Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology

Department of Musicology

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

The PhD program in historical musicology enables each student to follow a course of study that meets their intellectual and professional goals. Students must complete three required departmental courses—addressing theory, methodology, research methods, and pedagogy—in their first year of study:

  • Musicology 501, Musicology Research Methods: Historical Musicology
  • Musicology 502, Musicology Research Methods: Ethnomusicology
  • Musicology 509, Musicology Pedagogy

Musicology 509 satisfies the school’s pedagogy requirement and qualifies students to be considered for a graduate-student instructorship.

During the first three years of the program, doctoral students must complete eight elective courses in the department (500-level or above), including Musicology 990 (an independent study course in preparation for the special field examination). In addition to taking courses in historical musicology, students are encouraged to complete coursework in ethnomusicology.

Students are also required to complete two cognate courses, one of which is normally completed during the first two years of study. These courses must be elected outside the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in a field related to the student’s areas of interest. The selection of courses and cognates depends upon the student’s background, individual needs, interests, and the plan of research for the PhD. Students may take additional cognates beyond the two required courses.

Students must demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages, basic level; or one thesis-related language, advanced level. Students are expected to demonstrate basic competency in the first language during the first year of residence.

The department conducts an annual review of students toward the end of the Winter semester, for which all students must submit a learning and teaching portfolio. First-year and second-year precandidates must submit additional writing samples.

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

Requirements for Candidacy

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

  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination. Students must successfully complete two 500-level Music Theory courses in preparation for taking the general preliminary examination in Music Theory.
  • The Special Field Examination in Historical Musicology comprises two parts:
    • Two essays: one will cover the entire period of research or area of concentration of the student. The second will be more closely focused on the dissertation topic.
    • An oral examination based on a repertoire list of 50 pieces (or up to 50 hours of music, depending on the candidate’s area of specialization) comprising works in at least three genres.

Candidacy will be conferred upon completion of these requirements and examinations. It is expected that students will achieve candidacy within three years (six terms) of entering the program. 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 (approximately 20-25 pages) that will argue for its relevance, feasibility, and originality as a scholarly contribution to the field of musicology. 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. If the project involves fieldwork, the proposal should indicate how it will be carried out and what criteria will be applied in the evaluation of data.A dissertation conference is required. The dissertation conference is a meeting of the student with a committee of the faculty (typically but not necessarily the dissertation committee) 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. This lecture will customarily be presented at a point when the candidate can benefit most from the exchange: after enough research has taken place to define the chief issues of the topic but before a large portion has been written.

The dissertation in historical musicology 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.

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. To remain eligible for financial aid at the doctoral level, students should achieve candidacy by the end of the sixth term.


How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy in Historical Musicology must have completed a bachelor’s of music degree or equivalent to be eligible for admission. In addition, applicants must have completed the following:

  • Twelve hours of music history
  • Twelve hours of music theory
  • A liberal arts sequence in addition to the foreign language and English requirements

Knowledge of foreign languages is indispensable for studying the history of music. Prospective students are expected to enter with training in one foreign language (preferably French or German) and must qualify in that language at the end of the first year in residence.

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

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