Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Historical Performance

The Doctor of Musical Arts in Historical Performance program at Boston University provides a training ground for students pursuing performance and teaching careers either as instrumentalists on period instruments or as singers specializing in music of the 16th–18th centuries. Through performance practice seminars, instruction in period performance and thorough bass realization, coached chamber music ensemble participation, and various performance opportunities both within and outside of the school, students develop a sensibility and repertoire of techniques that enable them to marry historical information with musical intuition. The city of Boston, long a world center for early music performance, serves as a supportive backdrop in developing student careers. Boston University’s resources—its libraries, facilities, and faculty—offer students rich support in the pursuit of their studies. Additionally, DMA candidates enjoy professional-level performance opportunities in many local groups as well as mounting their own public performance projects.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the program, students are expected to demonstrate:

  • Performance techniques and skills in the area of concentration.
  • Broad music-historical knowledge with a particular focus on the 16th–18th centuries.
  • Knowledge and skill in related fields such as music theory, musicology and ethnomusicology, and pedagogy.
  • Superior proficiency in verbal communication of musical ideas and concepts.
  • Capability for producing professional-level written documents such as program notes or scholarly essays.
  • Capacity for artistic growth and skills for navigating the professional world.

Degree Requirements

The Doctoral of Musical Arts in Historical Performance is granted upon successful completion of a program of study, written and oral qualifying examinations, and terminal projects appropriate to the student’s field of specialization. Students must complete a minimum of 48 semester credits with grades no lower than B– in graduate-level coursework. For performance majors, 18 of these credits must be in the field of the applied major instrument, and additional credits must fulfill graduate music electives (14 for Recital Track and 12 for Dissertation Track). Graduate music elective courses may include ME, MH, MP, and MT courses numbered 500 and higher. PDP courses, e.g., tennis, dancing, or yoga, do not count as graduate music electives for graduate students. All degree requirements must be completed within seven years of the date of matriculation.

Students must take at least 15 credits combined in music theory (at least 9) and musicology (at least 6), including CFA MT 701 Doctoral Proseminar: Skills and CFA MT 702 Doctoral Proseminar: Analysis. All MH and MT courses used for the component must be at the 600 level or higher.

Proficiency Examinations

All entering Doctor of Musical Arts students are required to take proficiency examinations in the areas of music theory and musicology. These examinations are administered online before the start of classes. Incoming students are notified of the exam dates and contents in advance and are responsible for taking them by the specified deadline. Exam results are used for purposes of advisement and may establish prerequisite or required coursework. Material covered in these examinations is commonly presented in most undergraduate degree programs in music. No retakes of the exam will be permitted.

Required Courses

Any deficiencies identified by the proficiency exams must be addressed as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not the student plans to take other courses in these areas. Students may not take advanced graduate courses in a particular area OR graduate until all deficiencies have been addressed. Prerequisite and other required courses may include:

  • CFA MH 401 Graduate Music History Review
  • CFA MT 401 Graduate Music Theory Review
  • CFA MT 601 Analytical Techniques 1
  • CFA MT 602 Analytical Techniques 2

Language Requirement

Reading proficiency is required in one language, chosen from German, French, and Italian. Students may demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language by passing its corresponding reading course at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences: GRS LG 621, GRS LF 621, or GRS LI 621. Students may also satisfy the requirement by passing a foreign language examination, administered once each semester by the School of Music.

Program of Study

Students must complete a minimum of 48 graduate credits. Students are expected to declare either Dissertation or Recital Track by the beginning of the second year of study.

DMA Historical Performance Curriculum (Dissertation Track)

Applied Lessons 18 cr
MT 701 Doctoral Proseminar: Skills 3 cr
MT 702 Doctoral Proseminar: Analysis 3 cr
Courses in Musicology (MH) (must be 600 level or higher) 6 cr
Courses in Music Theory (MT) (must be 600 level or higher) 3 cr
MU 995 Dissertation 3 cr
Graduate Music electives 12 cr
Total 48 cr

Dissertation Track Recital Requirements

Each candidate in Historical Performance must present three public recitals, each consisting of at least one hour of performing time. Students must pass a recital permission examination prior to each of the three public recitals and must be enrolled for private lessons in the major area during the semesters in which these recitals are given.

  • Two public recitals must be solo recitals, each at least sixty minutes of music.
  • One of the three recitals must include works for chamber music groups. Consult individual departments for repertoire requirements.

DMA Historical Performance Curriculum (Recital Track)

DMA candidates may pursue the recital track following successful completion of one semester of DMA-level coursework and applied lesson study, and upon approval by their major teacher and area head.

Applied Lessons 18 cr
MT 701 Doctoral Proseminar: Skills 3 cr
MT 702 Doctoral Proseminar: Analysis 3 cr
Courses in Musicology (MH) (must be 600 level or higher) 6 cr
Courses in Music Theory (MT) (must be 600 level or higher) 3 cr
MP 705 Writing for DMA Recital Track 1 cr
Graduate Music electives 14 cr
Total 48 cr

Recital Track Recital Requirements

Students approved to pursue the DMA Recital Track must present five public recitals: solo recital, concerto recital, chamber music recital, recital prepared without guidance, and lecture recital. Detailed requirements for each recital vary by area, and applicable written and research components require faculty approvals. These five recitals are given in lieu of the dissertation as terminal project.

Qualifying Examinations

In any semester, after all required courses have been completed and there are no incomplete grades outstanding, students may undertake the doctoral qualifying examinations, written and oral. There are three written examinations: one in the area of music theory (in four parts, of which two may be taken in a given semester), one in the area of music history, and one in the major field. Any combination of these examinations may be taken in a given semester. These exams may be taken after the completion of a minimum of 30 credits, with passing grades earned in all courses and no incomplete grades outstanding. There is one exception to this policy: students may take the corresponding written qualifying exams in music theory during the semesters in which they are registered for MT 701 or MT 702. Students are expected to take a sufficient variety and number of courses during the first two years of study, including courses in music theory and musicology, to prepare them adequately for success in the qualifying examinations.

Once a student has passed an individual area exam, they need not repeat it even if required to retake another area exam. The student proceeds to the oral examination only after passing all written examinations. Requirements vary by concentration.

Students who fail any portion of the DMA qualifying examinations (written or oral) three times may be subject to dismissal from the program.

Dissertation and Dissertation Presentation Recital

Students pursuing the DMA Dissertation Track must write a substantial document demonstrating the ability to conduct independent research. This document should stress source materials, comparative editions, score analysis, and performance practice. The student must give a Dissertation Presentation Recital based on this document and use the medium of performance to illustrate it. The presentation must be attended, supervised, and approved by assigned faculty readers. A copy of the lecture must be included as an appendix in the final copies of the document. Students should consult the School of Music Graduate Handbook for policies and submission timelines.