Current Graduate Students

PhD Program Information

The First Two Years: Coursework

Sixteen 4-credit courses are required, and at least fourteen are usually taken during the first two years. Musicology students must take two courses in ethnomusicology and two courses in either theory or composition. Ethnomusicology students are required to take at least two courses each in musicology and in offerings outside the department. Ethnomusicology students must also take at least two courses in music theory. It is recommended that at least one theory seminar be in cross-cultural music theory. Theory students are required to take two courses in analysis and techniques (typically course numbers MUS 151–159), ideally during their first year. Composition students get a weekly individual lessons, and choose from composition and electronic music courses and other offerings within the department or from other departments at Harvard.As a general rule, requirements should be met by taking courses with faculty in the relevant programs (i.e., history, ethnomusicology, or theory). There are exceptions, however, when seminars cross disciplinary boundaries. In those cases, students need to consult with both the seminar professor and their area advisor during the first week of classes

Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry (CPCI) students survey multiple fields of intellectual inquiry while nurturing and refining their creative work. Students in the program may take any of the graduate courses offered by the Department of Music, and occasional courses in other departments and programs with approval from the graduate advisor, as well as practice-based music-making courses (composition, improvisation, creative music, and interdisciplinary collaborations).

All students may be allowed academic credit for work done in other graduate schools in the United States or abroad, subject to the evaluation by the department and acceptance by the Graduate School. Petitions may be submitted after the completion of one full year of graduate work in the department. Normally students may petition to transfer credit for up to two courses in their major field.

In general, for all students, 100-level courses should be taken as supplemental to the graduate program, and should not be the major portion of the student’s coursework. In order to receive graduate credit, permission to take any courses at the 100 level must be granted by the graduate advisor before taking the course.

Competence and fluency in traditional techniques (such as harmony, counterpoint, and analysis) are prerequisites for taking the general examination. Entering students will be given a placement test to assess skills. Music B will address these musicianship skills but does not count as one of the required 16 courses. Work must be undertaken in the first year of study.

Note: Graduate students who have one or more incompletes will not be considered for department summer grants.

Advising: Pre- and Post Generals

Advising in the department during the pre-generals period is primarily handled by the appropriate graduate advisors and faculty members in the various programs, with the Director of Graduate Studies available for further advice. After successful completion of the general examination, students consult with individual faculty members on their proposed fields of concentration, and when a dissertation proposal has been completed it is presented to the faculty in that field of study. Once the dissertation proposal has been approved by the faculty in the program, it is brought to the entire department for final approval, and a dissertation committee is set up for each student. The dissertation committee consists of an advisor and two readers. Any questions or concerns about advising in the department can be brought to the attention of the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair.


The progress of all graduate students is reviewed at the end of each year. In addition to adequate course work, there are special requirements for first- and second-year students. Every student must submit at least one paper written for a graduate course as part of the first-year review. In Musicology, every first- and second-year student must write a least one seminar paper per term.

Language Exams and Requirements (to be completed before General Examination)


Written language exams are given at three specified times throughout the year. Reading knowledge must be proved before taking the general examination.

Musicology, Ethnomusicology, and Theory

Two languages are required. The languages will be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor, and should reflect, wherever possible, languages that will be relevant to future research. We strongly encourage students to pass both languages before taking the general exam. In the event this is not possible, both languages need to be passed by the end of the fall semester of the third year.*

*While this revision is being implemented to give students more time, we also want to be sure that no one gets caught short. Students should consult with area advisors about their overall plan and be cautious not to cut the deadline too close; they cannot apply for their master’s degree (i.e., cannot officially become ABD) until the language requirement is fulfilled.


German, Italian, or French unless an alternative language is approved in writing by the graduate advisor. Students must complete this requirement by spring of their second year.

Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry

Once enrolled, CP/CI students must pass a language exam in a language relevant to their research interests, to be approved in writing by the graduate advisor. Students must complete this requirement by spring of their second year.

Requirements for languages not tested regularly within the department may be satisfied through special examination, or through presentation of other documentation at the discretion of the graduate advisor.

Language Exam Exemptions

If your native language is a research language and your spoken and written English skills are proficient, you may be exempted from taking a language exam in your native language. At most one language exam may be passed by exemption, and at least one foreign language exam must be taken. (In other words, in programs that only require one language exam, a different foreign language may have to be chosen.) Exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis by the program advisor and need to be approved by the department.

Language Exam Guidelines

Note: No exceptions will be made regarding the schedule or requirements for notification. Sample practice exams are downloadable, below. If you need to take an exam other than in French, German, or Italian, please request your exam from Assistant to the Chair well in advance.

1) Departmental language examinations are given three times during the academic year, in late October/early November, mid-February, and April; students will be notified at the beginning of each academic year as to the precise dates. Students should sign up for an examination with the Director of Administration at least three weeks before the desired examination date. If requested, one sample of each language exam will be provided to the student when they sign up for an examination.

2) A graduate student may retake an examination but only within the regular cycle and in accordance with the guidelines of his or her particular graduate program.

3) Language examinations in German, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish will be administered by Music Department faculty members. Special arrangements for tests in other languages must be made no later than six weeks before the examination date.

4) Students should consult with the graduate advisors of their respective programs about language requirements at the beginning of their first semester on campus. At that time, they should agree upon a tentative schedule by which they will satisfy the language requirement.

5) Students anticipating any special language need should raise this issue with the Graduate Advisor at the earliest moment to allow adequate consultation and planning. Under specific conditions, students whose native language is not English may, upon approval of the graduate advisor, satisfy one language examination by taking a special English examination, to be administered by the Department, involving translation of a text from their native language to English.

6) The student and the Director of Graduate Studies will be notified in writing of the outcome of an examination by the faculty member who administers it.

7) All language exams are hand written. Students may use up to two hard-copy dictionaries to aid translation; for example, an abridged volume for fast access and a complete one for greater detail. Students are not permitted to use any other translation resources, such as online dictionaries, online translation programs or any other electronic programs or translation facilitators.

Sample language exams


Master’s Degree (non-terminal, on the way to PhD)

The Graduate Program of the Department of Music offers advanced training leading to the degree of PhD in Music. There is no admission to an AM program separate from these PhD programs. A non-terminal AM degree may be obtained if necessary after successfully completing the following (it is assumed the student will continue on with the PhD program):

-Eight courses
-Two languages (one, in the case of composition students)
-Music B
-Written portion of the general examinations

In unusual circumstances, students who cannot successfully complete the General Examination may be given the option of completing these requirements for a terminal AM degree.

The degree application dates are the same as the PhD dates. Please see the Director of Administration for more information.

Third Year Requirements

Once the student passes their general exams (see below), the third year is primarily devoted to developing a dissertation proposal and the beginning of work on the dissertation. All students will complete their required courses; in most cases, that will mean two half-courses. Music 250hf, “Colloquium on Teaching Pedagogy,” is required, and does not count as one of the sixteen courses required.

General Examinations

The General Examination consists of two parts: written and oral. The orals are taken soon after passing the written portions. The exam dates differ by program but are usually between May and August of the student’s second year of study. Both the written and the oral parts can be repeated, but no more than once. The format, which is significantly different for each program, is as follows:


Analysis exam (summer after the G2 year)

Take-home (3 days) written analysis of two pieces of music. You will be provided with scores for three pieces, and you will choose two to work on: one piece written before 1700, one from the 18th or 19th centuries, and one from the 20th century or later. If relevant to your research interests, an alternate genre can also be chosen (e.g. jazz). The deadline for requesting an alternate genre is March 1st of your G2 year.

The goal of this examination is to demonstrate that you have a command of technical music analysis. There are no requirements for implementing a specific theoretical system or approach; successful analysis exams are often eclectic and imaginative.

General Exams in Musicology (summer after the G2 year)

General exams in historical musicology are given in August, immediately prior to your G3 year.  The exam has two parts: a written component and an oral exam of 1.5 hours, which is usually scheduled within a week after completion of the written exam. Be alert to dates for the exam (both written and oral) when making travel plans.


By March 1st in your G2 spring semester and after consulting with faculty, submit in final form six proposed fields of examination (see “Designing Fields” for specific guidelines and due dates at the end of this section). The rules for the fields are as follows:

– At least one field among the six should deal with musical repertory and/or issues of historiography in the periods before 1600, and at least one with the periods after 1600. Beyond this rule, distribution among the fields is left to you, and you should strive for variety.

-You are encouraged to align one field (and not more) with your anticipated dissertation work.

– At least one field (more than one if desired) should focus on a cross-disciplinary and/or critical-theoretical issue; wide latitude is given to your design for the field or fields in this category. Examples include: notation as global phenomenon; media theory/media archeology and musicology; popular music studies and race; critical improvisation studies. One aim of this/these field(s) is to bring insights and methodologies from outside musicology to bear on musicological work. Another is to encourage students to explore terrain outside of Western art music.

– Each field should have both breadth and depth, and it should invest in a critical response to recent secondary literature. Do not be surprised if you are advised that a field is too focused and needs to be broadened. “Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory vis à vis musicology” is too narrow. “Technological determinism vis à vis musicology” (including Latour) is not. “C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard works” is too narrow. “18th century keyboard works: performance, sensibility, and theatricality” (including C.P.E. Bach) is not. “Ernst Bloch’s aesthetics of music” is too narrow. “Cultural hermeneutics in twentieth-century music philosophy” (including Ernst Bloch) is not. “Duke Ellington’s arrangements of classical repertory” is too narrow. “Encounters: jazz and classical-music aesthetics in the 20th-century” (including Ellington) is not.

-When designing your fields, include both a bibliography and, if relevant, lists of repertory or material artifacts. When writing exam essays in August, you can use printouts of these lists as an aide-mémoire. We are not interested in having you memorize titles of academic articles or Köchel numbers for pieces.

Intellectual Process
As you prepare for the exams, we encourage you to reflect on your topics and think synthetically. Aim to consider questions such as: in which topics did you encounter the liveliest debates? Which topics, if any, seemed less vibrant than you perhaps expected? What methodologies did you encounter that seemed the most illuminating, revelatory, or useful? What did you read that felt like it could serve as a model for the kind of scholarship you want to carry out? What fundamentally changed your way of thinking about a particular repertory, historical period, composer, or context (e.g., geographic, political, cultural)?

Format for the Written Exams
In the spring term leading up to the exams, organize your fields into three formats.

-Format 1: Designate one field that will be written up as a syllabus for a course taught to advanced undergraduate students. The syllabus is due June 1st.

-Format 2: The syllabus will form the basis of a viva voce presentation of 10 minutes, which will begin your oral exam in August. The goal is to teach a segment of your syllabus, choosing one of the following options: (1) introduce the class as a whole, essentially teaching the opening segment of the first session, or (2) select a component from a midpoint in the course, introducing a new topic. This exercise offers an opportunity to demonstrate your skills in the classroom. We want to see how you organize and deliver information in a format that is less formal than a scripted talk. To that end, you may use an outline and brief notes (as well as handouts and a slideshow), but you should not read verbatim from a written script. 

-Format 3: The remaining five fields will be the subject of the written examination. In mid-August, two days are set aside for the written exam, with two hours for each field. Three fields will be covered on the first day, and two on the second. You are given essay prompts based on the fields you submitted during the spring semester. For each field, there will either be two prompts (choose one essay, 2 hours) or three prompts (choose two essays, 2 hours total). We cannot declare in advance which fields will be one-essay exercises and which two-essay, but you can expect a mix of the two options over your five fields.

In written essays, you should move beyond providing standard information, and – given the realities of a time limit – realize that it is impossible to be comprehensive. The goal is coherence, ingenious speculation, and providing your own insights on the subject. Bring printouts of your repertory lists and annotated bibliographies to the written exams. Otherwise, no notes, Internet resources, or computer files can be consulted.

The Oral Exam
Oral exams are 1.5 hours. Faculty sitting in on the exam include the musicologists, and (depending on individual students’ fields), a faculty member from music theory, ethnomusicology, CPCI, and/or an outside department. We make every attempt to let you know who will examine you, but it is not always possible to determine this well in advance.

The oral exam begins with the opening segment of the class lecture based on your syllabus (10 minutes), and discussion follows (roughly 10 minutes). We then move to talking about the written essays in order, for an hour-plus. At the end, you are asked to step out of the room while faculty confer. Upon being invited back, you are congratulated for completing the exercise. What are the possible outcomes? “Passing” is most typical. Occasionally, we issue a provisional pass and ask students to rework one or more of their written essays. These reworked essays are submitted in October (or another designated deadline), at which point a final determination is made. In extremely rare cases, we adjudge at the conclusion of the orals that a Master’s degree will be granted in November. In this case, both faculty and staff work with the student to moderate a transition out of the graduate program.

Bring your bibliographies, repertory lists, and annotated copies of your written exams. The oral exam should be thought of as a conversation, and you are evaluated both on your knowledge and (more importantly) on your ability to think on your feet, improvise, and respond creatively to challenge. We have no interest in calling you out on trivial facts that can be discovered through a quick Google search. We will, however, often encourage you to talk about aspects of your fields that were not covered in the written essays and about the essay prompts you did not choose. Use the time between the written and oral exams to think about your essays and your fields: this is your chance for intervention and revision.

Designing Fields in the Spring Semester before Generals: Checklist

You are responsible for choosing, developing, and preparing your fields, and it is essential to do so in consultation with the faculty.

-By February 1st, submit a preliminary proposal for fields to the Advisor in Musicology. Provide a title for each field, then a short paragraph description of what you consider interesting or intriguing about it. Also include a one-page bibliography. If your field is oriented towards a body of works, list the repertories/pieces you want to discuss.
Preface your proposal with a statement (c. 500 words) describing an overarching rationale for your field choices, which will give the faculty a sense of your intellectual formation and any nascent ideas you may have about dissertation work.

-During February, you will have ongoing conversations with faculty, in order to revise, expand, and rebalance the fields. During this time, you will be asked to prepare a more expansive document. This stage of the process involves designating a range of subtopics for each field.

-On March 1st, submit a final version for approval (generally pro forma). Start thinking about which field will be explored in the syllabus, which is due June 1st.

-On June 1st, submit your syllabus. We will evaluate it for content, for pedagogical feasibility, and for its potential to inspire undergraduates in thinking about and experiencing music. Consider how your course could fit into a real-world undergraduate curriculum and what prior knowledge and interests your students are likely to bring to the experience.
o Template: catalogue copy, 100-word course description.
o Course rational: précis of aims and purposes.
o Course schedule: list of meetings with brief description of what is covered, and list of requirements and (possible) optional assignments.
o House rules: student obligations for the seminar, rules and regulations, criteria for grades/evaluations.
o Instructions for written assignments: assignment suggestions, research tips, online resources, links.
o Size limit: 10 pages in 12-point type.

Final tips

If you have questions about exam logistics, please speak with Nancy Shafman and Eva Kim in the department office. Also, Nancy keeps a file of exams from previous years, which you are welcome to consult.


General exams in ethnomusicology will usually be given in August preceding the G3 year (prior to the first semester of teaching), provided students have completed the necessary requirements. Written exams will be given first.  The ethnomusicology faculty will evaluate the written exams and decide whether the student is equipped to proceed to the oral exams.

Preparation for the exams:
In the spring of G2, students should provide short paragraphs outlining their primary and secondary areas as well as either 2 syllabi from coursework taken outside of the department or reading list(s) that, along with description(s), define interdisciplinary area(s).  There are normally 2 interdisciplinary areas in total. The syllabus for an ethnomusicology course in the department may not alone form the basis for an interdisciplinary area for the purposes of the exam.

Primary and secondary areas are determined by primarily by geography and secondarily by genre and areas of theoretical interest; exceptions could arise, for example, where “jazz” or “music and neuroscience” could be the main rubric, and a region or period a secondary one. This is your first opportunity to define yourself as an “X”-ist in a certain field—a definition that has implications for representing yourself on the job market later. As such, you don’t want your area to be too narrow. At the same time you need to identify a cohesive unit of study, the literature for which you can reasonably master in time for the exams. We are not interested in calling you out on obscure facts; you in turn need not closely protect the boundaries of your areas out of fear that we will be searching for your weak spots.

Written exams:

Part I              World Music (3 hours)
This section targets the student’s primary and secondary areas.  There will be a choice of 2 out of 3 essay questions, normally 2 in the primary and 1 in the secondary area.  One hour is given for each question. Normally students answer one question in each of their areas but are not required to do so. This is followed by a list of six terms or phrases from which four are to be chosen for short answers in one hour. That means roughly 15 minutes per question. Normally there are more short-answer questions related to the primary area.

Part II             General Ethnomusicology (3 hours)
This section focuses on the field of ethnomusicology at large. The format is exactly like part I otherwise. Normally there will be questions related to the history of ethnomusicology, methodology, key ethnographies and theories, genres, and substantive questions regarding musical sound (e.g. timbre, rhythm, harmony). The short-answer questions usually include the names of key figures, genres, musical instruments, musical concepts, and style descriptors in wide circulation. In studying for this part of the exam, be sure to keep abreast of current trends in ethnomusicology as well as historical roots.

Part III            Interdisciplinary Approaches (3 hours)
This section will draw from the student’s two interdisciplinary areas: 2 questions from one area and 1 question from the other. The ethnomusicology faculty choose which area will be given two questions at the time of writing the exam. There are no “primary” or “secondary” interdisciplinary areas. Here you have 90 minutes to answer 2 questions of your choice.  There are no short-answer questions. The questions adhere closely to assigned work from your syllabi or reading lists. Since the point is to bring work from outside the field of ethnomusicology to bear on ethnomusicological work, the format of the questions is often some variation of, “Consider the concept(s) X from the work(s) of Y for research on music.”  We try to make the questions more interesting than this, but for the purpose of studying, this is a good starting point.

Part  IV           Analysis (2 x 8 hours)
Ordinarily, students will be given a choice of two pieces out of three to analyze from their primary and secondary areas.

Oral Exams:
In the oral exams students are evaluated both on their knowledge and on their ability to “think on their feet.”  Students will have a chance to review their answers and revise or comment on what they wrote before being asked specific questions expanding upon existing answers, or addressing questions not written about. Hence, in the two weeks’ interval separating the writtens and the orals, students should think about responding to all parts of the exam.

The orals proceed as follows:
1) You enter, are given water, paper and pencil, a moment to adjust, and are reminded that we are here to have a conversation.
2) You present your primary area and dissertation ideas for about 15 minutes.
3) We discuss the analyses in your primary and secondary areas (unless you have already done a Western example instead, in which case we only consider the primary area).  30 minutes.
4) We proceed through each of the other sections in order, about 15 minutes each.
5) You step out of the room and the faculty confer for about 5-10 minutes.
6) You are congratulated for completing this rite of passage. Occasionally there is extra work to be done and occasionally students will be recognized with “distinction.” These are decided on a case-by-case basis.

1. Analysis Portfolio

The analysis portfolio consists of three written analyses. You will be given a choice of pieces from different repertoires (typically modal, tonal, post-tonal) from which you’re asked to select two. The third piece is entirely your own choice. This is an opportunity to tackle non-standard repertories, if you wish, especially those that you might want to specialize in for your dissertation work.

Each essay should be about 4,000 words long (not counting analytical graphs). Some of the pieces may have been analyzed before. We are not interested in a literature review; it is not necessary to consult existing analyses. We are most interested in your our own analytical insights. (That said, obviously you should reference any sources you consult.)

Your portfolio should show an engagement with at least two established theories in your analytical essays. These may be the well-known bodies of theory (pc-set, Schenker, neo-Riemannian, sonata theories, etc.) that make up the theorist’s toolkit. Or they may be an adaptation of a theorist’s special insight, maneuver, tool, or approach that you transfer to the music you are analyzing. In the latter case, you should explain carefully what the theoretical insight is (using references and footnotes as appropriate) and how you are applying it.

The list of pieces will be announced around the end of the Fall semester. That way you have the winter break, the spring semester, and even part of the summer of your generals, to work on your portfolio. We generally recommend writing at least a rough draft of the essays at the earliest time possible so that you get the work for this exam out of the way before it takes away time from other things that may become urgent later on. After the pieces are announced, you cannot discuss the individual pieces with faculty members, but you may consult them if you have general questions about analytical approaches or theoretical issues.

You should choose your third piece carefully. Make sure the piece is not too long and sustains analytical interest. If you are choosing a piece from a nonstandard repertory you may need to reserve some part of your argument for an introduction to some of the issues of the repertoire that the general reader may not be familiar with. Here, too, you are allowed to consult faculty about general questions, but the ultimate choice of a piece is yours.

2. Written Exams

There are three written exams. Ideally they will be spaced out so that there is no more than one exam per day during the exam period, but there may be situations in which two exams on the same day cannot be avoided. Each exam is three hours long. Typically you will be asked to choose two questions from a longer list. Be sure to allocate an appropriate amount of time to each question, bearing in mind that the selection process may also take some time. Prepare for this exam by writing timed essays in the weeks before the generals.

The three written exams will be as follows:

(1) Critical Issues in Music Theory

This exam will ask you to comment critically on a range of recent issues and debates in music theory. The topics will be covered in the bibliography of the recurring graduate seminar 221, Current Issues in Music Theory.

(2) History of Music Theory

This exam will focus on the works of a small range of central figures in the history of music theory (currently Boethius, Zarlino, Rameau, Helmholtz, Schoenberg). These figures may be changed and adapted from time to time. The recurring graduate seminar 220 History of Music Theory will help prepare you for this exam. You will be expected to be familiar with the work of two of these figures, their intellectual context, and the issues that arose from their work.

(3) Special Field

This is an opportunity to prepare a field that may lead to a dissertation topic. The specifics of the topic and the appropriate bibliography are determined by the end of the Spring semester at the latest in consultation with the faculty.

3. Syllabus or Media Project

Here you have a choice between two kinds of exams: either a syllabus of no more than 20pp. or a substantial creative or scholarly project using sound or digital media. The products of this exam will often become useful for application purposes later on in your career: either as a sample syllabus for a teaching portfolio, or as a demonstration of your experience in the digital humanities. You should pin down the specifics of your project by the start of the Spring semester.

(a) Syllabus The syllabus is no longer than 20pp and contains all the requisite parts. Explanatory text, at the beginning of the document, or in the week-to-week components, is particularly important here. It  should cover a topic of analytical interest, broadly conceived. The course should be appropriate for upper-level undergraduates, with weekly meetings over the course of a semester of ca. 13 weeks. Each week should have specific materials listed, and a substantial part of the meetings should discuss a musical repertoire or repertoires, which should be identified in the syllabus. The topic and scope of the syllabus is determined in consultation with the faculty. The bibliography leading to the syllabus can be discussed with the faculty, but not the syllabus itself.

(b) Creative or scholarly media project For this exam you will produce a substantial media project of scholarly or creative merit commenting on music-theoretical questions (broadly conceived). This can take a number of forms or creative expressions, usually involving some form of recording technology and/or digital media. (Where appropriate, for instance in the case of a creative project of an artistic nature, you can supply additional written explanatory text, especially to explain its significance for music theory.) The nature and scope of this project are determined in consultation with the faculty. You can discuss bibliography and general questions with the faculty, but not the project itself. For technical and media-related questions you may consult the appropriate staff member.

4. Oral exam

About a week or so after the written exams you will be asked to take an oral exam that will focus on all the work that you have generated for your generals, as outlined above under points 1–3. This oral exam is typically 90 minutes long and will usually take the form of a conversation. It is an opportunity to revise, clarify, or refine your answers, if necessary, and to talk about any points that you didn’t have time to mention in the timed exams. It is also an opportunity to expand the conversation into future dissertations topics, especially as concerns the parts of the exam that allow you to specialize (third analysis, special field, etc.). Students often report that they found the oral exam to be much more enjoyable than they anticipated.


For composers, a written analysis is to be completed in three days at the end of the spring term of the second year of graduate study. It consists of a piece or set of pieces that should be analyzed by the student in the allotted time period. The oral examination is based on an in-depth discussion of two to three major works that are assigned in the late spring of the second year of graduate study. The students are asked to create their own analytical approachs to these pieces and to discuss them over an hour for each piece. The oral exam is held during the week prior to the start of fall term classes.

Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry (formerly Cross Disciplinary Studies)

During the summer after the second year of study, candidates will take three to four exams, to be determined in close consultation with the faculty. These include a preliminary portfolio of creative work, written exams on theoretical/analytical and historical/cultural topics relevant to the candidate’s individual research goals, and an oral exam encompassing all of the above. The dissertation should offer original research and creative work that strikes a balance within this unique combination of interests.


•New examples to come!


Since teaching is an integral part of graduate training, most graduate students are teaching fellows during part of the time they are at Harvard. Teaching fellows are also eligible to apply for a resident or nonresident tutorship in one of the 12 undergraduate houses, or the graduate center, Dudley House. In addition to financial benefits, teaching fellowships and tutorships provide excellent professional experience.

Beginning in the third year, graduate students in good standing are eligible for teaching fellowships. Most teaching fellows devote two-fifths TIME to teaching. Following successful completion of the general exam, students are required to take M250ht (Teaching Practicum). This course does not count towards the 16 courses required for the PhD.

Dissertation Information

Within the academic year in which the general examination is passed, the PhD candidate is expected to develop a proposal for a dissertation, which should be a major original contribution to the field. The proposal must be submitted for approval to the department, which is responsible for assigning the student a committee consisting of a dissertation advisor and two other faculty members. Normally, the complete dissertation must be submitted within five years after passing the general examination, and satisfactory progress must be demonstrated every year in order that the student remains in good standing. If the dissertation is submitted thereafter the department is not obligated to accept it. The formal requirements for the dissertation are set forth in The Form of the PhD Dissertation, provided by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The department requires one bound copy for the Music Library, in addition to the two copies (one bound, one digital) required for the Registrar.

Satisfactory Progress

A student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences must be making satisfactory progress in order to be eligible for any type of financial aid. The following nine items provide a general definition of satisfactory progress that has been adopted for this purpose by the Music Department. It is hoped that this requirement will have a healthy effect on students’ academic progress, and that it will enable us to preserve resources for those most deserving of financial assistance.

1. During the first two years of graduate study any student who is permitted to register is considered to be making satisfactory progress.
2. A prospective third-year student must have achieved the minimum grade-point average required by this faculty (B).
3. A prospective third-year student must have passed general examinations.
4. A prospective fourth-year student must have obtained approval of a dissertation prospectus.
5. A prospective sixth-year, or more advanced, student must have produced at least one acceptable chapter of the dissertation or its equivalent for each year beginning with the fifth.
6. Requirements 2 – 5 shall be cumulative.
7. A student who fails to meet a requirement may, upon the department’s recommendation, be considered to be an “exception”–and remain eligible for financial assistance–for a grace period of up to one year. At the close of the grace period, in order to be considered to be making satisfactory progress, the student must have met both the requirement missed earlier and the requirement that would normally be imposed at that time.
8. No student may have more than one such year of grace during his or her study.
9. In addition, the requirements of this calendar may be deferred by a department during one year of departmental approved Leave. A department may, if it wishes, defer requirements for a more extended period of approved leave in order to facilitate a student’s obtaining a professional degree.

Final Steps in the Dissertation Process

The procedure for completing the dissertation is as follows:

1. The full text must be submitted to the members of the Dissertation Committee for suggestions, corrections, changes, etc. Candidates are encouraged to discuss drafts of individual chapters with all members of the Dissertation Committee.
2. The candidate should check with the Director of Administration to be sure that all degree requirements have been met.
3. The application for the degree must be submitted to the Registrar by the date published on GSAS Policies website for the November, March or June degrees.
4. After the committee has approved the dissertation in its final form, an unbound copy must be submitted to the department at least four weeks before the Registrar’s deadline. During this period the members of the department are free to examine the completed thesis.
5. All departmental doctoral candidates (including composers) who are about to submit or have submitted their dissertation are required to make a final presentation of their work. A dissertation workshop (Doctoral Conference) is required of all dissertation-writing students in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and theory.
6. Copies: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) requires both one bound paper copy and one digital copy, submitted electronically through ProQuest. In addition, one copy bound for the Music Library must be submitted to the department office at the same time the Registrar copy is submitted. University microfilms and RILM forms must be completed at this time as well.

Doctoral Colloquium

All departmental doctoral candidates who are about to submit or have submitted their dissertation are required to make a final presentation of their work.

Final Requirements for the PhD Degree/Graduation

Application for the Degree

Degree applications are available from academic departments, the Registrar’s Office (20 Garden Street), and the Dean’s Office (University Hall). They must be completed by the student, signed by the Department Chair and filed with the Registrar’s Office by the appropriate due date. In unusual circumstances late applications may be accepted for the next two weeks only; there is a penalty fee for late applications.

There are deadlines for filing the application for your degree. Dates change slightly each year. Doctoral candidates should work closely with their advisors to insure that their committee members receive near final drafts of the work at least one month prior to the degree application deadline.

Note: It’s always best to check with the Registrar for final dates; the following dates are guidelines only.

For Degrees Awarded in November:

• July: Draft due
• August: Application due
• September: Dissertation certificate due/dissertation submitted electronically (see below)

For Degrees Awarded in March:

• October: Draft due
• November: Application due
• January: Dissertation certificate due/dissertation submitted electronically (see below)

For Degrees Awarded in May:

• February: Draft due
• March: Application due
• May: Dissertation certificate due/dissertation submitted electronically (see below)


If a student does not receive the degree on the date it was applied for, the student must reactivate the degree application for conferral at a later date. Reactivation forms are available at the above offices; they also need the signature of the Department Chair, and must be filed by the appropriate due date for degree applications: Students may reactivate a degree application once without a fee; for any subsequent reactivation there is a fee.

Requirements When Submitting the Doctoral Thesis

When PhD applicants obtain a degree application or reactivation form, they should also receive two questionnaires: The Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is conducted by the National Research Council, and a combined Student Exit Interview from the GSAS Dean’s Office and Survey of Postgraduate Plans from the Office of Career Services. Student must complete both forms and return them to the Registrar’s Office (20 Garden Street) in advance of turning in their thesis.

Requirements for Submitting the Dissertation

1. By 5:00 pm on the day of the deadline, students must have submitted the ORIGINAL Dissertation Acceptance Certificate, Degree Application (usually due earlier), and three exit surveys (or proof of completion, depending) to the registrar.
2. By 11:59 on that day, the dissertation must have been submitted (via a link available on the registrar’s website) to UMI/Proquest. This digital copy must have a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate as the first page and conform to the guidelines available in the “Form of the Dissertation” document, available (and constantly revised) at the Registrar’s Office. When candidates file this document they are required to order a bound copy for the University Archives. But Music Department students should be advised to order (at least) a second hard copy, bound, for Isham. This is NOT pre-set in the submission form. Note: It takes UMI 6-8 (probably more) weeks to process this.
3. Students should be alerted to the TWO phases of online distribution to which they can assent or dissent: the first is ProQuest’s online database, the second is Harvard University’s DASH.
4. Permissions. With the student’s digital dissertation, he or she is required to submit a file of permissions letters when uploading the dissertation. This is also the point at which one can submit video/audio materials. Students are encouraged to go to an online submission workshop to clarify what is necessary and when.

Registration and Tuition Requirements

All degree candidates must register continuously until completion of the requirements for the degree. PhD candidates must have paid two years of full tuition and two years of reduced tuition before receipt of the degree, unless they have completed the PhD in less than four years from initial registration. All PhD candidates must pay the facilities fee in their last term of registration (unless a higher tuition has been paid). Resident students automatically will have paid at least the facilities fee for the term. Non-resident students who paid the active file fee for the term will be charged the facilities fee and given credit for the active file fee already charged. This final charge for the Ph.D. is billed when a student applies for the degree; it is cancelled if the degree is not received at that time.

For students receiving degrees in November, the last term of registration is the previous spring term; for degrees in March the last term is the previous fall; and for degrees in May the last term is the spring term. Students who are uncertain whether they will finish in time for degrees in November or March are encouraged to register for the fall or spring terms respectively, either in residence or on leave of absence, to avoid late registration fees if they miss the degree deadlines. If they then do finish in time, their registration for the term will be cancelled. Students should see the GSAS Handbook section on Medical Fees regarding health fees coverage.


Diplomas may be obtained with identification at the Registrar’s Office, 20 Garden Street. Students may also indicate a mailing address on the degree application; the mailing fee is payable when the application is filed. Diplomas are sent by certified mail; there is a small fee for mailing in the United States, Canada, and Mexico; and a slightly higher fee for mailing abroad.

Once the thesis, thesis acceptance certificate and departmental recommendation for the degree are on file in the Registrar’s Office, a student may request, in person or in writing, certification of the expected degree. Requests should be addressed to the GSAS Degree Office, 20 Garden St. The first three certifications are free; there is a nominal charge for each additional certification.


All students who receive degrees in November, March, and May of a given academic year may participate in the Commencement celebration held in May. The Dean’s Office (495-1816) sends information about the Commencement Day schedule, tickets, and academic regalia to all recipients of November and March degrees and all applicants for May degrees.

Music as a Secondary Field

A student enrolled in a PhD program in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University may achieve formal recognition for completing a secondary field in musicology or ethnomusicology. The following requirements must be met to complete this secondary field.


  • Completion of a minimum of four courses (16 credits).
  • One of these courses must be an introductory course: Music 201a: Introduction to Historical Musicology, Music 201b: Introduction to Ethnomusicology, or Music 221: Current Issues in Theory.
  • The remaining three courses may be chosen from other graduate courses (200 level: “Primarily for Graduates”) or intermediate courses (150 level: “For Undergraduates and Graduates”). With 150-level courses, graduate-level work is required, with confirmation of such to the Director of Graduate Studies. Grades must be B+ or above.  It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that the necessary documentation is submitted to the DGS.  
  • Neither pass/fail nor audited courses will count towards a secondary PhD field.

For further information contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Harvard University Department of Music or GSAS information on Secondary Fields.

Resources for Graduate Study

Graduate Music Forum

Started in spring 1998, the Graduate Music Forum (GMF) aims to provide an opportunity for Harvard Music Department graduate students in all programs to discuss issues of common interest of concern to them. To date, these have ranged from matters of departmental administration and facilities to the structure of degree programs and the inception of new student projects, such as conferences and wellness programs.

Discussion takes place principally in monthly meetings. Both notification and minutes are circulated to all graduate students. All are encouraged to attend the meetings: however, those for whom attendance is inconvenient or impossible are urged to participate in the Forum via e-mail or other means.

While the aim has been to keep the GMF fairly informal, the organization does have an official role in selecting and briefing representatives to the Music Department faculty meetings and the Graduate Student Council.

Barwick Colloquia, Friday Lunch Talks, Theory Tuesdays, & Composer’s Colloquia

Each year the department nominates scholars and musicians to invite to campus to give a colloquium, and graduate students are actively involved in this process. Seven speakers are chosen by vote. Graduate student volunteers act as hosts to each speaker. The Department provides the funds that make the colloquium series, now named the Barwick Student Colloquium Series, possible. This is not the only series of colloquia offered by the Department, but it is the only one which gives graduate students the opportunity to request specific speakers whose work is of particular interest, or in fields which are not necessarily reflected by the day-to-day offerings of the Department.

Friday Lunch Talks are a series of informal colloquia where students are invited to give “works in progress.” Theory Tuesdays are informal as well, and are focused around a topic or series of scholarly works. The Composer’s Colloquium is a weekly get-together that meets every Monday at noon. It brings together composers, theorists and musicologists from both within and outside Harvard for discussion.

Southern Pian Society

The Southern-Pian Society, the Music Department affinity group for graduate students of color, was named after the two tenured women of color on the faculty of the music department: Eileen Southern (1920-2002) and Rulan Pian (1922-2013). It was the brainchild of ethnomusicology graduate student Krystal Klingenberg, who articulated the need for such a group in a letter co-written with fellow ethno grad student Matthew Leslie Santana in the spring of 2016 that addressed faculty diversity in the music department.

“We had two asks: one, that the next faculty member hired be a person of color and two, that the department support an affinity group for graduate students who self-identify as students of color. We knew the faculty couldn’t legally promise that the next hire would be a scholar of color, but we were thrilled that Braxton Shelley was appointed Assistant Professor in the summer of 2017. The department gave us a budget to support the affinity group, and in the fall of 2016 we started programming.”

The group gets together to share experiences, support, and information. They also arrange informal meetings with Harvard visiting professors of color–George Lewis, Alejandro Madrid, Jason Palme–and with current and former faculty, such as Shelley, Vijay Iyer, Yosvany Terry, Sindhumathi Revuluri, and Esperanza Spalding.

“We want to get to know these professors of color as models for how to navigate the academy,” says Klingenberg. “One of the big points people make–in academia in general–about not diversifying faculty is that there are not enough worthy candidates in the pipeline. You can hear the same argument about women, and you have to wonder, did they look? This group is an opportunity for people who share an identity and affiliation to get together and chat, with a commitment to strengthening that pipeline by our support of each other.”

Laurie Lee, Klingenberg’s co-programmer this year, agreed that “generational change stands as much on strong peer networks as it does on student-advisor relationships. Aside from the work we do to reach up and make connections with professors, we also reach out to prospective students of color who are considering entering the PhD program at Harvard.”

The Southern-Pian Society hosted their first public talk in April 2018. Will Cheng’s (PhD Nov ’12) “‘His Music Was Not a Weapon’: Black Noise, Breakable Skin, and the Plundered Voice of Jordan Davis,” combined music scholarship and activism. The talk was inspiring and thought-provoking, and the group is looking to produce more talks next year.

“This is my 6th year in the PhD program,” Klingenberg says. “I didn’t fully understand the level of grit required for this journey at the outset. It takes a particular kind of emotional fortitude, and it’s a little isolating, even more so for students of color. The goal of this group is to make it a little less so. It’s been really wonderful to forge new relationships and feel a new camaraderie.”

Klingenberg has found from talking with visiting professors that groups like theirs–formal groups that are endorsed and supported by their departments–do not exist in other universities.

“I try to get the idea out there, make it part of the conversation with visiting professors so that more groups will form. There are studies that document the large role social support plays in the successful completion of grad students of color and if departments want to support their POC students, encouraging the creation of affinity groups is a great way of doing so.”

Dudley House

Dudley House, located in Lehman Hall on the Yard, houses the GSAS center. There is a host of events, including lectures, concerts, movies, outings, and activities tailored to graduate students. outlines services available. The House sponsors opportunities to share lunch or dinner with faculty, and houses a dining room, computer facilities for graduate students, the office of the Graduate Student Council and the offices of Director of Student Services for GSAS and the office of the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.

Fellowships, Grants and Prizes

In recent years virtually every graduate student has received one or more of the fellowships and grants awarded by the University and the music department. Awards given by the department each year include several prizes in composition, John Knowles Paine Traveling Fellowships, the Oscar S. Schafer Fellowship, Richard F. French Fellowships, Ferdinand Gordon & Elizabeth Hunter Morrill Fellowships, and Nino Pirrotta Research Grants. In addition, graduate students are awarded six years guaranteed funding (including living expenses) when accepted to a PhD program.

Students traveling abroad on trips funded or arranged by Harvard or who will receive Harvard credit during their travel are required to record their itineraries in the Harvard Travel Registry.


For more information (e.g. guidelines, applications) on the Kennedy, Knox, Sheldon and Lurcy Travelling Fellowships, please see the Director of Administration (Nancy Shafman) early in the year. Applications with letter of recommendation should be submitted to her as well.

Students interested in the Harvard Tower and Ecole Normale Superieure, French Exchange Program, Institut D’Etudes Politiques should also consult with the Director of Administration.


There are several fellowships offered by the Graduate School:
1. Summer grant A: for language study and/or research, pre-dissertation prospectus (G1, G2, or G3)
2. Term time dissertation research award
3. Dissertation completion award** and Eliot* (full year) awards.
* selected from the winning pool
**If you have received a Dissertation Completion Fellowship you are ineligible for summer funding and should not apply

Please see the Director of Administration (Nancy Shafman) at any time if you have questions or wish to obtain an application for any of these fellowships. Information will also be posted on the graduate board. If you are applying for more than one of these, you will need to include only one copy of your transcript.

You are strongly urged to check with the faculty from whom you are considering asking for recommendations as to their travel plans during late December and the month of January.


Applications for all Summer Fellowships (listed below: Paine, Pirrotta, French, Morrill) should be in letter form addressed to the Department Chair, and should include a standard FORM (ask Eva Kim for this), a description of and budget for the proposed project. Please see the Director of Administration, Nancy Shafman, if you have any questions. Deadline: usually in March

Note: if you have received a Dissertation Completion Fellowship you are ineligible for summer funding and should not apply


Each spring, the Music Department awards John Knowles Paine Fellowships for travel and study during the following summer and into the academic year. The Fellowships were established in 1912 by Mrs. Paine in memory of her husband. The Music Department grants these Fellowships to graduating senior music concentrators pursuing post-baccalaureate research, and to graduate students writing PhD theses.


The Nino and Lea Pirrotta Graduate Research Fund was established in 1983 in honor of Professor Pirrotta on the occasion of his 75th birthday. Previous grants have ranged from $400 to $2,000. Each award is given for a research project of well-defined limited scope (e.g. a brief research visit to a domestic or foreign library, archive, or research facility)


Established by Richard F. French, long-time supporter of the Music Department and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. The French Fellowship in Music is intended to support the expenses of one or more graduate students in the Department who possess exceptional and distinguished musical and intellectual ability and have been formally accepted as doctoral candidates. Funds are available to support doctoral research in residence or abroad.


The Morrill Fellowship was established in 1992 as a gift of Gordon and Elizabeth Morrill to establish a graduate fellowship for research in Italy on music from the 15th to the 18th centuries, with a special emphasis on vocal music and opera. This award covers travel and living expenses for appropriate periods of research in Italy. It is hoped that while they are in Italy the recipients will avail themselves of the resources of the Gordon and Elizabeth Morrill Music Library at the Villa I Tatti in Florence.


The Wesley Weyman Fund accepts applications from graduate students in the Department of Music for financial assistance with travel and other expenses related to participation in conferences or other professional meetings or events. Subsidies are generally modest, and cover only a part of actual expenses, and vary based on the state of the fund.

Applications can be made before the scheduled professional event by submitting a brief letter addressed to The Weyman Fund, Harvard University Department of Music. Please put them in Eva Kim’s mailbox. The letter should include a line or two about your participation in the conference or other event and a list of anticipated expenses (e.g. air and ground travel, lodgings, conference fees, meals, other incidental costs). Applications made after the event should list actual expenses, but need not include receipts. Please be sure to indicate if you are presenting a paper or having a composition performed.

Since relatively small sums are available, it may be necessary at times to take into consideration whether or how often a given applicant has previously been awarded assistance from the Weyman Fund.

For deadline information or questions about the application procedure write


The Department Travel fund is available to graduate students four times (provided funding is available) during their tenure. It can be used to support travel to attend a conference, give a paper or have a composition performed by a professional organization.

The Scholarship Committee has set the following guidelines:
– Students are strongly encouraged to apply to other funding sources (Graduate Student Council, Weyman Fund, various centers) when applicable;
– One of the four trips must to be used to present a paper or the equivalent, not just to attend a conference; and
– Funding will not exceed $700 per trip; receipts or budget of planned expense required
The award will be based on current availability of funds. Requests should be submitted by email to the Manager of Administration and Finance ( Please include full information on the specifics of the conference/concert travel (location, dates), your current mailing address & proof/budget of expenses up to $700 to pay the full grant amount. The payment is a grant and may be processed as a paper check. International students who are not U.S. Residence for tax purposes will have 14% advance tax withholding on grants for use in the U.S.


The Fund was established by friends and family of the late John Green ’28 in support of excellence in musical composition. It is made annually to an undergraduate or graduate student composer.


Compositions should be submitted to the Assistant to the Chair for these prizes. Contact the Assistant to the Chair for details. The deadline is usually in March.


By the gift of two thousand dollars from “The Bohemians” (New York Musicians Club) there has been established in the Department of Music a prize in original musical composition. The competition is open to undergraduates or the members of any graduate school of the University. The interest of the bequest will be awarded for an original composition for one or two instruments.


From the income of the bequest of Francis Boott, of the Class of 1831, a prize has been established for the writer of the best composition in concerted vocal music. The competition is open to undergraduates or to members of any graduate school of the University. The prize is offered for the best composition for chorus of not less than three nor more than eight parts, either a capella or with accompaniment for piano, organ, or small instrumental ensemble, requiring not more than ten minutes for performance. The choice of text, which may be either sacred or secular, Latin or English, original or selected, is left to the contestant.


In 1909 the University received from William H. Knight, of the Class of 1903, a fund for the establishment of a prize in memory of his brother, George Arthur Knight, late of the Class of 1907. On this foundation the George Arthur Knight Prize is offered for the best composition in instrumental music, “preference to be given to compositions for string quartets or trios, though works with piano accompaniment may compete.” The competition is open to undergraduates and degree candidates in any graduate school in the University.


From the income of the Adelbert W. Sprague fund established in 1968 for the Department of Music, a prize is offered to graduate students in a competition in orchestral composition.


Bequest of Hugh F. MacColl, 1907, this prize was established in 1954. The income from the fund is “to be applied from time to time . . . to the awarding of prizes” in a competition for students in Harvard College “for original musical compositions.”


This is a string quartet competition for a piece to be performed by the Parker String Quartet during their regular season at Paine Hall.Entries should be submitted to Eva Kim.