Ph.D. in Composition

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements: Composition

The five-year doctoral program in Composition at Duke includes a Master of Arts degree (A.M.) en route to the Ph.D. Admission to the Ph.D. program is not automatically granted upon the student’s completion of the requirements of the A.M. degree, but is restricted to those students who have demonstrated the ability to do substantial and original work in composition. After passing the Qualifying Examination, the student will be notified regarding acceptance into the doctoral program. Upon successful completion of the en route A.M., a diploma can be requested.

Course Requirements

  • Seventeen Courses (51 units) of graduate instruction. The required courses include:
    • One course in Musical Analysis: MUS 560 or 562
    • Seven Composition courses: Two semesters of MUS 690S-1 (Seminar), 697, 698, 699, 797, 798
    • Two courses in either Ethnomusicology or Musicology: MUS 790S-1, and one course selected from MUS 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 790S-2
    • Seven elective graduate courses (500 level or above, excluding Applied) NOTE: 500 and 600 level Applied Music Courses do not count towards the Ph.D.

After the first year, graduate electives can be taken outside the Department of Music as approved by the DGS, who will consider the student’s academic record within the Department and his/her reasons for enrolling in extra-departmental courses.

Registration Requirements

The Graduate School requires six semesters of “full-time” registration regardless of the number of courses taken or residence. No more than one semester may be waived for a completed Master’s degree.

Teaching Requirement

Classroom teaching is an integral part of the doctoral program. All graduate students will be required to complete eight semesters of teaching as a Teaching Assistant or Instructor of Record. In special circumstances students may apply to the DGS for a waiver of one or more semesters of their required teaching.   

Sample Program of Study in Composition

The following represents a typical program for students entering the doctoral program in Composition, which begins with en route A.M. requirements and then proceeds to Ph.D. requirements:

Semester Typical Course of Study
Year 1, Fall (Semester 1; 12 units)
  • MUS 690S-1, 697
  • Two seminars in Musicology, Ethnomusicology or Analysis
  • Diagnostic Examination
  • Foreign Language Examination
Year 1, Spring  (Semester 2; 12 units)
  • MUS 560, 690S-1, 698
  • One seminar in Musicology, Ethnomusicology, or Analysis
  • Qualifying Exam Proposal, Initial Submission
Year 2, Fall  (Semester 3; 9 units)
  • MUS 699
  • Two elective graduate courses in music
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Qualifying Exam Proposal and Bibliography, Formal Submission
  • Composition portfolio submitted by the end of this semester
Year 2, Spring  (Semester 4; 9 units)
  • One seminar in Musicology, Ethnomusicology, or Analysis
  • One music elective (500 level or above)
  • MUS 797
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Qualifying Examination and discussion of Portfolio

       (A.M. Degree)

Year 3, Fall  (Semester 5; 9 units)
  • Two music electives (500 level or above)
  • MUS 798
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Select a dissertation adviser
  • Discuss formation of your Ph.D. Committee with your adviser, in preparation for Dean's approval no later than February 1.
Year 3, Spring (Semester 6)
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Preliminary Examination
    • Ph.D. Composition Portfolio
    • Dissertation composition proposal
    • Article of publishable quality proposal
    • Course syllabus proposal
Following Years                                                            
  • Teaching Assistantships (at least 2 semesters)
  • Final Examination (dissertation defense)

       (Ph.D. Degree)

Examinations and Dissertation