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Thurnauer School of Music

Theory & Composition


For students taking private music lessons, the Thurnauer School of Music offers a variety of classes designed to enhance students’ understanding and enjoyment of music. We offer beginning to advanced theory and ear training classes, composition classes and more.

Thurnauer offers a variety of music classes to enhance your child’s music education experience. Theory and Ear Training classes teach students how to read and hear music.

Students learn the fundamentals of rhythm and harmony. Composition classes give students the knowledge to compose their own original music.

For information, please call 201.408.1466.

Theory and Ear Training

Theory and Ear Training classes teach students how to hear the sounds of written music before it is played (sight-singing), translate heard sounds into notation (dictation), and connect those experiences to instrumental study. Students learn the fundamentals of rhythm and harmony. Classes are available both in person and virtually.

In BEGINNING A*, students learn basic notation on the treble clef, playing/singing and hearing intervals, basic rhythms and time signatures, and some improvisation and composition.

In BEGINNING B*, students solidify their knowledge of Beginning A concepts.

In BEGINNING C*, students learn to hear, play and distinguish among four different types of triads and their inversions, more advanced rhythms such as 16th notes and triplets, and the major scales and key signatures. They also learn to write and read in both treble and bass clef and write small compositions.

In BEGINNING D*, students solidify their knowledge of Beginning C concepts

In INTERMEDIATE A*, students learn to put triads together into cycles, more advanced rhythm (3 against 2), odd meters, more advanced repertoire, basic 4-part voice leading, 7th chords and inversions, and basic composition.

In INTERMEDIATE B*, students solidify their knowledge of Intermediate A concepts.

In INTERMEDIATE C*, students learn the Dorian modal system and modal harmony. They improvise and become fluent in writing, playing and hearing these progressions and scales. They write small compositions and analyze modes in orchestral pieces.

In ADVANCED A, students begin to synthesize prior knowledge and learn how to use and resolve chords in functional harmony. They connect the chord cycles they learned earlier to harmonic progressions and discover the effect of key signatures on cycles. They learn to play harmonies within a key and handle non-harmonic tones in composition and analysis.

In ADVANCED B, students analyze pieces written during the Common Practice Period and learn to identify secondary dominant chords, modulations, and form.

In ADVANCED C, students learn augmented 6 chords, and more advanced chromaticism and analysis.

AP Music Theory Prep

This course is a thorough study of musical elements that are on the AP Music Theory exam, and includes in-depth ear training, weekly assignments, and reviews, culminating in a practice exam and review. Students must purchase the Barron’s AP study guide.

Music Theory for Guitarists I & II

Ages 10+ (Including Adults)

For intermediate and advanced guitarists (Suzuki Guitar Book 2+)

Prerequisite: Students must be able to identify notes on staff, clefs, time signatures and rhythms, and know how sharps and flats work. Ever wonder why it helps you as a musician to learn music theory? Does the stuff you learn in music theory seem like it has no relevance to learning the guitar?

The Music Theory for Guitarists I class bridges the gap between theory and how it relates to what you play on the guitar – for example, how to construct major, minor, augmented, diminished chords, and seventh chords and then how to use this information to find chord shapes in various positions on the fingerboard. Students will also focus on specific problems of harmonic analysis to prepare them for analyzing full classical guitar pieces.

The Music Theory for Guitarists II class will build on the foundation set in the first class to explore how to analyze the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic structure of classical guitar music and how it relates to building a musical interpretation.

Music Theory for Guitarists I & II will be taught online only.


Composition classes give both beginning and advanced students the knowledge and confidence to compose their own original music. 

Sound Kitchen: An Introduction to Music Composition

Ages 11-14 with at least 1 year of instrumental study. Recommended that students are comfortable with the concepts covered in Theory & Ear Training Beginning A.

Designed to give young musicians the knowledge and confidence to compose their own original music. By listening to and discussing music from the past and present, students learn about all of the ingredients that go into a composition and from there, how to get cooking by crafting and combining these ingredients from scratch. Students emerge from the class able to confidently invent and write down their creative ideas using traditional and non-traditional notation. As a project-based class, students work independently on weekly composition assignments that receive feedback from the teacher, and gain the experience of having their original compositions performed and/or recorded by musicians from the Thurnauer community at several times throughout the year.

Sound Works: Composition Workshop

Ages 15-18 with at least 3 years of instrumental study. Recommended that students are comfortable with the concepts covered in Theory & Ear Training Intermediate A.

Provides advanced, young musicians with the skills and knowledge to craft original compositions for one-to-many instruments. By listening to and analyzing music from the past and present, across many genres, the class explores what makes music “work”— teasing out the tricks, techniques, and practices that composers have used to invent, expand and develop their creative ideas with the aim of doing so ourselves. Students complete weekly composition assignments, geared towards emerging from the class with several original compositions for a variety of instrumentations. Students’ compositions receive feedback regularly from the teacher, and benefit from collaborating with Thurnauer’s contemporary music ensemble, Ensemble X, to develop and hear their works performed on several occasions throughout the year.

Music History and Appreciation

Ensemble X—Contemporary Music

Ages 13+

For intermediate and advanced musicians and composers with roughly 4+ years of experience playing music

Prerequisite: Performance applicants must submit a video performance of a piece of their choice. Composer applicants must submit a PDF score (and if possible a recording or digital rendering) of an original composition.

Students explore contemporary music creation through composition, improvisation and performance in this weekly class. The program focuses on creating new music through collaboration between student instrumentalists and student composers. Students explore modern composition styles and performance techniques — learning some history, creating their own new approaches, and thinking beyond traditional formats to create music that is uniquely theirs. Classes include ensemble rehearsal, lessons on history and performance technique, and masterclasses with special guest faculty. Students benefit from collaborating with Thurnauer’s composition workshop, Sound Works. The program culminates in the creation of a digital ensemble performance video of a newly composed piece of classical music.

Advanced Piano Seminar

Open to advanced-level pianists, this class provides a deeper understanding of performance issues, musical structures, and the infinite possibilities that go\ into interpreting piano literature. The instrument has evolved greatly over the course of history, especially throughout the Industrial Revolution. Students study how composers in different eras approached the piano and how they responded to and were inspired by its development.

Emotion and Imagination in Musical Performance

Ages 10+ (Including Adults)

What does it really mean to express music with feeling? There is a reason that composers have poured their heart and soul into creating their music. It is the musician’s job to express the emotional intention of their music and bring their music to life. This means the musician must understand how their own expressive mechanics work in real life and how it can be channeled into the expression of musical ideas. This class takes ideas developed by the great acting teacher-director, Constanin Stanislavsky, and shows how his ideas on acting, the search for real human behavior in given emotional circumstances, can be applied to musical performance. Through fun activities and games involving imagination and sense memory, you will learn to explore the different ways to transfer human behavior into musical behavior.

For all musicians with at least two years playing and performing experience. Students will need their instruments and will use music they are comfortable playing to learn these new concepts.


Thurnauer School of Music

Flutestars® Summer Intensive 2022


Members $270/ Non-Members $300


Why should my child study music?

  • In addition to the enormous personal enjoyment music brings, music study helps children learn how to learn.
  • Attending lessons and practicing an instrument each day teaches focus, concentration, patience, critical thinking and reflection – skills we use throughout our lives.
  • Studies have shown that “students engaged in music programs outperformed their peers on every indicator: grade-point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance and discipline referrals.”
  • KU research establishes link between music education and academic achievement
    Why should my child study at the JCC

Thurnauer School of Music?

  • A school environment creates a community of musicians who inspire, motivate and befriend each other.
  • Students benefit musically and psychologically from the expertise of our excellent faculty, the School’s warm, nurturing atmosphere and the experience of hearing other students make music at different levels of musical development.
  • The Thurnauer School offers a stimulating variety of classes, performances, workshops, and recital opportunities.

Can my child just take private lessons at the Thurnauer School?

  • As an introduction to learning an instrument, students can take just a private lesson, but only during their first year at the school. Thereafter, all students must take one or more components as part of their music program.
  • Making music with others quickens the pace of learning and accomplishment. We also find that students have fun in these classes and that this is not only enriching but also highly motivational to them.
  • Children in a full program of music study are “stretched”, musically and intellectually, as they learn new things and exchange musical and verbal ideas with their peers.
  • A program that is limited to private lessons lacks the richness of learning about music. The more we understand, the more joy there is in playing and listening.

When should my child begin the study of music?

  • Learning about music can begin at birth. However, the best age to start an instrument varies with the instrument and the child’s physical development. For example, violinists and flutists can begin as young as 3, whereas trumpet players should be at least 8.
  • For children who are not yet ready to begin private lessons, we recommend our early childhood classes: Musical Explorers, Instrument Exploration, Piano Partners, and Young Drummers.
  • Our classes for young children stand on their own, but they are also developmental, and will introduce skills to help your child with further musical study if it’s desired. “Developmental” also means dynamic; each week builds on the previous lesson.

How should we help our child select an instrument?

  • The choice of instrument depends on the child’s interests, temperament and size. Most children have a natural affinity for a particular instrument or sound and, if given the chance to choose, will know what they like.
  • We encourage sitting in on lessons and classes at our School. Please contact our scheduling director to arrange for a visit or a trial lesson: 201-567-7900 Ext. 375 or
  • Attending professional concerts and student recitals with your child can also spark interest in a particular instrument. Children are welcome to attend any of our student recitals.

How do we select an instrumental teacher for your child?

At the Thurnauer School, a great deal of care is given to finding the best “match” from among our fine faculty. Music School Director Dorothy Roffman meets individually with each new student and parent(s) prior to enrollment, observing the child and learning about the family before assigning a teacher.

What is the registration process for new students?

The process is all handled online. It includes completing the registration form, enrolling in your choice of lessons and class, completing the scheduling forms, submitting a tuition deposit and, if you are enrolling ina private lesson program, scheduling a meeting with the Music School Director.

Do I need to register for the entire year?

With the exception of some early childhood classes, our curriculum is designed as a full, 30 week program. That said, you can withdraw within the first five weeks of classes for a prorated tuition and a $75 processing charge. Thereafter, partial refunds are available as stipulated in our Terms and Conditions.

Does the Music School offer a payment plan?

Yes. You can set up an eight month payment plan that withdraws funds from your bank account or charges your credit card automatically each month.

Does the Music School offer Financial Aid?

Yes. The Music School has a number of endowed funds earmarked for this purpose, and over 15%of our students receive some form of tuition scholarship. Scholarship forms are available online, or you may request one from the Financial Manager, Dan Jatovsky at

Are discounts available?

Yes. The following discounts are available for you and your family to enjoy the gift of music.

Sibling Discount
Save $25 off total tuition for a class or performance ensemble (if not part of a Private Lesson Program) SAVE $90 off total tuition for a Private Lesson Program

Refer a Friend Discount
Refer a new family who registers for private music lessons and you both get $100 off tuition

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