Departmental Appointments


Teaching appointments, broadly conceived, are available after the first year to students who are in good academic standing. The positions carry a fixed salary (the same for all students) for nine months, plus tuition and fees. In fulfillment of the requirements for the MPhil degree, all students must gain teaching experience as part of their graduate training. Students from all areas within the music Department may apply to any fellowship position listed below.

Selection and Assignment

There are a variety of teaching appointments available and students are encouraged to tailor their teaching experience to their academic and professional aspirations. These positions are announced in early Spring and students state their preference by applying to the positions that suit them. The department considers these positions an important professional training opportunity for students in all areas of study. Students submit their preferences to Graduate Student Coordinator and recommendations are made to the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. Successful candidates are informed by a letter of appointment from the Chair of the Music Department.

Grievance Procedures

Any grievances should be resolved first by bringing them to the attention of their faculty advisor, the area chair, the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair. If they cannot be resolved at this level, they may be brought to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Teaching at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Responsibilities and Training

Descriptions of the responsibilities and training associated with these appointments are detailed below.

limitation on hours

Funded doctoral students in Arts and Sciences programs who are appointed as salaried student officers may not spend more than twenty hours per week in the discharge of the responsibilities associated with their appointment and those associated with any other activity within or outside Columbia for which they are compensated. 

Music Humanities

The focus of Music Humanities is on masterpieces of Western art music in their historical and cultural contexts. The specific goals of the course are to awaken and encourage an appreciation of Western music, to help students learn to respond intelligently to a variety of musical idioms, and to discuss the issues of various debates about the character and purposes of music that have occupied composers and musical thinkers since ancient times. Active involvement is sought, in the process of critical listening, in classroom discussion, at the computer terminal, and at professional concerts in New York. Like the rest of the Core Curriculum of Columbia College, the course is taught in relatively small sections with a discussion format, and with the works in approximately chronological order. Moving from the fundamentals of music—melody, rhythm, harmony, and so on—to a "great works" approach, the course looks at the changing genres and styles of music, examining composers' choices and assumptions, as well as those of their patrons and audiences, from the Middle Ages to the present. Flexibility in the syllabus allows a certain amount of instructor choice in repertoire and approach. Weekly staff meetings cover teaching techniques, approaches to the repertoire, exams and papers, and administrative matters.

Appointment Procedures

All applicants for teaching fellowships in Music Humanities (MH) undergo an interview lasting about 20 minutes, with members of the MH Committee. Interviews normally take place in the third and/or fourth weeks of March. The interview will determine each applicant's qualifications to teach MH in such matters as the extent of historical and repertorial knowledge, ability to give clear explanations, and proficiency in the English language.


  1. All members of MH staff are required to serve first as a Teaching Assistant (TA) to a faculty member or advanced graduate teaching fellow to provide an apprenticeship, and may lead, if successful, to a teaching fellowship.
  2. A TA teaches a total of 180 minutes across the semester and is trained in part by the course section’s instructor. This training comprises:

    1. regular attendance at all class meetings;
    2. regular weekly meetings between Instructor and TA:
      1. to discuss the teaching plans for individual classes;
      2. to review and provide information and advice on materials to be taught and the methods to be used;
      3. to review the TA's teaching;
      4. to review the performance of the students in the section;
      5. to plan and discuss forthcoming examinations.
    3. regular observation by the Instructor of the TA's teaching;
    4. advice offered by the Instructor immediately after such observation;
    5. informal communications (emails, phone-calls, extra meetings) about the TA's work; and
    6. a written report by the Instructor, addressed to the TA, and copied to the Chair of MH.
  3. Each TA is observed at least once by one of the members of the MH Committee, and a formal report is sent to the TA. Consultation with the Chair of MH may result from this, and the TA has the right of reply to the observer.
  4. Attendance is required by all TAs and Instructors (faculty as well as graduate students) at the pre-term Organization Meeting and at weekly staff meetings. These meetings deal with practical business matters (registration, petitioning, attendance, use of classrooms and audio-visual equipment, the timing of assignments and exams, etc.), offer presentations on the teaching of specific topics and on issues of method and approach, receive visits from deans of schools and others, and from time to time review the MH syllabus and requirements.

Responsibilities of the Teaching Assistants:

  1. Attendance at the pre-term Organizational Meeting, and all weekly Staff Meetings is mandatory.
  2. Attend all the class meetings.
  3. Attend meetings with the Instructor of Record to discuss ideas for teaching and other class matters, including examinations.

 Responsibilities of the Teaching Fellow:

  1. Teaching Fellows teach one section of MH per semester, prepare a full syllabus for it, and hold regular office hours.
  2. Attendance at the pre-term Organizational Meeting and all weekly Staff Meetings is mandatory.
  3. Grading shall be done within a reasonable time and in a responsible and judicious manner.
  4. The Final Examination shall be given during the final exam period assigned by the Registrar.
  5. Training of the TA, if assigned one, meet regularly, observe teaching, hold meetings, give feedback candidly and constructively; provide a written report on the TA’s performance to the Chair of MH when requested; obtain draft questions from the TA for Midterm and Final Examinations regarding works or topics that he/she has taught.

Appointment Procedures:

All applicants for teaching fellowships in Music Humanities (MH) undergo an interview lasting about 20 minutes, with members of the MH Committee. The interview will determine each applicant’s qualifications to teach MH in such matters as the extent of historical and repertorial knowledge, ability to give clear explanations, and proficiency in the English language. The successful candidate will be informed by a letter of appointment from the Chair of the Department of Music.


TAs & TFs are observed in the classroom and evaluated by those who have taught the course.

Music Theory

Aims of the courses, Music Theory I & II (UN2318 & UN2319) and Music Theory III & IV (UN3321 & UN3322):

  1. To improve students’ perceptive and imaginative abilities in music by helping them to draw regular connections between certain kinds of musical effects and the configurations of notes that typically produce them.
  2. To analyze passages from the tonal repertoire, to abstract from these examples models for composition, and to compose passages and pieces based on these models.

The aims of the one-hour laboratory sessions taught by the Teaching Assistants are as follows:

  1. To rehearse and deepen engagement with material presented in regular lecture meetings.
  2. To focus on the students’ analytical and compositional work in progress; less frequently to present of any new material.
  3. To allow students to hear, criticize, and learn from one another’s work.
  4. To make sure that students hear their own work with precision—by singing and playing it themselves, where possible (and, where not possible, by having it sung and played for them, with alternatives proposed and tested on the spot).

Duties of the Teaching Fellow

  • To help the students to develop tactics and routines for dealing with the compositional projects—ways of formulating possibilities knowingly, instead of merely hoping for inspiration to strike.
  • To offer the students another listening and composing sensibility besides that of the professor.
  • To explain puzzling points from the large class, clarify directions for assignments, examine supplementary examples.
  • To grade some of the assignments.
  • Eventually to lead discussion with the entire class. The degree to which this happens varies from professor to professor. It is at least an ideal—and, in practice, one frequently realized—that the graduate assistant will finish the year having practiced all of the many skills needed to teach such a course independently.

Selection Criteria

In the selection interview, a candidate is presented a short passage of music to deal with as if it were a student's response to an assignment (whose conditions are briefly described). This passage has been prepared so as to exhibit typical problems. The candidate is expected to read it, play it at the keyboard, and comment usefully; and the faculty interviewer may enact the role of the hypothetical student composer. The interviewer looks for: accuracy and thoroughness of perception; intelligent prioritization of problems; relevance and non-coerciveness of recommendations; adequacy of reasons offered for these recommendations; appropriate mixture of praise and criticism; efforts to draw out the "student" with questions; and the undertaking of all the foregoing in fluent and idiomatic English (with it noted that the description of music can be a particular challenge even for native speakers). Needless to say, consideration is also given to the candidate's performance as a student of music theory, in courses and on the analysis examinations that are part of the graduate program; but the ability to bring theoretical knowledge to bear in a specifically relevant way is the highest consideration.

All fellowship students in good standing, past the first year, may present themselves for such an interview. A ranking of each year's candidates, with brief descriptions of their strengths and weaknesses, is submitted to the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. Because the experience of assisting in a theory class is so valuable for a student's job prospects, and because there are so few positions available each year, the theory assistant program was initiated with the understanding that students would not be permitted to repeat.

Students who interview and are not offered theory positions are welcome to interview again in subsequent years, but are not required to do so. Whether they do so or not, an effort is made by the faculty interviewer to make a teaching session of the interview, by offering feedback and suggestions, either immediately afterward or at a later appointment.

Responsibilities of the Teaching Fellow

  • Attend all the class meetings, and meet at least weekly with the professor to discuss the aims and techniques of new assignments (often to assist in their formulation) and the results, positive and negative, of recently completed ones.
  • Coordinate grading standards, through the exercise of professor and assistant independently marking copies of the same assignments and then comparing notes.
  • When the assistant prepares presentations of new material for the whole class, virtually the entire process is understood as training. At first, not only the topic, but the outline and principal examples as well, will be provided by the professor, and the presentation rehearsed in some detail; and the presentation may occupy only part of a class meeting. Over the course of the year, these training wheels are removed. Feedback is offered by the professor.


  1. The professor visits the laboratory sessions—not too frequently, it should be noted, because a visit to a meeting so small and intimate as one of these laboratories is bound to be more intrusive than a visit to a larger class.
  2. The Department's questionnaire for student opinion of teaching includes sections of questions specifically about laboratories and about graduate assistants. Therefore it is easy to gather information about these subjects from the completed forms and discuss it with the assistants.

Computer Music Courses

Format of the Classes

Three courses have teaching fellows: Introduction to Digital Music (UN2205), Interactive Sound & Video and Programming & Electronics (GR6601/GR6602), and Sound: Advanced Topics I & II (GR6610/GR6611). Most of our classes are project-oriented, and students need to explore specific questions relating to their particular project with our teaching staff. The classes are run as class-plus-lab/individual contact. TFs do no grading or testing at the CMC, but we usually offer TFs at least 4-5 lectures sprinkled throughout the term, in order to develop teaching skills for future jobs, etc. A minimum of 3 hours each week is necessary, and a maximum of 10.

General Qualifications

  1. High degree of technical proficiency with the tools we use (both hardware and software)
  2. Great familiarity with our particular setup. We generally don't consider student for TAships unless they have been through our two graduate courses (the Intro to Digital Music class being undergrad-only). We waive this requirement if the student comes with a substantial technical background and has done a fair amount of work already at the CMC (i.e. the student knows our systems).
  3. Strong interpersonal skills—not necessarily lecture skills so much as the ability to work one-on-one with other students. Individual attention is critically important to learning computer music techniques.
  4. Able to become an integral part of the "CMC team". Many of the larger initiatives we undertake draw upon the entire CMC staff, and we work hard to maintain a spirit of cooperation among all of us working at the Center.

Qualifications needed by the Teaching Fellow in each course:

Introduction to Digital Music (UN2205)

  • Solid understanding of the MIDI specification.
  • Background in the specific hardware and software we use in the class (Digital Performer, Peak, Metasynth, Unity/Retro, etc.).
  • Ability to administer and maintain a Macintosh-based digital audio system.
  • A fairly open musical aesthetic (the class generally encompasses wide range of musical styles).

Interactive Sound & Video and Programming & Electronics (GR6601/GR6602)

  • Strong basic understanding of the software used: RTcmix, AX/MSP, etc.
  • Ability to work well in both Unix and Macintosh computer environments.
  • Ability to organize and run lab sessions (3-4 students in each lab) reinforcing the techniques discussed in lectures.
  • Solid grasp of the theoretical foundations of acoustics and digital audio.
  • Basic familiarity with most of the CMC technologies.

Sound: Advanced Topics I & II (GR6610/GR6611)

  • Programming experience (C/C++/Lisp/Java).
  • Good understanding of advanced digital audio techniques.
  • Gamiliarity with interface design (hardware and software).
  • Advanced knowledge of RTcmix, CSOUND, MAX/MSP.
  • Strong Unix skills.
  • Solid experience with CMC technologies.


After each of the assigned lectures, the instructor meets with each TF to discuss how the lecture went, ways to improve, etc.

Music Composition

Format of Advanced Composition I & II (UN3241/UN3242)

  • Students devise their own compositional projects, loosely constrained by the instrumentation available for the final reading and concert, but otherwise independently.
  • The graduate assistant meets half of the students weekly for lessons, helps them with their projects by responding to what they have written, suggests directions and options, and refers them to works that might shed light on issues raised in their projects.
  • The students' assignments to teachers change midstream, or when projects are completed, and the professor sees all the students periodically.
  • The assistant also attends all class meetings, in which students present work to one another or analyze relevant works by others.
  • The assistant does a good deal of concert-managerial work at the end of the semester in making sure the final projects are performed.


Only one composition assistantship is available each year. The interview for this position takes the form of a simulation of the job interview. The candidate is presented with a passage of music that might be written in the class (usually an actual work in progress is used, naturally with the composer's identity concealed) and asked to respond. The desiderata are: ability to get the hang of the piece quickly; to help the student hear it, by playing it at the keyboard or by other means; to ask relevant questions and make suggestions -that is, not only to make suggestions and offer analysis.


Evaluation is built into the course, since the professor sees the students' progress. Ordinarily the lessons are not observed. However, the questionnaires in the survey of student opinion have sections that ask about the assistant.

Asian Music Humanities

Description of Duties

  • Assists in all aspects of teaching the course which covers West and South Asia (one semester) and East and Southeast Asia (the other semester), the semesters usually taught by different instructors.
  • Assists in the selection, preparation, and distribution of teaching materials, such as readings, audio and video recordings to be put on reserve, distributed or played during class, and placed on the class web page.
  • Teaches one "listening hour" per week, or alternatively, teaches a class session on a selected topic from time to time.
  • Assists in the arranging of live performances as an integral part of the course.
  • Takes attendance when asked to do so, reads certain class assignments such as performance reports, and participates in the grading of examinations.


  • Familiarity with the basic area literature, major musical traditions, and applicable theoretical literature covered in the course.
  • Basic general teaching skills, including technical skills, for an undergraduate lecture course and ability to field student questions.


Prospective TFs are interviewed by those scheduled to teach the course.


TFs are observed in the classroom and evaluated by those who have taught the course.

Assistant Conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra (CUO)

The conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra will interview candidates for the position of Assistant Conductor, and make recommendations to the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid.


  • Acts as a liaison between players, conductor, orchestra manager, librarian, office assistant
  • Conducts sectional rehearsals and occasional tutti rehearsals
  • Distributes parts at each rehearsal
  • Distributes photocopied practice parts to each member of the ensemble
  • Assists Librarian and Conductor in marking bowings in the orchestral parts
  • Handles preparation for auditions and seating
  • Monitors Concerto competition
  • Prepares for the concert (ordering programs, planning the reception)
  • Listens for orchestral balances during rehearsal in the Auditorium
  • Attends all Orchestra rehearsals
  • Conducts a chamber group which holds a rehearsal two hours per week and concert (as a part of the Music Performance Program)

Director of the Collegium Musicum

The Collegium Musicum is a performing group dedicated primarily to the study and performance of early music, broadly defined. It may consist of singers or singers plus instrumentalists, depending on the repertory explored. See also Professional Outlets.

Appointment Procedures

  • The directorship of the department's Collegium Musicum is among the positions announced in early February as available to graduate student applicants for a teaching fellowship.
  • Applicants must arrange for an interview with the faculty adviser of the Collegium.
  • The faculty adviser makes recommendations to the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid; the successful candidate will be informed by a letter of appointment from the Chairman of the Department of Music.


  • Knowledge of the history of music during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and of a fair amount of repertory from these periods
  • Knowledge of historically informed performance practices and conventions for these earlier repertories
  • Experience as a director/conductor of small ensembles involving voices and instruments
  • Familiarity with the Columbia Collegium and involvement in its activities during the preceding year
  • Good interpersonal skills


Adequate preparation for the directorship of the Collegium must begin several years earlier. Because the group is entirely student run, the only form of preparation thus far has been participation in the group for one or more years preceding the student's application. In some instances, however, previous experience elsewhere may be deemed sufficient.

Responsibilities of the Director

  • Plans, publicizes, and administers auditions for new participants at the beginning of each semester.
  • Plans the programs for Collegium concerts each semester, selects the repertories and the pieces to be prepared, marshals the performance forces needed, procures or prepares suitable editions for the musicians, and provides copies of the music to be rehearsed and presented. Copyright permission may have to be arranged.
  • Schedules at least one on-campus concert per semester, as well as semi-weekly rehearsals and the dress rehearsal.
  • Arranges for publicity for the Collegium concerts: poster, announcements, and information for the relevant media.
  • Provides the research needed to prepare the concert and the accompanying program notes: texts, translations (when required by the repertory), and information concerning the relevant musical genres, traditions, and composers.
  • Prepares and conducts rehearsals, including at least two two-hour sessions per week with additional time for small and/or specialized ensembles from within the larger group.
  • Trains members of the Collegium in the special performance conventions needed for the repertory under rehearsal, including help with specia lized vocal techniques, sight reading, pronunciation, and unusual notational practices.
  • Prepares ensembles for visits to classes of Music Humanities, coordinates schedules and presents the groups as they perform.
  • Is an advocate for early music performance in the Department and the university community at large.


Every semester the four courses with the highest enrollments (normally those over 30) are assigned assistants.


The primary role of the high-enrollment TA is to assist the instructor in grading quizzes, exams, and papers. The instructor will go over the material to be graded and give clear guidelines about the philosophy, methodology, and expected content of the written work. In order to be in control of the material, the reader will be strongly encouraged to attend the class meetings. It is up to the instructor to assign a just division of grading responsibilities between him- or herself and the assistant(s), and a timeline for completing the work. The assistant may be asked to meet with the students to discuss grades on their papers.

Other Possible Duties

The assistant may be offered the opportunity to teach a single class; to assist in assembling handout materials; to monitor an exam; to provide technical assistance to the instructor during a class, e.g. running the slide projector.