Graduate Program in Musicology

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Cornell awards the Ph.D. for original contributions to the study of music, considered broadly to include a wide range of repertories, traditions, and methodologies. While the program encompasses ethnomusicology, music theory, and historical musicology, Cornell offers a single Ph.D. in musicology.

The musicology program at Cornell is designed to lead to the Ph.D. degree; a terminal M.A. is not offered, but students who enter the doctoral program without having already earned an M.A. receive this degree in the course of their studies. Students accepted into the Ph.D. program are guaranteed five full years of financial support, in the form of two years of fellowships (usually taken in the first and fifth years) and three years of teaching assistantships.

The doctoral program in musicology is uniquely flexible; it is developed individually, in consultation with the student’s Special Committee, and students may combine their study in the Field of Music (historical musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, composition and performance practice) with work in other Fields of study at Cornell.

There are no formal course requirements in the Field of Music; nevertheless, students are generally expected to take graduate research seminars with at least six different faculty members. As part of the six required seminars, students must take Music 6201 (Introduction to Bibliography and Research), at least one course on an ethnomusicological topic and at least one course on either a topic of music analysis or a popular music topic. Students are also encouraged to take courses outside of the department, which may be used to form the basis of a Graduate Minor in another discipline.

For detailed information regarding the Musicology program, please see the Musicology program pamphlet (PDF).


Academic Requirements:

Students wishing to enroll in the Ph.D. Musicology program must have a B.A., B.Mus., or M.A. and have completed formal study of a foreign language.

Application Deadline:

January 15th for Fall admissions.  (The Fall semester begins at the end of August)

Application Materials:

The following materials must be submitted online via the Cornell University Graduate School online application system:

  • Cornell Graduate School Online Application form

  • Application Fee

  • Personal Statement

  • Transcripts and evidence of foreign language study. (If transcripts do not show this evidence, provide another form of documentation).

  • TOEFL scores (see Graduate School TOEFL requirements for further details)

  • Three letters of recommendation from faculty members acquainted with your work

  • Two essays (term or honors papers). Preferably one on a broad topic in musical history or repertory and the other showing detailed study of one or a few pieces of music.

  • Optional: A recorded performance on a musical instrument or as a singer (if unable to submit online, a copy may be mailed to: Graduate Field Assistant in Music, Cornell University, 101 Lincoln Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4101)


Every student accepted into the Ph.D. program at Cornell receives five years of guaranteed funding, including financial support for four summers. Every student is given a fellowship for the first year; a second year of fellowship year may be taken in the fourth or fifth year, or may be deferred if outside funding is procured by the student. The remaining three years of funding are in the form of teaching assistantships. Student Health Insurance is provided under fellowship and teaching assistantships. Partners, spouses, and dependants can be included for additional charges.

Although it is possible to complete the Ph.D. within five years, most students require one or two more years. When possible the department may offer additional semesters of teaching, but such support is not guaranteed. Many students seek outside fellowships (such as A.M.S. 50 or Fulbright Fellowships) beginning in their fourth and fifth year. There are also a few dissertation fellowships available through various Cornell programs. Entering students are encouraged to apply for Javits, Mellon, or other outside fellowships as another means of extending their graduate support. For a list of external and internal graduate fellowships (searchable by keyword, program name, or deadline) see the Graduate School Fellowship Database.

The Department of Music offers a wide variety of teaching experiences, and students are free to request a specific teaching assignment. The faculty makes every effort to match interest and skill to course offerings. Click here to learn more about teaching assistantships.

In addition, fourth and fifth year graduate Ph.D. students who have passed their qualifying exams may be given the opportunity to design and teach their own course as a First-Year Writing Seminar.