Doctor of Philosophy

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The doctor of philosophy degree is awarded for completion of scholarly research satisfactorily defended in a dissertation or for outstanding creative work in the field of composition. It is assumed that recipients of this degree are not only well-versed in the subject matter and techniques of a specific discipline, but also have demonstrated a breadth of interest and originality of outlook that indicate real promise of success in research or composition, as well as mastery of the teaching of their disciplines

A combined MA/PhD program is offered in the Composition, Theory and the Musicology departments.

Doctor of philosophy students majoring in music education will have earned a master’s degree before being admitted to the PhD program. Doctor of philosophy students majoring in composition, musicology or theory may be admitted having earned only a bachelor’s degree and in that case will earn the master’s degree en passant. Study by composition and music education majors may be undertaken within the division of graduate research studies (the PhD as described here) or within the division of graduate professional studies (please see section for the DMA degree). The respective programs have differences in emphasis and course content. In terms of applying, the doctor of musical arts requires an audition on an applied instrument or voice; the doctor of philosophy does not require an audition for admission. Composition and Music Education majors emphasize research and writing in the PhD degree program, and performance in the DMA degree program.

Program of Study

The program of study constitutes the formal requirements that must be met by the student in order to complete the PhD degree. Programs of study are developed by the student in close consultation with his or her program adviser; individual programs may vary considerably, depending upon the needs of the student (as revealed in the placement tests in theory and music history), general educational background, and career goals.

The program normally will comprise at least 60 credits beyond the master’s degree (or 90 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree), and must include a list of those courses for which the student will receive graduate credit, and the specific foreign languages in which the student must show competence. Approval of the program must first be given by the student’s program director and/or the chair of the department, and then by the Graduate Research Committee (GRC). Programs are normally submitted to the GRC for approval by the third semester (or after 20 credit hours). The program of study must be approved by the GRC at least four months before the doctoral qualifying exam is taken. Examples of programs of study are available in the office of the associate dean of graduate studies, or on the graduate studies website.

Candidacy and Qualifying Examination

No student is considered a candidate for the doctor of philosophy degree until she or he has met the language requirements, passed the written and oral qualifying examinations, and satisfied the advisers and the GRC that she/he has a broad and competent command of the chosen major and minor fields and is fully prepared to undertake the writing of a dissertation.


All candidates for the PhD degree are required to complete a dissertation. The dissertation is written under the supervision of the adviser, and ideally while the student is in residence.

Final Examination

The final oral examination for the PhD degree must be taken in person at the Eastman School, after the candidate receives the permission of advisers. This examination shall be taken after completion of all other requirements, and will include the subject of the dissertation and the special field in which the dissertation is written, with particular attention to recent and significant developments in that field. The examination may include other fields of study if specifically recommended by the qualifying examining committee. The vote of approval of the final examining committee must be unanimous.


Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Composition

From its inception in 1921, the Eastman School of Music has been a center for the composition and performance of contemporary music. Students receive weekly individual composition tutorials, participate in master classes, and have many opportunities to hear their works played in a variety of performance settings. The final result is a thorough knowledge of all contemporary forms of musical expression and the ability to present one’s personal style in each of them.

Please note that the PhD in Composition can be pursued by students who have previously earned a master’s degree before being admitted to the PhD, and also by students who have earned only a bachelor’s degree prior to pursuing the PhD. Students in this second category will earn the master’s degree en passant.


  • Composition Studies: Advanced Composition I – IV; Advanced Computer Music Techniques
  • Doctoral Research Seminars
  • Electives
  • Foreign Language Requirement: Majors have a general requirement of one foreign language, to be selected in consultation with the adviser.
  • Dissertation: The dissertation for composition majors must be in the form of an extended work for orchestra, chorus, or large chamber ensemble, written under the guidance of an assigned adviser. The requirement also includes a research paper dealing with some historical, theoretical, or analytical aspect of music.

→ More information on Composition curriculum

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Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Music Education


  • Music education coursework: Measurement and Evaluation; Introduction to Research; History and Philosophy of Music Education; Curriculum Seminar
  • Research Courses: Two courses in research methods are required through the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, one in quantitative methods and one in qualitative methods.
  • Music History: Two courses in music history at the doctoral (590) level are required. If placement tests indicate that 400-level study is required, the 400-level course(s) may be counted toward the degree as open electives only; they will not satisfy the music history requirement.
  • Theory: Two courses in theory are required, at the 401 level and above.
  • Electives: Courses in the field of specialization (each PhD student has an individualized program of study designed in consultation with the PhD advisor).
  • Foreign Language: While there is no foreign language requirement for this major, if the student’s research topic includes source material in a foreign language, competency in that language will be expected.
  • Dissertation

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Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Musicology

Eastman has one of the largest and most varied faculties of musicology in the country, and the extensive holdings of Sibley Music Library provide unparalleled resources for both scholars and performers.

Recommended Previous Education

  • History of Music: A minimum of 10 semester hours, including four hours in upper-division courses
  • Theory: 18 semester hours, including six hours in upper-division courses
  • Language: 12 semester hours in French or German


  • Musicology Coursework: Introduction to Musicology; Introduction to Ethnomusicology; eight seminars, freely chosen, of musicology seminars on a wide variety of topics
  • Theory: a minimum of one graduate course in music theory
  • Electives/Seminars: may include studio lessons, composition, conducting, and non-music courses at the University of Rochester’s main campus.
  • Foreign Language Requirement: Musicology majors are urged to develop, before the first enrollment, reading proficiency in two foreign languages, normally German and either French or Italian. Proficiency in one language must be demonstrated before the third semester of enrollment, and in the other before the fifth semester of enrollment.
  • Electives
  • Dissertation

→ More information on Musicology curriculum

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Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Theory

The Eastman Theory department promotes rigorous standards of musicianship and scholarship. Graduate students in the theory department normally teach within the undergraduate core curriculum as part of their graduate assistantship, and this contributes to the outstanding record of placement for Eastman theory PhD alumni. The theory department also presents lectures and symposia involving faculty and students, and many distinguished guests are invited to present their research throughout the year.


First and Second Years

  • Introductory core and practical courses are spread over the first two years of study. The first year will include three core courses and practical skills; the second year will include three core courses plus seminars or pro-seminars.
  • Theory coursework: Theory and Analysis of Tonal Music;  Theory and Analysis of 20th-Century Music; Pedagogy of Theory;  History of Music Theory I and II
  • Department Proseminars: Courses on standard topics designed to foster independent research
  • Seminars on Special Topics
  • Practical Skills Courses: Counterpoint, advanced keyboard skills, studio or composition lessons, etc. and courses from outside the theory department

Third Year

  • Continued Coursework: research seminars, including courses outside the theory department (possibly taken at other Colleges within the University of Rochester River Campus).
  • Dissertation Proposal

Fourth Year

  • PhD Qualifying Exam
  • Submission of Dissertation Proposal
  • Foreign Language Requirement: A reading knowledge of two foreign languages usually is required. German is required; the second language should be chosen with the student’s planned area of research in mind. In rare cases, a student’s dissertation committee may petition the theory department to require either fewer or more languages. Proficiency in one language must be demonstrated before the third semester of enrollment, and in the other before the fifth semester of enrollment.

→ More information on Music Theory curriculum

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