Music Theory

Master of Arts in Theory Pedagogy


This handbook is designed to guide students in the MA theory pedagogy 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. Information about degree requirements is also available in the online academic policy handbook.


Introductory Information

Degree Information

Additional Comments



This degree is intended either for theory majors who wish to focus on a teaching career (with emphasis in pedagogy, aural skills, composition, and cognition) or other graduate students who may wish to graduate with a double major in Performance and Literature (MM or DMA) and Theory. This handbook should provide the prospective or incoming student with information relevant to this degree.


Students should have taken a minimum of 24 credit hours in undergraduate theory and composition, with at least 10 credit hours in upper division courses, preferably in areas of form and analysis, counterpoint, composition, and/or orchestration. It is recommended that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) during their undergraduate senior year. In addition to submitting the formal application, applicants must submit a personal statement and two music history or music theory papers. All applicants to the MA are required to interview in Rochester for admission to the program.


All students accepted in the graduate theory program are required to take placement or proficiency examinations in theory and music history upon entering Eastman. These exams are scheduled during orientation week, before classes commence in the fall semester (the exams are also given before the spring semester and summer session). The academic adviser (see below) will inform the student of the results at the initial advising session. Failure on all or part of the exams will necessitate enrollment in the appropriate remedial course(s): TH ll5 (Review Dictation), TH ll6 (Review Analysis and Written Skills), and/or MHS ll9 (Historical Survey). One (or more) graduate survey courses in music history may also be recommended: (MHS 42l-426). While the 400-level history courses may count as electives in the MA program, no degree credit is granted for TH ll5, TH ll6, or MHS ll9.


Before classes begin, entering students will meet with the MA academic adviser for theory majors to discuss the results of their placement exams and to register for appropriate courses. Course registration will continue throughout the duration of the masters program with the same adviser. One week each semester (usually in November and April) is set aside to preregister for the following semester. Although students will sign up for appointments during this period, they should feel free to consult with their academic adviser at any time on any matter pertaining to their program.


All MA students are required to enroll full-time for at least one year and are advised to complete the degree in residence. Generally speaking, full-time enrollment for a graduate student is 12 credits per semester. However, a student holding a Graduate Award which requires him/her to work for the School achieves full-time status when enrolled for 9 or more credits per semester. Before enrolling on a part-time basis, students should be aware of the consequences of such enrollment, with respect to such things as eligibility for health insurance through the University and the possibility of student loan repayments.


At least two consecutive terms of course work must be completed in full-time residence, with an accrued credit total of l8-24 hours. The student must be enrolled on a continuing basis while fulfilling the requirements for the degree. Should the student be unable to continue course work in residence, it will be necessary to register for a Leave of Absence (TH 985). If the program is allowed to lapse for two or more years, the student must apply to the Theory Department and Graduate Research Committee for reinstatement. The time limit for the degree from the date of entry into the MA program is five years with a prior Bachelor’s degree. All requests for extensions of time must be addressed to the Graduate Research Committee.

For information on grading procedures, incomplete grades, and course audits, see the appropriate topics under Graduate
Policy and Curricula in the Supplement to the Eastman Bulletin.


The general administration of graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music is through the office of its Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, located in Room l09 of the Main Building of the School. Available in this office is the School’s official Graduate Calendar, listing deadlines for various events critical to the graduate student’s degree program. The Associate Dean of Graduate Studies also chairs the Graduate Research Committee, the group of faculty that reviews and approves programs of study, thesis proposals, and extensions of time submitted by graduate students. The following information pertains directly to the MA in the Pedagogy of Music Theory.



For detailed information about course requirements, see the relevant section in the
online academic policy handbook.


The M.A. in music theory culminates in a teaching recital (as part of TH 472) and the M.A. Comprehensive Examination. The degree is designed to take two years, but it may, under special circumstances, be completed in fewer semesters. MMs with a double major in PRL and Theory should be able to complete both degrees in three years. DMAs with a major in PRL and Theory should expect to add another year to their studies.


Any student wishing to continue studies in his/her applied areas must first arrange an audition in order to be assigned a teacher. All auditions are scheduled through the Associate Dean’s office. The student may register for one-hour lessons (3 credits per semester) or half-hour lessons (2 credits per semester).


Possible electives might include CMP 221 (Composition for non-majors) – 3; MUE 402 (Measurements and Evaluation) – 2: MUE 471 (Teaching Internship) – 2: JCM 201-202 (Basic Jazz Theory) – 1 + 1; and JCM 211-212 (Improvisation) – 1 + 1. Descriptions of these courses may be found in the official Supplement to the Eastman Catalogue. Other appropriate electives may be found among the offerings of the psychology department on the River Campus.


The student in the MA Pedagogy program will take a skills examination during the last semester of study. This examination, administered during Jury Week in the Spring semester, will consist of both prepared and at-sight work. Model examinations for study can be found in the Theory department office. The examination will be attended and graded by three Theory faculty.


In lieu of a thesis, the student in the MA Pedagogy program will present a Teaching Recital (or model class presentation) during the last semester of TH 472 which will effectively illustrate the various areas involving the teaching of theory. It will be attended and graded by the instructor of TH 472 and two other Theory faculty.


Those students desiring to graduate at the Spring Commencement must file a degree application card with the registrar by February l. The degree can be officially conferred in May, October, or February. For the deadlines of the latter two degree-conferrals, consult the secretary to the Associate Dean.



Financial support from Eastman to its graduate students is available through the School’s Graduate Award program. Award-holders are designated as “teaching assistants” (TAs). TAs teach in the aural skills (musicianship) curriculum for at least one year, and may teach in the written theory curriculum in their second year. The normal graduate award carries at least 12 credit hours of tuition remission and a stipend of at least $4,000 per year. In addition, holders of a Graduate Award will be asked to assist the faculty with admission and placement testing on audition days and during orientation week. Assuming satisfactory work as a student and as an Award-holder, Graduate Award recipients normally are supported in this way for the duration of their degree(s).

Graduate Awards are issued by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the Chair of the Theory Department. The student must register his/her intentions to apply for an assistantship with the Chair early in the spring for the following fall semester. Students are normally notified of the nature and tuition/stipend of the assistantship in April or May. As noted before, Graduate Award holders who wish to be enrolled on a full-time basis must carry at least 9 credits per semester.


The graduate theory students, in conjunction with the Eastman School, publish an annual refereed 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(s).


The 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. In addition to invited speakers and faculty members, student presentations on research in progress are scheduled. The Musicology and Composition Departments also sponsor similar series in their respective areas.


Periodically the Theory Department will invite prominent scholars in various areas of music theory or musicology to deliver papers at the school. The time and place for these presentations are posted well in advance.


The student is encouraged (within his/her financial limits) to attend regional and/or national theory conferences as often as possible to keep abreast of recent developments and to make contacts with eminent scholars in his/her area of research. The Graduate Student Association may reimburse a certain percentage of the costs incurred to attend a conference. Any promising papers or projects from courses should be written up as proposals (upon consultation and advice from the mentor and other faculty) and submitted to various conventions. Many of the regional theory societies and conferences now offer a prize for the best graduate student paper read at their respective conventions (for instance, the Music Theory Society of New York State). The inclusion of papers read or articles published represents a valuable asset to one’s vitae prior to graduation and is strongly encouraged.

Old handbook as pdf file (archived)