General Information for Applicants To Our Graduate (PhD/DMA) Programs - Updated for Fall 2014

Important Announcement: The Ethnomusicology PhD Program IS NOT accepting applications for 2015 admission. We will accept Ethnomusicology PhD program applications next in Fall 2015 for 2016 admission. 


Are you considering applying for our PhD program in Musicology (for 2014: Historical Musicology, Music Theory) or our DMA program in Composition?

If you are looking for information on the "Sound Arts" MFA Program, please start here.

Prospective PhD/DMA applicants should begin by visiting the "Admissions" section of the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) website.  This is the portal for online applications and contains key information regarding requirements and deadlines for applicants.


General Guidance for Applicants to our PhD/DMA Programs:

Columbia offers one of the top doctoral programs in academic musicology (PhD, including historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory) and music composition (DMA) in the United States. We are committed to the professional development of our students, and expect them to be committed to their own professional goals as scholars, teachers, and composers.

In the past decade, and in spite of an often challenging academic job market in the humanities fields, we have placed around 65-70 percent of our PhD and DMA graduates in postdoctoral fellowships and/or tenure track jobs within 2 years of graduation, among the best placement records of any Music graduate program in the United States.  A significant majority of our graduates go on to professional careers.

Admission to our graduate program is extremely competitive, and only strong and well prepared candidates for doctoral study should apply.  We normally admit between 8 and 12 new students (all with full fellowship support for 4 or 5 years of study) annually across all four areas of our Department, and receive several hundred applications for these few positions.

(However, be aware that our Ethnomusicology program only admits students in two of of every three years; we are admitting new students for the Ethnomusicology PhD in 2013 for 2014 matriculation; we will likely not be admitting Ethnomusicology students in 2014 for 2015 matriculation.)

We do not offer any graduate degree program in performance or music education (the latter is offered by Teachers College of Columbia University, in a separate department from ours). We also do not offer any distance learning or online programs.  

A sustained period of residency in New York is required. Doctoral students must be in residence at Columbia for a minimum of 3 years (with Advanced Standing) or 4 years (for most others) before entering doctoral candidacy (with the exception of exchange programs). All newly admitted students begin in the Fall semester (there are no mid-year admissions). 

We do not offer any stand-alone MA programs. All doctoral students earn the MA by the end of their second year; if you already have an MA in Music, you may be eligible for Advanced Standing.

All admitted students are fully funded, with a combination of fellowships and teaching duties, for five years of study (four with advanced standing) and we do not admit unfunded students.  However, we strongly encourage qualified applicants to apply for external funding (such as Javits, Ford, or NSF fellowships).

  • Please begin by visiting the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website, and reading the section entitled  "Admissions"
  • Click here to begin the online application process.
  • Official GSAS admissions information for the Department of Music is here.  
  • To arrange for campus visits or to discuss program details, after reading the relevant online resources, please contact the Chair of the relevant academic area of the Department by email. For 2014-15 these are:

1) Professor Susan Boynton, Historical Musicology (
2) Prof. Ana Maria Ochoa, Ethnomusicology ( - ETHNO APPLICATIONS CLOSED FOR 2014
3) Professor Joseph Dubiel, Music Theory (
4) Professor George Lewis, Composition (

When you write an email of inquiry to one of these busy people, or to any other faculty member, please include a Curriculum Vitae (CV, or résumé) detailing your prior education and any academic accomplishments or relevant employment, and include a succinct description of your research interests and your prior scholarly or compositional training.

Visiting the Department/Making Contact

Prospective graduate applicants are welcome to visit the Department (though application does not require an interview and we do not show preference to those who visit). A visit should be planned well in advance with the adviser of the relevant academic area, listed above. Individual arrangements will have to be made to meet any particular faculty member or audit a class.

Be aware of Columbia's academic calendar when planning a visit.  Also be aware of major academic meetings (SMT, SEM, AMS, AAA), when most of our faculty in any given area may be away. We cannot guarantee that we can accommodate all prospective students who wish to visit the department.

A campus visit is not an interview. You are neither required nor expected to visit before you apply.  Visiting confers no advantage on any applicant.  It is possible you may be contacted for a more formal interview (generally conducted over the phone) once we have begun to review applications. If you are admitted, we will generally be able to financially support a campus visit to help you make your decision (usually in early March).

Please see the appropriate area pages, listed under "Academic Areas" in the left sidebar, for further information on the faculty, programs, and resources of each area.  Read these materials carefully before you contact the department.

The Department's Director of Graduate Studies for 2013-14 is Professor Aaron Fox (  He can answer most specific questions about the application process or forward your inquiry to someone who can, if you cannot find the answer to your inquiry through one of the linked resources below. 


Special Guidance for the Fall 2013 application season:

1) The Ethnomusicology PhD Program *IS* accepting applications this year for 2014 matriculation. 

2) Composition applicants who intend to send paper scores by mail should use the following address: 
Dept. of Music, Attn. G. Kumar, Graduate Coordinator, 621 Dodge Hall, MC1813, Columbia University, 2960 Broadway, NY NY 10027, USA (tel. 212-854-3825).  Mark the envelope as "DMA APPLICANT MATERIALS" please.  (This year you may also upload large audio and video files and scores directly through the online application portal.)


If, after reading the relevant informational links below,  you have specific questions about Music Department application requirements (such as questions about appropriate writing samples or notification that one of your letters might be arriving after the December deadline), please address them to Prof. Aaron Fox, Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Music, at 

Please read the following resources carefully before contacting faculty or staff members in the department. 

Once you have familiarized yourself with these materials, if you have further substantive questions about our doctoral programs, begin by sending an email to the faculty member who serves as the "Area Chair" for the subdisciplinary program to which you are applying (Composition, Historical Musicology, Music Theory, or Ethnomusicology).  The correct Area Chairpersons (with contact information) are listed on our page of general guidance for prospective applicants.   Please remember to allow for some response time.  

Only extremely urgent procedural questions that require an immediate answer should be addressed by phone to the Music Department administrative office, where you should ask for Gabriela Kumar, Graduate Program Administrator (212-854-3825).  The Department office staff cannot answer substantive questions about the individual area programs.

Please note that ALL applicants must submit GRE general exam scores. We can make NO exceptions to this.  Most international applicants must submit TOEFL scores. Information on these exams can be found on the GSAS web links below.

We can not offer any individual guidance on expected scores or how we weight these exams.  Just do your best job.

For questions about the details of the admissions process and general admissions requirements, you should contact the GSAS admissions office via the GSAS website or as follows:

Office of Admissions 
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 
108 Low Memorial Library 
535 West 116th Street, MC 4303
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
Phone: 212.854.8903


Important information:
Please read these sources before contacting the Department with questions!

AT GSAS (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Carlos Alonso, Dean):
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Home Page
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions Home Page
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions (on Admission)
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences International Applicants Information
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences - Loans, Fellowships, and Financial Aid
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Bulletin Page for Music (PhD and DMA)

General Information on Columbia's Grad Programs in Music
General Guidance for all Applicants to Our Graduate Programs in Music

Composition Area Home Page
Composition Grad Program Specifics

Music Theory Area Home Page
Music Theory Grad Program Specifics

Historical Musicology Area Home Page
Historical Musicology Grad Program Specifics

Ethnomusicology Area Home Page
Ethnomusicology Grad Program Specifics
Ethnomusicology Grad Program - Frequently Asked Questions


Profiles of Some of Our Current Graduate Students
Alumni of the PhD and DMA Programs (click on individual names to see dissertation titles and links)