Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Program overview

The Music and Sonic Arts program focuses on music recording, production, audio programming, interactivity, and composition.  The program of study has foundations in music theory and related skills in contemporary popular music languages.

Getting started

There is no special application or audition process to start this program. Unlike other music programs in 4-year colleges, which require and assume formal training in classical, Western, or concert music, we welcome students of any experience level (or none) to our program.

Transferring in prior credits

Some music-related courses from other colleges can be transferred in on the approval of the department chair.  Meet with the program advisor to review your transcripts.

Starting with prior music experience

If you have experience in a sequenced subject, you can email the instructor and discuss your placement. (Find instructor contact information in the class schedule.) The instructor will want to make sure you will be successful in the level you are wanting to be placed.

How to see what will be covered in each course:  Find detailed course information Course Content and Outcome Guide (CCOG) website.  A link to the CCOG can be found in each course description in the class schedule. Reviewing the CCOG can be helpful if you have experience in a subject and think you might bypass part I or II of a sequence class. Email the instructor for clarification of your placement.

Equipment and software

Students starting the program Fall 2021 (remote classes via Zoom) will need a computer with at least 4 gigs of memory and a keyboard for Group Piano I.  You don’t need to purchase any software for our program as we provide labs for students to use outside of class.

Labs and studios
  • Sound lab: music production lab with 20 digital audio workstations
  • Recording studio: complete with 2 control rooms, large live room, and 2 isolation rooms
  • Performance and lecture room: for vocal groups, instrumental ensembles, and lectures
  • Interactivity lab: for creative coding, show control, physical computing, and electronics
  • Keyboard lab: with 16 electronic pianos
Software available in labs
  • Digital lab: Ableton Live
  • Studio: Pro Tools
  • Coding classes: Max / MSP / Jitter, Processing, and Pure Data
Specialized equipment
  • Mobile high density loudspeaker array for multi-channel productions and 3D audio
  • Virtual reality machine for the creation of virtual environments and virtual instruments
  • Variety of boutique legacy and cutting edge electronic instruments, including: synthesizers, modular synthesizer, drum machines
  • Variety of controllers, including: industry-standard MIDI controllers, innovative gestural controllers, repurposed legacy game controllers
  • Short and long-throw projectors for projection mapping and interactive graphics
  • Large assortment of sensors (contact microphones, pressure sensors, motion sensors) for teaching students to create interactive installations and environments
  • Variety of open source software and DIY hardware, preparing students to work effectively with little to no capital investment
  • Wide variety of industry standard microphones and audio processing units for use in the recording studios and for live performances
  • Drum kits, keyboard instruments, guitars, amps, PA equipment, and related gear for use by students in practice and performing ensembles

Choosing between the degree or certificate

If you are just starting out with your college education, choose the Associate Degree: Music and Sonic Arts. Students with prior degrees usually choose the Career Pathway Certificate: Music and Sonic Arts. The certificate is designed to enhance or update existing skills. The certificate is made up of the courses from year one of the two year Associate Degree.

Planning your schedule

First year courses are offered in a sequence that starts each fall.  A typical schedule will have you in class (via Zoom) approximately Mon-Thurs, 10am to 4pm.

Example schedules: see term-by-term breakdowns in the Music and Sonic Arts catalog.

Starting in winter, spring, or summer

If you can’t start in the fall, you may be able to take intro courses during winter, spring, or summer term. Depending on your goal, here are some classes that might be appropriate – talk with our program advisor to plan your schedule.

  • MUS 110 Fundamentals of Music (new to music)
  • MUS 101 Introduction to Music (new to music)
  • MUC 101 Contemporary Theory I
  • MUS 170 Music Tech: Beats & Basics (offered every term)
  • Writing 121
  • General Education courses
  • Music and Sonic Arts program electives
Attending part-time

For part-time schedules, we recommend taking either the theory-based classes or the technology-based classes. This way, skills you learn in one class can reinforce what you learn in another. Often, related classes are offered on the same days of the week.  Example part-time schedules:

  • Theory-based: 7 credits total

    • Contemporary Music Theory
    • Sight Singing Ear Training
    • Rhythm Training
    • Group Piano
  • Technology-based: 6 credits total

    • Recording Technology
    • Music Technology
Attending while working full-time

We don’t recommend students who are working full-time to also take full-time classes. The time commitment to successfully complete a degree not only includes hours in class, but also includes study, project, and practice hours completed outside of class time.  Students who take a full-time course load of 12 hours per week should expect to spend an additional 36 hours outside of class. This amounts to a 48-hour school week.

What to take during summer term

If you are following the example schedule in the catalog and want to complete the degree in 6 terms, you’re encouraged to take general education, Writing 121, and Music and Sonic Arts elective courses in summer. Taking classes in summer will lighten the credit load for year 2.

How much math is required?

The two year degrees require MUC 233: Math for in the Arts. This course cannot be substituted.

Program costs

Associates degrees have 90 credits of instruction, which costs approximately $12,700. See the college cost calculator for a breakdown of costs for each term. PCC has a variety of financial aid options and scholarship opportunities available for students. Attend a scholarship workshop to get hands-on help applying for PCC Foundation scholarships.  See the Oregon Student Aid website for additional scholarship options.

About cohorts

A cohort is where you take most of your classes in a progressive sequence with the same group of students.  Our program is organized into cohorts to allow for community-building and easy scheduling.

Transferring to a 4-year university

PCC classes with an MUC label are accepted by PSU due to a special agreement between the colleges. To find out if a different college will accept MUC classes, contact that school’s admissions and advising office. Most students, when first starting out, are unsure about transferring. If you decide you want to transfer, meet with our program advisor to plan coursework needed for a bachelors degree.

Additional Questions?

Contact the Program Advisor: Darcy Demers