Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Ana María Ochoa
Director of Graduate Studies: Chris Washburne
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD; MA, DMA

The Department of Music offers programs in Musicology (MA leading to MPhil and PhD) and in Composition (MA leading to DMA).

The Musicology program incorporates three areas: historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory. Within these areas, research and teaching focus on a wide range of topics, including music history in the West, non-Western musics and cultures, popular and urban musics, jazz, analytical methods, music cognition, music aesthetics, and the philosophy of music. Application is made to one of these areas, each of which has its own degree requirements. The Musicology program is supported by a first-class library, the Gabe Wiener Music & Arts Library, located in Dodge Hall, as well as the extensive sound archives of the Center for Ethnomusicology. The department is home to the oldest and most prestigious journal edited by graduate students, Current Musicology.

The program in Composition offers instruction to a small number of highly qualified candidates working in a variety of contemporary styles and media. The Composition program is enhanced by its association with the renowned Columbia Computer Music Center, which includes state-of-the-art facilities for working in electroacoustic music. Columbia Composers, a student-directed organization, offers opportunities for public performances of compositions in various concert facilities in New York City. Other opportunities for students to hear their work are available through the professional ensembles.

The department does not offer degrees in musical performance, but through its Music Performance Program makes lessons in orchestral instruments, early instruments, organ, jazz instruments, or piano available to qualified graduate students.

Fellowships are awarded in the Musicology and Composition programs in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of success. Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of the training of doctoral students. Thus, fellowships for students in our doctoral programs include some teaching and research apprenticeship.

The department's programs are greatly enriched by their location in New York City, which has perhaps the most diverse and vital musical life of any city in the world. Museums and libraries, as well as innumerable performing venues and ensembles, allow for the study, both textual and aural, of music from virtually all traditions and ages.

Outside the classroom, students have a wide variety of opportunities to explore and support their interests in music, as the following list demonstrates.

Columbia's own Miller Theatre presents a full season of events such as chamber music, electronic music, and jazz performed in concert, plus panel discussions and presentations on musicians and composers.

Current Musicology is a periodical published by the graduate students of the Music department. Students in the Musicology program are expected to participate as contributors and members of the editorial staff.

Collegium Musicum aims to study music through performance and to acquaint students with neglected and unfamiliar compositions. Students in the Musicology and Composition programs are encouraged to participate actively in the performance of vocal and instrumental music. Activities are supervised by the graduate student director.

Columbia Composers, an organization of students enrolled in composition courses, each year presents a series of concerts of new music written by its members. Some of the concerts are given on campus and some off campus; they are broadcast occasionally on radio stations WKCR and WNYC.

The Center for Ethnomusicology, in 701C Dodge, provides materials and facilities including an archive of music recordings and a laboratory. These are available to students enrolled in ethnomusicology courses. The Center also sponsors lectures and performance sessions.

The Computer Music Center offers instructional and studio facilities in electronic and computer music to students in composition and in other fields and to visiting composers from this country and abroad. It also conducts research and develops electronic music equipment and software. Staff and visiting composers realize compositions, including scores for television, theatre, film and dance productions. Performances of electronic and computer music are given in the Kathryn Bache Miller Theatre of Columbia University, which has facilities for twelve-channel reproduction on nineteen loudspeakers. Students' works are periodically presented using these facilities.

The Center also provides opportunity for faculty and graduate students to conduct research in music perception and cognition and other areas, using the facilities of the computer music studio.

The department's fall and spring Colloquium Series bring guest composers, scholars, performers, and others to speak on a broad range of topics.

Descriptions of the University Orchestra, Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, and Barnard-Columbia Chorus and the times of auditions and rehearsals are available through the Music Performance Program.

Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) awards a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. For more information, see the ICLS website.

Special Admissions Requirements: 

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a Statement of Academic Purpose, a writing sample (see below) and three letters of evaluation from academic sources. All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English, must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

Applicants in composition are requested to submit up to three work samples, each consisting of a professionally prepared score and/or alternative form of documentation of compositional process, and including a recording of the full work. Online submission of these materials through the GSAS web application portal is strongly preferred. If the materials cannot be uploaded, please contact the Department for guidance on where to send materials by mail.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

Deadline for Fall Admission: Thursday, December 12, 2019
Resume Requirement: Yes
Writing Sample: Yes
Writing Sample Number of Pages: 10-15*
GRE General: Yes
Degree Programs: Full Time
Letters of Recommendation: 3


Writing Sample: * 2 essays (15-20 pages) for Music Theory and Historical Musicology; 1 essay (15-20 pages) for Ethnomusicology; 1 essay (8-10 pages) for Composition. 

Applicants in historical musicology are expected to have a strong foundation in the history and theory of Western music and a reading knowledge of at least one European language. For composition, proficiency in advanced contrapuntal writing and mastery of tonal forms are desirable.