Welcome to the Piano Area website of Mississippi State University, Department of Music. Located on this site is information concerning auditions, degree programs, classes/lessons, chamber music and ensemble opportunities, scholarships, and FAQ. A core mission of our program is to prepare students for professional careers with a well-rounded education in music as well as solo and collaborative performance. You are welcome to visit music classes, tour the music building, and meet with faculty and students anytime. We would also like to extend a special invitation to attend our fall semester Music Discovery Day and our end of the semester Recitals.

If you are a prospective student, please take a few moments to browse our website, by visiting Future Students and Academics. If you have any other questions please contact the area chair, Dr. Rosângela Sebba at rys3@colled.msstate.edu or call at (662) 325-2854. We want to hear from you!

We encourage all piano majors and minors to read/follow the Piano Area Handbook as a supplement of this web page and Student Handbook

Steinway Initiative

MSU College of Education and Department of Music announces its All-Steinway School Initiative with the purchase of nine new pianos since April 2015. In addition to joining more than 175 institutions of higher learning and conservatories throughout the world with this distinction, the university seeks to become the only Mississippi school holding the prestigious honor. Visit Giving to support the Steinway Initiative.

Learn More about the Steinway Initiative

Performance Opportunities

There are many opportunities for pianists to perform as soloists, accompanists, and as members of small and large ensembles. Piano majors have frequent opportunities to participate in master classes with guest world-renowned musicians. Every spring semester, the Starkville/MSU Symphony Orchestra offers the concerto competition, when students perform a movement of a concerto or orchestral work competing for an opportunity to perform as a soloist with the community orchestra the following fall semester. The competition consists of a preliminary and final round, with the final round being held as an evening recital open to the public.

The piano area holds a weekly required studio class for majors and minor in an attempt to provide extra time to discuss, listen and perform different piano repertoire for solo, four/six/eight hands. Besides the weekly studio class, the area provides an end of the semester Piano Studio Recital open to the public, both events factor into the weekly and semester lesson grade. In order to qualify for a semester grade of “A” in an applied lesson, students must perform on W@2 Recital Hour Class at least once each semester. Music majors and minors are exempted from this requirement only during their first semester of applied study at MSU. 

Degree Options

The MSU Department of Music offers two degrees: Bachelor of Music Education (through the College of Education) and Bachelor of Arts in Music (through the College of Arts and Sciences). Some MSU students elect to pursue double majors (e.g., music and math) or select two performance areas (e.g., piano and voice) within a music major. [Please note that only one concentration will appear in your degree. The other concentration will be listed in your transcript.]


Although alternate dates are available, the preferred scholarship audition date for music majors is the third Saturday in February. For more information, please visit Auditions and Scholarships.


Our undergraduate program requires at least 12 credit hours (6 semesters of 2 credit hours - 1 hour lesson) of applied lessons for the B.M.E. and B.A. degrees before graduation, 4 of which must be at the 3000 level. Piano majors must be enrolled in at least 2 credit hours of applied lessons during the semester of preparation for the B.M.E. degree recital or the B.A. recital or project. Students are evaluated weekly according to their development and accomplishments. In addition, they are also evaluated in two juries: the mid-term jury and the final jury. For the mid-term jury, referred to as the "reading jury," students are evaluated according to their progress, to date, on assigned repertoire: correct notes, rhythms, steady tempo, continuity, evenness, dynamics and pedaling. Tempo and memorization are not required for the mid-term jury. For the final jury, students are expected to prepare what was mentioned above and perform: two memorized works, additional repertoire (preferred by memory, yet not required), technique (scales, arpeggios and/or exercises), an independent-study work (not memorized), and a sight-reading example (provided during the jury).

The MSU piano faculty offers a complimentary 30-minute lesson with each professor, free of charge, for incoming piano majors. Freshman and transfers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to help them get to know the professors and their different styles of teaching and background.

Chamber Music and Ensembles Opportunities

Piano majors are encouraged to take MU 3201 - Collaborate Piano Ensemble after their first semester at MSU. This class provides an opportunity to learn how to accompany a variety of instruments, voice, and learn the collaborative repertoire. Other opportunities are offered through auditions to participate in small and large ensembles, and you can find information at Ensembles.


Students whose main performance area is piano are encouraged to audition for scholarship consideration with either the band or the choir. For more information go to Auditions and Scholarships.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, piano classes are required for all music majors to train practical skills such as playing lead sheets, improvising, harmonizing, and playing by ear. Beginning pianists take the slower-paced, four-semester sequence (MU 2111, MU 2121, MU 3111, MU 3121); intermediate-to-advanced pianists take the faster-paced, two-semester sequence (MU 3112, MU 3122).

Yes, the P.P.E. is required for all music majors. All exam components must be passed before graduation, and the purpose of the exam is to ensure minimum competency in keyboard skills necessary for success as a professional music educator.

We recommend that you re-take the last semester of piano class or applied lessons, MUA 1020. Students are allowed to take the exam three times and all exam components should be passed when retaking it.

You should contact the W@2 professor of record for exemption. Your studio teacher together with the professor of record will work together to require extra evening concerts/recitals attendance in lue of the W@2 attendance. Although the studio class and a performance on W@2 is required for all piano majors, if there is a conflict you are exempt from it. Nevertheless, you are still required to perform on the Piano Studio Recital.

If you are a piano major, you are required to enroll in MU 3112 and MU 3122. If you are not a piano major and have fulfilled piano requirements at another institution, you should attempt to take the P.P.E. at the beginning of your first semester of enrollment at MSU. If you don’t pass the proficiency exam, the piano faculty will recommend an appropriate piano class or applied lessons to help you acquire the necessary skills to pass the exam. The P.P.E. may be scheduled during end-of-semester piano juries for those who need to retake the exam. For more information about the P.P.E., please view the P.P.E. Form.

"The purpose of the exam is to ensure minimum competence in keyboard skills necessary for success as a professional in the field of music or music education."

All majors are required to pass the Upper Division Proficiency Exam. In the final jury students present a lecture and a performance before enrolling in 3000 level applied lessons. The purpose of the exam is to ensure competence in writing, public speaking, and performance, all of which are necessary skills for success as professional musicians and educators. The exam for the piano area comprises of a 30-minute lecture/recital involving four components:

  • you will write a 1500 words research paper based on a piano composition (in consultation with your applied professor);
  • you will give a 15-minute verbal overview of your research paper to jury members using PowerPoint;
  • you will perform the composition by memory at the end of your presentation;
  • you will be asked questions pertinent to the paper/subject by members of the jury.

Please read the latest Student Handbook for more details on what is expected and required for this examination. Following the U.D.P.E. presentation, you will perform the other memorized work, your independent study, scales/arpeggios, and sight reading. If time allows, you will perform the rest of your non-memorized prepared repertoire.

As an entering freshman, you should enroll in MUA 1010. Transfer piano majors should see Dr. Sebba and/or Dr. Edwards to schedule a placement audition. Usually, transfers with at least 2 semesters of lower-level college applied study are qualified to enroll in MUA 2010.

Receiving a final grade of "C" or better for the semester does not imply that a student can enroll in a higher level of piano lessons. Each student is evaluated according to the level of literature he/she is performing and how well it is performed during the final jury. Jury members will determine whether or not a student is prepared to enroll in a higher level of applied study, and the decision will be recorded on the final jury form.

Due to scheduling, accommodations are made first for piano majors, then music majors, followed by non-music majors. Piano majors will be taught by the piano faculty, and we try to honor their choice of teacher.

For music majors (brass, woodwind, percussion, strings and vocal) we suggest that you take the piano class sequence before enrolling in piano lessons. You can take lessons after the piano class sequence as many semesters as you wish as long as your schedule allows it and you have time to practice.

Four components are required for each semester: repertoire, scales/arpeggios/exercises, sight reading, and independent study. The repertoire should encompass three to four different periods in music and your applied professor will make suggestions according to your skills. We recommend that you carefully read your applied piano syllabus for more detailed information about requirements and expectations.

Students are invited to teach in the Community Music School program by their applied area only after taking certain upper classes, such as: methods and pedagogy classes applied to each concentration. For the piano area, you are expected to have taken all the Theory and Ear Training sequence classes as well as Piano Literature and Piano Pedagogy. 

The piano area faculty welcomes you as a music major or as a music minor! For more information about our piano faculty please visit the Faculty page.