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Graduate Program Chair in Composition and Theory,
Yu-Hui Chang

Graduate Program Chair in Musicology, Karen Desmond

Joint MA Adviser in Music & Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies,
Karen Desmond

For more information about admissions, financial aid, and student services, please visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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Music Department Course Requirements 

Music Graduate Student Handbook

Current Graduate Students 

Library Research Resources

Musicology MA/MFA

From the Gorham Collection of Early Music Imprints

From the Gorham Collection
of Early Music Imprints

The Brandeis Music Department is unique in offering both a one-year M.A. program and a two-year M.F.A. program in musicology.  The one-year M.A. program provides an opportunity for students who want to engage in beginning graduate study without making a multi-year commitment, or who may be contemplating a career in performance or in a music-related field (library science, arts administration, program annotation, for example) and wish to develop some advanced research and writing skills.  The M.F.A. program involves further in-depth study, including demonstration of a high degree of competence in research writing by completion of a masters thesis or submission of two expanded seminar papers.  The M.A. program requires demonstrating competency in German or French; the M.F.A. program requires competency in both German and French. Students who are successful in the one-year M.A. program often choose to continue for a second year to complete the M.F.A.

In either program, students may elect to concentrate in music history or theory and analysis. Course work consists of proseminars and seminars: proseminars typically survey an array of topics illustrating the representative avenues of research and methodological approaches; seminars are intensive investigation devoted to a single topic and stress original research. All students work closely with the Graduate Program Chair in Musicology in choosing courses appropriate to their specific research interest.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Graduate Program Chair in Musicology, Karen Desmond, to discuss which of the two options, M.A. or M.F.A., would be appropriate.

The Slosberg Music Center houses an extensive collection of period instruments including two harpsichords and an historic Viennese fortepiano, which are stored in the Jencks Early Music Room. The Creative Arts Library in the main university library is a first-class research library with strong holdings in scholarly music editions, journals, and microfilm reprints of original materials, as well as the Walter F. and Alice Gorham Collection of Early Music Imprints, 1501-1650. Brandeis also belongs to the Boston-area library consortium, allowing graduate students to use books in major libraries in the area.

The basic requirements for the one-year M.A. in musicology include:

  • Seven and one-half courses at the graduate level: seminars in composition, proseminars in tonal writing; proseminars and seminars in tonal and nontonal analysis. MUS 171a: Form and Analysis is required. Private instrumental or vocal instruction and ensemble performance may be counted for credit with permission of the program chair.
  • Satisfactory completion of the language requirement in German or French.
  • A seminar paper written during the first semester, expanded with independent supervision of a faculty member during the second semester.
  • One year of residency. The program may take an additional one or two semesters to complete as an Extended Master's student.
  • Attendance at departmental musicology colloquia.

The basic requirements for the two-year M.F.A. include:

  • Twelve courses at the graduate level: proseminars and seminars in musicology (including an array of courses in different historical periods, in music analysis, and in history of theory).  MUS 171a: Form and Analysis is required.
  • Satisfactory completion of the language requirement in German and French, as demonstrated by translation of an excerpt from a theoretical text. Students may substitute another language for French by petition. The German requirement should be satisfied by the end of the first year.
  • Thesis: either a thesis that is an analytical or historical study of a topic acceptable to the music faculty or revised copies of two seminar papers that have been certified by the seminar instructor and at least one other faculty member as demonstrating a high degree of competence in research writing. Two copies of the thesis must be submitted to the program chair in final form no later than December 1 for a February degree, or April 1 for a May degree.
  • Two years of residency.
  • Attendance at departmental musicology colloquia.

Boston Area Graduate Consortium:
for cross registration at other institutions

This consortium allows for Brandeis graduate students to take graduate level courses at Boston College, Boston University, and Tufts University as part of their tuition at Brandeis. A full-time graduate student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is permitted to enroll in no more than one graduate cross-registered course each term. This should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance their graduate experience, and not as a substitute for courses already offered at Brandeis. Graduate students wishing to consider this option must first discuss it with their Graduate Program Chair. Learn more about the Graduate Consortium.

Financial Aid

Partial need-based tuition scholarship is available from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Information about this and other sources of funding may be found on the GSAS website. The Music Department may also recommend additional merit scholarship, determined on a case-by-case basis.

Application Procedure

Applicants are asked to apply directly to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences using the online application procedure: Apply OnlineFor fall admission, there is rolling admission through April 1.  Application for mid-year admission may also be considered. GRE scores are recommended; English proficiency exam scores are required when applicable.

Application Fee: check the GSAS Admissions site for the fee, which must accompany the application. Applications will not be considered without payment of the application fee. Current Brandeis students are exempted from paying the application fee.

Statement of Purpose:
in essay form, state your reasons for undertaking graduate study. Please describe your qualifications for the academic program to which you are applying and your objectives in undertaking this program.

Applicants should clearly outline their research interests. The statement should also indicate how the applicant's research interests would complement those of the faculty. Applicants should discuss their plans for their academic and professional career and how the particular graduate program will help them attain their goals.

Two Letters of Recommendation submitted online. At least one should be from a faculty member.

GSAS will continue to accept hard-copy letters of recommendation from those referees who prefer this method.

Transcripts from all universities and colleges attended must be uploaded to your application; do not mail official transcripts. For more information, visit Frequently Asked Questions

Written Work: please submit a sample of critical writing not to exceed 35 pages; the 35-page maximum may consist of a single critical essay or two shorter essays of approximately equal length.

Graduate Record Examinations General Test: the GRE General Test is recommended, but is not required. The ETS code for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is 3092. For more information about the GRE, visit

Non-native Speakers of English: international students should visit the international admission section of the GSAS website for information on TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE requirements. The GSAS TOEFL school code is 3261.

Application Deadline:
For fall admission, there is rolling admission through April 1. Applications submitted for mid-year admissions may be considered on a case-by-case basis and should be discussed with the GSAS Director of Admissions.

Tracking the Application: GSAS will provide information for tracking the application online in the form of a checklist. Data is updated in real time.

Visiting Brandeis:
applicants are welcome, but not required, to visit Brandeis and interview with faculty during admissions time, or at another time during the academic year if more convenient. Interviews can be arranged directly with the individual faculty members by email or telephone. Attending seminars and meeting with current graduate students can also be arranged. A complete list of concerts is available online. Tours of the Brandeis campus are conducted daily.