Masters Degrees

Master of Music in Music Theory

All materials below must be received by Dec 1.  Applicants will be notified by mid-December about whether they are invited to interview at MSU in early February.

Michigan State University Application

Complete the online application to Michigan State University. There is a nonrefundable application fee. Apply early if you want to be considered for financial aid, a graduate assistantship, or a fellowship. 

College of Music Supplemental Application

Submit the online College of Music Supplemental Application. There is a $60 nonrefundable application fee.

Personal Statement

Applicants must submit a statement of 500 to 700 words that explains why they are interested in earning a graduate degree in music theory, how the degree fits in with and prepares them for their intended professional career, and how their prior experience prepares them to succeed in this degree program. Applicants should discuss their interests and experiences in both research and teaching, as applicable.  Relevant teaching experience could include classroom teaching, tutoring, private instruction, or coaching, for example, either within or outside music theory. Relevant research experience might include papers or projects completed in courses or with the guidance of an instructor, books or articles read as part of an independent study, areas of interest within music theory, projects in progress, or other creative work.

Writing Sample

Submit one or two scholarly essays that demonstrate clear and persuasive writing as well as analytical engagement with one or more piece(s) of music or topic(s) in music theory.  It is not necessary for the essay(s) to incorporate other published scholarship such as that from music theory journals and books, although that is certainly welcome.  Overall, the writing should demonstrate an applicant's analytical skill and thoughtfulness as well as the ability to express these thoughts clearly.

Curriculum Vitae

Provide a curriculum vitae that includes all relevant education and professional experience including:

  • Educational background
  • List of music theory courses taken
  • Research experience (significant papers or presentations, software you have developed, articles or books you have read closely, topics you have explored independently)
  • Research interests
  • Teaching and/or tutoring experience (music theory and other subjects)
  • Other relevant professional information

Letters of Recommendation

Request letters of recommendation from three individuals familiar with your work in music theory courses, your research and scholarly abilities, and your experience and capabilities as a teacher.  Internal applicants may request letters from MSU music theory faculty.

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT ONLINE SUBMISSIONS: The College of Music prefers to receive letters of recommendation online. Although the MSU Graduate Application also accepts letters of recommendation online, please do not use that application for your letters of recommendation. Please use only the College of Music application to submit your letters.

Musicianship Skills (Written)

Download this document, complete the activities either by hand or using notation software, and submit a PDF of your realizations. Please note that we are looking for competence rather than perfection here.

Musicianship Skills (Practical)

Download this document and video-record yourself performing straight through the activities in one take. Please do not edit multiple takes together. The video should show you as well as the piano or keyboard you are using. If you are unable to create a video file, an audio recording that begins with you stating your full name would be fine.  Submit the video or audio file through the College of Music application.  Please note that we are looking for competence rather than perfection here.

Optional Portfolio

Applicants may, but need not, submit other examples of work in music theory, such as compositions in historic styles, counterpoint exercises, or other items representative of their work in music theory. 


Complete applications will be reviewed in December. Within two weeks of the Dec 1 review, select candidates will be invited to the MSU campus to interview on a Friday in early February.  Please contact Dr. Michael Callahan, area chairperson of music theory, for further details.


Submit one official transcript from every college or university attended. Transcripts are considered official when mailed by the institution directly to the College of Music at the address below.

College of Music - Office of Admissions
Michigan State University
149 Music Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

Electronic transcripts: MSU accepts e-transcripts only from U.S. schools if sent directly to us by the school.  Please send to


Additional requirements for International Graduate Applicants.


Questions and Troubleshooting

If you have any questions about the application requirements, or encounter any difficulty with assembling or uploading your application materials, please feel free to contact Dr. Michael Callahan, area chairperson of music theory.