The UMass bachelor of arts in music is a less intensive degree than the bachelor of music and can be useful for double majoring or pursuing a more generalized liberal arts education. Both programs have similar core requirements in theory, aural skills, music history, and ensembles, but the BA does not include the class piano or conducting requirements, and requires six (rather than eight) semesters of private lessons and ensembles.

BA students choose from four areas of emphasis: performance (classical), JAAMS (Jazz & African-American music studies), music history, and music theory. Both the performance and JAAMS areas of emphasis require a successful audition for entry, while music history and music theory require supporting material instead of an audition.

In the performance and JAAMS area, students focus on applied lessons and optional recitals to cultivate their skills as performers. Music history requires advanced music history courses and a senior thesis and prepares students for graduate work in musicology. Music theory is primarily concerned with theoretical techniques of Western classical music and prepares students for graduate work in music theory.