Earn your PhD in Musicology

Part of both a comprehensive School of Music and a research university, the musicology program provides students with access to exemplary research and teaching resources, performance opportunities, and an internationally renowned literary scene. Musicology students meet weekly with faculty and colleagues to share research, host scholars, and discuss recent publications. Through these gatherings graduate students partake in a vibrant community committed to furthering musicological research and learning.

Faculty research embraces a wide range of topics with a particular emphasis on American music, including women in musical life, Hollywood film music, jazz in New Orleans, and online musical communities, among others. In addition to completing a rigorous coursework regime, students develop professional skills through conference presentations and TA assignments in Western art music, world music, and popular music courses.

Additional support for research travel and professional development is available to PhD students through the Michael J. Budds Scholarship for Doctoral Study in Musicology. Requests for funds may be made by sending the area head a short description of the project and a tentative budget.

Please contact Professor Nathan Platte for more information.

Admission to Candidacy

Qualification for candidacy for the Ph.D. will not be considered before the end of the second year of study. To advance to candidacy the student must have fulfilled the following requirements:

  1. Satisfactory demonstration of the ability to write clear, concise English, organize ideas into coherent and extended discourse, and express original thoughts on a level of competence appropriate to the Ph.D. This requirement will be satisfied by submission of research papers written at the University of Iowa.
  2. Satisfactory performance in course work and other appropriate activities (such as service as a T.A. or R.A.).
  3. Removal of all course deficiencies in music theory, as determined by advisory exam at the time of initial enrollment.
  4. Satisfactory performance on a written qualifying examination to be taken no sooner than the second year of full-time study at the University of Iowa, or completion of an M.A. in musicology at the University of Iowa within the last five years. The exam will test a general knowledge of music history, music theory, musicological methodology, bibliography, and pedagogy. After the exam, the students will meet with the musicology faculty to discuss the results and to plan the remainder of their program.  Students who fail to demonstrate the appropriate knowledge, skills, and aptitude on this qualifying examination may retake the exam in one of the following two semesters. Failure to pass the exam may result in dismissal from the program.
  5. Upon successful completion of all of the above requirements, the student will be admitted to full candidacy for the Ph.D. in Musicology and should plan a course of study for the approval of the advisor.

How to apply to the program

General Admission Requirements

  1. 3.0 minimum grade point average in undergraduate and graduate work to date.
  2. Three letters of recommendation.
  3. A sample of written research, such as a term paper or thesis that demonstrates how you both explain, and respond to, research questions. 
  4. A personal statement describing the student's musical and academic backgrounds, research interests, and how they envision their work at Iowa will support their professional goals. We use the personal statement to assess the ability of our program to support the student and the student's research goals, so prior experience with music research and interests in our particular program should be emphasized.

view full requirements and apply


Requirements and program planning

This information is intended to assist in your course planning but is not intended to serve as an official guide to graduation requirements. To confirm progress toward graduation, you should consult your advisor.

Download course checklist

Note: Students who completed the masters degree at the University of Iowa will apply their previous course work to these requirements

Methodology courses

11 semester hours

Required courses
  • Introduction to Graduate Study in Music (MUS:5300), 2 semester hours
  • Foundations of Ethnomusicology (MUS:6315), 3 semester hours
  • Historical Approaches to Music (MUS:6316), 3 semester hours
  • Teaching Music History and Culture (MUS:6317), 3 semester hours
Musicology seminars
  • Topics in Musicology (MUS:6310), 3 semester hours
  • Topics in Ethnomusicology (MUS:6314), 3 semester hours
Note: Topics courses may be taken multiple times for credit if their content varies.
Musicology elective or methodology courses

Choose three from the following courses for a total of 9 semester hours:

  • Music and Gender (MUS:4320), 3 semester hours
  • Medieval and Renaissance Music (MUS:4325), 3 semester hours
  • Baroque Music (MUS:4330), 3 semester hours
  • 18th-Century Music (MUS:4335), 3 semester hours
  • 19th-Century Music (MUS:4340), 3 semester hours
  • 20th-Century Music (MUS:4345), 3 semester hours
  • Advanced Jazz History (MUS:4350), 3 semester hours
  • American Music (MUS:4355), 3 semester hours
  • Jazz Matters (MUS:4360), 3 semester hours
  • Studies in Film and Music (MUS:4610), 3 semester hours
  • Teaching Music, History, and Culture (MUS:6305), 3 semester hours
  • Topics in Musicology (MUS:6310), 3 semester hours
  • Historical Approaches to Music (MUS:6312), 3 semester hours
  • Topics in Ethnomusicology (MUS:6314), 3 semester hours
  • Foundations of Ethnomusicology (MUS:6315), 3 semester hours
  • Renaissance Music Notations (MUS:6326), 3 semester hours
  • Music Editing (MUS:6375), 3 semester hours
Musicology colloquium

3 semesters, 3 semester hours each:

  • Musicology Colloquium (MUS:4390), 3 semester hours

Review of Undergraduate Theory (MUS:5200): Required of all graduate students who do not pass the advisory examination in music theory. This course does not count toward graduate degree requirements.

Students exempt from MUS:5200 through the advisory examination in music theory must complete one history of music theory course (3 semester hours) and two theory electives (6 semester hours) for a total of 9 semester hours.

History of music theory courses
  • History of Ideas in Music (MUS:6210), 3 semester hours
  • Theoretical Approaches to Music (MUS:6211), 3 semester hours
Theory electives
  • Counterpoint Before 1600 (MUS:4200), 3 semester hours
  • Counterpoint After 1600 (MUS:4201), 3 semester hours
  • Jazz Theory (MUS:4730), 3 semester hours
  • Tonal Analysis (MUS:5235), 3 semester hours
  • Non-Tonal Analysis (MUS:5236), 3 semester hours
  • Analysis of Popular Music (MUS:5237), 3 semester hours
  • Special Topics in Theory and Analysis (MUS:5240), 3 semester hours
  • History of Ideas in Music (MUS:6210), 3 semester hours
  • Theoretical Approaches to Music (MUS:6211), 3 semester hours
  • Theory Pedagogy (MUS:6215), 3 semester hours
  • Advanced Tonal Theory and Analysis (MUS:6250), 3 semester hours
  • Advanced Non-Tonal Theory and Analysis (MUS:6251), 3 semester hours
  • Advanced Theory and Analysis of Popular Music (MUS:6252), 3 semester hours

Music electives

A 3 semester hour course outside the musicology area related to the student's area of specialization. Must be approved by the musicology advisor.

Non-music electives

Two graduate courses (3000-level or above) outside the School of Music related to the student’s area of specialization. Must be approved by the musicology advisor.

Proficiency in the ability to read musicological literature in either French or German, or another language, chosen in consultation with the adviser and approved by the musicology faculty.

The requirement for one of the two languages must be satisfied by the end of the second year of residency, and the requirement for the second language must be satisfied before taking the comprehensive examination.

The requirement for each language can be met in one of the following ways:

  • Successful completion of one semester of a graduate-level reading course approved by the musicology faculty.
  • Two years of course work in the language with passing grades in the last ten years.
  • Successful completion of a standardized exam administered by a language department or program, as approved by the musicology faculty.
  • Written examination administered by the musicology faculty. The exam will consist of a short article in the designated language, which the student will summarize and from which he/she will translate a short excerpt.

The comprehensive examination will be written and will cover the student’s area of specialization and a secondary area.

The examination committee will consist of at least three faculty members from the musicology area and at least one from music theory, chosen by the advisor in consultation with the student and approved by the musicology faculty.

As soon as possible after advancing to candidacy the student must present a dissertation topic to the musicology faculty, along with the name of the advisor. When the faculty have approved the topic and the advisor, the student and advisor together will choose a committee, which will consist of at least three faculty members from the musicology area (including the advisor), and at least one from another area in or outside the School of Music.

The candidate then will submit to the committee a formal proposal, which will include a review of previous research in the topic, a justification for further work, an outline or table of contents, and a selected bibliography.

The student will defend the proposal to the committee in compliance with School of Music guidelines. The student will be required to defend the completed dissertation.

Create your academic path

You'll find degree overviews, requirements, course lists, academic plans, and more to help you plan your education and explore your possibilities.

Current course list

The MyUI Schedule displays registered courses for a particular session and is available to enrolled students. The list view includes course instructors, time and location, and features to drop courses or change sections.

Seminars and student research

Graduate students participate in a diverse array of specialized seminars while developing their own research for the thesis or dissertation.

Select graduate seminar topics

  • American Musical Entertainments, 1880-1920
  • Music and Cyberculture
  • Music Editing
  • Music History Pedagogy
  • Music in the Great Depression
  • Musical Lives in Wartime
  • Performance in the 19th Century
  • Music in Jane Austen’s World
  • Renaissance Music Notations
  • Music and the Cinematic Imagination
  • Global Pop Music

Select student thesis and dissertation titles

  • “Hearing Wonderland: Aural Adaptation and Carroll’s Classic Tale”
  • “Little Soldiers and Orphans: Musical Childhoods Lived and Constructed in World War I”
  • “Mahler in Utah: Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony’s Performances and Recordings of Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies (1951–1979)”
  • "The purest pieces of home’: German POWs Making German Music in Iowa”
  • “The Sound that Sells: the Musical and Improvisatory Practices of the American Auctioneer”

Add a minor

Any student admitted to a graduate degree program in the School of Music may add a theory pedagogy minor by completing the required courses.

Musicology faculty

Zane Cupec

Zane Cupec, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor
Portrait of Christine Getz

Christine Getz

Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Outreach and Engagement
Portrait of Trevor Harvey

Trevor Harvey

Associate Professor of Instruction
Portrait of Nathan Platte

Nathan Platte

Associate Professor
Musicology Area Head
Portrait of Sarah Suhadolnik

Sarah Suhadolnik

Assistant Professor of Instruction
Portrait of Marian Wilson Kimber

Marian Wilson Kimber

Associate Director of Faculty Development; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Practice and perform

Need to book a music room, request an accompanist, check out audition information, rent a locker, or use a recording studio? Visit the Music Callboard for all scheduling and policy information.