Historical Performance

Historical performance at BU is about more than just time spent developing skills and techniques; it is the exploration to find the spirit of the music by recreating the conditions of its original setting. Through performance practice seminars, instruction in period performance and thoroughbass realization, coached chamber music ensemble participation, and various performance opportunities both within and outside of the School, you will be pushed to make informed musical decisions and to capture the character of the music.

BU’s combination of conservatory-style training and a top-tier research institution provides the ideal training ground for the next generation of historically informed performers. You will receive private instrument/voice instruction from a distinguished faculty of leading performers in the field, and have access to the resources of the larger university including: the musicology department, the Center for Early Music Studies (CEMS), the extensive holdings of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and Mugar Memorial Library, as well the resources of other Schools and Colleges across Boston University.

Being located in Boston, the “Silicon Valley” of the early music movement in America, BU students have access to listen and learn from the leading performers and scholars that Boston hosts throughout the year. There are also multiple opportunities for students to play with or audition for outside groups such as Boston Baroque, Harvard Baroque, and Grand Harmonie.


Degrees Offered

  • Master of Music (MM)
  • Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Faculty Members


Center for Early Music Studies

The Center for Early Music Studies at Boston University (CEMS) is dedicated to the cultivation and dissemination of performance, scholarship, and new pedagogical practices involving music of the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods. Drawing on a renowned cohort of scholar/performers at Boston, CEMS supports a regular cycle of lectures, concerts, residencies by visiting artists, workshops, and conferences. In addition, the center collaborates with other departments and institutions to stimulate interdisciplinary research on early music and its place in the broader contexts of cultural history.

Mini-Courses & Lectures

Taught by eminent figures in the field of early music, CEMS mini-courses and residences provide an intensive, laboratory-style immersion in early music scholarship and performance on selected topics, composers, and repertories, covering vocal and instrumental styles from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century.

  • Fantasy and Improvisation: Freedom in Keyboard Practice, 17th-18th Centuries
  • 16th-Century Italian Madrigals
  • An intensive study of Monteverdi’s Orfeo
  • 12th-Century Aquitanian Polyphony
  • Shake It: 500 Years of Vibrato in String Playing
  • Music for Canterbury Cathedral, c. 1540
  • 17th & 18th-century French Songs: Rhetoric & Performance
  • Moving the Souls of Listeners: Accompanying Monody
  • Clemens non Papa: a Study on His Influence and Reception (with Alamire Foundation)

Recent Visiting Performers

In recent years, the Historical Performance department has had visitors such as

  • Crawford Young, lute (Schola Cantorum, Basel)
  • Benjamin Bagby, vocalist, harpist (Sequentia, Paris)
  • Andrew Parrott, conductor
  • Emily Van Evera, soprano
  • Guy Fishman, cello (The Handel and Haydn Society, Boston)
  • Anne Azéma, soprano, (Boston Camerata)
  • Shira Kammen, vielle
  • Andreas Scholl, countertenor
  • Capella Pratensis (The Netherlands)

Unique Opportunities

  • The city of Boston, long a world center for early music performance, serves as a supportive backdrop in developing student careers. Boston University’s resources—its libraries, facilities, and faculty—offer students rich support in the pursuit of their studies. Additionally, candidates enjoy professional-level performance opportunities in many local groups as well as mounting their own public performance projects.
  • Arts Administration Certificate program, through the BU Metropolitan College, offers courses for graduate students interested in futures in arts leadership and administration.
  • Cross-curricular opportunities in the College of Fine Arts and access to the greater University’s resources.

Notable Alumni