The Department of Music began when the university began, in 1948. In 1949, the nascent university hired Erwin Bodky, a German Jew, former student of Richard Strauss, and the world’s foremost authority on the keyboard works of Bach. In his acceptance of the position at Brandeis he penned, “Brandeis must create the very finest musical education, else it is better that we do not start.” Bodky worked diligently to lay a foundation that would continue to entice musical talents to teach and study at Brandeis University. Another notable figure in the history of the Department of Music, Leonard Bernstein, became a visiting professor in 1951. In 1952 he established the Creative Arts Festival, now known as the Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts.
Erwin Bodky, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Fine, Harold Shapiro, and Arthur Berger founded the graduate program in composition in 1953. One year later, in 1954, the Department of Music expanded their graduate offerings to include master’s and doctoral degrees in music history, analysis, and criticism. Over the years the graduate program has expanded to include master’s, master’s of fine arts, and doctoral programs in composition and musicology. The Department of Music also offers a joint masters in music and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies to interested doctoral students.
During the first nine years of the music program it lacked a permanent home, making due with the limited space available in Ullman Auditorium. In 1957 the Slosberg Music and Arts Center opened and provided classrooms, practice rooms, and a 250 seat recital hall for students in music, theater, and fine arts. Now named the Slosberg Music Center, it continues to be home to the Department of Music.
In 1961, Gustav Ciamaga established Brandeis’s first electric music studio. Today, the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio (BEAMS) focuses on the making of music as opposed to the technological aspects of electro-acoustic music, setting it apart from other such facilities throughout the country.
Though leaders and visionaries have come and gone the Department of Music continues to foster a campus wide appreciation for music as entertainment and as an art. Along with offering a comprehensive musical education to undergraduates and graduate students, it invites all musically inclined students to participate in some of the ensembles, orchestras, and choirs. Each year it hosts concert series and festivals performed by visiting performers, professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and various ensembles.