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In 1930 Cornell University appointed Otto Kinkeldey to the first chair in musicology at an American university. Since then, the Department of Music at Cornell has built a tradition of distinguished research and scholarship in music, represented by three graduate programs:
Although these are separate degree programs, seminar offerings, symposia, and teaching assignments promote an integration and exchange among the students and faculty of all disciplines of music. As a result, the many activities of the Music Department mutually reinforce each other, and graduate students at Cornell enjoy a sense of community among themselves and with the faculty that transcends programmatic divisions.
The curriculum at Cornell is highly flexible. Students develop their own course of study in a close relationship with a Special Committee of three or four faculty members chosen by the student. Students are encouraged to take advantage of all course offerings within the Department of Music as well as explore other disciplinary fields.
All graduate students are required to choose a minor subject of study (the Graduate Minor), represented by a minor member on the Special Committee and course work in that subject area. Students may choose a minor subject within Music (theory, musicology, ethnomusicology, performance, and composition), or from another discipline, such as anthropology, art history, computer science, gender and sexuality studies, history, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theater arts, and Western and non-Western languages and literatures.
In addition to seminars and performances, the department runs two weekly lecture series, which add to the vibrant exchanges among students and faculty. The Musicology Colloquium and the Composers’ Forum feature talks given by distinguished scholars and composers, as well as members of the Cornell faculty. Graduate students also have many opportunities to present their own work in these lecture series.
To see a list of previous colloquium speakers, please click here.
The studies of all graduate students are funded in part by Teaching Assistantships. In the Department of Music, most Teaching Assistantships involve helping a professor in a large undergraduate course; responsibilities may include leading discussion sections, helping grade papers and exams, and, in the case of music theory, teaching musicianship skills. Other teaching assistants may work with the directors of the choral ensembles or the orchestras, or teach piano lessons, and one or two students a year have the opportunity to design and teach their own First-Year Writing Seminar. Every effort is made to match teaching assignments with graduate student interests and to make sure that each Teaching Assistant receives a variety of teaching experiences while at Cornell.
The following list is representative of the courses to which Teaching Assistants have been assigned in recent years. Upon occasion, graduate students fulfill their teaching assignments in other departments.
Music theory for majors
- 2101 Theory, Materials & Techniques I (fall)
- 2102 Theory, Materials & Techniques II (spring)
- 1421 Introduction to Computer Music
- 2421 Computers in Music Performance
History courses for non-majors
- 1301 Music in the African Diaspora
- 1105 Introduction to Music Theory
- 1202 European Music from 1750
- 1312 History of Rock Music
- 1313 Survey of Jazz
- 2241 Music as a Drama: An Introduction to Opera
- 2260 Music of the Sixties
- 2270 Thinking with Music
First-Year Writing Seminar
The Center for Learning and Teaching provides training programs and individualized assistance for graduate Teaching Assistants. Learn more.
The Don M. Randel Teaching Fellowships provide funding for a full year of support for outstanding graduate students in music. The goal is to allow these students the opportunity to focus on their teaching development and provide both an impetus and an opportunity to create innovative undergraduate courses. Chosen from a competitive process, awardees will work with a designated teaching mentor from the music faculty, Randel fellows will spend their first semester preparing a new Department of Music course (which may also be cross-listed with another department or program) and teach that course in the second semester.
The fellowships were named in honor of professor emeritus and former Cornell Provost Don M. Randel, who championed throughout his long career inspired undergraduate instruction and the value of music in liberal arts education.
- 2020 SP – Zoe Weiss, TBA
- 2019 FA – Max Williams: Remixing Hip-Hop History
- 2019 SP – Matthew Hall: Tonal Counterpoint
- 2019 SP – Sergio Ospina Romero: Jazz Around the World
- 2018 FA – Elizabeth Lyon: Music in World Religions
- 2018 SP – Dietmar Friesenegger: The Soundtrack to the Last Days of Mankind: Music and the Great War
- 2018 SP – Jordan Musser: Popular Music and Politics from a Global Perspective
- 2017 FA – Aya Saiki: The Sound of Media and the Mediation of Sound
- 2017 FA – Annalise Smith: Opera: Social Power, Social Myth, Social Change
- 2017 SP – Ryan McCullough: Musical Technologies and the Natural World
- 2016 FA – Anaar Desai-Stephens: Bollywood Songs and South Asian Culture
- 2016 FA – Mackenzie Pierce: Histories and Philosophies of Improvisation
- 2016 SP – Mia Tootill - Course: The Sounds of Silent Film
- 2015 FA – Erica Levenson - Course: Borrowed Sounds: Musical Sampling from The Concert Hall to the Dance Floor
- 2015 SP – Amit Gilutz - Course: Sounds of Protest
- 2014 FA – Mat Langlois - Course: Music and the Monarchy: Paris, Berlin, Vienna
- 2014 SP – Andrew Zhou - Course: Music and Diplomacy
- 2014 SP – Peter Fahey - Course: Beyond Orchestraion
Graduate Field Faculty in Music
Click here to browse profiles of faculty in the Graduate Field of Music.
It should come as no surprise that the Cornell Music Department’s graduate students use their years at this institution to refine their broad knowledge of their areas of expertise, preparing themselves to be teachers, scholars, and active performers or composers. But this process of professional preparation is characterized by a brand of interdisciplinary collaboration unique to Cornell. Encouraged by the flexibility of the department’s degree programs, graduate students in musicology, composition and performance practice often don the hats of their peers; many musicologists and composers are accomplished performers on both modern and period instruments, while performance practice students and composers regularly produce first-rate scholarly work.
Because so many students are deeply committed to these other musical or musicological outlets, intra- and interdepartmental collaborations arise naturally and regularly. Musicology and performance practice students perform the works of resident composers, while students from all three disciplines sing in the Chamber Singers, and composers create music for dance concerts in the Department of Performing and Media Arts. The Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center has also facilitated interaction between composers and students in fine arts and the department’s baroque ensemble typically includes graduate students in musicology.
Visiting the Department
Once candidates are accepted (decisions are made in late February), we will provide appointments with faculty members, offer the opportunity to sit in on classes, arrange housing, and offer funds to offset travel costs for your visit. If you want to visit before you apply, we advise you to contact the professors who interest you directly to make appointments with them and ask if you might sit in on their classes.
Getting to Ithaca
- The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH) is a 10-minute drive from campus and downtown areas. Ithaca is serviced by Delta, American, and United. For information about prices and flight schedules see http://flyithaca.com
- There are more options if you look at other regional airports: Syracuse, Elmira, and Binghamton. These are all between 1-2 hours drive to Ithaca. The Syracuse airport has three options to get to Ithaca, listed below. See also http://www.syrairport.org
- The nearest Amtrak station is in Syracuse, NY, about 90 minutes from Ithaca. Syracuse is connected to the Empire (NYC–Niagara Falls), Lake Shore Limited (Chicago–Boston), and Maple Leaf (NYC–Toronto) lines.
- Transportation to campus from the Syracuse Amtrak station is available from Cornell Bus Service during certain times of year and from Ithaca Airline Limousine.
- The Ithaca bus terminal is located in downtown Ithaca at 131 E. Green Street. The terminal is serviced by Greyhound, Shortline, OurBus, and New York Trailways coaches. Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) buses can bring you to campus from the Ithaca bus terminal. TCAT also serves as Cornell’s primary form of on-campus transportation.
- There is also the Cornell Campus to Campus bus which is an Executive Class Express Coach that runs between the Ithaca Cornell Campus and the Weill Cornell Medical Campus in New York City.
- To and from the Ithaca/Tompkins Regional Airport and around Ithaca.
- Ithaca Airline Limo. Call (607) 273-3030 for a reservation.
Graduate School Information:
- PhD Exams
- Code of Legislation
- Graduate and Professional Student Assembly
- TA Training
- Graduate Fellowship Database
- Don M. Randel Teaching Fellowship (see description above)
Other Cornell Funding:
Selected external funding links:
- Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowships
- Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship
- AMS travel and research grants
- SEM 21st Century Fellowship
- Other SEM prizes
- SMT Travel Grants
- The American Musicological Society
- Society for Music Theory
- Society for Ethnomusicology
- American Music Center
- New Music USA
- Society for American Music
- College Music Society
- Society for Asian Music
- International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-US)
Music Graduate Alumni
Click here for a list of recent graduate alumni and placement updates.