Musicology Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study


Program Description

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 art

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-8999

101 Lincoln Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • ethnomusicology (minor)
  • musicology
  • theory of music (minor)



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Jan. 15 for Musicology  no spring admission

**This program is not accepting applications for the 2021-22 academic year to provide additional support for current students who were impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions.  The application is expected to reopen for fall 2022.**

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. Three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the appropriate additional materials (essays, scores, recordings) should be sent to the Graduate Field Assistant in Music (101 Lincoln Hall) by January 15.

Students whose native language is not English are not required to take the GRE, but must provide a TOEFL score or other evidence showing that their English is sufficient to enable them to participate fully in graduate seminars. The minimum TOEFL score ordinarily required by the Cornell Graduate School is 550 (paper-based test) or 213 (computer-based test); the Field of Music prefers scores of 600 (=250) or above. Applicants who are fluent in English or have completed a degree program at an English-language institution may apply for a waiver from the Director of Graduate Studies.

  • All Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Academic Exam for non-native English applicants
  • Three recommendations
  • TOEFL minimum score of 250 computer-based or 600 paper-based
  • Term papers and/or musical compositions
  • Performance practice applicants contact field by Dec. 1 for audition

Learning Outcomes

  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the field (publishable scholarship)
  • Demonstrate deep knowledge in one area of specialization
  • Have a broad knowledge of theory and research across four topic areas in the field
  • Employ advanced research skills
  • Demonstrate proficiency in languages
  • Communicate research findings effectively in written and spoken presentations
  • Demonstrate effective skills in undergraduate teaching