Music D.M.A


The Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) degree program in music composition fcuses on computer-assisted composition and world music composition. Computer-assisted composition includes algorithmic techniques for the generation of musical materials and structures to be realized in the creation of instrumental, vocal, and digitally synthesized music. World music composition addresses a variety of compositional approaches influenced by indigenous world musics, with a focus upon those musics taught by faculty composers, ethnomusicologists, and applied instructors. The D.M.A. program seeks to develop accomplished, active, and articulate composers who have a broad awareness of the diverse styles, cultural influences, media, venues, and technical means available to them in the 21st century.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

For students entering with the bachelor’s degree, a minimum of 102 credits in coursework at UC Santa Cruz will be required. All students must be in residence for a minimum of nine quarters. Students must enroll in a minimum of 10 credits each quarter until they advance to candidacy. After advancing to candidacy, students remaining in residence must take a minimum of one 5-credit course each quarter.

For students entering with a master’s degree from another institution, a minimum of 72 credits in coursework at UC Santa Cruz will be required. All students must be in residence for a minimum of six quarters. Students must enroll in a minimum of 10 credits each quarter until they advance to candidacy. After advancing to candidacy, students remaining in residence must take a minimum of one 5-credit course each quarter. D.M.A. students are expected to complete the degree within a maximum of six calendar years from entrance to the program (leaves of absence are not excluded from this count).

Students entering the D.M.A. program with a bachelor's degree must take the following course:

MUSC 200Introduction to Research Methods


Students entering the D.M.A. with an M.A. degree in a field other than music should consult their adviser about taking MUSC 200, Research Methods.

All students entering the DMA program must take the following courses:

MUSC 202Tonal and Posttonal Analysis


MUSC 219Techniques in Composition


MUSC 220Graduate Seminar in Music Composition


MUSC 206AWorld Music Composition


/DANM 217
Computer-Assisted Composition


Current Issues Colloquium

Before advancing to candidacy, all DMA students must enroll in MUSC 252, Current Issues Colloquium, each quarter in residence. MUSC 252 may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory or for a letter grade. 

Five quarters of independent study:

MUSC 297Independent Study


MUSC 298Graduate Recital


MUSC 299Thesis Research


D.M.A. students must take at least five quarters of independent study.

MUSC 297 is taken in preparation for the Qualifying Exams. 

MUSC 297 is typically taken the quarter of the Qualifying Recital. 

MUSC 299 is usually taken after advancing to candidacy, in preparation for the dissertation. 

Elective Requirements

D.M.A. students must take at least two of the following elective courses.

Note that if students elect to take MUSC 267, Workshop in Computer Music and Visualization, to satisfy one elective requirement, two quarters of the course are required. 

MUSC 201History of Music Theory from the Greeks Through Rameau


MUSC 267
/DANM 267
Workshop in Computer Music and Visualization


MUSC 203HArea Studies in Performance Practice


MUSC 203GConcepts, Issues, and the Practice of Ethnomusicology


Foreign Language Requirements

Current skill in reading and comprehension of a relevant foreign language must be demonstrated by:

  1. Satisfactory completion of level 3 of a foreign language at UCSC, preferably in the first year of the program; or
  2. Submission of an official transcript documenting successful completion of one year of university-level foreign language at another institution (equivalent to level 3 at UCSC); or
  3. Passing a foreign language proficiency examination administered by the Music Department in French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Russian. (This test requires translation of a passage of at least 600 words with no resources other than a dictionary to be completed in 1.5 hours.)
  4. For languages other than French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Russian, the department may accept completion of an online course as fulfilling the requirement if the student can prove equivalency to a level 3 course at UCSC. The graduate committee will determine whether or not to accept any such course.

With approval of the primary adviser, students whose emphasis is algorithmic composition may complete three quarters or one year of university-level instruction in computer programming in lieu of the foreign language requirement.

Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language according to the same procedures as the M.A. or D.M.A. In addition, Ph.D. students are required during their first year of enrollment to demonstrate proficiency in a second foreign language relevant to their area of interest.

Knowledge of languages not offered at UCSC must be demonstrated as determined by the Music Department’s graduate committee. Graduate Division policy states that the language requirement must be completed prior to taking the qualifying examination.

Pre-Qualifying Requirements

Pre-Qualifying Reviews

Before the end of the first year of study, all D.M.A. students must present a half recital of their compositions from that year, and submit the scores and recital recording as a portfolio, which faculty will use to assess the student’s progress in the program. Faculty may also consider the student’s performance in MUSC 200, MUSC 201, and/or MUSC 202. In unusual cases, when progress has been minimal, faculty reserves the right to terminate a student’s enrollment in the program. Typically, the half recital is satisfied by a combination of 1) participation in a concert of graduate-student compositions sponsored each April by the Music Department, and 2) participation in a public reading of graduate-student final projects from MUSC 219 and MUSC 220.

The Qualifying Recital

At the end of their second year of study, all students admitted to the D.M.A. program must present a half-recital (35-40 minutes of music) representing their best work since entering the program. The D.M.A. qualifying recital will be evaluated by the student’s primary adviser and by a second faculty member (generally a second composer) selected by the student in consultation with the primary adviser.

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus must be submitted 12 months before the scheduled qualifying examination. The prospectus must include a proposal describing the scope and nature of the dissertation composition and the accompanying essay. In addition to defining the parameters of the dissertation itself, the dissertation prospectus will suggest to the student’s qualifying examination committee three areas of study to be should be emphasized in the student’s qualifying examination. The three topics must be designed to prepare the student for an informed and successful completion of the dissertation project.

Qualifying Examination

Advancement to candidacy is contingent upon the passing of a written examination and an oral examination normally administered at the end of year three for students entering with a bachelor’s degree, and the end of year two or the beginning of year three for students entering with a master’s degree from another institution. For the written portion of the examination, the qualifying examination committee provides questions on the three topics assigned as areas of emphasis. The oral examination is administered by the student’s qualifying examination committee and may concern any aspect of the assigned topics with an emphasis on those issues addressed in the written portion of the examination. Advancement to candidacy will be granted after successful completion of the written and oral examinations, acceptance of the dissertation reading committee form, satisfactory completion of coursework and the foreign language requirement, and the payment of the necessary fees.

Post-Qualifying Requirements

After advancing to candidacy, students must enroll in at least one quarter of MUSC 299, Thesis Research, in preparation for the dissertation. 

Letter Grade Policy

Graduate students must take all core courses for a letter grade. These courses include the following: MUSC 200, MUSC 201, MUSC 202, MUSC 203A-H, MUSC 206A-D, MUSC 219, MUSC 220, MUSC 253A-D, and MUSC 254A-M. Grades of C or D do not satisfy any course requirement for a music graduate degree.

Independent study courses (MUSC 261, MUSC 265, MUSC 295, MUSC 297, MUSC 298, and MUSC 299) and the colloquium course (MUSC 252) may be taken with the satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade option.



D.M.A. students must complete a dissertation consisting of a substantial musical composition accompanied by an essay. One to two years of work beyond the qualifying examinations should be sufficient for the completion of the dissertation, except in cases where extended fieldwork is required.

Dissertation Defense

The final examination will be a public oral defense of the dissertation. After an oral presentation by the candidate, the candidate will be questioned by the dissertation committee.

Academic Progress

For more information about maintaining academic good standing, students should consult the Academic Requirements and Standards section of the Division of Graduate Studies Handbook. 

Applying for Graduation

For more information on applying for graduation, students should make an appointment with the Graduate Program adviser and consult UCSC's Graduate Division Handbook.