World-class instruction in Oregon's performing arts capital

Located in the heart of Portland’s performing arts district, the School of Music & Theater at Portland State University is an extraordinary place to realize your potential as a performing artist. Our world-renowned faculty of performers, composers, and scholars is deeply engaged with the community and dedicated to student success. We will challenge you to grow and excel personally and musically as we prepare you to be the next generation of world-changing teachers, performers, scholars, composers, and arts advocates

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To become an undergraduate music major, students must apply to both PSU and the School of Music & Theater in separate applications. Graduate students must apply through the PSU Graduate School application.

Upcoming events

PSU Jazz Virtual Series: Vanessa Rubin

Join the Portland State University Jazz Area for our weekly PSU Jazz…
Add to my Calendar 2021-01-27 15:00:00 2021-01-27 15:50:00 PSU Jazz Virtual Series: Vanessa Rubin Join the Portland State University Jazz Area for our weekly PSU Jazz Virtual Series. Each week features a world class artist engaging in lecture and conversation with students and faculty. Follow Portland State University on Facebook to receive notification when the page goes Live. Revered as both a torchbearer and a storyteller, jazz vocalist Vanessa Rubin possesses a voice hailed for crystalline clarity, hearth-like warmth and playful lioness sass. The Cleveland native brings a wealth of diverse influences to her vocal performance from both the Trinidadian/Caribbean roots of her mother and traditional jazz by way of her Louisiana-born father. Additional homespun influences include the melodic bell tone clarity of a young Capital Records recording artist, Nancy Wilson, the fire of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, the sweet sounds of trumpeter Blue Mitchell as well as her love of the Motown Sound…especially girl groups like the Supremes. Rubin’s passion for rich musical stories are evidenced throughout her eight albums thus far plus numerous guest appearances. Highlights include the evocative “Voyager II” from the pen of Teri Thornton, “Inside a Silent Tear” written by Blossom Dearie, a refashioned waltz version of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” lyricized by New York Voices and an arrangement of “Superwoman” by Stevie Wonder inspired by the Ahmad Jamal recording of “Poinciana”. So while she has one foot planted in tradition – sticking close to timeless melodies and exquisite vocal forms – Rubin waxes adventurous, embracing stories lesser told while employing lessons of acclaimed storytellers in song such as Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn and Freddy Cole. “They mastered the art of believability”, Rubin asserts. Additionally, Rubin continues to back her way into The Blues with an urgent appreciation for soulful mentors like Etta Jones and Irene Reid. Also among her current endeavors is highlighting and interpreting well known, obscure and new lyrical works of composer/arranger/pianist Tadd Dameron. “I hope to do for Tadd’s music what Carmen McRae did for Monk’s music”, Rubin explained. Vanessa’s journey to becoming a jazz singer could be said to have begun at an early age. She was characterized by her mother as always being “a very vocal child,” and knew Vanessa would, “do something with that big ol’ mouth of hers.” Coming from parents who valued academia, discipline and hard work, that “something” was meant to be law school. Attaining a BA from The Ohio State School of Journalism in 1979 was not a disappointment. However, her decision to pursue a career jazz singing did come as a surprise. Vanessa’s fascination with language coupled with her passion for music, especially jazz, pointed her on a collision course toward jazz performance. Her “a-ha” moment came during a college beauty pageant at which Vanessa was accompanied by a very young, and even then, a very capable Bobby Floyd of Columbus, Ohio. Her first performance of a jazz evergreen, the Billie Holiday original “God Bless The Child,” garnered both rousing applause and the winning talent award. Most importantly though, it awakened what Vanessa describes as “her calling.” “I fell in love with the moment, the music, the audience and the effect it had on them and me,” Rubin remembers. Vanessa’s first gigs began around 1980 in small clubs around Cleveland such as Tucker’s Place, Bob’s Toast of the Town, Lancer’s Steak House, Club Isabella, The Native Son and The Teal Lounge. Some early band mates included Wynn Bibbs, Skip Gibson, saxophonist and arranger Willie Smith, Neal Creque, Matthew “Chink” Stevenson and, later, the uniquely soulful organ quartet of The Blackshaw Brothers with Cecil Rucker on vibes. “We worked 8 days a week all over Cleveland catching the tail end of what was left over from the good old days,” Rubin recalls. After two years, Rubin was anxious to set her sights on New York where she earnestly and humbly soaked up the tutelage of many veterans like Pharaoh Sanders, Frank Foster and Barry Harris. In 1992, Rubin signed to Novus/RCA Records recording five albums, three of which reached #1 at radio. Her debut recording Soul Eyes (1992) was produced by the venerable Onaje Allen Gumbs. Her sophomore recording, Pastiche (1993) showed off her horn like abilities interacting with an all-star sextet which included jazz legends Frank Foster and Cecil Bridgewater. I’m Glad There is You, A Tribute to Carmen McRae (1994) followed, finding Vanessa couched in beautiful string arrangements with jazz luminaries Kenny Burrell and Grover Washington. Her fourth release Vanessa Rubin Sings (1995) was intimately guitar based. It was easy to see Vanessa flourished on Novus with the muscle of parent company RCA Records behind her. However, when the Novus label folded between her fourth and fifth recording option, Vanessa was invited to stay on at RCA to record her fifth album, New Horizons (1997) – a new more contemporary sound. This move, predictably, was not heralded by her jazz base but gained her a new audience with smooth jazz/NAC fans. She next recorded two mainstream CDs for Telarc Jazz: Language of Love (1999) and Girl Talk (2001). Full Circle (Creative Perspective Music – 2013), her most recent release, is a joint project of Vanessa Rubin and saxophonist Don Braden, both of whom are from the Midwest and share a deep appreciation for the Hammond B3. Rubin has also grown to recognize the importance and advantage of writing. “When it comes to finding your style and sound, it helps to have your own stories.” she shares. “And in order to do that, you just have to live! I’ve always been conscientious about my choice of repertoire. Even more so now. I need something substantive and honest to sing.” A turning point was composing her first original, “No Strings Attached”. Other originals by Rubin featured on her recordings are “Once Was Not Enough”, “If You Ever Go Away” and “Are You Ready For Me?” She also penned the first set of lyrics to Frank Foster’s “Simone”, Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” (vocally re-titled “All For One”) and Tadd Dameron’s “The Dream Is You” (vocally re-titled “Reveries Do Come True”). That singing jazz would lead to acting was in no way a strange transition for Vanessa Rubin. “We are all actresses,” Rubin remembers from a conversation with Carmen McRae. “I’ve gotta have some drama,” shared in another coveted conversation with Nancy Wilson. Both celebrated veterans ventured into acting for television and film. In their emboldened footsteps, Rubin has enjoyed for several years now performing the play “Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday” written by Renee Upchurch and directed by Mr. Woodie King Jr. This one woman show about the life and music of the most legendary of jazz vocal immortals netted Ms. Rubin a 2011 nomination for a Kevin Klein Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. Rubin continues to be a favorite at jazz clubs and festivals here in the US and abroad. Her work as a producer and educator/clinician with youth in communities as well as in educational institutions worldwide is ongoing. “I understand now that my career is a calling,” Vanessa concludes. “I do it not only because I want to…but because I have to. A lot is bubbling just beneath the surface…and I am no longer afraid to be naked.”   Facebook Live Sherry Alves Sherry Alves America/Los_Angeles public

Diversity and Inclusion in Violin Performance

Dr. Nicole Cherry is Assistant Professor of Violin at The University of…
Add to my Calendar 2021-01-27 17:00:00 2021-01-27 18:00:00 Diversity and Inclusion in Violin Performance Dr. Nicole Cherry is Assistant Professor of Violin at The University of Texas at San Antonio and second violinist of the award-winning Marian Anderson String Quartet. Based in Texas for over twenty years, Dr. Cherry is a dedicated teacher and has held artist-teacher residencies at Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, University of Washington, and Brown University where she has trained promising string players of all ages.  Dr. Cherry received her Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School with training that has exposed her to the teaching and mentorship of the world’s most distinguished artists such as members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, Emerson, Colorado and the Takács String Quartet; as well as esteemed violinists including Isidore Cohen, Erick Friedman, Joseph Fuchs, Felix Galimir, and renowned Baroque violinist, Jaap Schroeder.  She has performed in ensembles conducted by Pierre Boulez, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, and as concertmaster under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich. Dr. Cherry received her Bachelor of Music degree from University of Maryland and completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Texas Tech University where she studied with Annie Chalex Boyle. Dr. Cherry has also received graduate fellowships from the Peabody Institute of Music and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Dr. Cherry has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician in such venues as the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, Strathmore Hall, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. She has performed in Europe, the Middle East and Asia including a tour as a featured soloist in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and South Africa. During this tour, Dr. Cherry had the honor of performing before the Queen Noor of Jordan and sharing music with underdeveloped townships in Johannesburg during Apartheid.  Comfortable in various styles of music, Dr. Cherry has shared the stage with a diverse list of artists such as members of prestigious chamber ensembles; the International Contemporary Ensemble, the San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, the American Chamber Players, the Colorado, Pacifica, Audubon, Penderecki and Cleveland Quartets as well great jazz pianist Stanley Cowell, gospel music icon, Richard Smallwood, and the late Whitney Houston.  Dr. Cherry has made several radio and television appearances with solo performances at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals including the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, and the Pablo Casals Festival. Dr. Cherry has also presented and performed at the Hawaii International Conference on the Arts, Texas Music Educators Association Conference, American String Teacher’s Association Conference, Chamber Music America Conference, Hot Springs Music Festival, American Festival of the Arts, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Dr. Cherry serves on the Texas ASTA Board and beginning summer 2021, Dr. Cherry joins the faculty of Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. As a member of the Marian Anderson String Quartet, artistic endeavors have brought them to venues such as New York City’s Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, the Ravinia Festival, the Fischoff Chamber Music Foundation, Washington DC area’s Strathmore Hall, the Smithsonian Institute as well as a recent TEDx Talk hosted by Blinn College, in Bryan, Texas.  Dr. Cherry served as President of the Marian Anderson String Quartet Community Music School, Inc. and Artistic Director of the Marian Anderson String Quartet Summer Chamber Music Institute in its Texas and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands locations. In recognition of committed music outreach with the quartet, Dr. Cherry garnered two Mayoral Proclamations, Chamber Music America’s Guarneri String Quartet Award, the Congress of Racial Equality’s MLK JR. Award for Outstanding Arts Achievement, as well as a $200,000 grant to tour the US from the Texaco Foundation partnered with Da Camera of Houston. A champion of new music, Dr. Cherry has commissioned several works including companion pieces based on her research of 19th century Afro-European violinist, George Bridgetower (The ForgewithGeorge Music Project - 2033). Commissions include Berklee College composer, David Wallace’s 2017 work, “The Bridgetower” for speaking, singing, solo violinist, which incorporates the text of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rita Dove’s book, “Sonata Mulattica.” Dr. Cherry has since premiered the work all over the US, and Canada with scheduled dates in Europe. Subsequent commissions include composers, Jessie Cox, Yvette Janine Jackson, Philip Wharton and Grammy-nominated composer, D. J. Sparr. Upcoming projects include a recording of these new works with Albany Records and a major publication of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, Op. 47 with the inclusion of George Bridgetower’s original performance embellishments and his original compositions. Dr. Cherry’s doctoral research on the nineteenth-century Afro-European violin virtuoso, George Bridgetower, which explores historical socio-cultural theories in string music, led to a featured performance at the President’s Lecture Series opening for renowned orator, Michael Eric Dyson followed by featured interview segments on Lubbock, Texas' NPR Station, KTTZ and PBS TV. Dr. Cherry is also the recipient of Texas Tech University’s Paul Whitfield Horn Award and the President’s Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award. The Juilliard School profiled Dr. Cherry in the Juilliard Journal’s 100th-anniversary issue, “A Quiet Revolution: Juilliard Alumni and the Transformation of Education in America Through the Arts.”   Live on Zoom Tomas Cotik Tomas Cotik America/Los_Angeles public

Noon Concert: Rory Cowal

Presenting a concert of solo piano music, Rory Cowal will perform works by…
Add to my Calendar 2021-01-28 12:00:00 2021-01-28 13:00:00 Noon Concert: Rory Cowal Presenting a concert of solo piano music, Rory Cowal will perform works by Portland composers Darrell Grant, Deena T. Grossman, Caroline Louise Miller, and Kennedy Verrett, as well as a classic work by Anthony Davis, the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music. As a classical pianist, Rory Cowal’s repertoire spans the breadth of the American avant-garde. In addition to classic works by composers such as John Cage and Johanna Beyer, he has performed numerous premieres, including pieces by Muhal Richard Abrams, Kris Davis, and Larry Polansky.  His 2018 album, Clusters: Piano Explorations (New World Records) received an enthusiastic review in the New York Times and one track was also selected for the Times’ 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018.   As a jazz pianist, he has performed at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival, Jazz at LACMA, JazzPOP, Harlem in the Himalayas, and other festivals and clubs throughout the United States and Canada. His jazz quartet, Slumgum, has released four albums and won the 2013 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.   Facebook Live PSU School of Music & Theater PSU School of Music & Theater America/Los_Angeles public

PSU Jazz Virtual Series: Melissa Aldana

Join the Portland State University Jazz Area for our weekly PSU Jazz…
Add to my Calendar 2021-02-03 15:00:00 2021-02-03 15:50:00 PSU Jazz Virtual Series: Melissa Aldana Join the Portland State University Jazz Area for our weekly PSU Jazz Virtual Series. Each week features a world class artist engaging in lecture and conversation with students and faculty. Follow Portland State University on Facebook to receive notification when the page goes Live. Aldana was born in Santiago, Chile. She began playing the saxophone when she was six, under the influence and tuition of her father Marcos Aldana, also a professional saxophonist. Aldana began with alto, influenced by artists such as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Michael Brecker. However, upon first hearing the music of Sonny Rollins, she switched to tenor; the first tenor saxophone she used was a Selmer Mark VI that had belonged to her grandfather. She started performing in Santiago jazz clubs in her early teens. In 2005, after meeting him while he was on tour in Chile, she was invited by pianist Danilo Pérez to play at the Panama Jazz Festival, as well as a number of auditions at music schools in the USA. As a result of these introductions, she went on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where her tutors included Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Frank Tiberi, Greg Osby, Hal Crook, Bill Pierce, and Ralph Peterson Aldana graduated from Berklee in 2009, relocating to New York City to study under George Coleman. She recorded her first album, Free Fall, released on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music imprint in 2010. Her live shows in this period included performances at the Blue Note Jazz Club and the Monterey Jazz Festival, and her second album, Second Cycle, was released in 2012. In 2013, aged 24, she was the first female musician and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, in which her father had been a semi-finalist in 1991. The prize was a $25,000 scholarship, and a recording contract with Concord Jazz. Reporting her win, The Washington Post described Aldana as representing "a new sense of possibility and direction in jazz."   Facebook Live Sherry Alves Sherry Alves America/Los_Angeles public