Doctoral Study at NEC

The Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA) is a rigorous and selective program intended for performer-scholars who combine the highest standards in their major area with proven accomplishments in musicology and music theory. It is designed to provide professional musicians with the necessary knowledge and skills for artistic, cultural, social, and educational leadership.

The DMA degree is offered in performance (see detailed list below), composition (classical, Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation), and music theory. NEC enrolls a small class (typically 8-12 students) each year to ensure the highest degree of flexibility and individual attention. Appropriately qualified D.M.A. students may be offered independent teaching responsibilities as Teaching Fellows in music history, music theory, and other areas.

  • Brass: Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba
  • Chamber Music for Piano
  • Collaborative Piano
  • Composition
  • Contemporary Musical Arts
  • 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

DMA Curriculum

The DMA curriculum consists of 60 credits and requires at least five full-time semesters to complete course work and at least 2 additional semesters to complete final projects. Students do not pay tuition after the 5th full-time semester, but, rather, pay a continuance fee every subsequent semester until the degree is completed. 

Degree requirements include 4 semesters of studio, (half-studio is available but not required in the 5th semester), 4 doctoral seminars in music history and theory, departmental requirements and free electives. There are no ensemble requirements. Performers play 3 recitals, theorists give two lectures or lecture-recitals and composers present 1 recital. Following completion of the doctoral seminars, students take qualifying exams in music history and music theory followed by an oral exam.  Students must pass a foreign language translation exam or enroll in two semesters of graduate foreign language classes for zero credit. 

After completing the qualifying exams, performance majors begin work on research projects which may be fulfilled in a variety of ways, including historical studies, analytical studies, pedagogical studies, critical editions, annotated translations or articles appropriate for publication in academic music journals. The minimum length requirement is 40 pages.

Composition majors, including Jazz and CI, begin work on an extended orchestral or wind ensemble/concert-band composition; a big-band composition; or a large scale, multi-instrument chamber-composition. This work may also include voice(s). The duration of the work should be a minimum of 20 minutes. 

Theorists write an extended final project in consultation with the theory department.  All students prepare their final projects with the guidance of a faculty advisor.

DMA students may apply for a music theory or musicology minor at the end of their second semester of study. Admission to the music theory or musicology minor will be at the discretion of the appropriate department.  Musicology minors must complete 10 credits of musicology electives (beyond the two doctoral seminars) including MHST 535-536 (Writing About Music) and MHST 537 (Teaching Music History).  DMA students who pursue a musicology minor have no special requirements regarding final projects.

Theory minors must complete 10 credits of theory electives by advisement (beyond the 2 doctoral seminars).  Performance majors are expected to focus on a theory-related topic for their final project. Composition majors who pursue a theory minor are required to complete 2 final projects: one in composition and a second in music theory.

Entrepreneurial Musicianship

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.