Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

6 Music Research Opportunities for High School Students

5 minute read

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Music research is an exciting, multidisciplinary, and dynamic field. In general, this field of study aims to reveal new theories and perspectives on how music works, could work, or has worked in the past. For example, as a music historian and composer, I am currently studying the stories behind twentieth-century compositional practices in the United States and France, and creating new music that reflects and builds on those stories.

What is music research? 

There are hundreds of angles from which to launch a music research project. Music research can explore one or more related subfields, including music technology, music history, music theory, music composition, music cognition, acoustics, musical instrument design, and more. Recent publications of note have explored (among other topics) the effect that live music concerts produce on the brain when compared to recorded music, the relationships between music and politics during the Jim Crow Era, and practical research through experimental music composition.

How can I get involved in music research as a high school student?

With all of the possible approaches to music research, there are countless ways for high school students to participate. For example, when I was in high school, you could build your own musical instrument and compose a piece of music for yourself to perform on it. Or, you could design a cognitive study that explores why we perceive some music as happy and some as scary (or some variation). For these types of projects, it would probably be helpful to work with a mentor in the field of music research. 


In this case, reaching out to Polygence is a great first step to get matched with an expert! Through one of our programs, you’ll be able to work directly with a music researcher like me to guide you through the process. Click here to learn more and apply now!

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Interested in visual arts, music, or literature? We can match you with an expert mentor who will help you explore your creative streak!

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Here are six opportunities for you to explore music research through music composition, technology, and analysis.

6 Exciting Music Research Opportunities for High School Students

1. University of Michigan: Girls in Music & Technology (GiMaT)


Music technology, as a field, has been historically male-dominated. This program at the University of Michigan is open to all. Still, it aims to support girls who are interested in applying technology to music through electronic performance and composition, computer programming, production, and more. At the end of the two-week session, participants present their work during an open showcase. The program, which is run through the Department of Performing Arts Technology, has been introducing high schoolers to sound engineering and music technology since 2017.

2. UCLA Summer Global Jazz Intensive

This week-long intensive course, led by faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music, is the nation’s first workshop in global jazz studies for high school students. In addition to private lessons with faculty and guest artists, participants engage with topics in progressive performance and composition based on the global jazz repertoire.

3. Interlochen Composition Summer Program

Interlochen is one of the country’s most well-known high schools for music and the arts. Several of my friends and colleagues attended the school and have gone on to successful careers as professional musicians. Through Interlochen’s summer program in music composition, students get to study composition techniques, music history and twentieth-century analysis, music theory, orchestration, as well as topics in music technology.


4. Juilliard Extension: Music Theory Courses

For high school students interested in the field of music theory, mastering the fundamentals through Juilliard Extension (open to high school students around the world) is a great way to get a head start on college-level studies. A variety of online courses are available for students at different levels, including basic ear training, model composition, and analysis of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century harmony and form.


5. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA): Summer Composition/Music Technology Intensive

The School of the Arts is uniquely positioned as a high school-, undergraduate-, and graduate-level conservatory. They have a stellar reputation, and I have personally worked with several talented musicians who got their start there and one who is now teaching there! Their Summer Composition/Music Technology Intensive is designed for students who have some experience composing music using tools like Noteflight (for typesetting) or Garageband (Digital Audio Workstations). No previous composition training is required to apply; the program is tailored to fit individual students’ experience levels.



6. Berklee College of Music BIAAE Music History Class

  • Eligibility criteria: arts program for people with disabilities

  • Location: Boston, MA and online (hybrid format)

  • Program timeline: twelve 60 minutes classes on Saturdays during the spring and fall semesters 

  • Cost: $400 per semester

  • Application deadline: varies

  • Link: https://college.berklee.edu/BIAESN/music-history-class-music

This music history class at Berklee is designed to teach students with disabilities about composers from various time periods and cultural backgrounds. The program’s faculty includes researchers in accessible arts education, including autism specialists and professionals concentrating in Social-Emotional Learning.


Other Music Opportunities for High School Students

If you are a high school student interested in completing a personal research project in the field of music, meet with a mentor from Polygence to get personalized advice and guidance throughout the entire process! In addition to research projects in music history or technology, you also have the option to work on a creative project like an original musical composition, film score, or musical instrument design. For more information, check out our music project ideas for high schoolers!

Explore the Fine Arts through research

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion: literature, drama, film making, theatre, writing, poetry. Together, you create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!

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