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Conrad Prebys Music Center

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

UC San Diego offers the master of arts and doctor of philosophy in music as well as a doctor of musical arts. Areas of emphasis for the MA include Composition, Computer Music, Integrative Studies, and Performance. For the PhD, areas of emphasis offered are Composition, Computer Music, and Integrative Studies. The doctor of musical arts has an emphasis in Contemporary Music Performance.


The Composition Program is committed to nourishing the individual gifts and capacities of student composers in a diverse and active environment, with an emphasis on intensive personal interaction between faculty and student. The faculty mentor considers a student’s particular goals and then attempts to strengthen his or her technical capacity to meet them. The diversity and liveliness of our program itself often challenges students to reevaluate their goals.

An incoming member in the MA or PhD program begins with a yearlong seminar (taught by a different faculty composer each quarter) and continues with individual studies thereafter. At the close of the first year fall quarter and again after the following spring quarter, the entire composition community gathers for a daylong “jury.” Each seminar member is allotted a block of time during which the composition that has just been completed is performed and recorded in a carefully rehearsed presentation. There is a detailed discussion of each work by the faculty composers, and the student has opportunity to comment, explain, and pose questions. Following the performance and discussions of this day, the composition faculty meets to assess the students’ work collectively and to offer any guidance deemed necessary. This process is at the root of the uniqueness of the UC San Diego program, and manifests the range, seriousness, and vitality with which compositional issues are explored here.

After completing three quarters of seminar and two juries, students come to know something about the ideas and perspectives of each faculty composer; the faculty, in turn, is aware of each student’s objectives and needs. At this point, an individual mentor is agreed upon and this relationship becomes the center of the student’s continuing work as the degree is completed. A Third Year Forum presents, under departmental auspices, a work composed by each third-year PhD composer in the four quarters since his or her second jury. As a part of preparation for this forum, each student composer is expected to have a faculty performer on his or her PhD committee (as a regular member, or as an additional sixth member). The faculty performer is the student’s performance mentor and guide in interfacing with the performance community. There is also a biweekly Focus on Composition Seminar at which faculty, students, and selected visitors present work of interest (compositional, analytical, technological, and even whimsical).

The seminars serve to foster mutual awareness within the student composer group. Collegial relationships develop and lead not only to friendships, but also to further creative outlets in cooperative projects, including the student-run Composers’ Forums, performance collectives, and recital projects. UC San Diego performers—faculty and student—are all committed to the playing of new music, and frequent composer/performer collaborations are a vital aspect of life in the Department of Music.

Computer Music

The Computer Music Program emphasizes research in new techniques for electronic music composition and performance, catalyzed through an active concert program of new works by students, faculty, and visitors. Areas of research may include

The Computer Music Program encourages work that overlaps with the other programs of study: Composition, Performance, and Integrative Studies. Analyzing and performing electronic music repertoire as well as writing new music involving electronics are encouraged.

The first-year computer music curriculum is centered on a yearlong “backbone” course covering the essentials of the computer music field. This material divides naturally into three portions (audio signal processing, compositional algorithms, and musical cognition).

In their second year, students work individually with faculty members to deepen their mastery of their subject areas of concentration. For example, a student wishing to focus on signal processing aspects might study techniques for digital audio analysis and resynthesis, drawing on the current research literature.

After having taken a critical mass of such subjects, PhD students enter a qualifying examination preparation period, and, once successful, they start their dissertation research.

Integrative Studies (IS)

(formerly Critical Studies/Experimental Practices)

Drawing on a wide range of academic fields, including critical and cultural theory, ethnomusicology, music cognition, new media studies, sound studies, and ecocriticism, among others, the IS program combines an exploration of contemporary music making with an examination of ideas and concepts that are relevant to its nature, creation, production, and reception. Exposure to a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary methods prepares students to pursue innovative scholarship and creative work.

IS graduate students initially enroll in introductory courses taught by core faculty members designed to present intersecting ways of researching sound, music, and culture, and which are designed to generate possibilities for future independent and collaborative research. In subsequent quarters students choose between a variety of focused and revolving topic seminars. Recent seminars have included Sounding Sex, Race, and Gender; Post-Colonial Hermeneutics; Music, Sound, and Biopolitics; Reading Ethnomusicology; Theorizing Radio and Musical Identities; Critical Historiography; Music and Affect; Proseminar in Creative Practice; Scholarly Writing for Publication; and Arts of the Archive. Seminars offered in other departments—for instance, in visual arts, literature, theatre and dance, anthropology, communication, ethnic studies, cognitive science, psychology, or computer science—are encouraged and may fulfill degree requirements, if approved by a student’s faculty adviser.

The integrative studies program embraces multiple ways of knowing and encourages cross-fertilization and hybridity between diverse disciplines and musical forms. Faculty and students in integrative studies produce work that moves fluidly between scholarship, performance, improvisation, sound installation, composition, instrument building, and more. The program teaches students to situate knowledge and practices from local to global communities, and to produce compelling scholarly writing and creative work that recognizes the responsibilities and opportunities associated with living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.


Fostering the creative, intelligent, and passionate performance of contemporary music is the mission of the Performance Program of the Department of Music. As once stated by founding faculty composer Robert Erickson, we at UC San Diego are a “community of musicians.”

Performers act and interact in a communal environment by means of collaboration with faculty and student composers, research in the areas of new performance modalities, music technology, and improvisation, among many other pursuits. The performance of contemporary music is viewed as a creative act that balances expertise and exploration.

Graduate performance students pursue either a master of arts or a doctor of musical arts degree in contemporary music performance. The course of study for both programs involves the completion of required graduate seminars and intensive study with a mentoring faculty member. Students are encouraged to adopt a vigorous, exploratory orientation in their private study. Final degree requirements include a recital, or in the case of the DMA, two recitals and the presentation of personal performance research.

The work of graduate performance students forms an integral component of a rich musical environment, which produces an astonishing quantity and variety of performances. Students may perform in collaborative performances with fellow students and faculty. Ensembles include groups specializing in the interpretation of unconventionally notated scores, the percussion group red fish blue fish and other ensembles. The Performance Forum, a student-initiated concert series, provides an opportunity for students to present a wide variety of repertoire that may include improvised music, world music, and music with technology. A strong, collaborative spirit among the curricular areas of the department (Performance, Composition, Music Technology, and Integrative Studies) also yields many new projects each year. Works by graduate student composers are performed on the annual Spring Festival and other concert series. The sense of musical community engendered by diverse interactions permeates the atmosphere and makes the Department of Music at UC San Diego a uniquely rewarding place to create the newest of music.

Graduate Admissions

Students are admitted to begin in fall quarter only. The deadline for submission of ALL application materials is December 4. Failure to meet this deadline jeopardizes admission and financial support. The admissions procedure is handled through Grad Apply beginning on September 1. The following PDF documents must be submitted to Grad Apply: statement of purpose; three letters of recommendation; a minimum of two papers illustrating writing ability in any area of music scholarship related to your degree goals (Your most recent writing and writing on twentieth- and twenty-first-century musical practices is preferred.); additional documentation of previous work (See below for more information from each area of emphasis.); and unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended (Scanned copies are acceptable. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are optional but not required for this application. Upon provisional admission to graduate study at UC San Diego, official hardcopy transcripts are required to finalize your admission). For international students: The TOEFL exam (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is required of ALL international students whose country of citizenship does not have English as its primary language, unless you have been enrolled in a full-time program of study for a minimum of one year in a country whose primary language is English. The minimum TOEFL score is 550 (or 213 for the computer-based exam). The minimum IELTS score is 7. The minimum speaking TOEFL score is 25 and 28–30 for IELTS.

Materials to Submit for Area of Emphasis

Advisory Examinations

After completion of an advisory examination during Welcome Week, each new student will meet with the departmental master’s or doctoral adviser. Students found to be deficient in any areas covered on the advisory examination (dictation, sight reading, keyboard proficiency, history, and literature) will be advised to remedy deficiencies during their first year.

Core Graduate Curriculum

Methods: All students are required to complete both courses during their first quarter at UC San Diego.

Performance: All students must complete at least four units (master’s level) or eight units (doctoral level).

Depth: All students must complete at least twenty units (master’s level) or thirty-two units (doctoral level) from among these options.

Breadth: All students are encouraged to take at least one graduate-level or upper-division undergraduate course outside of the department, which, by petition and on a case-by-case basis, may count towards the depth requirement.

Focus: All students (except for computer music) are required to enroll in the appropriate area focus course (S/U grading option only) every quarter in residence (for PhD students), or until advanced to candidacy (for DMA students).

Research: All students must complete at least six units of MUS 299 and are encouraged to pursue independent research on a continuing basis. Doctoral students must complete at least six units of MUS 298 enrolled with members of the student’s doctoral committee in preparation for the qualifying exam.

Teaching: Participation in the undergraduate teaching program is required of all graduate students at the equivalent of 25 percent time for three quarters or 33 percent for two quarters (six units total).

Engagement: All students are encouraged to explore outreach and service opportunities during their graduate study and to engage in sustained and substantive ways with our diverse local communities as an integral part of their creative and scholarly research.

Note: All courses in the methods and depth series above must be taken for a letter grade to count towards a student’s degree progress.

Master’s Degree Program

The master’s of arts (MA) in music includes areas of emphasis in composition, computer music, integrative studies, and performance. Students are expected to complete all degree requirements in six quarters of residence. The department does not grant duplicate or concurrent degrees. All MA students must make an appointment with the graduate adviser for a degree check no later than the winter quarter of the second year.

Course Requirements

In addition to completing the core graduate curriculum, all master’s degree students must complete requirements in their area of emphasis:


Computer Music

Integrative Studies


Master’s Degree Completion Requirements

  1. Successful completion of the core curriculum and all curricular requirements of the student’s area of emphasis for the master’s degree.
  2. Formation of a master’s committee (see UC San Diego policy on appointment of the master’s committee).
  3. Submission of a substantive and polished research paper (which may have originated as a graduate seminar paper) to the student’s MA committee for approval.
  4. Students emphasizing composition must submit a folio of three chamber compositions (supplemented by audio or audio-visual recordings for at least two).
  5. Students emphasizing computer music must submit a second substantive and polished research paper along with either a thesis demonstrating original research, or a lecture-performance in which the scientific, technological, and musical aspects of an original computer music composition are documented, played, and discussed.
  6. Students emphasizing integrative studies must pass the preliminary examination and complete a thesis of roughly sixty pages demonstrating original research and critical insight, which may also include documentation of their creative practice. The purpose of the preliminary examination is to evaluate a student’s command of content presented in the core integrative studies sequence (MUS 215A-B-C) and of scholarly research and writing conventions more broadly. Students take the preliminary examination at the end of the spring quarter of their first year. The exam consists of written responses to questions provided by the professors who taught in the core sequence during that same year. The exam duration is three hours and it is proctored electronically. After the exam, the participating professors provide written feedback evaluating a student’s demonstrated proficiency and identifying any perceived shortcomings. If, in rare cases, those professors unanimously agree that the student has not passed the exam, then the student will not be allowed to continue in the program and will receive no further funding or support. In select cases, students may also be asked to repeat core course work, even if they received a passing grade, in order to continue in the program. The overriding purpose of the exam, however, is constructive rather than punitive.
  7. Students emphasizing performance must present a major recital that merits approval by the student’s committee chair, and submit either two additional creative projects with accompanying documentation or one creative project plus a second research paper.

All of the above master’s requirements must have final approval from all members of a student’s committee.

Doctoral Degree Program

The PhD program includes areas of emphasis in composition, computer music, and integrative studies. The doctor of musical arts (DMA) degree is in contemporary music performance. Successful completion of a master’s degree—either at UC San Diego or including requirements equivalent to those of UC San Diego’s MA in music—is required for admittance to the doctoral program. The department does not grant duplicate or concurrent degrees. All UC San Diego MA students must reapply for admittance to a doctoral program. UC San Diego MA students continuing to the PhD or DMA program must complete all departmental requirements, obtain Graduate Division approval, and file the MA degree at the University Central Library before enrolling in any PhD or DMA courses.

Course Requirements

In addition to the core graduate and PhD or DMA curriculum, doctoral students (according to their area of emphasis) must complete the following courses prior to the qualifying examination:


Computer Music

Integrative Studies


Qualifying Examination/Advancement to Candidacy

Requirements prior to taking the qualifying examination:

The qualifying examination for all doctoral students will consist of the following:

PhD and DMA Completion Requirements

After successful completion of the qualifying examination, all students must remain in residence for at least three quarters, during which time they must enroll in twelve units of MUS 299 every quarter with their committee chair or other committee members. Students must provide a full copy of the doctoral research they wish to defend to the student’s doctoral committee members four weeks prior to the doctoral defense. Materials previously submitted for other degrees are not acceptable, and in all cases a final public defense of the student’s doctoral work is required. It is understood that the edition of the dissertation given to committee members will not be the final form, and that committee members may request changes or revisions be made to the text after the defense. In extreme cases, another public defense may be merited.

Materials previously submitted for other degrees are not acceptable for submission for the PhD and DMA.

Normative Support, Residency, and Time to Degree Policy

MA Degree

Students are eligible for six quarters (two years) of support and are expected to complete all degree requirements in six quarters of residence. International students must complete the MA degree in two years of uninterrupted residency.

PhD and DMA Degree

Students entering the doctoral program with a master's degree from another institution are

Students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree from UC San Diego are

International students, if admitted at the doctoral level, must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year. Departmental funding is dependent on meeting these expectations.

California Residency Expectation

Nonresident US students are expected to gain California residency after their first year. Continuing financial support is dependent on meeting this expectation.

UC San Diego Time to Doctorate Policy

The Department of Music also follows the Time to Doctorate Policy set forth by Graduate Division with regards to maximum registered time in which a student must advance to doctoral candidacy, maximum time during which a doctoral student is eligible for support, and maximum registered time in which a student must complete all doctoral requirements.

Advising Office

Graduate Staff Adviser
Dimple Bhatt
Room 197, Conrad Prebys Music Center
(858) 534-3279