Academic Programs

Mills Performing Arts showcases boundary-breaking work by Mills students, faculty, and visiting artists in dance, music, theater, and the literary arts. Performing arts academic programs at Mills include undergraduate and graduate programs in music, dance, and creative writing, along with an immersive undergraduate program in theater. These programs embrace myriad artistic traditions and fearlessly cross boundaries to find timely and meaningful ways of revealing the human condition.

Music

Mills has long been a center of musical creativity and experimentation. Its roster of renowned faculty and alumnae include Darius Milhaud, Pauline Oliveros, Dave Brubeck, Miya Masaoka, Maggi Payne, Rebeca Mauléon, and Holly Herndon. At performances hosted on and off the Mills campus, students, faculty, and visiting artists come together to push the cutting edge of music across genres—from electronic to classical to jazz improvisation. Each year, this work culminates in our highly anticipated four-day festival of new music and sound art, Signal Flow. The year-long Mills Music Now Concert Series enables students and the public to learn from visiting artists and academics through concerts, artist talks, workshops, and master classes.

Two Mills College undergraduate music students play a cello and violin duet.

Our undergraduate music program encourages students to find their unique musical voices by experiencing, creating, and learning about sound and theory from our internationally renowned faculty of composers, musicians, and scholars. 

Mills Undergraduate Music Program

A student in the Mills College graduate Music Department sings into a microphone while seated behind a laptop and music mixer.

Our graduate music program offers an MFA in electronic music and recording media, an MFA in music performance and literature, and an MA in composition, all of which enable students to develop their own distinctive sound.

Mills Graduate Music Program

Dance

The Mills Dance Department has been preparing artists for a lifetime in dance for more than eight decades, The program has been shaped by a legacy of dance radicals and upstarts that include Mary Wigman protégé Tina Flade, pioneering filmmaker and choreographer Marian Van Tuyl, liquid-limbed Trisha Brown ’58, and fierce Molissa Fenley ’75. Given a host of opportunities to command the stage each year, our dance students have the space to express their creative vision and the close faculty support to refine their technique and grow as daring artists. Mills students choreograph, promote, and perform their work in showcases such as the annual Undergrad Underground and the MFA thesis concert and frequently collaborate with musicians, actors, and visual artists on campus.

Students in the Mills College undergraduate Dance Department perform a piece, their shapes silhouetted against a blue backdrop.

With a curriculum that blends the creative and the critical, the Mills undergraduate dance program trains emergent performers in an intellectual as well as physical dance practice that is in touch with and responsive to the Bay Area’s dynamic dance scene.

Mills Undergraduate Dance Program

Students in the Mills College graduate Dance Department perform a piece, bodies and arms outstretched in various poses against a purple backdrop.

Our selective and intimate graduate dance program includes an MFA in dance, oriented toward an embodied practice of dance, and an MA in dance, which focuses on critical writing and scholarly research skills.

Mills Graduate Dance Program

Creative Writing & Literature

The Literatures & Languages Department at Mills amplifies the voices of our undergraduate and graduate writers through an inclusive, supportive community and deep connections to the vibrant Bay Area literary scene. On campus, Mills creative writing students produce and participate in open mic nights, readings, and talks with nationally acclaimed visiting writers. Students also benefit from a new public humanities project that connects them with poets and scholars in Oakland and beyond. Funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, programming for the project includes conversations, readings, and lectures by local and national poets, performers, and scholars hosted at Mills Performing Arts venues.

A stack of papers featuring innovative layouts of experimental poetry showcase the works of students in the Mills College undergraduate English Department.

Our undergraduate English program gives students the option to major or minor in English with an emphasis in creative writing or literature, empowering them to become compelling written and oral communicators.

Mills Undergraduate English Program

Theater

The Mills Theater Program is designed to help our undergraduate students succeed in every aspect of theatrical production—from acting and staging to directing and playwriting—through an immersive, hands-on curriculum. Students go into the field to build documentary theater pieces from firsthand sources such as survivors of tragedies or victims of economic change, and then create, design, direct, and perform original, topical plays. They stage experimental one acts and celebrated works from drama’s canon, like Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days or Moisés Kaufman’s Laramie Project. Anchored in one of the largest theater markets in the United States, our program’s partnership with the award-winning American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco ensures valuable experiential learning and professional networking opportunities.

Students in the undergraduate Theater Department at Mills College practice a performance in a studio space.

Our undergraduate theater program empowers theater majors to develop and premiere pieces that spark their passion or create and debut original works at Mills Performing Arts venues.

Mills Theater Program