Feb 26, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin 
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Music (Theory and Composition) MM

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The Master of Music degree in Music Theory and Composition is a specialized degree that prepares a student for an academic career teaching music theory.  There are two degree options: master’s thesis and master’s lecture (non-thesis).

Admission Requirements

Applications for regular admission to the master’s degree program in Music (MM) require elements beyond the minimum requirements of the Graduate School.

These additional application requirements include:

  • Completion of a bachelor’s degree that included counterpoint and form
  • At least a “B” average on music courses completed during the undergraduate degree
  • Scores for the general test of the Graduate Record Examination
  • A writing sample that demonstrates writing ability in the form of an analysis/research essay in music theory. 
  • An interview

Students who are unable to meet regular admission standards may be considered for conditional admission. For details concerning conditional admission, see Admission Requirements and Procedures .

Program Requirements and Academic Policies

Diagnostic Examinations 

All entering master’s students are required to take a Diagnostic Entrance Examination in music theory and in music history and literature. The purposes of this examination are 1) to determine whether the student has foundation-level deficiencies that must be addressed for him/her to be successful in graduate courses and on the comprehensive examination; and 2) to provide information that will guide the student and his/her advisor in selecting useful and appropriate academic courses.  

Diagnostic examinations are administered on campus in fall and summer. The Graduate Coordinator should be contacted for information.

Students who do not pass the history diagnostic exam must enroll in MUS 630. Students who do not pass the theory diagnostic exam must enroll in MUS 620. These courses must be completed within the first two regular semesters of graduate work.

Undergraduate music theory and/or history courses may be required as prerequisites to further study in graduate music theory or history.  Students who do not pass the music theory review, or the history review (or required undergraduate courses) will not be allowed to enroll in further study in music history or music theory unless the grade of “B-” or better is earned in the required prerequisite course(s).  

Advisory committee

Early in the first term of full-time residence, by the end of the first semester, the student and the major professor select an advisory committee.  Master’s committees must include four members: 1) the major professor, 2) two additional professors from the major area, 3) a representative from Music History.  These faculty members will help the student plan his/her program of study, attend and grade his/her recital, and prepare and grade his/her comprehensive exam.   

Special Problems Courses (MUS 692, 792, MED 692, 792) 

Students cannot enroll in special problems courses without appropriate approval. Petitions requesting permission to enroll are available on the School of Music website at https://www.usm.edu/music/forms-0

Petitions must be submitted to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies by the end of SOAR open registration.  Special Problems courses demand a minimum of 45 hours work for each hour of credit earned.  It is expected that the result of any special problem undertaken be available for faculty examination; copies of term papers, examinations, or compositions must be submitted to the Coordinator for this purpose.

Comprehensive Examinations 

A written comprehensive exam is required. The exam will be prepared and graded by the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee; it will cover the area of the major field.  Master’s comprehensive exam dates will be posted by the Coordinator of Graduate Studies in the summer for the ensuing Academic Year; exams are typically held in October, April, and July.  An announcement of each exam will be made approximately two (2) months prior to the exam date. 

Students must register for the exam two months in advance with the Coordinator of Graduate Studies. The Coordinator of Graduate Studies must receive the results of the comprehensive examination in time to meet Graduate School deadlines.

A student who fails the Comprehensive Examination may repeat the exam once; the exam must be repeated within one year of the first comprehensive examination, but not sooner than the 3 months after the first attempt.

Course Requirements (32 hours)


At least 18 hours of coursework must be at the 600 level or higher.  A 3.0 GPA is required for graduation.  To meet graduation requirements, no grade below a “C” is acceptable in any coursework attempted.  No more than two (2) grades of “C+” or “C” across six (6) credit hours is allowable in any coursework attempted.

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