The College of Arts and Architecture

Master of Arts in Music with track in Music Theory

Program Goals

The Master of Arts in Music with track in Music Theory offers preparation in current modes of research and analysis from a music theoretical perspective. The program has the advantage of breadth in preparing the student to teach the two-year course sequence in the undergraduate theory curriculum at community and junior colleges and for community education programs. For the student planning to pursue doctoral studies, this program offers not only the broad base of courses required for admission to most doctoral programs, but also exposure to the in-depth study that is characteristic of seminars and thesis work.

The program features:

  • Seminar: a special topics seminar in music theory (Music 574) that includes the study of analytical techniques, aesthetics, writings in music theory, music cognition, and mathematical models, among other areas.
  • Coursework: the opportunity to study 16th- and 18th-century counterpoint, Schenkerian analysis and other systems of tonal analysis, as well as analytical approaches to contemporary music.
  • Pedagogy: a pedagogy course in undergraduate music theory and history (Music 533).
  • Thesis: a thesis that is analytical or theoretical in design, directed by a member of the theory faculty.

Program Description

The Master of Arts in Music with track in Music Theory requires a minimum of 32 credits of coursework including a 6-credit thesis. At least 18 credits must be at the 500 or 600 level, and at least 24 credits must be taken at University Park. A reading examination in German or another language appropriate to the student’s research, as determined by the student’s thesis advisor, must be passed before thesis credit may be scheduled. Knowledge of the history and theory of Western art music must be demonstrated by satisfactory completion of competency examinations or completion of specified remedial courses in addition to the curricular requirements listed here. An oral examination focusing on the student's thesis research area and coursework must be successfully completed in the final semester.

The 32-credit requirement is as follows:

Requirements Credits
Introduction to Music Reference and Research Materials (Music 500) 2
Schenkerian analysis 3
Pedagogy of undergraduate theory and history 2
18th-century counterpoint 2
*Theory seminar 3
**Music theory electives  5
***Music history elective 3
Music elective (in consultation with adviser) 3
Free elective (in consultation with adviser) 3
Thesis 6

*Special topics, changing from year to year.

**Two courses selected from: Music 431 (Advanced Tonal Analysis), Music 433 (Special Topics in 20th-Century Theory), Music 435 (Score Reading), Music 438 (Figured Bass), Music 471 (16th-Century Counterpoint), Music 531 (Analytical Techniques), Music 573 (Integrative Seminar), Music 574 (Theory Seminar).  (Future theory electives: Schenker II, History of Theory 1600-present, Mathematical Techniques in Music Theory).

***One course selected from: Music 461W (Antiquity to 1600), Music 462W (1550-1750), Music 463W (1700-1900), Music 464W (1850-Present), Music 572 (Musicology Seminar), Music 573 (Integrative Seminar).

Music elective or free elective: Music 455 (Technology in Music [1-3 cr.]), Music 458 (Intro. To Electronic Music [3 cr.] – Prerequisite to 455), Music 459 (Project in Electronic Music [1-3]).

Unsatisfactory performance on the competency examinations in music history and theory taken at the beginning of the program may result in the necessity of additional course work.

Admission Requirements

A candidate applying for admission to the M.A. in Music with track in Music Theory should have completed a recognized bachelor's degree in music or music education with at least a 2.8 junior-senior grade-point average.  A typical bachelor’s degree in music includes the following:

  • 12-16 credits in music theory and analysis
  • 6-9 credits in music history
  • 4 credits (2 semesters) of keyboard skills
  • 12-16 credits of a foreign language

A candidate who is deficient in any area may be considered for admission, but must be prepared to make up the deficiency, without credit toward the degree, during the first year of graduate study and before thesis credit may be scheduled.

Student Aid

For an overview of current tuition and fees as well as the financial assistance programs available to graduate students at Penn State, see Graduate Financial Aid.

Admission Procedure Summary

Access Application Process for directions.

Please note that ALL application materials are to be uploaded to the online application.  Upload the following materials:

  • an official transcript - NOT an advising or unofficial transcript - (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S., e.g., degree/study certificates, diplomas, etc.) from all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instruction (and an official English translation if English is not the language of instruction)
    Chinese applicants must also submit an official graduation certificate and official diploma, in Chinese and translated English, if the applicant has already earned the previous degree(s).
  • names of two references and their email addresses (Penn State will contact your references directly)
  • statement of purpose (professional goals and how graduate study at Penn State will help you to attain these goals)
  • evidence of scholarship and writing skills (research paper or thesis on a musical topic; maximum of 20 pages)
  • application for School of Music Graduate Assistantship (optional), see Graduate Financial Aid

The following should be submitted to Penn State by the testing agencies at your request.  Select "Penn State University" as the destination for your GRE, TOEFL or IELTS scores by selecting the correct school code below:

  • GRE scores (general test) - School Code 2660
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores (international applicants only) - School Code 2660

Arrangements may be made for a visit to the University Park campus and for interviews with appropriate faculty members. This is especially important when applying for an assistantship. These arrangements should be made with a faculty member representing the major area. They should be scheduled as early as possible in the semester preceding the semester for which admission is desired.

Inquiries directed to:

School of Music Graduate Admissions

The Pennsylvania State University

233 Music Building I

University Park, PA 16802-1901

Phone: 814-865-5568
Fax: 814-865-6785