Ph.D. in Composition

Students meet with members of the department's composition faculty on a weekly basis and in seminars with a special focus on contemporary music studies. Examples of seminar topics include Music 575S: Generative Media Authorship (Spring 2014) and Music 690S: Contemporary String Quartet (Fall 2012). Students also take course work in other areas of the department and participate in the discourse of the university at large. Student works are created and presented in collaboration with Visiting Artists and under the rubric of the concert series Encounters: with the Music of Our Time. Seminars by some of contemporary composition's important figures are frequent. Recent visitors have included Steve Reich, James MacMillan, Melinda Wagner, David Lang, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Meredith Monk.

We admit students to the Ph.D. program with a full five-year fellowship, but you may earn a Master of Arts en-route to the Ph.D. A terminal master's degree will be awarded if a student does not demonstrate the ability to do substantial and original work in composition. Students are notified that they may continue on towards their doctorate after the qualifying examination. 

Course Requirements

No more than four courses (12 units) of a completed Master’s degree may be accepted for transfer from another institution. 

After the first year, graduate electives can be taken outside the Department of Music as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.  The DGS 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.

Examinations and Dissertation


Example 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, Semester 1
  • Music 663, Theories and Notation of Contemporary Music
  • Music 697, Composition
  • Seminars in musicolgy, ethnomusicology or theory
  • Diagnostic examination
  • Foreign language examination
Year 1, Semester 2
  • Music 560 Tonal Analysis
  • Music 690S-1 Composition Seminar: Selected Topics
  • Music 698 Composition
  • Seminars in musicology, ethnomusicology, or theory
  • Portfolio submitted by the end of this semester
Year 2, Semester 1
  • Music 699 Composition
  • Two graduate courses in music
Year 2, Semester 2
  • Seminars in musicology, ethnomusicology, or theory
  • One music elective (500 level or above)
  • Music 797 Composition
  • Qualifying examination
Year 3, Semester 1
  • Music electives (500 level or above)
  • Music 798 Composition
Year 3, Semester 2
  • Preliminary examination
  • Ph.D. composition portfolio
  • Article intended for publication
Following Year
  • Pay fees only (until completion of degree)
  • Final examination (dissertation defense)