Master of Music degree in Music Theory


Integrated excellence in both research and pedagogy is at the core of the music theory area. Graduates of our program excel at both.

The Master’s degree in Music Theory offers outstanding scholarly training in the analytical approaches, skills, and research methods of music theory. Through theory pedagogy seminars, actual classroom experience, and mentoring, students also become highly skilled teachers.

The M.M. in Music Theory can be undertaken on its own as preparation for doctoral study in music theory. It can also be earned concurrently with a Master’s or Doctoral degree in performance or composition, serving as a secondary credential for the many university positions that combine theory teaching and applied teaching.

Music Theory graduates of Michigan State University have gained admission to Ph.D. programs in Music Theory at prestigious schools such as the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, McGill University, Florida State University, and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Dual-degree students have gone on to teach music theory alongside their primary area of expertise at institutions such as Oklahoma State University, North Dakota State University, the Interlochen Arts Academy, Michigan State University, Hong Kong Baptist University, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Del Mar College.

Our curriculum includes courses in the Pedagogy of Music Theory, Research Methods, Schenkerian Analysis, Counterpoint, 20th- and 21st-Century Techniques, Keyboard Skills, a Proseminar in Music Theory, and Research Seminars on rotating topics.

For more information about the degree requirements, see the Graduate Handbook for students.

Each student completes a capstone assignment consisting of two research papers with accompanying public presentations, a formal teaching recital, and a keyboard-skills examination. Upon graduation, students have expertise and experience as both practitioners and teachers of music theory.

Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis. Each Master’s student in music theory gains at least one year of classroom teaching experience within the undergraduate core curriculum in theory and aural skills. Other teaching opportunities include one-on-one tutoring in our Music Theory Learning Center.

For more information, please contact Dr. Michael Callahan, Area Chairperson of Music Theory, at mrc@msu.edu or (517) 353-6607.