The College of Arts and Architecture

Master of Music in Performance - Orchestral Instruments

Program Goals

Graduate performance degree programs are designed to provide well-prepared and talented students with the opportunities to develop their performance abilities while furthering their knowledge of music literature and developing effective studio teaching skills. These programs are intended to prepare students for entrance to the world of professional music as performers and teachers or for admission to doctoral-level study. The master of music in Performance degree program is available in three options: keyboard, vocal, and orchestral instruments.

Study and Performance Environment

The performance faculty comprises many distinguished artists, including members of the Pennsylvania Quintet (winds) and the Castalia Ensemble (strings, piano). Both the Penn State Philharmonic and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble sponsor annual student solo competitions. Other student ensembles include chamber orchestra, four bands, three jazz ensembles, eight vocal organizations, including opera theatre, and other more specialized ensembles. Each year the School of Music sponsors more than 200 student and faculty recitals and concerts, while the University's Center for the Performing Arts brings internationally known soloists, ensembles, and orchestras to Penn State. In addition, performance opportunities may be available in the area's professional orchestras.

Program Description

The master of music degree in Performance requires 36 credits of course work. At least one-half of the 36 credits must be 500-level courses, and at least 30 credits must be taken at University Park. 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 must be passed in the major area near completion of the program. In addition, a voice major must pass proficiency examinations in French, German, English, Italian, and Latin diction. This requirement may be met by successful completion of the undergraduate sequence of diction courses.

The 36-credit requirement is as follows:

Requirements Credits
*©Performance major 16
Introduction to Music Reference and Research Materials (Music 500) 2
©Ensemble (distribution of these credits among various types of ensembles to be determined by faculty in major area) 4-6
©Music literature (Music 485, Music 487, or Music 580)  3
©Seminar in music literature of the major performance area (Music 588) 2-3
©Major area pedagogy (Music 414, 415, 416, or 417) 1-2
+Music theory or history 3-4
Graduate degree recital (Music 891J) 1
Electives 0-4

© In order to maintain satisfactory academic standing, students are expected to receive grades of B or better in these "core" courses.

*A maximum of 16 credits may be counted toward meeting the minimum total credits for the degree.

+To be selected from approved list.

Admission Requirements

A candidate applying for admission to the master's degree program in performance must have earned a recognized bachelor's degree in music 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

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.

Performance degree applicants must show evidence of performance abilities and repertoire consistent with those expected of graduating Penn State students in the bachelor of music in performance program.

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

Please click on your specific instrument in graduate audition requirements to discover what is required. Then, access Application Process for directions.

Please note that ALL application materials are to be uploaded to the online application EXCEPT audition recordings.  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 (your professional goals and how graduate study will help you attain these goals)
  • repertoire list of solo material, noting works performed
  • recital program(s) from a solo recital or other major performance (i.e. a performance with orchestra)
  • 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 TOEFL or IELTS scores by selecting the correct school code below:

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

An audition is required. Live auditions are preferred when possible; however, international students and others from distant localities are sometimes admitted on the strength of a recital recording. Please contact the faculty member in your performance area regarding specific instructions for the recording (CD, DVD or YouTube). Live auditions are preferred for applicants applying for teaching assistantships.

All auditions are conducted by a jury consisting of faculty members in the major area.

Mail audition recordings 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