Music has influenced Eastern Michigan University since the beginning of the institution. One year after Michigan State Normal School began holding classes, music entered the curriculum. By the 1860s, vocal music courses were required for graduation. The students of the Normal School--teachers-in-training--learned how to incorporate music into their future classrooms. When the Conservatory of Music was established in 1881, it allowed students with a special interest in music to receive more advanced instruction.The Conservatory would eventually become the School of Music and Dance, which continues to give students opportunities for formal training. Today, EMU's School of Music offers programs in Music Education and the Bachelor of Music in Performance, the Bachelor of Arts in Music, and a Music Minor as well as the Master of Music (with several concentration options). These degrees are a far cry from the "vocal music" requirement of the Conservatory in 1877!
Performance groups such as the choir, the orchestra, and various bands have long served to enhance EMU students' education and foster the presentation of self. Smaller, genre-specific groups like the Gospel Choir and the Madrigal Singers gave students a sense of pride and community and allowed them to reach out to people outside the university. Nearly all of Eastern's performance groups have traveled outside the state to perform, whether nationally or internationally.