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Certificate Program in Music Theory Pedagogy

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance and its faculty in Music Theory offer to students enrolled in the doctoral (D.M.A., Ph.D., and Ed.D.) programs a Certificate Program in Music Theory Pedagogy. This program consists of five courses plus an examination. It is designed to enrich the student's knowledge of the foundations of music theoretical study and prepare the student for teaching music theory and musicianship at the undergraduate level.

A significant professional benefit of the program is its certification of the student to teach music theory and musicianship courses at the undergraduate level, in addition to the area of his or her doctoral degree. As most students in all of the doctoral programs of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance will be spending at least part of their careers in academic positions, and given the increasing need for broadly based teachers with interdisciplinary skills in institutions of higher learning, the faculty believe a Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy, in combination with a doctoral degree, will broaden the range of possible career choices.

Additional professional benefits may be accounted for in two ways. First, an expanded knowledge of musical structure will enrich the student's repertoire of tools and techniques for dealing with the challenges of his or her primary endeavors, be they performance, composition, or scholarly research. Second, a study of techniques for teaching music theory will enhance the student's approaches to teaching in general.

The Program

The Certificate Program is overseen by a committee drawn from the graduate faculty of the Theory Department. The program consists of five courses totaling 15 hours of graduate credit, plus an oral examination. Four courses are required, while the fifth is elected in consultation with the student's Certificate Program advisor.

The required courses are:

  • MT 531 Schenkerian Theory and Analysis I
  • MT 534 20th-Century Music: Theory and Analysis
  • MT 542 18th-Century Counterpoint I
  • MT 590 Teaching Tonal Theory

These courses are chosen to augment and refine students' understanding of the various theoretical systems and methods that are the backbone of the entire undergraduate and graduate theory curriculum. These include the theories of harmony, counterpoint, form, and more, not only in music of the common practice period but of the past century as well. Though Heinrich Schenker's method is the only one here identified by name, all of these are recognized systems of thought in the field. Schenker's approach synthesizes hands-on skills like figured bass realization with more intellectual tasks, and it is thus a suitable culmination to studies in music theory.

The fifth course may be elected from:

  • MT 532 Schenkerian Theory and Analysis II
  • MT 537 Proseminar in the Analysis of Music
  • MT 540 Species Counterpoint I
  • MT 543 18th-Century Counterpoint II
  • MT 552 Tonal Composition

or other suitable courses, such as

  • MT 560 Special Studies (Recent offerings have included Analysis for Performance, Advanced Schenkerian Analysis, Gender and Popular Music, Tonal Harmony as an Expressive Resource, 'Difficult' Music, Writing about Music)

Any of these courses may supplement the four required courses, depending on the particular special interests of the student.

While the four required courses need not be taken in any order, it is highly recommended that MT 542 be taken concurrently with or before MT 531 . The fifth course may be elected at any time in the program, with the exceptions of MT 543 (which must follow MT 542) and MT 532 (which must follow MT 531 ).

In order to guarantee a sufficient mastery of the skills developed in each course, students will be required to attain a grade of A- or higher. Additionally, students will be subject to evaluation of all necessary skills during the final oral examination.

The final oral examination will consist of a presentation of a class on a topic chosen by a Faculty Committee of the Music Theory Department, plus a subsequent question and answer session with the committee on any and all of the skills studied during the course of the program. This oral examination serves as the final requirement for the Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy; students who pass this exam and satisfy published requirements for coursework and grades will earn the Certificate.


  1. Teach a lesson (50 minutes)
    Ten days prior to the exam, the examinee will receive the topic for the lesson and a general description of the course for which the teaching should be imagined. The teaching will typically be in one of the following areas:
    • a topic in harmony at the first- or second-year level
    • a topic in analysis
    • model composition

    The examinee will be asked to present (a) a written course outline showing the position of the lesson within the semester curriculum and (b) a 50-minute lesson on the topic.

    The lesson must include the following elements:

    • a lesson plan
    • a handout
    • an assignment for the previous class, due the current one
    • an assignment to be given during the current class, due at a later class meeting
    • satisfactory posing and answering of questions
  2. Evaluation of student work (20-30 minutes)

    The examinee will be asked to evaluate a student exercise in writing (model composition or part-writing) or tonal analysis, noting technical and stylistic flaws, making suggestions for improvement, and answering questions on pedagogical issues that arise from the student exercise.

The examination will be evaluated by a committee of members of the Music Theory faculty, and will be graded on a pass-fail basis. The judgment will be collective.

Admission Procedure

In keeping with Rackham Guidelines for Certificate Programs, students apply separately to the Certificate Program.

In order to qualify for consideration for admission to the program, students must:

  • Be enrolled in one of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance's Doctoral Programs (DMA, Ed.D, Ph.D).
  • Have satisfied all of the elements of the Transfer Proficiency Examination, including the 20th-century component. This may be accomplished by taking the exams, or successfully completing the appropriate courses.

In order to be accepted into the program, students must demonstrate particular aptitude for music theoretical study. This may be demonstrated by:

  • Samples of theoretical work, including both analytical or theoretical papers and samples of music writing, such as part-writing or counterpoint exercises.
  • Interview by a Faculty Committee from the Department of Music.

Application forms may be obtained from the Chair of the Theory Department; they are due on January 2 of each year.

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