Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology

Department of Musicology

The PhD program in the field of ethnomusicology addresses continuities and changes in the spheres of music across the globe as well as in the United States. Students may specialize in any musical tradition, in any area of the world including American traditions such as jazz and popular music. The doctoral program trains students to teach ethnomusicology and world music, and develops the ability to pursue original research. Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the PhD is a rigorous five-year course of study culminating in a doctoral dissertation.

Program Requirements

For requirement details, including the Handbook for Doctoral Students in Musicology, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.


Program of Study for the First Two Years

The first two years of study provide training in the theory and methodology of ethnomusicology and introduce students to repertories and concepts of world music. Two departmental courses are required:

  • MUSICOL 501: Bibliography and Methodology
  • MUSICOL 502: Scholarly Writing and Research Technique.

A student wishing to be considered for a teaching assistantship must take MUSICOL 509: Teaching of Introductory Courses in Music, or petition the Department for a waiver of this course based on demonstrated competence in teaching.

The selection of other courses and cognates depends upon the student’s background, individual needs, and special interests. Entering students are given a diagnostic examination in music theory to help in course selections. Recommended cognate disciplines include anthropology, sociology, history, literary criticism, and area studies, though others are possible.

Examinations and Research Paper

During the fall term of the second year of graduate study the student will be expected to:

  • Take an examination designed to test the student’s knowledge of the discipline of ethnomusicology, including history, methodologies, ways of analyzing music, and important theories.
  • Complete a critical-bibliographical paper on a topic of the student’s choice, typically selected and developed in the course of MUSICOL 502.

The requirements also include two approved cognate programs, one of which is normally completed during the first two years of study. The courses must be outside of SMTD in a field related to the student’s field of specialization.

Foreign Language

Each student must demonstrate proficiency in a second foreign language, preferably one related to the their field of doctoral research.

Residency Requirement

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

Requirements for Candidacy

Three preliminary examinations must be satisfied in addition to the language requirement and coursework.

Students are strongly encouraged to take courses in historical musicology if they wish their competence in Western historical musicology to be demonstrated on their transcripts. Taking the general preliminary examination in musicology is also encouraged.

Preliminary Examinations Prior to Candidacy
  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination
  • General Preliminary Examination in Ethnomusicology
  • Preliminary Examination in the field of specialization

The general preliminary examination in ethnomusicology is a written examination covering the general field concerning a particular repertoire, and a theoretical question. The questions and associated bibliographies will be prepared by the student and submitted to the advisor.

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

Dissertation Requirements

The dissertation requirements in musicology comprise four parts:

  • The dissertation proposal
  • The dissertation conference
  • The dissertation oral presentation
  • The dissertation

The dissertation proposal will consist of a carefully researched and written description of the proposed topic that will argue for its relevance, feasibility, and originality as a scholarly contribution to the field of ethnomusicology. The proposal should also describe the plan of research and indicate as precisely as possible the objectives of the project, the sources to be consulted, the current state of research, and the cultural, musical, methodological, historical, aesthetic, anthropological, critical, analytical, and social issues relevant to the topic.

The dissertation conference is a meeting of the student with a committee of the faculty soon after candidacy has been achieved to explore the avenues of research outlined in the candidate’s proposal and pertinent to the dissertation topic.

While researching and writing the dissertation, each PhD candidate will present a lecture in a public forum before an audience of students and departmental faculty. This dissertation oral presentation will describe the topic, methodology, and results of his or her dissertation research to date.

The dissertation in ethnomusicology must make a significant and original contribution to the field, and otherwise conform to the standards of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Field Work

Depending on the topic of the dissertation, field work may be encouraged, although it is not a requirement for the degree.

Final Oral Examination

A comprehensive oral examination on the candidate’s dissertation will be conducted by the dissertation committee following the completion of the dissertation.


All students admitted to the PhD program in Musicology are provided with five-year funding packages. Financial aid at the doctoral level is conditional on the achievement of candidacy within six terms.

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology must have completed a bachelor’s of music degree or equivalent to be eligible for admission.

Prior coursework to include

Applicants must:

  • Apply to U-M via the Rackham Graduate School Application by December 1
  • Submit an SMTD Artistic Profile byDecember 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.

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