Oakton's Department of Music offers a variety of opportunities to perform and study with distinguished faculty. Many students begin their music career at Oakton, earning an associate in fine arts (A.F.A.) degree in music, and then pursue their bachelor’s degree at some of the nation’s finest four-year colleges and universities.

At Oakton, students find the opportunity to perform in solo recitals, concerts and ensembles, including the nationally acclaimed Six Piano Ensemble, Choir, Jazz Band, Guitar and String Ensemble as part of the A.F.A. degree music program. A wide array of music courses includes theory and aural skills; class guitar, class piano, and class voice; conducting; fundamentals of music; music literature and history; and private study in classical and jazz. Applied music courses include brass, guitar, percussion, piano, strings, voice, and woodwinds in classical and jazz. In addition to performing at Oakton, the Ensembles have performed nationally and internationally, from Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Civic Opera House to the Bildungshaus Neuwaldegg (Austria) and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow).

Whether majoring in music or taking elective courses for enjoyment, Oakton students enjoy not only classroom but also one-on-one instruction in a rich learning environment, with state-of-the-art practice rooms and equipment that includes the Yamaha Clavinova Digital Piano Lab and a nine-foot Bösendorfer grand piano. The modern Performing Arts Center offers a spectacular yet intimate performance space.

Degree and Pre-Major

The curriculum in Fine Arts (Music) is designed to prepare students to continue studies toward the baccalaureate degree in music in four-year colleges and universities. Students intending to major in music are encouraged to follow the curriculum for the Associate in Fine Arts–Music and to consult with an advisor and the program coordinator upon entry to the college. Students of this program will complete all major music course requirements, one series of courses focused on a particular performance ensemble and one series of courses in applied music instruction.

Since this curriculum emphasizes academic music, applied/studio courses and general education courses, graduates may find they will be required to take additional freshman and sophomore-level general education courses after transfer.

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If you are considering completing a bachelor’s degree in Music after transferring to a four-year institution, but have not decided upon a specific four-year college or university, the music pre-major program at Oakton is a perfect fit. Once you've chosen a transfer school, we encourage you to consult the Office of Advising, Transitions, and Student Success and review the transfer institution’s catalog to select courses that will meet the requirements for both their curriculum and Oakton's.

In the past several years, students from Oakton have transferred with junior-year status to:

  • Berklee School of Music in Boston
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • DePaul University
  • Illinois State University
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts
  • University of Chicago at Illinois
  • University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign
  • Western Michigan University

For more information on course selection or program-specific advising, contact the program coordinator, Glenna Sprague at or 847-635-1905. Part-time students should also consult the Office of Advising, Transition, and Student Success for part-time pre-major recommendations.

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What’s Next?

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 20,800 openings for musicians and singers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tree with white flowers.

Enrolling at Oakton College can save you thousands of dollars and help you earn more over the course of your career. Our tuition is among the lowest in the region, and we offer many ways to bring your costs down even more.

99 percent of Oakton students graduate without debt.

To help you get there, you can apply for a scholarship, which you don’t have to pay back. We award $12 million in scholarships annually. Financial Aid includes grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance that can reduce your costs of attending college.

We offer payment options that give you control over how you pay. Pay all at once or spread your payments over the course of the semester.

Learn more about your options for paying for your education

Oakton College students celebrate graduating in full regalia.
As your community college, we serve students from various backgrounds. We aim to make the application process as easy and as clear as possible for everyone.

We can help you get started on a degree or certificate. Applying to Oakton is fast and easy.

Your first step before you begin your studies is filling out an admission application and completing your enrollment process.

Get Started at Oakton
Oakton College students celebrate graduating in full regalia.

Meet Your Faculty

Meet our full-time faculty:

Glenna Sprague
Coordinator, Music
Conductor, Founder and Artistic Director of the Oakton Six Piano Ensemble
Professor of Music
Piano Performance; Class Piano; Music Literature and History; Humanities
B.M. Capital University Conservatory of Music (magna cum laude)
M.M. Ohio University
Office: 1360, Des Plaines

Glenna Sprague is coordinator and professor of music at Oakton College, and also teaches in the Humanities and Philosophy Department. She teaches piano performance, class piano, the Six Piano Ensemble, music literature and history, and humanities. She is also the founder, conductor and artistic director of the Oakton Six Piano Ensemble, the only group of its kind. The Oakton Six Piano Ensemble's annual campus concert at the Footlik Theater is a popular event in the Chicago area. Professor Sprague and the Ensemble have performed to sold out audiences throughout the United States and Europe. This includes performances at the World Conference of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow; International Conference of the College Music Society in Vienna, Austria;  MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) National Conference in Spokane, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Honolulu; Los Angeles; the Chicago Civic Opera House; and at numerous MTNA state conventions.

Professor Sprague is a magna cum laude graduate from the Conservatory of Music of Capital University. She has her M.M. in piano performance from Ohio University where she studied with Gail Berenson.

An active performer, clinician and adjudicator, she has written numerous articles for national music journals. Professor Sprague has served as a panelist for the National Group Piano and Piano Pedagogy Conference, the World Piano Pedagogy Conference, the Illinois Arts Council, National Conference on Piano Pedagogy, and the Illinois Articulation Initiative Music Panel of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. She also has had articles published in national music journal including the American Music Teacher and Keyboard Companion.


Meet our part-time faculty:

Thomas Clippert
Guitar, Class Guitar & Guitar Ensemble
M.M. Yale University School of Music
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

Thomas Clippert teaches classical and jazz guitar and directs the guitar ensemble at Oakton. He frequently performs as both soloist and chamber musician throughout the Chicago area. He has appeared with a variety of ensembles including L'Opera Piccola, Heartland Voices, CUBE, Northwest Chicago String Quartet, and the University of Chicago New Music Ensemble. Tom has performed as an artist-in-residence at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. In addition to his work at Oakton, Tom serves on the faculties of the Merit School of Music, and the Chicago High School for the Arts.

Daniel Golden
Violin, Viola & String Ensemble
B.A. University of Chicago
B.A. Indiana University
M.A. Indiana University
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

Daniel Golden teaches violin, viola and directs the String Ensemble. Principal Viola of the Lake Forest Symphony and a member of the Ars Viva Symphony and the Chicago Philharmonic, he serves on the faculty of the Merit School of Music, the Music Institute of Chicago and the Algoma Music Camp. For 25 years Dan was Principal Viola of Orchestra London, Canada. He was an active string teacher in Canada and founder and leader of the Hot Latkes Klezmer Band. Active as a chamber musician, composer, and arranger, Dan is exploring diverse musical styles including klezmer and Balkan music, jazz and hip-hop.

Timothy McNamara
B.M. DePaul University
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

Alexa Muhly
Cello, Music Theory & Aural Skills
B.M. Cleveland Institute of Music
M.M. Yale School of Music
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

Cellist Alexa Muhly teaches cello performance and music theory at Oakton. Alexa has performed in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hungary, and Lithuania, and is an active orchestral and chamber musician in the Chicago area. She was the principal cellist of the Kalamazoo Symphony, and appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Pine Mountain Music Festival. ALexa received early recognition as first-prize winner in the Iowa Center for the Arts competition as well as prize winner in the Jugend Musiziert national competition in Germany. Other honors include a long-term residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Calgary, Alberta and awards from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Yale University, and the Aspen Music Festival. Alexa was the cellist for the new music ensemble Opus 21 with whom she has performed at Symphony Space and Carnegie Hall in New York City. She recently has performed in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Lensic Performing Arts Center and is currently a member of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.

Mark Olen
Trumpet & Brass Instruments
B.A. Indiana University
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

Mark Olen has been a trumpet instructor at Oakton since 1994. A celebrated recording artist with more than two decades of musical experience, he is a highly sought after professional lead, classical and jazz trumpeter. The founder of Brassworks Brass, Mark has performed with many top entertainers, including Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau, Michael Bolton, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, B. B. King, Bobby McFerrrin, and David Foster. He also has appeared with trumpet luminaries Arturo Sandoval, Maynard Ferguson, Jon Faddis, Doc Severinsen, and Roy Hargrove. Olen’s versatility is evidenced by his performances with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, American Jazz Philharmonic, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony, and Chicago Brass Quintet. Mark also teaches music at the University of Illinois at Chicago and College of Lake County.

Bret Sher
B.M. Illinois State University
Office: 2430, Des Plaines

A percussion instructor at Oakton since 1995, Bret Sher is a featured Chicago musician and recording artist who has opened for entertainers, including Bill Cosby, Jerry Goodman and Gill Scott Heron.

A member of the Illinois Air National Guard 566th Air Force Band for 20 years, Bret has performed at Grant Park, Taste of Chicago, Disney World, Disneyland, and the Pentagon. In addition to his teaching and performing duties, Bret has given percussion clinics throughout the United States. He also is a music instructor at New Trier and Wheeling High Schools.


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