Doctor of Musical Arts

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A graduate student from the University of Southern California receiving his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 2011. Giorgi Latsabidze, University of Southern California, Doctor of Musical Arts.jpg
A graduate student from the University of Southern California receiving his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 2011.

The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) is a doctoral academic degree in music. The DMA combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization (usually music performance, music composition, or conducting) with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The DMA degree usually takes about three to four years of full-time study to complete (in addition to the master's and bachelor's degrees), preparing students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. As a terminal degree, the DMA qualifies its recipient to work in university, college, and conservatory teaching/research positions. Students seeking doctoral training in musicology or music theory typically enter a Ph.D. program, rather than a DMA program.



The degree is also abbreviated as DMusA or AMusD. For the related degree Doctor of Music, the abbreviation is DM or DMus. For the related degree Doctor of Arts, the abbreviation DA is used.



The DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) and DME (Doctor of Music Education) is widely available in the concentrations of performance (sometimes with a specialization in instrumental or voice pedagogy and/or music literature), composition, conducting, and music education. Some universities awarding doctoral degrees in these areas use the title Doctor of Music (DM or DMus) or Doctor of Arts (DA) [1] or Doctor in Musical Studies (Ph.D.) instead of DMA. The DMA degree was pioneered by Howard Hanson and the National Association of Schools of Music, who approved the first DMA programs in 1952. Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the Eastman School of Music became the first to offer the DMA. [2] Boston University offered its first DMA program in 1955. In 2005, Boston University also expanded into online music education by launching the first online doctoral degree in music, a DMA program (along with a Master of Music program) in music education. [3]

A large number of US institutions offer the DMA degree. The Ph.D. is generally considered to be more research oriented, while other doctorates may place more emphasis on practical applications and/or include a performance component. Such distinctions among degree types are not always so clear-cut, however. For instance, most programs include traditional research training and culminate in a written dissertation, regardless of degree designation. The music education degree can be a DMA or Ph.D., each comprising similar research-oriented programs. Also, music education Ph.D. programs may include performance-oriented tracks. [4] In composition, one may study for either the DMA or the PhD, depending on the institution. The Ph.D. is the standard doctorate in music theory, musicology, music therapy, and ethnomusicology.

Sacred music

A related program is the Doctor of Sacred Music (DSM), also Sacrae Musica Doctor (SMD), which tends to be awarded by seminaries or university music schools that focus on church music, choral conducting and organ performance. In the past, some seminaries titled the degree Doctor of Church Music (DCM). Only one US institution, Claremont Graduate University [5] still offers the DCM degree, in addition to the more typical DMA. The vast majority of US seminaries have closed their music doctorate programs, but some still offer a Master of Arts or Master of Sacred Music degree. A new program offered at Perkins School of Theology is the Doctor of Pastoral Music (DPM). [6] While more theology-based and housed within the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program, admission to the degree requires applicants to hold a Master of Music (MMus), Master of Sacred Music (MSM), Master of Church Music (MCM), MA in church music or equivalent 48-semester-hour degree recognized by the National Association of Schools of Music.


DMA students typically complete applied studies, such as lessons or mentoring with a professor or instructor, and take courses within their area of specialization. In many DMA programs, all of the different DMA streams (e.g., performance, composition, conducting) take a common core of music theory and music history courses. Many DMA programs require students to pass a comprehensive exam on their area of specialization and on subjects such as music history and music theory. The last stage of the DMA degree is usually the completion of a thesis, dissertation, or research project and the performance of recitals, usually including at least one lecture-recital.

Some programs additionally require a sub-specialization in a cognate area within music, such as music history or performance practice, which contributes to their area of specialization. For example, a student doing a DMA in Baroque violin might do a sub-specialization in Baroque music history or Baroque-era dance.

Some institutions permit DMA students to do a sub-specialization in a field outside music that contributes to their professional and academic goals. For example, a student completing a DMA in piano pedagogy may be able to do a sub-specialization in the university's department of psychology (e.g., on the psychology of learning and memory); a student completing a DMA in electronic composition may be permitted to do a sub-specialization in the department of computer engineering (e.g., in computer programming).

While teaching experience is not an official part of most DMA programs, most DMA candidates will have the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant or lecturer for undergraduate students during their degree, either as a requirement of their scholarship/assistantship package or as a part-time employee of the university. DMA students can teach in an area related to their DMA program, or, if they have multiple skill areas (e.g., a person with an MMus in piano performance who is doing a DMA in composition), they may teach in another area.

Admission requirements

To be admitted to a DMA degree program, most institutions require a master's degree, such as a MMus degree or an MA degree in music or an equivalent course of study, usually with a grade average of "B+" or higher. DMA programs in performance usually require applicants to prepare solo literature that is the equivalent of a graduate recital—i.e. several advanced pieces from a wide range of styles—in addition to orchestral excerpts. Admission to doctoral programs in conducting often require a video recording of live rehearsals and performances as a pre-screening element. Composition programs usually require the submission of a portfolio of compositions, including scores and recordings of live performances. Programs in music education generally require two or more years of public school (or similar) teaching experience, and may further require an example of scholarly writing.

Newly admitted DMA students are usually required to pass a series of diagnostic tests in music history, theory, and sometimes ear-training to confirm thorough command of essential musical principles gained in prior study. Advanced courses in these areas are not permitted until the tests are passed and/or remedial coursework in deficient area(s) is completed. Often, the knowledge of a second language – one of languages of major influence in music history (such as German, French, Italian, Spanish, or Russian) – is required to complete the degree. The graduate admissions branch of many US universities require applicants to complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized test of abstract thinking skills in the areas of math, vocabulary, and analytical writing. While the outcome of the GRE test may affect an applicant's eligibility for some university-wide scholarships, it does not always affect admission to the music program of the university.

Brief history

After World War II, there was a sharp rise in music education at the university level. As was the case with many occupations, the music world was experiencing an unprecedented number of discharged musicians from the US Armed Forces. The GI Bill was an impetus for many opting for college, causing a spike in demand for college professors, across all disciplines, and a spike in enrollment. In music education, universities had an opportunity to employ formidable musicians, but many, including those of international rank, lacked a terminal academic degree that would put them on equal footing with professors. Post–World War II also a period of rise the quality of comprehensive music education at universities. The nation's renowned conservatories, such as Juilliard and Curtis, at the time, saw no need for the degree – yet many alumni of those institutions, and many top musicians with no degree were the very people being sought by universities offering degrees in music and music education.

In 1952, after six years of deliberation, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) approved thirty-two schools for graduate degrees for graduate work "in one or more of the fields into which graduate music study has been divided." The NASM was, and still is, the only accrediting agency for music schools recognized by the American Council on Education. In 1952, 143 music schools had already established standards for undergraduate degrees. [7] The national launch of DMA by institutions meeting criteria was 1953. [8]

The Director of the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music, Howard Hanson (1896–1981), who had been awarded an honorary doctorate in 1925, was one of several high-profile advocates of creating a performance oriented doctors degree. Hanson was the Chair of the NASM and Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) "Graduate Commission." [9] This commission recommended that the terminal performance doctoral degree be established. [10] This recommendation included that schools desiring to offer this degree seek the Graduate Commission's approval. [11]

In 1953, he published a proposal for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, which was roundly criticized by Paul Henry Lang, professor of musicology at Columbia University. [12]

Early Doctor of Musical Arts degrees conferred

Non-NASM institutions

The alumni of Music conservatories in the United States also seek positions at universities. The conservatories that are not affiliated with the National Association of Schools of Music began offering DMAs in the late 1960s.

Related Research Articles

Postgraduate education involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees, academic or professional certificates, academic or professional diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor's degree generally is required, and it is normally considered to be part of higher education. In North America, this level is typically referred to as graduate school.

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including bachelor's, master's and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees.

Doctorate Academic or professional degree

A doctorate or doctor's degree or doctoral degree is an academic degree awarded by universities, derived from the ancient formalism licentia docendi. In most countries, a research degree qualifies the holder to teach at university level in the degree's field or work in a specific profession. There are a number of doctoral degrees; the most common is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), awarded in many different fields, ranging from the humanities to scientific disciplines.

Graduate school School that awards advanced academic degrees (i.e. masters and doctoral degrees) with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate (bachelors) degree

A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate (bachelor's) degree. A distinction is typically made between graduate schools and professional schools, which offer specialized advanced degrees in professional fields such as medicine, nursing, business, engineering, speech–language pathology, or law. The distinction between graduate schools and professional schools is not absolute since various professional schools offer graduate degrees and vice versa.

The Doctor of Education is a research and professional doctoral degree that focuses on the field of education. It prepares the holder for academic, research, administrative, clinical, or professional positions in educational, civil, private organizations, or public institutions.

Doctor of Medicine Postgraduate medical degree

Doctor of Medicine is a medical degree, the meaning of which varies between different jurisdictions. In the United States, and some other countries, the M.D. denotes a professional graduate degree. This generally arose because many in 18th-century medical professions trained in Scotland, which used the M.D. degree nomenclature. In England, however, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery was used and eventually in the 19th century became the standard in Scotland too. Thus, in the United Kingdom, Ireland and other countries, the M.D. is a research doctorate, higher doctorate, honorary doctorate or applied clinical degree restricted to those who already hold a professional degree(Bachelor's/Master's /Doctoral) in medicine; in those countries, the equivalent professional to the North American and some others use of M.D. is still typically titled Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.).

Bachelor of Music is an academic degree awarded by a college, university, or conservatory upon completion of a program of study in music. In the United States, it is a professional degree, and the majority of work consists of prescribed music courses and study in applied music, usually requiring proficiency in an instrument, voice, or conducting. In Canada, the B.M. is often considered an undergraduate degree. Programs typically last from three to four and a half years.

Master of Music First graduate degree in Music awarded by universities and music conservatories

The Master of Music is, as an academic title, the first graduate degree in Music awarded by universities and conservatories. The M.M. combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The degree, which takes one or two years of full-time study to complete, prepares students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers, according to their area of specialization. The M.M. is often required as the minimum teaching credential for university, college, and conservatory instrumental or vocal teaching positions.

A licentiate is a degree similar to a master's degree given by universities in some countries of the European Union and Latin America. The term is also used for a person who holds this degree. The term derives from Latin licentia, "freedom", which is applied in the phrases licentia docendi meaning permission to teach and licentia ad practicandum signifying someone who holds a certificate of competence to practise a profession. Many countries have degrees with this title, but they may represent different educational levels.

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The Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A.) is a terminal applied-research doctoral degree in the field of public administration (public service). The D.P.A. requires significant coursework beyond the masters level and a dissertation that contributes to theory or practice. Upon successful completion, the title of "Doctor" is awarded and the post-nominal letters of D.P.A. or DPA can be used.

A terminal degree is a university degree that can signify one of two outcomes. In some cases, it is the highest degree that can be awarded in a specific academic or professional track. In other cases, it is a degree that is awarded when a candidate completes a certain amount of coursework but does not go on to doctoral work. Some students enroll in a terminal Master's program with the goal of preparing to enter a PhD program. For certain professions and research grants it means the lowest degree to be considered qualified.

University of Georgia Graduate School

The University of Georgia Graduate School coordinates the graduate programs of all schools and colleges at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, United States. Established in 1910, the University of Georgia Graduate School administers and confers all professional, master's and doctoral degrees. The departments under which instruction and research take place are housed in the other schools and colleges at the university.

The Master of Sacred Music degree is a two to five-year post-baccalaureate degree that combines academic and musical studies. The closure of graduate programs in organ performance across America has made the MSM increasingly the de facto degree for advanced studies in church music; MSM graduates who wish to continue their studies have the option of academic or applied (DMA) tracks. Most MSM programs are limited to choral conducting and organ performance, as these two applied fields are the primary occupations of church music directors. Piano Performance is usually taught as a subdiscipline or acquired separately.

University of Maryland School of Music Music school at the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland School of Music is a music school in College Park, Maryland, 9 miles (14 km) outside of Washington, D.C. The School of Music is the largest performing arts unit at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Education in the Czech Republic includes elementary school, secondary school, and post-secondary school. For students ages two to five, there are preschools that are generally not state-funded until the year before elementary school. After preschool, parents are not charged for tuition, but they must provide, stationery, and food for their children. A number of private schools exist across the country, but these schools are largely financially inaccessible for most children. There is an ongoing national discussion regarding the introduction of tuition fees for university education.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the most common degree at the highest academic level awarded following a course of study. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. Because it is an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

University of North Texas College of Music Public school

The University of North Texas College of Music, based in Denton, is a comprehensive music school among the largest enrollment of any music institution accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. It developed the first jazz studies program in the nation, and it remains one of the top schools for jazz. As one of thirteen colleges and schools at the University of North Texas, it has been among the largest music institutions of higher learning in North America since the 1940s. North Texas has been a member of the National Association of Schools of Music for 82 years. Since the 1970s, approximately one-third of all North Texas music students have been enrolled at the graduate level. Music at North Texas dates back to the founding of the university in 1890 when Eliza Jane McKissack, its founding director, structured it as a conservatory.

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In the United States, the PhD degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most fields of study. American students typically undergo a series of three phases in the course of their work toward the PhD degree. The first phase consists of coursework in the student's field of study and requires one to three years to complete. This often is followed by a preliminary, a comprehensive examination, or a series of cumulative examinations where the emphasis is on breadth rather than depth of knowledge. The student is often later required to pass oral and written examinations in the field of specialization within the discipline, and here, depth is emphasized. After the comprehensive examination the student is a "PhD Candidate", which is the academic equivalent of a master's degree. Some universities will award terminal Master's for students who drop out of the PhD program at this stage, and some, like Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, award a Master's en route to the PhD. Some PhD programs require the candidate to successfully complete requirements in pedagogy or applied science.


  1. The University of Mississippi – Department of Music
  2. Marvin Latimer, "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music," Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 32.1 (October 2010)
  3. As of November 2006
  4. "Florida State University – Conducting Degrees". Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  5. "Claremont Graduate University – Doctor of Church Music" . Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  6. Perkins School of Theology – Doctor of Ministry Program
  7. "NTSTC One of 32 Colleges for Graduate Study in Music", The Dallas Morning News , December 31, 1942, Sec I, p. 6
  8. Taubman, Howard (1953-10-25). "A MATTER OF DEGREE; Eastman School Sets Up Doctorate for Musicians". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  9. Latimer, Marvin E. (2010). "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music: History, Structure, and Pedagogical Implications". Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. 32 (1): 19–36. doi:10.1177/153660061003200103. ISSN   1536-6006. JSTOR   20789877.
  10. Latimer, Marvin E. (2010). "The Nation's First D.M.A. in Choral Music: History, Structure, and Pedagogical Implications". Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. 32 (1): 19–36. doi:10.1177/153660061003200103. ISSN   1536-6006. JSTOR   20789877.
  11. Glidden, Robert (1982). "The D.M.A.: An Historical Perspective". Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music: 159.
  12. "New Degrees to Musicians – Dissenters Claim Title Not Necessary", Omaha World-Herald , November 15, 1953, p. 9F
  13. Howard Hanson: In Theory and Practice, by Allen Laurence Cohen, p. 14, Praeger (2004) OCLC   52559264 ISBN   9780313321351