Music Theory

Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Theory


Updated 3/23/15

This handbook is designed to guide students in the MA/Ph.D. theory program. Following some introductory information, the student is taken progressively through the program from entrance to graduation. Some additional topics of concern are included in the final section. Should questions arise that are not addressed in the handbook, students should consult their academic adviser, the Chair of the Theory Department, or the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in that order. In case of any disparity, the official Eastman Bulletin and Supplement supersedes the statements in this handbook.


As of March 23, 2015, the Theory MA/Ph.D. Handbook Core is maintained by the ESM Registrars Office:

→ Graduate Research Curricula – PhD – Major in Music Theory

Archived versions of handbook (no longer in effect):


Most students entering the MA/Ph.D. program in theory at Eastman receive a graduate award (teaching or departmental assistantship, and/or research stipend) or a fellowship (e.g., the UR Sproull Fellowship). The financial arrangements for these graduate awards are handled by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and vary from student to student. The awards / fellowships are generally available for the normal degree program duration. Early in the spring semester, students must register their intentions to apply for an assistantship with the Chair. Students are normally notified of the nature and tuition/stipend of their assistantship by early May. Students with graduate awards are required to register for at least 9 hours of course work per semester.

Teaching assistantships involve the direct responsibility for teaching a theory or aural skills class (usually first-year, sophomore, or junior levels) under the close supervision of a faculty member. Some aural skills TAs are also given supervisory duties. Teaching assistants also assist faculty with admission and placement testing during orientation week. TA’s may be required to come early for the Fall Semester for a training session. It is strongly recommended that incoming students take th521 in the first semester if there is no previous teaching experience.

In addition to the fellowships noted above, theory students may apply or be nominated for a number of awards and prizes administered by the department or the Eastman School, as well as for University-wide awards:

    • Alfred Mann Dissertation Award, for an unusually distinguished completed dissertation in Musicology or Music Theory. The award is given in alternate years to a student in the Musicology and Music Theory departments. Dissertations filed in the previous two years are thus considered during each cycle of the award process.
    • Teaching Assistant Prize, for distinguished teaching in undergraduate courses by Eastman graduate students. Graduate students in all departments are eligible in this school-wide competition; nominations from the theory department are made by the chair in consultation with the faculty. Faculty teaching assistants are eligible only if they are teaching in both semesters: nominations are based on teaching evaluations from the fall semester, and then finalists are observed in the classroom during the spring semester.
  • Edward Peck Curtis Teaching Prize, for distinguished teaching in undergraduate courses by graduate students. Graduate students from all departments are eligible in this University-wide competition; Eastman theory students have received this prize in past years.

The graduate theory students, in conjunction with the Eastman School, publish an annual refereed theory journal entitled Intégral. It has featured a wide range of topics by acknowledged scholars in the field. For further information, consult the current student editor.

Graduate theory students plan and present a series of bi-weekly symposia throughout the year. These colloquia deal with topics and issues of current theoretical and related interest. The symposia include occasional presentations by faculty members, but student presentations on research in progress are central to the discussion. Eastman scholarship is complemented by an annual lecture series providing a forum to eminent visiting scholars.

Students are encouraged to attend regional and/or national theory conferences to keep abreast of recent developments and to make contacts with eminent scholars. The Graduate Student Association and/or the Professional Development Committee may reimburse a certain percentage of the costs incurred to attend conferences.