international profile; the opera program produces three fully staged productions on campus in year, and tours every summer in Canada and Central Europe.  The choral, orchestral, and wind ensemble programs are led by exceptional conductors and supported by excellent studio faculty members, and the keyboard program has a long history of artistic excellence and successful undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Alumni of the School’s programs have succeeded in a wide range of music professions:  as members of major orchestras and opera companies (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Amsterdam, Vancouver);  as choral conductors, music educators, and entrepreneurs in numerous genres and cities;  and as tenured faculty members in performance and research disciplines at universities across Canada (Toronto, Alberta, Manitoba, Queens, Laurier, Windsor, Brandon), in the U.S. (Rice, Cincinnati, Stony Brook, MIT, Santa Barbara, Kent State, Georgia, North Florida, Elon College), and abroad (Shanghai Conservatory of Music, City University of London, etc.).


Performing Ensembles  

The School supports a dynamic performance life and diverse performance training opportunities in many student ensembles:  Opera Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert Winds, University Choral Union, University Singers, Chamber Choir, Women’s Choir, Men’s Chorus, Early Music Ensemble, Jazz Ensembles I and II, Percussion Ensemble, Contemporary Players, Interactive Digital Ensemble, African Music and Dance Ensemble, Balinese Gamelan, Chinese Music Ensemble, and Korean Percussion Ensemble.  These ensembles provide intensive core training experiences for undergraduate and graduate music students, and contribute significantly to the musical life of the city and province, supporting the university’s mandate for community engagement and outreach.



The School has three beautiful and acoustically excellent performance venues that accommodate all varieties of solo, chamber, and ensemble performance.  The Music Building (1968) is the core facility for most of the School’s undergraduate and graduate courses, and it houses the 255-seat Roy Barnett Recital Hall (renovated 2010).  The School also occupies the historic Old Auditorium (1925, renovated 2007-10), which features a beautifully upgraded 535-seat proscenium theatre and houses the main teaching functions and performing activities of the School’s Opera Ensemble.  The School’s large ensembles — Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert Winds, University Singers, and Choral Union — rehearse and perform in the wonderful 1100-seat Chan Shun Concert Hall in the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (1997).  The School is currently pursuing plans to build new large rehearsal rooms to accommodate the expanding activities of the orchestra, wind ensembles, and choirs.


Research, Creation, and Performance 

The School boasts diverse strengths in music research and creation, with leading scholars in many fields:  digital music software and interactive music performance systems, instrumental and choral composition, ethnomusicology and the analysis of world music, historical musicology, and music theory.  Leading members of the performance faculty are active in major solo and chamber music performances at national and international levels, as recording artists, and competition adjudicators, and the large ensemble directors run excellent training programs for future performers and educators.  Leading faculty members have been recipients of numerous artistic and research awards, including the Order of Canada, Opera Canada Ruby Award, the Killam Research Fellowship, Killam Research Prize, and numerous large grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and other granting organizations, and composition commissions from major orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists.  Faculty members have also received large internal grants for innovation in teaching.


Internal and External Relationships

The School enjoys important ongoing internal relationships, including regular research collaborations and faculty associations with many other units in the university:  the Chan Centre for Performing Arts, the Department of Theatre and Film, the Belkin Art Gallery, the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS), the Institute for Computing, Information, and Cognitive Systems (ICICS), and the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC).  The School has also enjoyed significant project collaborations with the Faculty of Medicine, First Nations House of Learning, Museum of Anthropology, Green College, and other UBC partners.

In the Vancouver area, the School maintains significant partnerships with Vancouver Opera (VO), Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), Vancouver Recital Society (VRS), Early Music Vancouver (EMV), Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO), Turning Point Ensemble (TPE), and with the Consulates or Cultural Centres of numerous countries. 

International relationships include current and planned project and exchange relationships with institutions in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the U.S.  The School is a member of the Pacific Alliance of Music Schools.

Learn more about the UBC School of Music