Theory and Analysis Concentration

Students focusing their studies in music theory and analysis pursue the Ph.D. degree.

The program offers a solid foundation in the principal subfields of the discipline. As such, students are provided with a thorough general background in the areas of music theory and analysis, while enjoying considerable latitude in pursuing their own interests in accordance with the flexibility of the program and the diverse interests of the faculty. Our courses combine an examination of theoretical concepts with their practical applications in hands-on analysis. 

Our faculty and alumni have made major contributions to the field. Music Theory students are able to work not only with The Graduate Center's faculty, but also with other faculty throughout the CUNY system, which includes several colleges with distinguished music departments, such as Queens College, Hunter College, and Brooklyn College. There are also opportunities through the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium to take classes at nearby schools, including Columbia, NYU, Fordham, SUNY Stony Brook, Rutgers-New Brunswick, Princeton, and the New School University.  

Music theory pedagogy also plays an important role in our program. Our students all teach in the CUNY college campuses, and we have an impressive record of placing our graduates in academic positions as well as other positions.

Information about current students and alumni may be found on the Music program Community Portal.

Director: Poundie Burstein (

In additional to the general program learning goals, students concentrating in theory and analysis should demonstrate:

  1. The capacity to undertake original scholarly research in any of the core areas of the discipline and/or in other, emerging subdisciplines (Assessed by Second Examination).
  2. Comprehensive knowledge of current approaches and developments in the field of music theory. (Assessed by Second Examination)
  3. The ability to form original and significant research projects and to present them publicly, in the form of conference presentations and published articles.

Professional development requirements for Theory and Analysis students

  1. Attend professional development workshops (offered every fall semester)
  2. Take Proseminar in Teaching (offered every spring semester)
  3. Attend professional conferences.
  4. Submit proposals and present conference papers at student, regional, and national conferences.
  5. Write one or more articles for publication.

Path to Degree

The timeline below is a guide to expected progress toward the Ph.D. in Music Theory and Analysis. Program policies dictate when certain benchmarks must be achieved for satisfactory progress in the program.

The degree is designed to be completed in 5 years for students entering with a master’s degree, and 6 years for students entering with a bachelor’s degree. 


  • Take six seminars during the first two semesters, plus Proseminar in Teaching during the Spring semester.
  • Begin taking the language and the musicianship exams.


  • Take four to six seminars; consider taking a pre-dissertation independent study.
  • Complete the language exams, the musicianship exam, and the First Examination.


  • Complete the Second Examination, either during the Fall semester or the previous summer.
  • Prepare a dissertation proposal and begin work on your dissertation. By Spring semester, submit the dissertation proposal and continue work on the dissertation.


  • Complete and defend dissertation.


  • Students who enter without an MA continue taking classes during their Third Year and they often wait to complete their Second Examination until the Spring of their Third Year.
  • Students are encouraged to attend Professional Development workshops, conferences, and Music Department presentations throughout their tenure in the program, and to start submitting conference proposals and writing articles by their second or third year in the program.

Curriculum Requirements

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

The master’s degree with which the student enters normally counts for 30 credits of the total requirement

Theory and analysis students are required to take at least at least one course in tonal analysis, one course in post-tonal theory/analysis, one course in the History of Music Theory, one course in the analysis of vernacular music, one course in non-Western music, and Current Trends in Music Theory.

Browse course offerings »

Ph.D. students must demonstrate a reading and pronunciation knowledge of two languages other than English. Students are encouraged to take one language exam before the end of their first semester in the program, and the second language before the end of their third semester in the program. Students must pass at least one language examination in order to take the First Examination.  They must complete all language requirements in order to take the Second Exam.

Learn more about language requirements in the Student Handbook »


The First Examination consists of two parts: part A is a written examination; part B is a Musicianship Examination in score reading, transposition, figured bass realization, and pop lead-sheet realization at the keyboard.

Ph.D. students entering the program with a bachelor's degree are required to take both parts of the exam; students entering with a master's degree will take only the Musicianship Examination (part B).

The Musicianship Examination (part B) must be passed before the Second Examination may be taken.


The Second Examination consists of a written examination in four parts (taken over 2 days) and an oral examination.

Learn more about examination requirements in the Student Handbook »

All Ph.D. students are required to complete a dissertation under the guidance of a member of the doctoral faculty and to defend it at an oral examination to the satisfaction of an examining committee.

In the dissertation students should demonstrate:

  • Mastery of the scholarly literature relevant to their topic.
  • The ability to conduct original research incorporating where appropriate current theoretical approaches and research methodologies.
  • The ability to reason and write at a professional level.
  • The ability to conceive, execute, and complete a scholarly monograph of substantial length and significant content.

Learn more about dissertation requirements in the Student Handbook »

Theory and Analysis Faculty

Headshot: Johana Devany

Johanna Devaney

Assistant Professor

  • Music

Assistant Professor

  • Data Analysis and Visualization