Doctor of Musical Arts Applicants

The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) at NEC is our highest academic degree program, designed for emerging scholars who are also top-flight performers and are seeking academic careers. Admission is extremely selective and is based on review of audition and entrance examination results, writing sample, and all submitted supporting materials and recommendations.

The DMA program is intentionally kept small, with only 8-12 students entering the program in most years. Successful applicants must demonstrate leadership as performers, combining breadth of repertoire with knowledge of style and literature. All DMA applicants must have earned a Master of Music degree from an accredited college or university prior to matriculation.

Application Process

We are delighted that you are applying to NEC! If you have any questions throughout the process, please do not hesitate to contact us. We strongly recommend that you contact the Admissions team member who specifically handles your major or degree program.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, NEC will be adapting our application and admissions procedures for the Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 application periods. We hope that these changes will allow everyone to have a safe and successful application experience.

Please be sure to read all of the application instructions thoroughly, and note that some of the significant changes include:

  • Applicants for most majors will submit a recorded video audition (or portfolio for Composition, Theory, and Musicology applicants) as described in our Audition Requirements. There will not be live auditions on NEC's campus. Prescreening will only be required of applicants in Violin, Viola, and Cello. Applicants to the Doctor of Musical Arts program may be asked to connect in February for a follow-up live-stream interview and audition.
  • To allow applicants the necessary time to submit a recorded audition, the application deadline for most majors for Fall 2021 will be January 8, 2021. Applicants in Violin, Viola, Cello, and Voice must submit by a December 1, 2020 deadline.
  • We understand that it may be challenging to make arrangements for rehearsal/recording spaces, pianists, and other collaborative musicians. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding your situation; we will be happy to work with you to find a solution.

Required Application Materials

Online Application, which will include submission of your audition recordings (or portfolio for Composition applicants), unofficial transcripts, short essays, artistic resume (including a brief repertoire list), English proficiency documentation (if applicable), contact information for your letters of recommendation, and the application fee. These items must all be uploaded to the online application: please do not mail or have items delivered through Parchment, Naviance, or other third-party systems.

Unofficial transcripts

Electronic versions of unofficial academic transcripts must be submitted as part of the online application. Transcripts should show coursework completed, grades earned to date, and classes in which the student is currently enrolled. PDF files are preferred. Please do not mail hard copies of transcripts and do not have electronic transcripts sent to NEC by your school. Obtain an unofficial copy from your school and scan into a PDF file for upload to the online application. Graduate applicants should upload transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate study, not just from the most recent program.

  • All transcripts must be in English. International students whose transcripts are not issued in English must also provide official translations.
  • The Admissions Office does not require that international applicants have their transcripts evaluated by an organization specializing in foreign credential evaluation, such as World Education Services or Educational Credential Evaluators. NEC may later request such an evaluation if there is uncertainty regarding the qualification of prior studies. If a transcript evaluation service is used, the applicant must still upload electronic versions of transcripts in English to the online application.
  • If students are accepted and choose to matriculate at NEC, we will then require official copies of all final transcripts showing graduation dates and degrees received.

Short essays

All applicants must submit short essays (75-300 words each) on the following topics:

  1. Describe a situation in which you overcame a challenge. How did you approach this challenge and what specific steps did you take to address it?
  2. Beyond musical contributions, what would you bring to the NEC community?
  3. Other than working with NEC's world-renowned faculty and performing in our incredible halls, explain the specific features of the NEC experience that are exciting to you and how you believe you will benefit from these aspects of an NEC education.
    Contemporary Improvisation applicants only: Please explain your reasons for choosing to pursue the CI major, including a description of the influences on and motivations for your personal style.

The short essays should be 75-300 words each and must be entered into the online application. Please compose and save your responses in a word processing program prior to pasting them into the online application. The online application will accept only basic text formatting, so do not use bold, italics, underlines, indentations, etc.


DMA Research and Writing Sample

Applicants should upload into the online application a PDF of a short academic paper (or an excerpt from a longer paper) which demonstrates graduate-level research and writing ability on music. Music Theory applicants should submit full-length papers.


Artistic Resume 

All applicants must submit an Artistic Resume into the online application. Please note that the online application will accept only very basic text formatting. Please compose your essay in a word processing program with the intention of pasting it into the online application, but keep the formatting very simple. Do not use bold, italics, underlines, indentations, etc. (Sample Artistic Resume) This resume should provide a brief overview of your artistry and accomplishments. It should not be exhaustive; please do not submit an extensive list of everything you have ever done. The Artistic Resume should cover the following topics relating to the applicant's intended program and major

  • Academic study (institutions, dates, and degrees awarded)

  • Applied/private study (with whom, dates, etc.)

  • Performance experience

  • Awards and distinctions

  • Festivals and summer programs

  • A representative list of works studied and performed in the past three years. Indicate pieces performed in public recitals/concerts and those that are in-progress. For composers, list your own works and their instrumentation. For conductors, list works you have conducted and a description of the ensemble(s).



Three letters of recommendation are required. Please submit one artistic recommendation from your current or most recent private studio teacher and two additional artistic recommendations from other music teachers or ensemble directors/coaches. NEC does not use a specific recommendation form; instead, recommenders should compose an original statement on the applicant's behalf. All recommendations should be submitted via the online application system. Applicants must enter the name and contact information for each recommender into the online application. Once the application is submitted, instructions will be emailed directly to each recommender. Applicants should therefore be careful to enter their recommenders' email addresses correctly. Recommendations are due January 15.


English proficiency documentation 

English proficiency documentation is required for all applicants whose first language was not English, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Most applicants prove proficiency through the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Graduate minimum scores are TOEFL 79 iBT or IELTS 6.5. A PDF scan of the official score report should be uploaded to the online application. Students who will have completed a full-time degree program at a school where English is the language of instruction may qualify for a waiver of the exam requirement. No offer of admission will be made until English proficiency has been demonstrated.

International applicants should also be aware of student visa and other international student requirements.


Application fee

A non-refundable fee of $125 is required. The fee is paid by credit card in the online application when you submit the application. If you wish to apply to more than one major/program, a separate application and fee are required for each major/program. The application fee for NEC alumni and current NEC college students is $75 per major/program. If you wish to apply to more than one major/program, a separate application and fee are required for each major/program. NEC does not grant fee waivers.


Standardized tests: GRE scores are not required and do not factor into our admission decision.

All application information, recordings, recommendations, transcripts, and English proficiency documentation (if applicable) should be submitted as part of the online application. No offer of admission will be made until all required documents are received. All materials submitted as part of the application process become the property of NEC and will not be returned.

Auditions and Examinations

DMA applicants must upload complete video audition recordings (or Composition or Theory portfolios) into the online application by the deadline. After review, some candidates may be asked to connect in February for a follow-up live-stream interview and audition.

DMA Entrance Exams are a critical component of our admission process for the DMA program. Applicants must pass both exams in order to be considered for admission. The two required examinations are three-hour online tests in music history (short answer and essay) and music theory. Examinations are in English, and no translation assistance is permitted. Applicants will be informed following review of the audition recordings (or portfolio) about whether they should sit for the online exams.

Please review our brief DMA Entrance Examination guide

Timeline for Fall admission

  • December 1: Online application deadline for Fall (September) 2021 in Violin, Viola, Cello, and Voice only, including upload of unofficial transcripts, recordings, and TOEFL or IELTS score reports (only required of applicants whose first language is not English, and who have not been approved for a waiver of the examination requirement).
  • January 8: Online application deadline for Fall (September) 2021 in all other majors not listed above, including upload of unofficial transcripts, audition recordings (or composition or theory portfolios), and TOEFL or IELTS score reports (only required of applicants whose first language is not English, and who have not been approved for a waiver of the examination requirement).
  • January 15: Recommendation letters due.
  • February 1: Final audition recording upload due for invited applicants in Violin, Viola, and Cello only.
  • February: Live-stream interviews and auditions for invited candidates.
  • February 15: Filing deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Only required for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • March 1: Final TOEFL or IELTS score reports required of applicants whose first language is not English and whose TOEFL or IELTS score submitted earlier did not qualify them for admission.
  • End of March: Admission decision letters and financial aid awards are sent
  • April 15: Graduate admitted student response deadline

NEC Alumni and Current Students

NEC alumni must file a complete application including requested transcripts and supporting materials. Current NEC students and alumni interested in applying to begin a new degree or program must obtain unofficial copies of their NEC transcripts from the Registrar's Office and upload these to the online application (the NEC Admissions Office does not have access to your academic records otherwise). The application fee for NEC alumni and current students is $75 per program/major.


NEC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or veteran status in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, employment policies, scholarship and loan programs, or other Conservatory-sponsored activities.