Graduate Program in Performance Practice in Keyboard Studies

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The Doctor of Musical Arts in Keyboard Studies at Cornell is a specialized advanced degree designed for professional caliber performers who wish to combine the performance of specific repertories with research, teaching, and writing about those repertories. Focused on keyboard music of the 17th-21st centuries, the program is highly competitive, admitting only one new student each year to study with performers on the professorial faculty. Keyboard music is divided into areas of specialization, such as 17th–18th-century keyboard performance (fortepiano, organ, harpsichord, clavichord), 19th–20th – century performance practices (fortepiano, organ and modern piano) and 21st-century keyboard practice (digital technologies and new media). Although there are curricular requirements, the program is flexible and is developed individually in consultation with the student’s Special Committee. Students may combine their study in the Field of Music (historical musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, composition, and performance practice) with work in other Fields at Cornell.

Students are expected to take full advantage of Cornell University’s community of practicing musicians and scholars, working closely with musicologists, composers and fellow students to combine skills gained from lessons, practicing, and performing with knowledge and insights gathered from library research and seminar work. Cornell’s Keyboard Studies D.M.A. aims to balance professional training and scholarly endeavor, reflecting Cornell’s distinguished tradition of musical scholarship, its eminent faculty in musicology and composition, and its outstanding library system. Performers who hope to teach on a college level must be competent at a broad range of academic musical subjects; candidates will thus be expected to pursue excellence in both spheres, the professional and the scholarly.

Cornell has historically been highly visible as a center for keyboard studies. It has an outstanding collection of world-class instruments, which includes, in addition to modern piano, at least five fortepianos, two harpsichords, and four organs. Fortepiano pioneer and Professor Emeritus Malcolm Bilson continues to teach performance in the program, alongside Professors Xak Bjerken, Annette Richards, and David Yearsley. Performers can expect to work with all members of the musicology faculty (those with particular interests in performance practice and keyboard culture include Roger Moseley, Rebecca Harris-Warrick, and Neal Zaslaw). In the area of contemporary keyboard studies, there are many opportunities for interaction with the composition program at Cornell. In addition, Cornell is the home of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies (spanning the earliest keyboard repertories to present day keyboard culture, see, as well as a journal, Keyboard Perspectives, that emphasizes the symbiosis of scholarship and performance.

For detailed information regarding the Performance Practice program, please see the Performance Practice pamphlet here.


Academic Requirements:

Students wishing to enroll in the D.M.A. Performance Practice program must have a master’s degree in the major instrument or extensive experience as a professional performer. In exceptional cases a recent bachelor’s degree in the major instrument may be acceptable. For applicants proposing to specialize in the performance of music before 1900, experience with historical instruments is highly desirable.

Application Deadline: December 1

The following materials must be submitted online via the Cornell University Graduate School online application system by December 1:

  • Cornell Graduate School Online Application form

  • Application Fee

  • Personal Statement

  • A master’s essay or term paper, demonstrating ability to write about music.

  • A live recording of representative works (if unable to submit recording electronically, a copy may be mailed to : Graduate Field Assistant in Music, 101 Lincoln Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4101)

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

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

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

Upon satisfactory review, an on-campus audition will be arranged to be completed by January 30.


Every student accepted into the D.M.A. in the Performance Practice program at Cornell receives three years of guaranteed funding, including financial support for three summers. Every student is given a fellowship for the first year. The remaining two 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 D.M.A. within three years, most students require one or two more years of funding. When possible the department may offer additional semesters of teaching. There are also a number of dissertation fellowships available through various Cornell programs. 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.