Doctoral Studies - Music and Performing Arts

Information about Music and Performing Arts Professions Doctoral Candidacy


The purpose of the Doctoral Candidacy Exam is to assess your readiness to pursue independent research in your chosen field. Successful performance on the exam requires that you think critically, engage substantive issues in a significant way, and show familiarity with the important scholarly publications by which the field is defined. Of paramount importance is the demonstrated ability to write effectively with clarity, insight, and to contextualize your area of specialization in relation to the broader discourse of both historical and contemporary arts and ideas. In music the candidacy includes an assessment of your overall general knowledge of music, music history, and theory. Students are also expected to demonstrate expertise in the analysis of musical works from a variety of historical periods and styles. In Educational Theatre, Music Education, and Music Therapy, candidacy involves completion of a portfolio, a published research paper (for PhDs), an oral presentation, and a performance review.

Significance of Achieving Candidacy

Prior to formally achieving doctoral candidacy, you are a graduate student who has been identified as potentially able to pursue doctoral study and research. You are taking courses and achieving an academic record. However, there is no commitment from the Department that you are likely to complete the requirements for the degree until after you pass candidacy. Once you achieve the status of doctoral candidate, you may submit your research topic for approval and begin to pursue your research. You may also form your dissertation committee. If you are a performer or composer you become eligible to perform your recitals. The rights and privileges of candidacy, as well as elevated expectations from the faculty, are afforded you once you have achieved doctoral candidacy.

When and How to Apply for Candidacy

To be eligible to take the candidacy exam, you must:

  • Be fully matriculated.
  • Be in good academic standing.
  • Consult with your program advisor to ensure you are eligible and understand the specific requirements for candidacy.
  • Music doctoral students must have taken the Graduate Theory and History Placement Examinations and completed all remedial requirements in theory, history, and English.

To apply, please download and complete the application form from:

You must apply at the beginning of the semester in which you intend to take the Candidacy Examination. Music Education and Educational Theatre students may apply for the alternative professional portfolio for the candidacy exam (see “Format” below).

The completed application form, signed by your Program Adviser, should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies at the same time that you are submitting your bibliographies to the Department. Send a copy of the application form via email to Dr. Jonathan Jones (, and to your Program Adviser. On the bottom of that form, indicate the dates that you took the Graduate Theory and History Placement Examinations. These dates will be verified by Dr. Panayotis Mavromatis, director of Music Theory.


The format of candidacy exams is program specific, but it typically combines the following three parts: (1) a portfolio or bibliography, (2) a written examination, and (3) an oral examination, completed within the space of approximately three weeks.

1. Portfolio or bibliography:

The Music Education, and Educational Theatre programs use an academic portfolio approach. More information for music education can be found here.

For Educational Theatre:

Educational Theatre EdD Candidacy Portfolio Guidelines
Educational Theatre PhD Candidacy Portfolio Guidelines

Music performance/composition and music technology students prepare two bibliographies demonstrating knowledge of their broader field and area of dissertation focus, respectively. For all the areas considered, the list needs to show a good balance between books/dissertations discussing foundational knowledge, and articles/papers describing recent advances. Specific guidelines for preparing these bibliographies can be found at:

A suggested (but non-comprehensive) reading list is also available at:

Music Technology students are also expected to annotate their bibliography, including short comments (no more than a couple of lines) explaining the relevance of each source (this can be included on the guidelines). Furthermore, music technology students should submit two articles that have been prepared for peer review, either in a professional conference or journal, a 1-page statement about the candidate's research and tentative dissertation plan, and a CV including a list of courses taken, organized per area of knowledge.

2. Written examination:

The first part of the written examination for students in Music Performance and Composition consists of take-home critical essays to be completed within approximately two days. The topics for critical essays will be particular to each program and will be based on utilizing sources that represent knowledge in the student's field of specialization. The responses to these critical essays are to be emailed directly to the exam coordinator (Dr. Jonathan Jones, .

The second stage for students in a Music Performance and Composition is music analysis. Approximately three days after receiving the piece for analysis, students take a three-hour written exam with specific questions asked about the piece they have prepared. In preparation for analysis, students will be given the score and recording of the work that they will study. Students should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the music. During the written exam, scores and staff paper are provided, but the recordings are not.

Music Technology students will receive 4 technical questions 3 weeks in advance of the written examination, and 2 music questions 1 week in advance of the written examination. On day one of the exam week, the candidate will be given 1 of the technical questions and 4 hours to respond to it with no access to books or the internet. On day three of the exam week, the candidate will be given 1 of the music questions and 4 hours to respond to it with no access to books or the internet.

Other than using the essays to address the questions, all the candidates will be assessed on their: (a) breadth of general knowledge (how specific areas of research relate to the broader scholarly discourse, in terms of historical and contemporary influences); (b) depth of knowledge on specific areas of research; and (c) ability to critically review the state of the art, and articulate a vision for the future of their field.

Students are expected to use word processing tools for their written examination. They will also be trusted to work on their own without consulting faculty, colleagues, or friends either in this department or elsewhere; pre-written material – such as articles authored or co-authored by the candidate – may not be incorporated. Any evidence of such help or plagiarism is grounds for dismissal from the program. Students will not be allowed to bring any notes or materials into the examination room.

3. Oral Examination

An oral exam lasting up to two hours will take place within approximately 2-3 weeks of the written exam. The examining committee will use that occasion to raise questions of a comprehensive nature addressing major issues in the field of the candidate's specialization as well as basic knowledge in related fields. The committee members may revisit portions of the written exam if they wish, and inquire about topics covered by the student's reading list. They may also question the student on any elements contained in their bibliographies and/or portfolios.

Evaluation and Advisement

The evaluation of both the written and oral portions of the exam will be the responsibility of a single examining committee. Each committee shall consist of three members, selected by the Exam Coordinator from among all available and qualified doctoral faculty, and typically including at least one faculty member from the student’s program. The exam shall be evaluated as PASS, PASS WITH CONDITIONS, or FAIL.

The Candidacy Exam is meant to serve an advisory as well as an evaluative function. At the end of the exam, the committee may recommend or require that the student complete additional work as part of the degree requirement, in accord with the guidelines laid down in the Handbook for Doctoral Study. For more information visit:

Mediation and Appeal

In the event of a student's failure, the Director of Doctoral Studies will discuss options for the student. In most cases, students are permitted to take the candidacy examination a second time. A second failure results in termination from the doctoral program.