McNally Smith College of Music

Discover your life in music

Earn Your Degree in String Performance
1, 2 and 4 year programs available

String Performance

The String Performance program is designed to develop your instrumental technique, while expanding your musical repertoire so you can excel in a variety of settings, both on stage and in the studio. You’ll gain essential music skills through a combination of ensemble performance, session work and individualized instruction that respects tradition and encourages innovation. Whether you’re into rock, folk, country, bluegrass or jazz, you’ll have the support of experienced faculty to help you develop your own unique style and master the music you’re most passionate about.

We offer performance degrees for the following string instruments:

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Bass (taught by the Bass Department)

By building a solid foundation in music theory, sight-reading, ear training, arranging, song interpretation, bowing techniques, improvisation and soloing, you’ll graduate prepared to succeed in a variety of career paths as a professional violinist, violist or cellist.

Ready For The Real World

As a String Performance major at McNally Smith, you’ll receive a hands-on education in environment that directly mirrors the music industry. From day one, you’ll be applying lessons learned in the classroom to real world projects — like recording in state-of-the-art studios while collaborating with Composition and Music Production majors, and playing professional gigs with fellow Performance majors on campus and around the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. You’ll learn how to interpret charts and lead sheets, how to write your own band arrangements, and how to market and promote yourself as a player and artist. And through our job board, you can find gigs with original bands and commercial groups.

You’ll get a head start on your music career by building your professional network while you’re still in school. With access to guest artists, internships and the thriving Twin Cities music and arts scene, you’ll be connected to the industry before you graduate.

Teaching For Tomorrow

To succeed as a professional string player, you need a well-rounded education that prepares you for the dynamic future of the music business. That’s why our String Performance degree program focuses on developing your creativity and musicianship while giving you the necessary technology skills to adapt and compete in the industry. You’ll also graduate equipped with the entrepreneurial concepts and business savvy you’ll need to accomplish your goals and establish your career.

With a comprehensive education that blends artistry, technology and entrepreneurship, you’ll be ready to make and sustain a life in music.

Your Career Path

Graduates of the String Performance program are prepared for a variety of career options, including:

  • Professional Musician
  • Touring Musician
  • Session Player
  • Band Leader
  • Music Director
  • Composer
  • Music Teacher
  • Private Lesson Studio
  • Clinician

 Studios & Facilities

Our campus features 3 performance venues, 6 technology labs, and 11 recording studios where students learn to record, edit and mix music and audio.

Student Life

There’s a lot to explore outside of class, including student organizations, free concerts, music ensembles, and the diverse music and art scene of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Auditorium hosts student recitals, guest artist concerts and music industry seminars year round. MIDI Lab. Students learn to write and produce music using hardware and software, including Logic Pro. Pro Tools Lab. Students learn editing, mixing and production techniques using the latest software. One of the multipurpose classrooms used for rehearsing bands, teaching music theory and songwriting. The Sound Bite Café features an intimate performance setting for small ensembles, guest artists and workshops. The 48-input SSL Duality console in Studio 1, with a view into the main performance area. Studio 1. 48-input SSL Duality hybrid analog-digital console; Barefoot MicroMain 27 monitors. Studio 4 features a Digidesign ICON D-Command Work surface and 5.1 surround mixing system. Studio 5. Trident 80B analog console; Otari MTR-90 24-track analog recorder; Pro Tools HD2 system. Studio 10 main performance area. Studio 10 features three racks of outboard mic preamplifiers, compressors, equalizers, and limiters.
Many artists have launched their careers at First Avenue, Minnesota’s quintessential music venue. The Theater Ensemble performs rock musical RENT at the History Theatre located on campus. At The Sessions master class, industry pros like Dom Famularo help artists sharpen their business skills. EDM artist/producer Francis Preve demonstrates remix techniques using Ableton Live during a master class. The X-Tet Ensemble studies traditional cajón technique in Lima, Peru during their South American tour. Concertgoers get the full Flaming Lips experience at River’s Edge Music Festival, downtown St. Paul. The NOLA Ensemble performs authentic New Orleans-style jazz at an Open House event. The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performs onstage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium. Music Business students plan, promote and execute a SXSW day party in Austin, TX. Students pause for a photo-op while guiding campus tours at Open House. Taking a break during the McNally Smith kickball tournament at nearby Harriet Island, St. Paul.

FacultyView All Faculty >>

Randy Sabien

Randy Sabien founded and chaired the jazz string department at Berklee College of Music, where he also performed with, and produced albums for, folk musician Jim Post (of the 1960s group Friend & Lover). He is one of the rare string musicians to be hailed as both a violinist and a fiddler. Sabien has been a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion and Austin City Limits and has toured the world playing in different styles and with many of music’s great stars. Randy is also a highly regarded educator and author of instructional texts.

Adi Yeshaya

Israeli-born composer, arranger and pianist Adi Yeshaya is internationally renowned for his arranging and orchestration work. His recording credentials include some of the world’s top artists, such as Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Burt Bacharach and Roberta Flack. He has also arranged music for live performances by Whitney Houston, Donny Osmond, Michael Bolton, Jack McDuff, Doc Severinsen, The Minnesota Orchestra and The Milwaukee Symphony. In the Twin Cities music scene, Yeshaya is active as a jazz pianist and arranger and has produced many recording projects, including releases by Debbie Duncan, Bruce Henry, Prudence Johnson, Irv Williams, Beth Yeshaya, Cookie Coleman, Lifescapes, as well as the Adi Yeshaya Big Band.

Yeshaya has a special passion for music education. His 20 years experience in teaching include four years as an associate professor of contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston, three years of instruction at The University Of Minnesota School Of Music and thirteen years at McNally Smith


We offer 1, 2 and 4-year degrees in String Performance, giving you options for a degree that fits with your plans and budget.

$12,870 per semester for full-time attendance (13-17 credits)

  • Bachelor’s degree: 120 credits
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree: 60 credits
  • Diploma: 45 credits

$990 per credit for part-time attendance More info >>

Financial Aid

On average, more than $1 million in College-funded aid is awarded annually in the form of merit-based scholarships and need-based grants. More than 85% of our students receive financial assistance to help cover their educational costs.

Click here to learn about the many resources available to help pay for college.

Gainful Employment Statistics


McNally Smith College of Music is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and is registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. More info >>

Applied Theory I

Students examine how essential elements of music theory (melody, rhythm, scales, form, improvisation) are represented in contemporary music and directly apply classroom lessons on the bass, gaining deeper understanding of a variety of popular styles and standard works.

Contemporary Literature

Students across the Music Performance program form ensembles to study, rehearse and perform contemporary music. The unique roles of the various members of an ensemble are examined and experienced through active participation. Students learn to read charts, take solos and play songs by ear. Emphasis is placed on hands-on execution of the diverse musical styles practiced in the industry today.

Music Interpretation

Students learn to reproduce and interpret songs in a variety of styles. Performance concepts are examined and implemented on the guitar through intensive listening, analysis and performance. Emphasis is placed on practice routines and habits, memorization strategies and overcoming technical and stylistic challenges.