Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance: Winds & Percussion

Department of Winds & Percussion

Designed for students seeking the highest degree in the field, the DMA is a rigorous three-year course of study culminating in three doctoral recitals 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 sixth term.

Course elections must include the following:

  • Music Performance 891: Directed Performance (2-6 hrs), elected each term in residence as a pre-candidate
  • Music Performance 781: Seminar in Performance Problems (2-4 hrs), elected for one term while in residence as a pre-candidate
  • Music Performance 995: Dissertation/Candidate (8 hrs), 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

Additional coursework as prescribed by the student’s advisor.

Residency Requirement

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

Repertoire Requirements for Pre-candidates

Information on specific repertoire and other requirements for pre-candidates is available.

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.

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 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 Performance Preliminary Examination, each applicant will be required to pass a 30-minute examination in the performance of a variety of music from the repertoire of the chosen instrument. The applicant will perform for a committee of three members of the Winds & Percussion Department and the members of this committee do not necessarily have to be members of the Oral Preliminary Exam Committee or the Dissertation Committee. The applicant will be expected to prepare at least 60 minutes of music, chosen in consultation with the applicant’s private teacher, and the music should be taken from a variety of musical periods, styles and genres, as appropriate to the instrument. The applicant is typically given the opportunity to choose the work with which to begin the examination, and the committee will select from among the other works in order to determine that the applicant has achieved the requisite level of competence to prepare the Dissertation Recitals. Piano accompaniment is required, except for percussion exams, and some chamber music is allowed, always in consultation with the private teacher.

According to the Handbook for Rackham Students in Music, Theatre & Dance, the content of the Oral Preliminary Exam”should be rigorous and demanding, and should represent the culminating synthesis of precandidate study. Questions may be based on the comprehensive repertoire list submitted by the student. The questions may be historical, analytical, stylistic, biographical, bibliographical or contextual in nature. They may deal with performance practices, ornamentation, traditions, the history of the instrument or any other substantive matter. Factual questions as well as interpretive questions should be included.”

At the time of the Oral Preliminary Exam students in the DMA program in the WPID will submit proposals for their three Dissertation Recitals in addition to their repertoire list. The program proposals will give the committee an opportunity to suggest revisions based on their evaluation of the student’s comprehensive repertoire list and of the student’s general performance during the course of the exam. Upon completion of the examination, the committee has the right and responsibility to alert the student of any concerns or perceived deficiencies that are raised by the student’s performance at the exam. The committee chair will be responsible for providing the student with a list of topics, if any, that the committee would like to re-address at the Final Oral Exam, and the student will be expected to provide more adequate answers to the committee’s original questions at that time.

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


Three public recitals are required in lieu of a written dissertation after reaching candidacy. One of these performances may be a lecture-recital or an appearance as a soloist with a large ensemble in the performance of a concerto or a work of similar scope. One of the dissertation recitals may be presented off campus provided that an acceptable audio or video recording can be furnished to the dissertation committee.

Lecture-Recitals offer the student the opportunity to combine a spoken presentation on a topic with a musical performance that is meant to illustrate the subject of the presentation. Topics are to be determined in consultation with the private studio teacher, and the scope and length of the project should fit within the typical time taken by a dissertation recital. The student is advised to consult with musicology and/or music theory faculty for advice on giving public presentations about musical topics and for tips on the organization of the lecture, the timing of the lecture and the use of multi-media enhancements that work together smoothly with the musical component. Program notes are not required for lecture recitals, as it is assumed that other materials such as handouts, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, slides, etc., will take the place of the notes and will be used in conjunction with the spoken presentation.

Program Notes are required for each of the three Dissertation Recitals, unless one of those recitals is a Lecture-Recital. The student must submit these notes to the members of the Dissertation Committee no later than two weeks in advance of each recital. One week before the recital is to take place, the chair of the Dissertation Committee will confirm with all committee members that the notes have been reviewed and will collect any suggestions or changes the committee members would like the student to make to the notes.

The content of program notes can include, but is not limited to, the following areas of investigation:

  • Historical perspective
  • Formal analysis
  • Genesis of the work
  • Social milieu that might affect style
  • Instrumental considerations such as design changes that may have impacted the composition of the work
  • Performance practices of the era
  • Cultural context
  • Physical considerations such as equipment used in the performance
  • Personal experiences with the work
  • How the work fits in terms of the overall repertory of the instrument

Topics of investigation included in the notes should enhance the students’ preparation of the work and should not distract from recital preparation and practice time. The writing of program notes should be regarded as a complementary study of the music in preparation for a discussion of the three recital programs at the Final Oral Examination.

Recital Reports are an essential part of the review process and are to be provided by the student to each committee member in advance of the recital. Recital reports must be completed by the committee members and returned to the chair no later than 48 hours after the recital, or 48 hours after receiving the recital recording.


An abstract of fewer than 350 words listing the music performed on the three Dissertation Recitals and explaining the choice of the musical content is required. The abstract will be examined by the Dissertation Committee at the time of the Final Oral Exam.

Final Oral Examination

The Final Oral Examination consists of an in-depth evaluation of the three dissertation recitals. All aspects of the recitals can be queried, including issues of technique, intonation, style, musicality, performance practices, pre-recital preparation, ensemble, program notes, repertory, etc.

In cases where specific weaknesses were identified at the Oral Preliminary Examination, the Final Oral Examination will also serve as an opportunity for the candidate to reply to these concerns.

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: Winds & Percussion 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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