Degree Programs

The Department of Music offers graduate programs in Composition, Ethnomusicology, and Music History & Theory.

The Graduate Curriculum provides detailed information about course requirements for each program of study.


The Composition program is structured to develop students’ creative and technical abilities in writing music. Students take individual lessons with members of the composition faculty, typically studying with more than one faculty member during their course of residence. Students also may pursue training in a variety of related topics, including score-reading and conducting, orchestration, musical analysis, contemporary styles, historical periods, and world music traditions. Students in composition select a minor field from among four areas: ethnomusicology, musicology, theory/analysis, and computer music. Coursework in each area culminates in an article-length Ph.D. paper which is defended before a faculty committee.


The Ethnomusicology program prepares students to evaluate and study the place of music in various cultural contexts. Students are trained in cultural theory, anthropology, ethnographic methods, problems in cross-cultural musical analysis, and world music and vernacular musical traditions. The University has particular strengths in Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean, and South Asian studies. Chicago ethnomusicology students have undertaken fieldwork in North America, North Africa, Europe, East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.


The Music History & Theory program emphasizes a wide range of methodologies and musical repertories, preparing students for careers as leading music scholars. Studies in music history may encompass cultural history, textual criticism, institutional history, hermeneutics, anthropology, race or gender studies, critical theory as well as film and media, and often a dynamic interplay between them. Students emphasizing music theory often concentrate on theoretical systems, detailed analysis of works, musical cognition, the history of theory, the history of compositional practices, and popular musics. The Chicago approach to the fields of history and theory is cross-disciplinary—students take a broad selection of courses, and their individual research programs typically reflect the flexible and porous approach that characterizes the Department and the University.

Music history and theory students with a special interest in composition may develop a program of study in consultation with faculty.

The Joint PhD Program in Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS) allows students to complement their doctoral studies in Music with a program of study in TAPS that reflects their particular training and interests, encompassing both academic and artistic work. Please visit the TAPS graduate program website for additional information on the joint program.