Music Theory


Launch your academic career at one of the nation’s elite music theory programs.

At the Eastman School of Music, we prepare our graduates to be leaders in the field of music theory. Boasting one of the discipline’s largest and most diverse faculties, and positioned in an iconic School of Music within a leading research university, Eastman’s Theory department offers a world of opportunities to aspiring scholars and teachers.

The deadline for admission to Eastman’s undergraduate and graduate theory programs is December 1. Click HERE for information about undergraduate admission, HERE for information about graduate admission, or HERE for Eastman’s main admissions page.


Eastman provides two tracks of graduate theory study. The Doctor of Philosophy in Music Theory (PhD, with MA in passing) is our premier professional degree, a rigorous five-year program that trains candidates for an academic career of teaching and research. We also offer a Master of Arts in the Pedagogy of Music Theory, a two-year teaching-focused program that can be pursued alone or in conjunction with a performance degree (MM/DMA). At the undergraduate level, we offer a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory.


Eastman’s theory programs put students at the center of a thriving research community. The breadth of our faculty ensures in-house expertise on a vast range of music-theoretical topics, from cognition and computational modeling to analysis and aesthetics. And a regular roster of distinguished speakers—recent guests include Richard Cohn, Justin London, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Danuta Mirka, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, and Joseph N. Straus—gives students additional first-hand access to cutting-edge scholarship.

In the years leading up to their dissertation, students engage with faculty in a variety of contexts: core courses, specialized seminars, individual advising, and research collaborations. They may also study in Eastman’s other academic departments—including musicology, ethnomusicology, and music education—and with faculty at the University of Rochester’s River Campus. (Recent interdisciplinary projects have bridged to linguistics, cognitive science, electrical and mechanical engineering, and computer science.) Students are encouraged to submit their work to conferences and journals, and many have done so successfully. Many gain further professional experience at Intégral, a peer-refereed scholarly journal managed and edited entirely by our graduate students.


Teaching is a cornerstone of Eastman’s graduate theory training. Our students spend four or five years honing their craft, working closely with faculty mentors both in and out of the classroom. In our two-semester Pedagogy of Music Theory sequence, students refine their practical skills while mastering new technologies and exploring recent research on teaching and learning. Varied teaching assignments in our core theory sequence give our students broad experience and a chance to work with Eastman’s undergraduates, whose talents make teaching written and aural theory a singular pleasure.


Few theory programs can match Eastman’s scholarly breadth and excellence; fewer still can call a world-class School of Music their home. Because of our strong ties to the performing community, Eastman theorists maintain a vital tradition of practical musicianship. Our students may take lessons and play in ensembles. They cultivate musical skills on par with their scholarly abilities, giving them the confidence and know-how to empower a new generation of rising musicians. And like the faculty who train them, many of our graduate theorists are active performers, composers, and multi-media collaborators.


Employers at colleges and universities across the country know that an Eastman degree is a mark of excellence. That’s why our graduates are among the most sought-after candidates on the job market—and why so many of our PhDs find long-term employment in a highly competitive field. Our alumni include many of the field’s most visible scholars, working at a host of major institutions including Yale, CUNY, Cornell, Oberlin, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, and Florida State University. For a list of Eastman PhDs at highly ranked universities and music schools, click HERE.

For more information, click HERE or write to Professor Matthew Brown, chair of theory admissions, at