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Best Doctorate in Music Programs in the US | Top 10

Are you interested in taking your music career to a higher level by getting a degree in Doctor of Musical Arts or Ph.D. in Music? Then, here are the best doctorate in music programs in the US, where you can get the degree. Read on!

What’s the point of a PhDs in Music? Being a professor in music theory, right? Sure, some musicians go through the extra work after mastering their instrument to acquire academic authorization, maybe even to teach at the university level.

But a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in Music can offer much more than training as an educator. See Best Dance Schools in the World.

Before any musician can determine which—or if—getting a postgraduate academic degree is the right move, they must think about their ideal career path: what kind of musician do I want to be?

Everybody knows programs exist for musical thesis such as performance or lecture-recital. ethnomusicology programs provide opportunities to hone improvisational skills with other outstanding players and offer coursework in a historical context.

Envisioning a desired career can help navigate other decisions, like pursuing a professor in music theory, musicology, or ethnomusicology.

These programs are usually fit for professional performers, whether the goal turns out to be playing in a Broadway pit or in the hottest club in Los Angeles.

Ph.D. programs in music take about four years, but they’re more teaching and research-oriented.

Musicians who want to learn alongside other aspiring performers and travel the country teaching their instrument, a DMA or PhD at a conservatory would be better suited to your goals.

When researching music programs, prospective students must consider location: if they are already a working musician, they should consider where they want to live and where they can keep playing gigs. Most programs offer ample performance opportunities.

A Doctor of Musical Arts in Music from these programs can enhance a musician’s professional opportunities, as well as provide a couple of blissful years of collegiality, focus, and nonstop music.

Here are our picks for 10 of the Best Doctorate in Music Programs in the US

  • Yale University School of Music (New Haven, CT)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  • The Juilliard School (New York, NY)
  • University of Southern California Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
  • University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI)
  • New England Conservatory of Music (Boston, MA)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
  • Indiana University Jacobs School of Music (Bloomington, IN)
  • Rice University Shepherd School of Music (Houston, TX)

Yale University School of Music (New Haven, CT)

Yale’s School of Music is the only designated music school, instead of department, in an Ivy League. The tuition-free, five-year DMA program is highly selective, with an acceptance rate below 10 percent.

It is structured by a unique two-year residency on campus followed by a three-year dissertation period in the field. See Yale University Acceptance Rate.

Depending on the student’s chosen area — composition, conducting, or performance — students must use this time to work and learn in a professional capacity, guided by faculty.

This could mean performing in traditional recitals, conducting orchestras, getting research published, or having one’s own compositions performed by local ensembles.

By the end of the degree, DMA students will be well-versed in all aspects of music: history, theory, composition, and performance.

Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton’s PhD programs in composition and musicology are completely free and include a 12-month stipend for all five years.

One to two of these years must be supplemented by teaching assistantship positions, and students can apply for additional research funding or summer language study. Students are also eligible for sixth-year funding if necessary.

Although Princeton does not have a performance PhD or DMA, its research opportunities for musicology, music theory, and composition students abound. See Princeton University Transfer Acceptance Rate.

Unlike many PhD programs in music, academics are not limited to western classical music. Composers and musicologists are encouraged to explore modern music as much as the music that came before it, providing a well-rounded, readily applicable education.

Notable alumni include composer Julia Wolfe ‘12, whose work has been commissioned by the Munich Chamber Orchestra, and producer Nathan Michel ‘07, whose band Hospitality has been featured on NPR and Wired.

The Juilliard School (New York, NY)

The C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellows program allows students to pursue the DMA degree tuition-free for up to five years.

Juilliard produces some of the world’s best performers, so the school’s only doctorate program is the DMA. See Juilliard School Acceptance Rate.

This is a highly rigorous program that requires students to give three public recitals and one lecture recital by the end of the third year. On top of that, DMA students must write and defend a dissertation in order to graduate.

Many of Juilliard’s faculty members are affiliated with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and renowned ensembles like the Juilliard String Quartet and the American Brass Quintet. Some have also had successful solo careers, such as pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist David Chan.


To this end, we have been able to list out the best 10 Doctorate in Music Programs in the US in this article to help you make the right decision on the area of specialization that will be fit for your future academic pursuit. You can share your thoughts with us using the comment section if you find this article useful.

Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Admin

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