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The Doctoral Program in Music Theory offers a solid foundation in the principal subfields of our discipline, including Schenkerian theory, post-tonal theory, and the history of theory. Our faculty and alumni have made major contributions to the field and we have an impressive record of placing our graduates in academic positions.

The music theory faculty includes Mark Anson Cartwright, L. Poundie Burstein, Norman Carey, Philip Ewel, David Gagné, Philip Lambert, Shaugn O'Donnell, Jonathan Pieslak, William Rothstein, Mark Spicer, and Joseph Straus. The Theory Department helps sponsor a series of free lectures and workshops under the auspices of the Graduate Center Music Forum.

Students interest in applying to the Music Theory Program at the Graduate Center should feel free to contact Prof. Straus at

Course Requirements

A minimum of 60 credits of approved course work is required for a Ph.D. Courses will be credited toward the Ph.D. only if they are part of a program approved by the Executive Officer or his/her deputy.

For students concentrating in theory, the first 30 credits should include the following three courses (or their equivalents): current trends in music theory; bibliography and research techniques; introduction to Schenkerian analysis; and introduction to Post-Tonal Theory. For the Ph.D., theory students must take two additional courses in Schenkerian analysis, one additional course in Post-Tonal Theory, and the two-semester sequence of courses in the History of Music Theory. Beyond these core requirements, theory students must take five 80000-level research seminars, at least two of which will be from an area outside music theory.

A Musicianship Examination in score reading, transposition, and figured bass realization at the keyboard for students in the theory concentration must be passed before the Second Examination may be taken.

Admissions Requirements

1. A completed application by filling out an online application;
2. Two letters of recommendation;
3. Scores from the Graduate Record Examination: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical.
4. One or two samples of your written work, that is: a substantial term paper or a chapter from an undergraduate or Master's thesis, etc.

Samples of tonal composition (chorale melody harmonization, sonata or fugue exposition, invention, song, chorale prelude).
In addition to the general University requirements for admission, applicants for the Music Theory degree must present an adequate background, as judged by the Admissions Committee, in the area of music history, music theory, and analysis. They must demonstrate promise of superior achievement in advanced study and research. In many cases, prospective students will be asked to come for an interview with the Music Theory Faculty.

For information about the theory program, contact Joseph Straus at