Music D.M.A. (Ithaca)

Field of Study


Program Description

The Field of Music offers graduate degrees in three areas of study: music (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 the

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-8999

101 Lincoln Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • composition
  • performance practice



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec 1 for Performance Practice and Jan. 15 for Composition; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Applicants for admission should follow the standard procedures as established by the Graduate School; the application, along with the statement of purpose, and TOEFL scores (if applicable) should be submitted directly to the Graduate School by January 15. Additional requirements for applicants in music are listed under the respective degree programs described on the field of music's website or may be obtained by contacting the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students whose native language is not English a TOEFL or IELTS score or other evidence showing that their English is sufficient to enable them to participate fully in graduate seminars. GRE scores are not required.

  • All Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Academic Exam for non-native English applicants
  • Three recommendations
  • Term papers and/or musical compositions

Performance practice applicants contact the field by Dec. 1 for an audition.

Learning Outcomes

DMA Composition:

  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the field (publishable scholarship or large composed work)
  • Demonstrate deep knowledge of one composer’s work
  • Define and master an area of broad competence
  • Employ advanced research skills
  • Demonstrate proficiency in languages
  • Communicate research findings effectively in written and spoken presentations
  • Demonstrate effective skills in undergraduate teaching


DMA Performance Practice:

  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the field (publishable scholarship or full concert program)
  • Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of a diverse repertoire
  • Have a broad knowledge of theory and research across 3-5 topic areas in the field
  • Employ advanced research skills
  • Demonstrate proficiency in languages
  • Communicate research findings effectively in written and spoken presentations