Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting: Orchestral

Department of Conducting

Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the DMA is a rigorous three-year course of study culminating in conducting public performances with repertoire equivalent to three concerts in lieu of a dissertation.

Program Requirements


Completion of the program normally requires six terms of full-time study beyond the master’s degree. Students are expected to attain candidacy at the beginning of the sixth term.


Major Doctoral courses offered:

  • Conducting 601: Studies in Orchestra/Opera Repertoire (2 hrs)
  • Conducting 602: Studies in Wind Ensemble/Band Repertoire (2 hrs)
  • Conducting 603: Studies in Choral Repertoire (2 hrs)
  • Conducting 801: Advanced Studies and Directed Performance in Conducting (2-6 hrs)
  • Conducting 995: Dissertation/Candidate (8 hrs)

Each of these courses may be repeated for credit. Students are expected to elect Conducting 601, 602, or 603 each term in residence as a pre-candidate, normally five terms.

Each student is also expected to elect Conducting 801 each term in residence as a pre-candidate unless he or she is serving as a graduate student instructor. Course requirements beyond the minimum may be specified for any student in accordance with their background and career objectives.

Private Lessons

Private instrumental or vocal study, solo performance, and participation as a performer in major and minor ensembles is strongly encouraged.

Musicology & Music Theory

At least 15 hours of graduate course work in musicology and theory must be elected at the University of Michigan, or at least five courses totaling a minimum of 12 hours. MHM 503 (Bibliography of Music, 3 hrs.) is required of each student and should be elected during the first term of enrollment as a pre-candidate. At least one musicology course at the 600-level must be elected by all doctoral students. Work beyond the minimum requirements in musicology and music theory may be necessary to prepare for the preliminary examinations.

Graduate Student Instruction

Each student will be expected to serve at least two terms as a graduate student instructor assigned to a specific faculty conductor. In this assignment they will attend all rehearsals and concerts and be available to conduct sectional or full rehearsals as requested and assist the faculty conductor in any way appropriate to his or her training.

Residency Requirement

At least one academic year of full-time residence is required.

Requirements for Candidacy


Every doctoral student in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance must satisfy the pedagogy requirement during the first two terms of enrollment. A list of courses that satisfy this requirement may be found in the Handbook for Rackham Students in Music, Dance, or Theatre.

Foreign Language and Diction

Demonstrated lyric diction proficiency in English, French, German, and Italian.

Preliminary Examinations
  • Music History General Preliminary Examination (or the coursework alternative)
  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination
  • Oral Preliminary Examination in Conducting

The preliminary examination in conducting will be guided by a repertoire list, which must be submitted by the student to each member of the Examining Committee at least eight weeks prior to the date of the examination. The Examining Committee subsequently will meet together or individually with the student to discuss what will be expected on the examination.

Candidacy will be conferred upon completion of these requirements and examinations. A dissertation committee must be appointed by the time candidacy is achieved.

Dissertation Requirements

The dissertation requirements consist of conducting public performances with repertoire equivalent to three concerts. The programs should include a diversity of musical styles. A dissertation committee will be appointed to supervise this phase of the student’s work. Within the following guidelines, considerable flexibility will be permitted in arranging the dissertation performances:

  • The candidate must conduct at least one work with one of the major School of Music, Theatre & Dance ensembles.
  • The candidate may conduct a portion of a concert or an entire concert by one of the large musical organizations for non-School of Music, Theatre & Dance students.
  • Some conducting of smaller ensembles may be included; for example, the Wind Ensemble, the Contemporary Directions Ensemble, the Early Music Ensemble, Orpheus Singers, or ad hoc ensembles.
  • Appropriate conducting of major ensembles off campus, including professional groups, may be included with the approval of the dissertation committee provided that the organization is of sufficient musical caliber while providing a suitable medium of expression.

The dissertation performances and the additional requirements will be supervised by the dissertation committee.


The candidate must submit a list of the music conducted as an abstract of the dissertation. The Conducting Department additionally requires the candidate to submit substantial, scholarly program notes for each piece conducted as part of the dissertation, and present three pre-concert lectures.

Final Oram Examination

A final oral examination concerned primarily with the field of specialization will be conducted by the dissertation committee after all of the other requirements have been completed.


Nearly all DMA students receive full-tuition fellowships. Most also receive health benefits and a stipend attached to a Graduate Student Assistantship, which can vary in proportion to the appointment fraction and the duties associated with it. In addition to the funding packages offered by the SMTD, Rackham students are also eligible to apply for a wide range of fellowships to fund research, travel, and performance.

Audition & Interview Dates

For requirement details, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants to the Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting: Orchestral must have completed a master’s of music degree or equivalent to be eligible for admission.

Applicants must:

  • Apply to U-M via the Rackham Graduate School Application by December 1
  • Submit an SMTD Artistic Profile by December 1
  • Send official transcripts from all previous schools to the Rackham Graduate School

Click “Apply Now” below to read more detailed information about the application requirements and procedures.

Apply Now

Please send inquiries regarding the SMTD application process to To learn more about SMTD, sign up for an Information Session.


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