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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 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.

Also during these first two years, students take seminars on music analysis, composition, and performance practice. 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

(formerly Critical Studies/Experimental Practices)

The graduate program in Integrative Studies (IS) promotes an engagement with contemporary music activity and discourse that integrates diverse methodologies, experiences, learning styles, and resources. IS respects multiple ways of knowing and seeks to explore connections among ideas and processes in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Students are encouraged to combine their artistic and academic pursuits; to think systematically, critically, and reflectively; and to focus on the articulations and points of overlap between specialized and generalized knowledge. Drawing on diverse fields, including cultural theory, new media studies, ethnomusicology, improvisation, cognitive science, and systems theory, among others, the IS program combines an exploration of contemporary Western and non-Western music making with an examination of ideas and concepts that are relevant to its nature, creation, production, and reception.

This integrative and interactive environment encourages cross-fertilization and hybridity between diverse musical forms and the theoretical and critical discourses that surround them, often drawing in those who may not fit categories of “composer” or “performer,” or those whose work is not constrained by traditional disciplinary boundaries. Core seminars explore multiple ways of thinking about music—including critical, cognitive, and intercultural approaches—in tandem with creative practices that frequently incorporate new technologies and integrate diverse media and forms. Student-generated projects and collaborations are encouraged and promoted with formal juries conducted by the faculty.

The program comprises four interconnected specialties: critical studies, ethnomusicology, systems inquiry, and creative practice. IS graduate students initially enroll in introductory courses taught by core faculty members designed to present an overview of each specialty and to generate possibilities for future independent and collaborative research. In subsequent quarters students choose between a variety of focused and revolving topic seminars in each of the four primary specialties. By the end of their first year in residency, students declare a primary and secondary specialty within the program. 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.

Exposure to a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary methods prepares students to pursue innovative artistic/academic projects and careers. The program teaches students to situate and contextualize knowledge and practices on a broad intellectual and artistic continuum and to recognize 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 January 10. Failure to meet this deadline jeopardizes admission and financial support.

Step 1: Preliminary Application

The application process begins at the Department of Music website ( with a preliminary online application. We encourage all applicants to apply as early as September.

Step 2: Portfolio

Music applicants must submit online a portfolio consisting of the following by December 1. Please include your most recent works as well as twentieth-century pieces, when possible.

Materials to Submit for Area of Emphasis

Step 3: UC San Diego Application for Graduate Admission

All sections of the official online UC San Diego Application for Graduate Admission with the $80 nonrefundable fee, or $100 for international students, must be submitted by December 1. Applications must include all supporting documents:

Advisory Examinations

After completion of an advisory examination during Welcome Week, each new student will meet with the departmental MA or PhD 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

All graduate students are required to take Music 201 (Projects in New Music Performance) as outlined under each area, Music 210 (Musical Analysis), Music 228 (Conducting), and Music 291 (Problems and Methods of Music Research and Performance). Composition students are not required to take Music 291. Composition students are required to take Music 229 (Orchestration). Students who completed Music 210, 228, and 291 during their master’s degree program at UC San Diego, do not need to retake those courses for their doctoral curriculum.

To assure that all requirements are being adequately met, all graduate students must make an appointment with the graduate staff adviser for a degree check no later than the winter quarter of the second year.

Master’s Degree Program

The master of arts in music degree includes areas of emphasis in Composition, Computer Music, Integrative Studies, and Performance. The degree requires completion of at least thirty-six quarter units of graduate courses (courses numbered 201–299), including six units of Music 500 (Apprentice Teaching in Music) and six units of Music 299 (Advanced Research Projects and Independent Study) bearing directly on completion of the master’s thesis. Master’s students are expected to complete all requirements for the degree in six quarters of residence.

Course Requirements

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


Computer Music

Integrative Studies

It is the student’s responsibility to check if a given course will count toward his or her primary or secondary specialty prior to enrolling.


Master’s Degree Completion Requirements

A folio of three research papers in professional format (normally to be written in connection with the courses the student will be taking) must be accepted by the student’s committee prior to approval of the thesis.

MA candidates will present a thesis consisting of the following under the supervision of the student’s committee chair in MUS 299:

All of the above master’s requirements must have final approval from the student’s individual committee upon completion.

Doctoral Degree Program

Students of superior musical competence may pursue a program with emphasis in Composition, Computer Music, or Integrative Studies leading to the PhD or doctor of musical arts (DMA) degree in Contemporary Music Performance.

All doctoral students within the Department of Music must complete the Core Graduate Curriculum (outlined in the section above the Master’s Degree Program) plus additional core requirements for the PhD or DMA program. These additional core requirements are

Course Requirements

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


Computer Music

Integrative Studies

Those students declaring creative practice as their primary specialty for the PhD are required to pass a jury at the end of their first year of doctoral study. Each student is allotted a block of time to present and/or perform his or her work in front of a panel comprising area and affiliated faculty. Each presentation is followed by a detailed discussion of the student’s work at which students have the opportunity to comment, explain, and pose further questions. After the completion of the jury process, the faculty meets in order to further assess each student’s work and to offer additional guidance.

It is the student’s responsibility to check if a given course will count toward his or her primary or secondary specialty prior to enrolling.


Qualifying Examination/Advancement to Candidacy

Requirements prior to taking the qualifying examination:

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

A written and oral defense of three questions provided by the doctoral committee pertaining to appropriate areas of specialization. For Integrative Studies students, one question will involve a defense of the student’s dissertation prospectus and the remaining two questions will pertain to the student’s primary and secondary specialties.

Successful completion of the qualifying exam marks the student’s advancement to doctoral candidacy, which must take place no later than the end of the spring quarter of the fourth year.

PhD/DMA Completion Requirements

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

Time Limit Policy for the Doctoral Degree

Normative Time Limits

Four years: Students entering the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from another institution.

Six years: Students continuing into the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from UC San Diego. Time limit is calculated from the beginning of the MA program (i.e., two years for MA program plus four years normative time for PhD/DMA).

Support Time Limits

Six years: Students entering the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from another institution.

Seven years: Students continuing into the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from UC San Diego. Time limit is calculated from the beginning of the MA program.

Total Registered Time Limits

Six years: Students entering the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from another institution.

Eight years: Students continuing into the PhD/DMA program with a master’s degree from UC San Diego. Time limit is calculated from the beginning of the MA program.

Students who have not completed all PhD requirements within the maximum total registered time will no longer be permitted to register for classes.

Advising Office

Graduate Staff Adviser
Diana Platero-Lopez
Room 197, Conrad Prebys Music Center
(858) 534-3279