Getting involved with music at Waterloo

Written by Erin (she/her), student

Just because music isn’t your major doesn’t mean that you need to give it up after high school. If you were a band nerd like I was or you just enjoy jamming with some friends, there are plenty of great options at Waterloo to explore.

One thing I love about university is the ability to explore your passion and hobbies in a variety of different settings. Music was always something I was passionate about in high school, but when there are no longer structured music classes and events it can be difficult to know how to get involved. Lucky for you, Waterloo has some great musical options.

Music programs

Although you don’t have to major in music, you definitely can! Our Music program is housed at Conrad Grebel University College, one of four University Colleges located on Waterloo’s campus. You can choose to major or double major in Music with almost any program of study, e.g., Music and business.

You can also choose to do a music minor or just take electives. Electives can range from taking a course or two focused in music or by participating in an ensemble, so you can get credits for just playing music or singing.

You can also take courses on music theory or culture and history or take a studio course which involves one-on-one instruction with a professor in your instrument of choice (we can find a professor for almost any instrument, including voice). While some courses require prerequisites or auditions, many are open to all students and are an excellent way to diversify your studies at Waterloo and include your hobbies and passions in your learning.

Join an ensemble

Another great way to get involved in by joining one of our instrumental or vocal ensembles. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to participate in one of Waterloo's music ensembles which include University Choir, Chapel Choir, University Choir, Vocal Techniques, Instrumental Chamber Ensembles, orchestra@uwaterloo, Jazz Ensemble, and the Balinese Gamelan Ensemble.

Waterloo's orchestra performing.

orchestra@uwaterloo, which presents a concert towards the end of each of our three school terms, includes students, professors, and staff members from across campus.

Music in residence

As mentioned above, Conrad Grebel is the home of music programs at Waterloo. The Living Learning Community at Grebel offers the opportunity to live with other students who are passionate about music regardless of your program of study.

So you could major in a STEM discipline and pursue music in your residence. Grebel also hosts a number of events in their residence such as open mic nights, talent shows, musicals, and even free concerts every Wednesday at lunch.

Grebel is where the music happens! Even if you come to campus and decide you want to get involved [in music] you can easily walk in and ask questions, it is a very open environment.

Rebekah DeJong, student life and recruitment coordinator

Person playing guitar.

Connecting music lovers

Relatively new to Waterloo is JamNetwork. Founded by three Faculty of Arts students, JamNetwork connects music lovers of all genres, backgrounds, and skills. Not only are there weekly jam sessions where musicians of all kinds can connect, but they also facilitate workshops and open mic nights.

I love JamNetwork. It brings together so many diverse people with different instruments, tastes, and personalities over a common love of playing music in such a low-key and welcoming environment.

Reid, fourth-year Global Business and Digital Arts student

The club also goes above and beyond to help members further their knowledge of music. With online resources, a jammin’ glossary of musical terms, and a music marketplace where you can buy, sell, and rent instruments, JamNetwork creates an inclusive environment for all music levels. As the days of their events change each week, the best way to get in touch is to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and on their website.

A performace by one of Waterloo's a capella clubs.

Canada's largest university a cappella

If you thought that a capella was only for the Barton Bellas, you'll be excited to learn that Waterloo has the largest university a capella organization in Canada. With around 200 members and five different a capella groups, there are plenty of opportunities to get those vocal chords warmed up.

Regardless of how you choose to pursue your musical passions, Waterloo provides an environment conducive to creativity, artistry, and exploration.


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