The Field of Music offers graduate degrees in three areas of study: musicology (Ph.D.), composition (D.M.A.), and performance practice (D.M.A.). Music at Cornell flourishes through an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the fields of performance, historical musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, and music theory. As a result, the Department of Music's many activities mutually reinforce each other, and graduate students at Cornell enjoy a sense of community among themselves and with the faculty.
The curriculum is highly flexible. Bound only by the few rules imposed by the Graduate School and by the Field of Music, students develop their own course of study in a close relationship with a Special Committee of three or four faculty members chosen by the student. For students in musicology, a reading knowledge of at least two foreign languages is required, and study of the language spoken in the area of research is essential. A student's Special Committee may require additional languages, depending on the area of specialization. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of course offerings in other fields, and minor subjects can be drawn either from within the Field of Music or from disciplines across the campus, such as anthropology, art history, computer science, history, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theatre arts, and Western and non-Western languages and literatures.
There are 25 to 30 students in residence at any given time, including the approximately six new students matriculating each year. This low number allows for small seminars and encourages a close working relationship between students and faculty. The Music Colloquium Series, Composers Forum, and department concerts bring Cornellians together with distinguished visiting performers, composers, and scholars, and provide students with ample opportunity to present their own work. In addition to such visitors, resources include the Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance, which offers one of the largest and most distinguished collections in any American university.
Musical performance is an essential part of life at Cornell. Graduate students are welcome to participate in the many performing ensembles sponsored by the Music Department, which include choirs, orchestras, wind ensembles, jazz ensembles, a Javanese gamelan, percussion ensembles, and many types of chamber music. In addition to students pursuing the D.M.A. in performance practice, many candidates in musicology and composition also perform, and some make performance a formal part of their programs by declaring a minor in this area.
The Music Department sponsors more than a hundred concerts each year, covering many historical periods and many cultural traditions. In addition, the Cornell Concert Series brings internationally renowned performers to the Cornell campus. Ensemble X, a professional new-music group based at Cornell, gives an annual series of concerts, as does the Cornell Contemporary Chamber Players, a group specializing in performing the works of the doctoral composition students. The Cornell Council for the Arts also serves as a potential source of funds for students wishing to organize their own concerts or other artistic activities.
Classroom teaching under the supervision of a faculty member constitutes a vital part of the training offered by the doctoral programs. As part of their studies graduate students serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate theory and history courses; they may also direct ensembles or give individual lessons. Every year one or two advanced students have the opportunity to design their own courses in the context of Cornell's acclaimed First-Year Writing Seminars, which pioneered the concept of "writing across the curriculum."
Only students intending to acquire a doctoral degree are admitted. Those who have not yet earned a master's degree in music at another institution are eligible to earn the M.F.A. (in composition or performance practice) or the M.A. (in musicology) in the course of their doctoral studies, but the field does not offer those degrees as terminal degrees. Further information about the Field of Music, its programs, faculty, and application procedures can be found on the Web.
Concentrations by Subject
Muscial Composition (minor)
- musical composition (minor)
- performance practice
Music Performance (minor)
- music performance (minor)
Theory of Music (minor)
- theory of music (minor)