Department of Music

Graduate Program FAQ

Frequently asked questions about our PhD programs in Music & Multimedia Composition and Musicology & Ethnomusicology.

Most information is the same for both programs, but where the answers differ they are noted by specifying the program at the start of the relevant portion of the text. In addition to the information found on this page, the MMC program has a Supplemental FAQ that covers its specific application requirements in detail.

For both graduate programs the application deadline is December 15.

You can apply online at the Graduate School website.

Applicants to the program should submit the online application, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, writing sample and/or documentation of creative work, and transcripts from previous university studies. The TOEFL test is required for foreign applicants, except those who hold (or will receive) a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Applicants should provide a scholarly writing sample of ca. 20-25 pages. You may submit two shorter writing samples that total ca. 20-25 pages, if you feel that they demonstrate more effectively your skills in scholarly analysis. For example, you may prefer to submit undergraduate seminar papers on two different topics in music and/or other humanities and social sciences disciplines. The writing samples should demonstrate your ability to engage with scholarly literature and frame a clear argument.

Music and Multimedia Composition

The two main components for admission are a portfolio of outstanding creative work along with a clear and compelling personal statement. The portfolio should document four examples of your creative work and may include recordings, videos, scores, images, texts, and documentation of installations and performances. A short description should accompany each work, though longer texts about the pieces are acceptable too. In the case of longer duration works, please identify excerpts to view or listen to for the initial rounds application review.

Use the personal statement to describe the background of your creative practice and outline your current and future interests in expanding that practice at Brown. You can include descriptions of your works in support of an overall narrative about your practice, but you don’t need to go into great detail here if they are documented in your portfolio.

A writing sample is required in addition to the personal statement, such as a research paper or other example of writing that includes analysis and interpretation.

A detailed supplemental FAQ about the application form and process for the MMC program's application requirements can be found here.

No. The dissertation proposals in our programs are developed as part of the course of study here and are not required as part of the application process.

Brown offers five years of guaranteed support in the form of a full tuition scholarship, health benefits, and a cash stipend that is competitive with that offered by other top-tier programs. Summer support is funded for four years, over and above the academic-year stipend. Ph.D students in the music department hold a Fellowship in the first year of study, with no TA or proctorship obligations. During three of the remaining four years they hold either Teaching Assistantships or Proctorships. In the remaining year they hold a Dissertation Fellowship. There is some flexibility as to when to use up the final year of fellowship. Some people use it to fund dissertation research in the fourth year of study; others obtain external grants for that research and defer the fellowship for dissertation write-up time at Brown. (In other words, external funding does not replace Brown funding: students who win one year’s worth of external support still receive a full five years of funding from Brown, on top of that year of external support). Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Proctorships in music normally require up to twenty hours of work per week during the school year.

Yes. International graduate students are funded in exactly the same way as American students. If you are admitted to the program, you will receive five years of funding through fellowships and teaching assistantships.

The graduate school frequently offers sixth year funding, including the standard stipend, summer funding, tuition waiver, and health insurance. This is dependent on your progress toward the degree, the department's teaching needs and available funding. Students receiving sixth-year funding are expected to teach a course or serve as a teaching assistant during both terms of the sixth year.

In addition, the graduate school has also developed several interdisciplinary options for humanities and social science scholars to fund a sixth year of study while in residence at institutions or departments within Brown, ranging from the Cogut Center for the Humanities to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs: see here.

The graduate school offers some financial incentives for obtaining external funding. In practice, if you receive a major external grant, equivalent to a year of funding (for example, to conduct dissertation research away from campus), then you are able to defer one year of the funding that Brown guarantees to Ph.D. students, and reserve it for a 6th year of study.

All forms of sixth-year funding apply equally to American and international students.

No. We admit students with the expectation that they will complete the PhD. However, it is technically possible to leave Brown after completing the MA (and in rare cases this may be the recommendation of the faculty).

No. The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required for either of the two programs.

Yes. Brown University requires this exam. However, if you have a previous degree (BA or MA) from an institution where the primary language of instruction is English you do not have to take the TOEFL. At Brown, TOEFL requirements are set by the Graduate School, not the individual department, and the Graduate School administers the collection of application materials. Therefore, any questions about waivers should be addressed to the Graduate School. The Graduate School policy may be found here.

Our University code is 3094.

Usually each program admits two or three students per year.


No. You have to submit a new application in order to re-apply to the program.

Decisions regarding admission and financial aid are made by mid-March. Applicants must make enrollment decisions by mid-April.

No. If you are offered admission to the program, you must either accept or decline the offer and its specific starting date. If you decide that you want to enroll in a later year then you must submit a new application. Acceptance to the program in one year does not guarantee acceptance in any subsequent rounds of applications.

You can transfer credits equivalent to up to eight courses, but only after completing your first year of coursework at Brown.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology students

See the Graduate Handbook for details. You'll need to get the current DGS's signature on the transfer form.

Music and Multimedia Composition students

See the MMC Graduate Handbook, section 6: "Students with Prior Graduate Degrees."

Both programs require students to complete substantial amounts of scholarly work and long-form writing as part of their studies here. The kinds of research and writing required vary both by program and by the individual courses in which students enroll, but the total workload can be considerable.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

The first two years of study will be focused on predoctoral coursework and the acquisition of an M.A., the centerpiece of which is an extended paper completed in year 2. Students must complete 8 course credits, 3 required and 5 elective.

During the third year of study students continue to do coursework, at least three credits per semester. They prepare for and take their oral and written Ph.D. qualifying exams, and begin developing their dissertation proposal.

The fourth and fifth years of study center around the dissertation. The dissertation must be an original work and make a contribution to knowledge in the discipline of musicology or ethnomusicology. Many students spend their fourth year doing library research or field work, and devote their fifth year primarily to writing and revising.

See the M/E Graduate Handbook for full details on this process.

Music and Multimedia Composition

During the first two years of the program students undertake the majority of their coursework, which involves writing and research in addition to creative practice. During this time they prepare their Masters project (a substantial performance, installation, or work in other formats) for presentation in the second year accompanied by an essay of thirty to fifty pages that describes the aesthetic concepts, historical background, and technical realization of the work.

In the third year students continue their coursework and must prepare for and pass their Qualifying Exams. This consists of three essays on topics that lead into their dissertation work and an oral exam on these essays. Once this is complete students develop a formal dissertation proposal in which serves as a clear and detailed outline of the areas of creative and scholarly research to be undertaken over the next two years.

The dissertation itself has two parts. The disserta­tion project is an origi­nal creative work that makes a substantial contri­bution to knowledge in the field. This is accompanied by a detailed paper that describes the project’s overall concept, technical methods, and the historical, theoretical, and artistic frameworks that inform and support it. The paper is completed after the dissertation project has taken place and requires a formal oral presentation and defense before it is approved.

See the MMC Graduate Handbook for specific details on these requirements.

Graduate students serve as a Teaching Assistant for a variety of undergraduate courses relevant to your professional development -- mostly courses taught by graduate faculty in their program. (You can browse our current undergraduate course offerings here.) Faculty make an effort to give graduate students meaningful teaching experience (i.e., running discussion or giving an occasional lecture rather than just grading student assignments). You should also take advantage of the resources at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Advanced students sometimes have the opportunity to teach a survey course or propose a course in their area of specialization.

Music and Multimedia Composition

In addition to TA assignments in undergraduate and graduate level music courses, MMC graduate students have the opportunity to direct the MEME electroacoustic improvisation ensemble. Advanced students may have the opportunity to propose a course of their own design. Graduate students may also work as Proctors in the MEME studios, assisting with concert production, studio management, promotion, and documentation.

All faculty are available to work with graduate students, and students can select any faculty that can help with their research goals. We aim to create an environment for scholarship and creative practice in which there are many avenues for guidance, feedback, and exchange. It is often the case that students work closely with several faculty members in addition to their officially designated advisor. Many of our PhD students include faculty from outside the department and outside the University on their preliminary exam committees and on their dissertation committees. Music faculty research profiles can be accessed here.

Yes, we do admit students directly from undergraduate programs. Speaking generally, any undergraduate major is acceptable if the applicant has a way of showing good potential in fields that are included in either graduate program. That said, most of our graduate students have spent some time outside of school following their undergraduate studies before enrolling here.

Yes. Students are encouraged to take courses throughout the University and many take advantage of courses in other departments. Students occasionally take courses at other institutions such as RISD and Harvard for credit and at no additional charge.

A listing of our current students and links to their websites can be found here.

Our graduates undertake college and university teaching as well as applied work and research outside the academy. See the Alumni page for more details on graduates of both programs.

Visits to the Department are welcome, but the two programs vary on how visits can be arranged. Please note that visits are not required and do not increase your chances of admission. Admitted candidates will have an opportunity to visit campus before making a decision on whether to join us at Brown. If you just want to get a feel for the campus and/or you are visiting at a time when classes are not in session, you may participate in a general campus tour without arranging appointments in our department.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

The program in Musicology and Ethnomusicology welcomes individual visits. You should schedule your visit for a time when classes are in session (see the university calendar). To increase your chances of meeting with a particular faculty member, you should visit campus on a day when s/he is teaching a graduate seminar and/or holding office hours. Contact the current Director of Graduate Studies for Musicology and Ethnomusicology if you would like to propose a date to visit.

Music and Multimedia Composition

The Music and Multimedia Composition program hosts virtual Open House events each fall. Prospective applicants can meet with program faculty and current students to get a more complete picture of the MMC program. We strongly encourage attendance at one of the Open Houses instead of a separate visit. Given the number of inquiries we receive and the need to be as equitable as possible in the application process, we do not schedule individual meetings with faculty.

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Dana Gooley, Director of Graduate Studies (2023-24)

Music and Multimedia Composition

Anthony Cheung, Director of Graduate Studies (2023-24)

Email queries to other faculty members will be forwarded directly to the appropriate DGS.