Eastman Composition

MM and DMA degrees in Composition

This document lays out academic requirements and policies for the MM and DMA degrees in Composition at the Eastman School. A companion document provides similar information for students pursuing MA and Ph.D. degrees in composition. The academic policies which apply to MM and DMA degrees are found at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/registrar/policy/06-00/ , which is the Graduate Professional Curricula web page from the Eastman School of Music website. Some of this information is summarized below, with special mention of matters of concern for composition majors.

General information

Entering graduate students must take a music history placement test and a graduate theory placement test, which are offered during the week before classes begin. These tests are evaluated, respectively, by the Musicology and the Theory Departments. On the basis of their evaluations these departments may recommend or require that you take certain courses in their department during your studies at Eastman to redress areas considered weak or deficient. Results of these exams are made available to your academic advisor.

Oversight of all Eastman MM and DMA degrees is provided by the Graduate Office, Room 103, and the Graduate Professional Committee, which is a faculty committee comprising representatives from each academic department that is chaired by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Information available from the Graduate Office includes deadlines for various tests and requirements, guidelines for submitting a Program of Study and dissertation or thesis proposals, and forms for language exams and special courses.

To be considered a full-time student (this is important for student loans and visa purposes) graduate students must enroll for 12 credit hours per semester. For students holding graduate awards, this requirement is 9 credit hours per semester. International students should refer visa questions to the office of the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies or to the International Services Office (www.iso.rochester.edu/).

You must enroll continuously every semester (excepting summers) from the time you enter Eastman until the date on which you graduate. Students who have completed all course requirements, but not all degree requirements (such as their DMA dissertation or MM thesis), can register for Eastman course number ESM 999 Continuation of Graduate Enrollment (Full Time) or ESM 995 Continuation of Graduate Enrollment (Part Time) while completing unfinished work. Note that these courses carry a fee.

All courses taken for graduate credit must be at the graduate level and numbered 200 or above; 400 level courses are designed primarily for Masters students, and 500 level courses are designed for doctoral students.

Academic advisement

All Eastman composition majors are assigned a Program Advisor and must meet with this advisor when first entering Eastman, before registering for classes for their initial semester of study. The Program Advisor for all MM and DMA students currently is David Liptak. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisor periodically during their course of study, especially before preparing a Program of Study, and to discuss questions or problems that arise at any time during their course of study. Although many such questions can be handled by means of email correspondence, your advisor is ready to meet with you in person to discuss more complex issues.

The MM degree

MM Degree Requirements

Requirements for the MM degree in composition are found by visiting the following web page from the Office of the Registrar:


It is expected that MM students be in residence for both years of this 2-year degree program.  (The Graduate Academic Policy page from the Registrar’s ESM web page explains the residency policy and possible exceptions to the normal time of residence.)

MM Thesis

The MM thesis is an “extended original composition,” and the project must be determined in consultation with the thesis advisor. Before beginning the writing of the thesis, the student should enter into an agreement with a specific composition faculty member who will serve as the thesis advisor for this work. With the guidance of the advisor, the student will prepare a short proposal for the thesis that will be reviewed for approval by the composition faculty.  When completed, the MM thesis will undergo the final review for approval by a committee of three composition faculty members that includes the thesis advisor.  The advisor approved MM thesis should be submitted for committee review by April 1st if a May degree conferral is expected.

The thesis is normally written as the major project of the 2nd year of the MM program, and the student enrolls for CMP 496 (MM Thesis) during this time.

MM Performance Requirements

The MM degree in composition carries with it a performance requirement which is fulfilled by taking 6 credits of Applied Music study and performance of degree recital. The degree recital normally takes place during the 2nd year of study and should be prepared with the guidance of the student’s applied music teacher and a composition faculty member who is often the thesis advisor. The recital required of MM composition majors is a program of about an hour’s duration which features the candidate as a solo performer in at least one work not composed by him/her, and it contains at least one work, which is not necessarily the thesis, written by the candidate during the course of MM study. The recital, therefore, is a presentation which demonstrates both compositional accomplishment and performance ability.

The DMA degree

DMA Degree Requirements

Requirements for the MM degree in composition are found by visiting the following web page from the Office of the Registrar:


It is anticipated that the composition DMA degree is normally a three or four year program, and it is expected that all work for a graduate degree is to be done in residence.  (Exceptions to this expectation can be found on the Graduate Academic Policy page of the Registrar’s ESM website.)  It is important to know that offers of Graduate Awards are normally for a period of three years, and students should plan to take advantage of financial support by taking (and paying for) all academic credits during this 3-year period of support. There is no guarantee of financial support beyond three years in the DMA program.

All work leading to the DMA degree must be completed within seven years following the bachelor’s degree or within six years following the master’s degree.  Requests for an extension of the time limit must be approved by the Graduate Professional Committee.

Preparing a Program of Study for the DMA

At a point when DMA students feel confident in determining all of the courses they will take at Eastman – usually in the 3rd semester of the program – they must fill out a Program of Study in consultation with their advisor. The Program of Study lists all of the courses you have completed, for which you are currently enrolled, or that you intend to register for at Eastman during your DMA enrollment. A template for the Program of Study is available on the Graduate Studies Office web site:


After your advisor has approved the proposed Program of Study by signing it, it should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for review by the Graduate Professional Committee. When approved by the Graduate Professional Committee, the Program of Study constitutes the formal requirements that must be met for successfully completing the degree. Any subsequent changes must be resubmitted to the Graduate Professional Committee for approval.

Please note that this procedure is not a requirement for MM students, who will plan their programs in consultation with their Program Advisor.

DMA Performance Requirements

The DMA degree in composition carries with it a performance requirement which is fulfilled by taking 9 to 12 credits of applied music study and the performance of two degree recitals. Both required recitals should be a program of about an hour’s duration which features the candidate as a solo performer in at least one work not composed by him/her, and it should also contain music composed by the student during the course of DMA study.  Please note that conducting will not satisfy this performance requirement, and DMA students must select an instrumental or vocal applied music study as their focus for the DMA program. The recitals will be prepared under the guidance of both the applied music and composition teachers, and the student should be enrolled for applied music studies in the semester when each recital is presented.

DMA Comprehensive Exams

The DMA comprehensive exams, offered three times each year, are designed to assess the student’s breadth of knowledge and competency in music history in theory, primarily, but not exclusively, in Western art music from the medieval period to the present. DMA students are qualified to take comprehensive exams after completing all academic credits required by the degree; passing these exams is prerequisite to preparing and submitting the DMA dissertation to the Composition Department. There are two parts to the comprehensive exam: a written exam, taken over two days, and an oral exam, usually scheduled between four and six weeks after successful completion of the written exam.  For more information concerning the comprehensive examination, please consult the following web page:


DMA Dissertation

The dissertation that is a requirement for the DMA in composition is an original composition of acceptable depth, sophistication, and professionalism that is prepared with the guidance of the dissertation advisor. The dissertation advisor is a member of the composition faculty, and the candidate is responsible for obtaining an agreement with a faculty composer to serve in this capacity before beginning work on the dissertation. In consultation with the advisor, the student will prepare a short proposal for the DMA dissertation that must be approved by the composition faculty.

Unlike a number of dissertation projects by other DMA majors at Eastman, the composition DMA dissertation does not need to gain approval by submitting a proposal to the Graduate Professional Committee. Decisions about the suitability of the dissertation and its final acceptance are determined at the departmental level by the composition faculty. While it is possible to register for dissertation credit hours (CMP 596) during any semester, dissertation credits typically are taken in the third, and sometimes the fourth, years at Eastman, when one actually is working on the dissertation. Enrollment for the Continuation of Graduate Enrollment course numbers also entitle you to work with your advisor toward the completion of your dissertation

When the dissertation is ready for faculty review, and after it has been approved for this review by the dissertation advisor, a final review will be conducted by a committee of three composition faculty members, which includes the dissertation advisor. If any additional corrections or edits are required as a result of the final review, these should be incorporated into the “permanent” copy which is submitted to the graduate office in the form required.  The Graduate Office maintains deadlines which adjust to the calendar for the submission of DMA dissertations in final form, but composition candidates should plan to submit a completed and advisor approved dissertation ready for committee review by March 1st if a May degree conferral is expected.