Strings, Harp and Guitar

Degrees Available

Bachelor of Music in Performance • Master of Music in Performance • Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance

  • For more information on degrees, ensembles, summer session, study abroad, and complete curricular handbooks, visit our Academics Page.
  • To apply to the Bienen School of Music, visit our Admission Page.

Strings at the Bienen School of Music

Northwestern University has assembled one of the finest string faculties in the nation. Each teacher is recognized not only for performing ability and scholarship but also for a love of the creative process that transforms a talented young instrumentalist into an accomplished professional musician. The string faculty values individuality, bringing out each student's unique musical talent and creativity.

In addition to weekly lessons with faculty members, students gain valuable performing experience by participating in weekly studio classes with faculty and peers. String majors select from a wide variety of professional studies courses, including a comprehensive program in string orchestral studies, lute and guitar history and literature, guitar pedagogy, harp orchestral studies, and harp pedagogy. In addition to a bachelor of music, master of music, and doctor of musical arts degrees, the Bienen School of Music offers students the opportunity to pursue dual degree programs with other schools in the University.

All entering doctoral students receive a full tuition scholarship and a work stipend.


Ensemble participation is an integral part of string study at Northwestern. String students participate in a variety of small and large ensembles that help them acquire the skills necessary for success at the professional level.


The Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra (NUCO) and the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra (NUSO) are administered by Victor Yampolsky, director of orchestras. The Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Robert G. Hasty, associate director of orchestras, performs standard literature of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as contemporary works written expressly for chamber orchestra. The individual musical responsibility and preparation required in a small ensemble are emphasized. The Symphony Orchestra, the Bienen School of Music's premier orchestra, performs major literature from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Many NUSO members are already contenders for positions in orchestras throughout the world.

Chamber Music

In addition to working individually with Bienen School faculty members, string students perform chamber music under the direction of some of the world's great chamber groups and coaches. Residencies and master classes in chamber music have included the Vermeer, Borodin, Pacifica, Berlin, and Chicago String Quartets as well as Earl Carlyss, Paul Katz, Arnold Steinhardt, and Abram Loft.

Guitar Ensemble

Guitar students participate in the Northwestern University Guitar Ensemble, which provides a context for developing skills relevant to performing in both large and small ensembles. The Guitar Ensemble performs on campus and at a variety of off-campus venues, including festivals, other universities, and public schools. Guitarists may also participate in the Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Early Music Ensemble, and chamber music and jazz ensembles.

Special Events and Opportunities

In addition to the required curriculum, string students at Northwestern benefit from a wide variety of concerts, master classes, and performance opportunities.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Civic Orchestra of Chicago Fellowships

Through a faculty nomination process, select string students may be eligible to receive a fellowship. Fellowships include full tuition and provide an exceptional opportunity for students to play under some of the world's great conductors.

Guest Master Classes

Northwestern string students frequently perform in master classes with such visiting artists as Anner Bylsma, Ruggiero Ricci, Heinrich Schiff, Joseph Silverstein, Janos Starker, Glenn Dicterow, Lynn Harrell, Robert Chen, Donald McInnes, and John Sharp.

The following video of a master class is from our Davee Media Library, a video, audio, and photographic collection of performances, master classes, and documentaries.

Lynn Harrell Master Class   Video: Excerpts from a Cello Master Class by Lynn Harrell (June 2010)
Renowned cellist and teacher Lynn Harrell gives a master class featuring students of Hans Jørgen Jensen. Music includes Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff. Featured students include Richard Narroway, Oleksander Mycyck, Julia Yang, and Karen Kang with Benjamin Adler, Jasmine Nagano, Hsiao-Ling Lin, and Shirley Trissell.

Winter Chamber Music Festival

The Winter Chamber Music Festival is a three-week chamber music series created by string faculty member Blair Milton. It features outstanding Chicago-area musicians as well as renowned artists from around the world. Past guest artists have included Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Lynn Harrell, Janos Starker, and Menahem Pressler. See upcoming concerts in the Winter Chamber Music Festival.

Segovia Classical Guitar Series

Each year the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music and the Chicago Classical Guitar Society present a roster of internationally acclaimed artists in concerts and master classes. Guest performers and teachers have included Julian Bream, Pepe Romero, Oscar Ghiglia, Eliot Fisk, Manuel Barrueco, Sharon Isbin, Eduardo Fernandez, David Russell, Paul O'Dette, Nigel North, and Paco Peña. See upcoming concerts in the Segovia Classical Guitar Series.

Experience music from the Strings program by searching our Davee Media Library for performances, master classes, and much more!


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