Music Theory Major

The mission of the Music Theory Program is to provide NEC students with a flexible and individualized curriculum, that builds on students’ potential future roles as music writers, collaborators, educators, promoters and, credentials that will make them stronger candidates for teaching positions in private schools, colleges, and university levels. The program addresses the emerging need for interdisciplinary music artists and scholars.


Music Theory Program offers the following concentrations:

(1) Music Theory with a concentration in Pedagogy is centered on teaching the Artist-Teacher-Scholar. It provides an overview of the diverse and evolving roles of music and musicians in the field of Music-in-Education.  Introduces the Artist-Teacher-Scholar framework and relevant readings on the teaching of arts, the artistry of teaching, and the scholarship of teaching as a way to explore the differentiation and synthesis of these three perspectives in preparation for a role as a teacher, and researches the role of music as a catalyst for learning in other subject areas and for social-emotional development.

(2) Music Theory with a concentration in Composition focuses on the analysis, theoretical models and performance practice of the 20th and 21st century repertory. Interdisciplinary approach to contemporary music through examination of concepts from science, mathematics, computation, architecture, visual arts and literature are emphasized throughout the sequence.  Using modern technology for analysis and model composition is required.  The aim of the track is to enable a student to navigate through contemporary music with the up-to-date information on the compositional means.

(3) Music Theory with a concentration in Performance is centered on exploring the interrelation between performance and theory, i.e. how one’s understanding of the language of a particular piece influences one’s interpretation of it. The latter entails both an in-depth analysis of an individual work and a comparative evaluation of recorded performances. Perception theory, literature by significant interpreters, and archival work are strong components of this track of study. Students that choose this track as a double major may work in consultation with both their instrumental and theory studio instructors and are encouraged to choose a work to perform at their graduation recital.

(4) Analytical approaches to Music is essentially  “pure theory” or “theory of theory” track that could provide students with the opportunity for an in-depth study of a particular theoretical model (e.g. Schenkerian analysis, Riemannian analysis, set theory, transformation theory, etc.) or a comparative study of various models. The focus of this track is the model not repertory by itself.  For example, one might choose to investigate the compositional possibilities of a particular theoretical model, even if there is no particular repertory associated with it.


A three-member committee, comprised of the department chair, the student’s advisor and another faculty member, provides guidance to each Theory major student throughout the study:

Entrance interview, at the beginning of the study
Promotional interview, at the end of the first year
Exit interview, at the end of the 2nd year

Music Theory Studio

In addition to coursework, students are given private theory lessons (called studio theory) for two years with the faculty member of their choice.  This includes systematic study of various topics, keyboard harmony (figured bass and score reading), and work on a thesis during the second year.

Upon completing the studio work, students must demonstrate:

  • Ability to apply theoretical principles and concepts pertinent to the track of study
  • Awareness of repertory and theoretical literature, as well as capacity for original thought and research.

Thesis (Theses)

The difference between Theory Major tracks is reflected, above all, in the nature of the final thesis (or theses).  A student can choose between an extensive thesis and multiple theses.

Music Theory and Pedagogy major completes an essay on a pedagogical issue, in conjunction with a public lecture and teaching demonstration.

Music Theory and Composition completes an analysis of an original composition and presents his/her music in a lecture/recital.

Music Theory and Performance major writes an analysis of a piece from his/her
repertory, in combination with a live lecture/performance/discussion.

Analytical Approaches to Music major completes a theoretical paper and gives a public lecture.


Incoming M.M. and D.M.A. students who pass the Music Theory admission requirements, regardless of their previous experience in Music Theory.
NEC B.M. and M.M. students who wish to add Music Theory as the 2nd major and demonstrated successful progress in academic courses. 

Admission Material

a) One of the following:  an analytical paper, or composition and related paper.

b) An essay on expectations and personal professional goals as a theory major.

For more information on the Music Theory Major, please contact the Music Theory Department Chair Katarina Miljkovic at

For more information on the curriculum please see the Academic Catalog.