Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance: Piano

Department of Piano

Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the DMA is a rigorous three-year course of study culminating in three solo recitals, one lecture recital, one substantial piece of chamber music or group of chamber music pieces (equivalent to a half recital), and one concerto in lieu of a dissertation.

Program Requirements


The doctoral degree is awarded on the basis of demonstrated competence, not on a specified number of credit hours. Completion of the program normally requires six terms of full-time study beyond the master’s degree. Students are expected to attain candidacy effective at the beginning of the fifth term.

  • Music Performance 891: Directed Performance (4-6 hrs), including weekly studio class and piano forum, elected each term in residence as a pre-candidate
  • Music Performance 781.001: Seminar in Performance Practices (1-4 hrs), elected for four terms
  • Music Performance 781.003: Seminar in Piano Performance and Pedagogy (1-4 hrs), elected for at least two terms
  • Music Performance 995: Dissertation Candidate (8 hrs), including weekly studio class and piano forum, elected each term in residence as a candidate, or at least one term.
Musicology & Music Theory
  • Musicology 503: Bibliography of Music (3 hrs), elected in the first term of enrollment as a pre-candidate
  • A minimum of fifteen hours of graduate work in music theory and musicology, or at least five courses totaling a minimum of twelve hours. At least one of the musicology courses must be at the 600-level.

Residency Requirement

At least two academic years of full-time residence are required.

Repertoire Requirements for Pre-candidates

Although each student in the doctoral program in piano is expected to add significantly to his or her repertoire throughout the degree program, the specific repertoire requirements are flexible and designed to reflect the individual student’s aptitudes and interests. While a certain broad experience with the keyboard repertoire is expected of all students, each is encouraged to develop a particular area of repertoire emphasis (a period, composer, national school, genre, etc.). The student’s repertoire list will be evaluated periodically by the primary instructor, and must be approved by the instructor in order to achieve candidacy.

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. Completion of PIANO 585 fulfills this requirement; a full list of courses that satisfy this requirement may be found in the Handbook for Rackham Students in Music, Dance, or Theatre.

Preliminary Examinations Prior to Candidacy
  • Music History General Preliminary Examination (or the coursework alternative)
  • Music Theory General Preliminary Examination
  • Performance Preliminary Examination in the field of specialization
  • Comprehensive Oral Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examinations required for admission to candidacy are taken after the student has satisfied the language, residence, and pedagogy requirements; has completed most of the course work; and is prepared to concentrate his or her efforts on the dissertation recitals. At least two courses in musicology, including MHM 503, must be completed prior to taking the preliminary examination in that field, and at least two courses in music theory must be completed prior to taking the preliminary examination in theory.

During the examination in performance the applicant must satisfy a jury that he or she has achieved the requisite musical competence to undertake the preparation of the public programs to be presented in lieu of a written dissertation. Both the performance and comprehensive oral preliminary examinations are administered by a committee from the Piano Department.

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


Public performance of three solo recitals, one lecture recital, one substantial piece of chamber music or group of chamber music pieces (equivalent to a half recital), and one concerto are required in lieu of a written dissertation.

The first solo recital is presented prior to achieving candidacy and is considered to be the “Performance Preliminary Examination in the field of specialization” (see above).

The chamber music and concerto performances may be given at any time during the degree; the two remaining solo recitals and the lecture recital will be given after candidacy.

Supplementary materials (i.e. handouts, Powerpoint presentation, lecture notes with bibliography, etc.) are expected to accompany the lecture recital. Well-researched program notes for the two post-candidacy solo recitals are expected to be made available to the audience at the time of the performance. One pre-candidacy recital and one dissertation recital may be presented off campus by permission of the Piano Department.


An abstract listing the music performed and, if space permits, providing program notes and commentary is required.

Final Oral Examination

A final oral examination concerned primarily with repertoire presented in the candidacy recitals will be conducted by the dissertation committee after all of the other requirements have been completed.

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


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

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

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

Applicants are strongly encouraged to undertake language instruction prior to admission. Languages should ideally relate to the student’s chosen repertoire of emphasis.

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, pre-screening, and audition 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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