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The Doctor of Musical Arts degree (D.M.A., D.Mus.A. or A.Mus.D. ) is a doctoral academic degree in music. The D.M.A. combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization (usually music performance, composition, or conducting) with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The D.M.A. degree usually takes about three years of full-time study to complete, preparing students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. As a terminal degree, the D.M.A. qualifies its recipient to work in university, college, and conservatory teaching/research positions.


The D.M.A. is widely available in performance (sometimes with a specialization in pedagogy and/or literature), composition, and conducting. The D.M.A. degree was pioneered by Boston Universitymarker, which offered its first D.M.A. program in 1955. In 2005, Boston University also expanded into online music education by launching the first online doctoral degree in music, a D.M.A. program (along with a Master of Music program) in music education. Some universities awarding doctoral degrees in these areas use the title Doctor of Music (D.M. or D.Mus.) or Doctor of Arts (D.A.) instead of D.M.A.

The D.M.A. in music education is less common. Doctorates in music education are more commonly awarded as a research-oriented Ph.D., with the Ed.D and the Doctor of Music Education (D.M.E.) being other options. The terminal degree in music theory, musicology, and ethnomusicology is typically the Ph.D..


D.M.A. students typically complete applied studies, such as lessons or mentoring with a professor, and take courses within their area of specialization. In many D.M.A. programs, all of the different D.M.A. streams (e.g., performance, composition, conducting) take a common core of music theory and music history courses. Many D.M.A. programs require students to pass a comprehensive exam on their area of specialization and on subjects such as music history and music theory. The last stage of the D.M.A. degree is usually the completion of a thesis, dissertation, or research project and the performance of recitals, usually including at least one lecture-recital.

Some programs additionally require a sub-specialization in a cognate area within music, such as music history or performance practice, which contributes to their area of specialization. For example, a student doing a D.M.A. in Baroque violin might do a sub-specialization in Baroque music history or Baroque-era dance.

Some institutions permit D.M.A. students to do a sub-specialization in a field outside music that contributes to their professional and academic goals. For example, a student completing a D.M.A. in piano pedagogy may be able to do a sub-specialization in the university's department of psychology (e.g., on the psychology of learning and memory); a student completing a D.M.A. in electronic composition may be permitted to do a sub-specialization in the department of computer engineering (e.g., in computer programming).

While teaching experience is not an official part of most D.M.A. programs, most D.M.A. candidates will have the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant or lecturer for undergraduate students during their degree, either as a requirement of their scholarship/assistantship package or as a part-time employee of the university. D.M.A. students can teach in an area related to their D.M.A. program, or, if they have multiple skill areas (e.g., a person with an M.Mus. in piano performance who is doing a D.M.A. in composition), they may teach in another area.

Admission requirements

To be admitted to a D.M.A. degree program, most institutions require a M.Mus. degree or an M.A. degree in music or a related field, usually with a grade average of "B+" or higher. In rare cases, some schools will conditionally admit a gifted student with a highly-respected B.Mus. degree). D.M.A. programs in performance usually require an audition that includes advanced pieces from a wide range of styles, ranging from a J.S. Bach suite or Mozart concerto to a 2000s-era modern composition. Admission to doctoral programs in conducting often require a video recording of a live rehearsals and performances as a pre-screening element. Composition programs usually require the submission of a portfolio of compositions, including scores and recordings of live performances.

Usually, admission is not granted until the applicant completes a series of tests in music history, theory, and sometimes ear-training; since admission into the program presupposes a thorough command of essential musical principles. Often, the knowledge of a second language - one of languages of major influence in music history (such as German, French, Italian, Spanish, or Russian) - is required to complete the degree. The graduate admissions branch of many US universities require applicants to complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized test of abstract thinking skills in the areas of math, vocabulary, and analytical writing. While the outcome of the GRE test may affect an applicant's eligibility for some university-wide scholarships, it does not usually affect admission to the music program of the university.


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