The College of Arts and Architecture

Doctor of Musical Arts degree, major in Piano Performance

There is no pre-screening required.


Program Goals

The Doctor of Musical Arts is offered with a major in Piano Performance. The degree is designed to provide students with a thorough background of preparation and experience in professional-level performance and in the literature of the instrument, while becoming sufficiently knowledgeable about the discipline of music as a whole, in order to teach at the collegiate or university level. This background knowledge includes, but is not limited to, music theory, analysis, and history.

Study and Performance Environment

The piano faculty of Penn State comprises three distinguished artists and pedagogues (Christopher Guzman, Timothy Shafer, and Jose Ramon Mendez). Esber Recital Hall is equipped with Steinway D and Bösendorfer grand pianos, and the piano studios and large ensemble rooms have a variety of other large Steinway, Bösendorfer, and Yamaha grands. Many of the practice level of Music Building II are equipped with grand pianos. The piano laboratory is newly equipped with fully modern Yamaha Clavinovas. The Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra sponsors annual student concerto competitions.

Each year the School of Music sponsors more than 400 public events, while the University's Center for the Performing Arts brings internationally known soloists, ensembles, and orchestras to the Penn State campus.

Program Description

A minimum of four semesters in residence is required. Sixty credits are required beyond the Master of Music; if an exceptional student is admitted before completion of a prior Master of Music degree, the student will complete a total of 30 credits (including any graduate credits accepted by transfer) in categories equivalent to those required for the M.M. in addition to the 60 credits required for the D.M.A.

Minimum course requirements (post-Master’s degree) include 16 credits (four semesters @ four credits/semester) of Keyboard 580J applied music instruction; four credits of advanced ensembles; 10 credits of literature and pedagogy in the major area; and 18 credits in the broader discipline of music. A candidacy examination will follow upon two semesters completed in residence. The comprehensive examination, with an oral examination covering work in the major field, will occur upon the completion of all required course work, before the final recital.

The culminating experience of the D.M.A. degree is public performance. Three memorized solo recitals are required (the final recital is prepared independently), and two recitals of chamber music are also required. All recitals are graded by jury, with B being the minimum acceptable grade. Although no written thesis is required, a lecture-recital is required, with a pre-approved monograph text.

Complete Program Statement

Summary: 60 credits in four categories are detailed below.

First, 16 credits of Keyboard 580, major performance instruction, and four credits of chamber music (Music 523 or 565, Sonata Duos, etc.) represent the required minimum four semesters in residence. The student must continue to enroll in Keyboard 580 and in one chamber music course during each semester of residence, even beyond the minimum.

Second, College Level Teaching Preparation (10 credits) includes six credits of keyboard literature seminars, Music 585, 586, and 587, and four credits of pedagogy seminars, Music 519 and 524.

Third, the Discipline of Music category (eighteen credits) includes Music 533, Pedagogy of Theory/History (2 credits) and six credits chosen from Music (theory/history) 531, 532, 535, 572, 573, and 574 as well as 10 credits chosen from a list of eligible music electives.

Fourth, the Culminating Experience category includes 12 credits, encompassing three solo recitals, two chamber music recitals, and the lecture recital with monograph. Again, the candidacy examination would take place at the end of two semesters, and would include the evaluation of the first solo recital. The comprehensive examination would follow the end of all required course work and would include an oral examination in the major subject material. The final recital constitutes the final examination for the degree.


1. Performance Instruction, 20 credits:

KEYBD 580, Piano Performance Doctoral/Artist Level, (4); minimum four semesters (16); applied study focused on the development of the student’s technique and advanced solo repertoire. Students must enroll in this course each semester while in residence.

Ensemble participation, minimum 4 credits, but students must enroll in one of the following each semester in residence:
MUSIC 523, Sonata Duos (1)
MUSIC 565, Studio/recital Accompanying (1)


2. College Level Teaching Preparation, 10 credits:

Literature, 6 credits: Students must show evidence of prior completion of a general survey of keyboard literature comparable to Music 481 at Penn State.
MUSIC 585: Graduate Seminar in Keyboard Music 1710-1820 (2)
MUSIC 586: Graduate Seminar in Piano Music 1820-1920 (2)
MUSIC 587: Graduate Seminar in Piano Music 1890-present (2)

Pedagogy, 4 credits:
MUSIC 519: Graduate Seminar in Pedagogy of Intermediate Piano (2)
MUSIC 524: Graduate Seminar in Pedagogy of Advanced Piano (2)


3. Discipline of Music, 18 credits [Students must pass existing entrance/undergraduate competency exams or complete appropriate remedial course work prior to enrollment in any of the following courses. Remedial course work does not apply to the degree program. Additionally, all students in the Master of Music degree at Penn State must pass Music 500, Introduction to Music Reference and Research Materials; students who are admitted to the Doctor of Musical Arts program without the M.M. from Penn State must pass Music 500 or show evidence of passing a comparable course at another institution. Again, the lack of such a course would require that Music 500 would be taken prior to the other requirements listed here.]

MUSIC 533: Pedagogy of Theory/History (2)

6 credits chosen from these graduate music theory and history courses:

MUSIC 531: Analytical Techniques (3)
MUSIC 532: Schenkerian Analysis (3)
MUSIC 535: Composition (1-4, with permission of instructor)
MUSIC 572: Seminar in Musicology (3)
MUSIC 573: Integrative Seminar in Music Theory and History (3)
MUSIC 574: Seminar in Music Theory (3)

10 credits chosen from approved, advanced level music electives:

MUSIC 461-2-3-4W: Studies in Music History (3 each)
MUSIC 431: Advanced Tonal Analysis (2-3)
MUSIC 435: Score Reading (1)
MUSIC 438: Figured Bass (2)
MUSIC 465: Advanced Conducting I (2)
MUSIC 466: Advanced Conducting II (2) (permission of instructor)
MUSIC 471: Structural and Sixteenth-century Counterpoint (2)
MUSIC 472: Eighteenth-century Counterpoint (2)
MUSIC 474: Composition VIII (3, permission of instructor)
MUSIC 478: Vocal Literature: German and Austrian Art Song (3)
MUSIC 480: Opera Literature (3)
MUSIC 485: Chamber Music Literature (3)
MUSIC 497D: Vocal Literature: Italian and French Art Song (2)
MUSIC 545: Psychological Foundations of Musical Behavior (3)
MUSIC 546: Assessment of Music Learning (2)
MUSIC 580: Orchestral Literature (3)
MUSIC 583: Choral Literature (3)
MUSIC 588: Seminar in Music Literature (Vocal): American and British Art Song (2)

Secondary applied lessons, 500 level (max. 4 cr.)
Additional ensembles (max. 2 cr.)
Other course work approved by program chair


4. Culminating Experience: Recitals and Lecture/monograph, 12 credits:

MUSIC 801, 4 credits total, Doctoral Solo Recital (2 each); the first two recitals will be prepared under the direction of the applied music professor.

MUSIC 802, Lecture-recital Monograph (1); must be approved prior to enrolling in Music 803.

MUSIC 803, Performance of the D.M.A. Lecture-recital (2)

MUSIC 804, 2 credits total, Chamber Music Recital (1 each)

MUSIC 805, D.M.A. Final Solo Recital (3); this third solo recital must be prepared independently, after comprehensive examinations are passed.


Admission Requirements

1. Admission to the D.M.A. (major in piano performance) requires an audition in person or, for international students by special permission of the piano faculty, by video recording (DVD, single camera, without editing within movements of large works) of an extensive memorized program. Students admitted to this program must perform musically at least at the level required to complete the degree Master of Music at Penn State, and must show potential ability to perform professionally. Please see graduate audition requirements and click on "piano" for specific information.

2. Additional requirements include an interview in person or by interactive video to assess language skills in addition to the University’s requirement of specific performance on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) (550 on the paper test, 213 on the computer-based test, or 80 points on the new Internet test with a minimum of 19 on the new speaking portion) or alternatively, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum or 6.5. Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work.

3. In general, admission to the D.M.A. requires completion of a master’s degree comparable to the Master of Music in Performance (or Pedagogy and Performance) at Penn State. As noted above, if an exceptional student is admitted before completion of a prior Master of Music degree, the student will complete a total of 30 credits (including any graduate credits accepted by transfer) in categories equivalent to those required for the M.M. in addition to the 60 required for the D.M.A.

An applicant for admission to any graduate performance program, including the Doctor of Musical Arts, is subject to the Graduate School’s definition of a graduate student as one who holds either (1) a bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or (2) a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution. The bachelor’s degree must be in music, or show evidence of content equivalent to a bachelor's degree in music from a U.S. institution accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

Admission to the D.M.A degree requires a cumulative grade-point average of 3.00 on a 4-point scale on the most recent degree completed, graduate or undergraduate. A typical bachelor’s degree in music includes 12-16 credits in music theory and analysis, and 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. As with all graduate programs of the School of Music, undergraduate-level competence in the history and theory of Western art music must be demonstrated by satisfactory completion of entrance examinations or completion of specified remedial courses in addition to the curricular requirements listed here.

In addition, it is assumed that a bibliography course similar to Music 500 at Penn State will have been passed already, as well as a general keyboard literature survey comparable to Music 481; the lack of either would have to be made up.

The School of Music is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music.

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 "piano" 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 DVD 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 three 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 those goals)
  • statement of teaching experience and pedagogy course work (can be submitted in a resumé)
  • 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
Mail DVD audition recording to:

School of Music Graduate Admissions

The Pennsylvania State University

233 Music Building I

University Park, PA 16802-1901

Phone: 814-865-1052
Fax: 814-865-6785
Email: music-gr-adm@psu.edu