Music became a fully-fledged department at Duke in 1960, when the B.A. in Music was established. Prior to that, music study took place within the Department of Aesthetics, Art, and Music, which was created in 1942.

The Mary Duke Biddle Music Building, completed in the 1970s, became the Department of Music's permanent home.  It also houses the Music Library and DUMIC (Duke University Musical Instrument Collections).

By 1985, the Department of Music had grown to 22 faculty. The Music Department began offering a Ph.D. in Musicology in 1981 and added a Ph.D. in Composition in 1992.

The newly renovated Music Library opened in Fall 2011 with expanded seating and work spaces, a spacious seminar room and numerous other upgrades.

Today, the Department of Music thrives as a presence that is felt throughout campus.  With 10 performing ensembles (Chamber Music, Chorale, Chinese Music, Collegium Musicum, Djembe, New Music, Jazz, Opera Theater, Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony) and hundreds of students enrolled in classes, the Department of Music pursues its mission to enrich the educational experience of all Duke students.