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Doctoral Study at NEC

The Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA) is a rigorous and extremely selective program intended for musicians who combine the highest levels of achievement in their major area with thorough knowledge of musicology and music theory.

Each fall, NEC aims to bring in a cohort of 8 to12 DMA students across all areas of study. This small, select group then proceeds through the first two years of doctoral seminar study together, sharing perspectives and ideas across a wide range of musical influences. There is no established departmental breakdown for this cohort, although it typically includes only one or two students from each of the departments. The cohort-based model and the very high standards for both entry and graduation make NEC's DMA program among the most respected in the world.

Admission to the DMA at NEC is extremely competitive, requiring performance, composition, or research ability at the highest level and successful completion of extensive entrance examinations in music history and music theory.

A master's degree in music is a prerequisite for the DMA program. Normally, the equivalent of five full-time semesters (8–10 credits per semester, not including recital and research credits) is needed to complete the DMA degree; students must be full-time in their first year. Most students spend three or more years in the program.

Each student's program of study is designed in consultation with the Doctoral Committee. A minimum of 60 credits beyond master's study is required. Generally, students earn 30 credits in their major area: studio (16 credits), performance studies such as chamber music, vocal coaching, or conducting (2 credits), and recitals and research projects (12 credits).

Performers present three full-length recitals accompanied by extensive program notes (one of the recitals may be a lecture/recital), and complete a major writing project based on academic research; composers present one recital of chamber music and a dissertation (large-scale original work with an analytical paper). An additional 30 credits are earned in academic subjects: doctoral seminars (12 credits) and electives from the graduate curriculum, including independent projects for extended credit (18 credits).

The DMA is offered in the following majors:

  • Brass: Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba
  • Chamber Music for Piano
  • Collaborative Piano
  • Composition
  • Contemporary Improvisation
  • Jazz Composition
  • Jazz Performance
  • Music Theory
  • Percussion
  • Piano
  • Strings: Violin, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass, Harp, Guitar
  • Wind Ensemble Conducting
  • Woodwinds: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone
  • Vocal Performance
  • Vocal Performance and Pedagogy

In addition to the amazing musical resources available to graduate students, Entrepreneurial Musicianship (EM) at NEC fosters a proactive mindset of that will be your foundation in creating a life in music. The EM department provides individualized resources including advising, workshops, internships, fellowships, grants, and gig opportunities to help each student build a creative career.