Music Department Graduate Program Guidelines


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1. Introduction

1.1 All new students attend a general meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and make an appointment with the DGS at the beginning of their first semester in residence. Each semester the DGS will update the Graduate Student Status Report with each student to insure compliance with course requirements.

1.2 The DGS is the referee for all questions of policy and appeal; the Music Department faculty makes final decisions on all such matters. A Graduate Affairs Committee of students and faculty, chaired by the DGS, meets whenever issues of policy need clarification or change and reports to the faculty. Normally, graduate students have regular meetings of their own, and may be invited to department faculty meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest.

1.3 The term "faculty" includes all full-time faculty and artists in residence.

1.4 Residency requirement. Both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs require two years of full-time residency in Middletown or the immediate vicinity (the combined M.A./Ph.D. program requires three years of full-time residency). Any exceptions, such as commuting or semi-fieldwork situations, must be requested in writing in advance and approved by the DGS and the entire department faculty or risk a loss of stipend and tuition. All M.A. and Ph.D. students are expected to meet all requirements within these two years (three years for the combined program). One year of write-up support is available for ABDs (All But Dissertation) once they have completed their research. Two years of such support are available for those in the combined program. ABDs receiving write-up support must be in residence. (also see section 8.9)

1.5 Combined 3-year M.A. and Ph.D. program. Certain incoming ethnomusicology M.A. students will be invited to complete the M.A. and Ph.D. coursework requirements in three years. This would typically entail taking Ph.D. seminars in the second year (or perhaps as early as the first year). The student will be evaluated at the end of each semester, and will still have to apply to the Ph.D. program during the second year. Once admitted to the Ph.D., the DGS and adviser will recommend whether the student may complete all the course requirements in the third year, or whether a fourth year will be necessary.

1.6 Department colloquia. Regular attendance at Music Department colloquia is required of all graduate students as these events are the principal context for department-wide discourse.

2. Advising

2.1 Every graduate student, including Special Students, must have an adviser who is a department faculty member. Students must choose an adviser (informing the adviser and administrative assistant) by the end of the first semester and are encouraged to do so at the beginning of the first semester. Students shall choose courses in consultation with their advisers.

2.2 Students may change advisers at any time. The DGS, the former adviser, and the new adviser must all be informed in writing of the change and the student's file will be updated.

2.3 Advisers typically function as administrators of the degree program, as musical and scholarly mentors, and as supervisors of the thesis or dissertation. Although these functions may be split among different faculty members, only one may be called "adviser".

3. Elective Graduate Seminars and Courses Outside the Department

3.1 Petitions for elective graduate seminars and courses outside the department. For elective graduate seminars that are tutorials or undergraduate music classes and courses outside the department, all students must submit a petition or request to the DGS (see below).

3.2 Elective graduate seminars. In certain compelling circumstances students may take an undergraduate music course or a private or group tutorial to fulfill the elective graduate seminar requirement. In such cases students must first obtain approval from their adviser and then submit a petition (consisting of one or two paragraphs in the student's own words) to the DGS detailing the following:

a. Tutorial: the number of weekly hours it will meet; the material to be covered; and the work to be done by the student, including a final project.

b. Undergraduate class (must be 200 level or higher): the number of hours outside the class the student will meet with the instructor, and the extra work to be done by the student to bring the class up to graduate seminar expectations, including a final project.

In all cases, the work and time invested should be equivalent to a graduate seminar. The petition must be approved by the professor, the adviser, and the DGS.

3.3 The required course from outside the Music Department. Only courses nubered 200 or above are permitted. Language courses are not permitted. For all undergraduate courses, students are required to first obtain approval from their adviser and the course instructor, then submit a request to the DGS indicating the following:

a. The revelance of the course to the student's graduate course of study;

b. The extra work to be done by the student to bring the course up to graduate level. The request must be approved by the course instructor, the adviser, and the DGS. 

4. Language Requirements

4.1 Definitions. Field language: a language of everyday discourse in the intended research site. Research language: a language in which there is a significant body of scholarship in the researcher's field.

4.2 In general, all students fulfill the language requirement by successfully passing an exam testing current proficiency. 

a. Language exam. A departmental language examination is offered twice each year (early September and early February). All incoming graduate students should take the language exam at the beginning of the fall semester unless they are not yet prepared to do so ( for exceptions see 4.2.c). Anyone wishing to arrange a spring exam should inform the DGS by January 31 to schedule the exam. Research languages will be tested in a two-hour exam consisting of translating a two-page passage (approximately 1000 words) with a dictionary. (East Asian languages may be adjusted accordingly.) Field languages may be tested in the same way, although those that do not have a significant body of relevant writing may be tested through directed conversation with a fluent speaker (and with a brief translation, if relevant). In cases where the language necessitates an external proctor, the specifics of the examination will be worked out in consultation with the student, adviser, and DGS. Students may take the language exam repeatedly. 

b. Standard of expectation. M.A. students: the equivalent of completing a 3rd semester undergraduate course with a grade of B or better. Ph.D. students: the equivalent of completing a 4th semester undergraduate course with a grade of B or better.

c. Exceptions. In cases of clear and obvious current fluency the DGS may elect to waive the exam (indicating the evidence). Ph.D. students may have one exam waived if they have passed a relevant language exam at the M.A. level.

4.3 Students for whom English is not the first language must demonstrate proficiency in English by taking TOEFL prior to admission to the program. Such proficiency may be counted towards fulfillment of the language requirement if the adviser so recommends.

5. Stipends and Assistantships

5.1 Teaching Assistantships carry an expectation of work for the department and are assigned by the DGS in consultation with the faculty and continuing graduate students in early May for the following academic year. The basic workload is nine hours per week for the M.A. and twelve hours per week for the Ph.D. Some weeks may require more work, some less. Complaints by students or faculty members about individual levels of contribution should be adjudicated by the DGS, with appeal, if necessary, to the department faculty. Unsatisfactory work, such as negligence, may lead to a forfeiture of the stipend during the semester in question and/or in succeeding semesters.

5.2 The nature of assistantship work is highly flexible, including: supervising department facilities (e.g. archives, recording studio, instrument collection), serving as teaching assistants, teaching a class independently (with faculty approval and monitoring), and assisting with faculty research. The DGS will endeavor to vary assistantships for each student from year to year in order to advance the student's training and employability. Assistants without direct faculty supervision shall be supervised by the DGS.

5.3 Students must limit any outside work while on stipend.

6. Summer Research Stipends

All continuing students (i.e. those who receive a 12-month stipend), including rising 2nd year M.A.s and PhDs, entering 1st year PhDs. continuing from Weslean's M.A. program, and ABDs receiving a 12 month write-up stipend, may receive  a modest summer supplement (typically $500 each, contingent upon the budgetary situation) to support their research, study, or performance that is directly related to the thesis or dissertation. Students need to submit to the DGS by May 1 a one-page outline of their summer project approved by their faculty adviser.

7. Grants for Invited Presentations and Performances

A limited number of grants (up to $500 each) may be available each year to graduate students (including ABDs) who are invited to 1) present papers, serve as respondents, or organize sessions at a national or international meeting or conference, or, 2) present their compositions at a national or international music festival or an equivalent venue. The eligibility of a particular meeting or event will be determined by the DGS in consultation with the student's faculty adviser. A student is eligible for only one grant per academic year, up to five times. Grantees are encouraged to give a preview of the funded event in order to get feedback from faculty and colleagues. When funding is constrained, priority will be given to ABDs, then PhDs, then MAs. Funds are provided to help defray the cost of registration fees, travel, meals and lodging.

8. Leaves, Withdrawals, and Terminations

8.1 A degree candidate taking coursework may be granted a leave of absence by the DGS upon written request and recommendation of the adviser. Normal reasons are fieldwork or ill health. The DGS may grant a single leave request for a maximum of two concurrent semesters. Resumption of stipend when the student returns is not guaranteed. Any additional or longer requests must be approved by the full faculty.

8.2 If the student does not return when the leave expires and no explanation is forthcoming from the adviser or the student, the student is assumed to have withdrawn from the program. Resuming graduate work would then require application for re-admission.

8.3 Below standard academic performance in coursework may result in a recommendation that a student withdraw from the program. A grade of B or lower in a course credited toward degree requirements or an incomplete not resolved on the first day of the succeeding semester will trigger a review by the DGS, the adviser, and department chair.



9.1 Concentration

In accordance with their admissions applications entering students shall declare a concentration from the following list, although any individual program may draw from two or all three of these concentrations. Any student wishing to change concentrations may do so only in compelling circumstances and with the unanimous approval of the faculty.

  • Composition
  • Scholarship
  • Performance

9.2 Course of Study

A total of 11 credits are required:

Credits Courses
1 Graduate Proseminar: 510
4 Four Graduate Seminars:

Core seminars 506, 507, plus two electives (scholarship) (see Section 3.2 for electives)

Core seminars 508 both years, 509, plus one elective (composition)

Two core seminars of any combination, plus two electives (performance)

2 Two performance courses in different musics
1 One course outside the department (see Section 3.3)
1 Four semesters of Music Dept. colloquium (1/4 credit per semester) (see section 1.6)
2 Thesis tutorial: 591, 592

9.3 Language requirement

One foreign field or research language. (See Section 4.)

9.4 The Thesis

a. The M.A. Thesis Committee. Students shall choose thesis topics and thesis committee members in consultation with their advisers. The thesis committee consists of the adviser, a second reader (chair of the examination and committee) who must be a Music Department faculty, and a third reader who is usually a department faculty member, but need not be. The second and third reader's responsibilities can range from full participation early on to responses toward the end of the thesis process.

b. Form and Style. The M.A. thesis may follow various formats and modes of musical investigation, but performance per se does not constitute a thesis without substantial, written ancillary materials. Work such as bibliographies, translations, and journals do not normally constitute theses. In all cases, a thesis must include a permanently archivable product. Basic style can be established with the adviser, but the department recommends standard works such as the Chicago Manual of Style for matters of form and style. Commonsense rules (such as definition of foreign terms and legible music examples) should be followed. Be absolutely sure to adhere to the guidelines contained in the "Requirements for the Writing of the Thesis or Dissertation" handed out in the Exit Packet by the Office of Graduate Student Services.

c. Thesis length. The department strongly recommends that M.A. theses do not exceed two hundred pages (not including appendices and ancillary materials). Theses exceeding this length require the student to submit the final draft to committee members well in advance of the defense date. The exact schedule must be agreed upon by all committee members.

d. Thesis Approval. The rough draft of the thesis shall be submitted to the adviser by February 15 for comments, editing, and revisions. The revised thesis shall then be submitted to the remaining Committee members by March 15 in order to permit the student to revise again before the defense date.

e. Oral Exam. Once all Committee members have approved the thesis for defense, an oral examination will be scheduled for late April or early May (within the dates specified each year by the Graduate Council and Office of Graduate Student Services). The oral exam follows rules set down by the Graduate Council. Normally the M.A. exam is attended only by the adviser, second reader (chair), and third reader. However, the adviser and candidate may choose to invite guests. The exam usually lasts one hour and addresses the content of the thesis as well as general knowledge.

9.5 Timetable

The following timetable is suggested, or in some cases mandated, for all M.A. students.

  • First semester: Take foreign language exam, choose adviser.
  • Second semester: Choose thesis topic.
  • Start of third semester: Form thesis committee.
  • Fourth semester, Feb. 15: Rough draft of thesis to adviser, pick up exit packet.
  • Fourth semester, mid March: Revised draft to committee.
  • Fourth semester, early April (date to be decided): Submit approved title to Graduate Office in writing.
  • Fourth semester, April 15: Submit final draft for defense.
  • Fourth semester, late April or early May: Oral defense.

9.6 Continuation-of-Registration Fee

Under special circumstances, and with the approval of the DGS and adviser upon written request, a maximum extension up to one academic year may be granted for completing the degree. However, tuition and assistantship support extend only for the total of two years. M.A. students will be charged a continuation-of-registration fee of $250 for each semester that they are enrolled beyond the expected two-year period for their degree. This fee will be charged to the students’ accounts with the University.


10.1. Admissions

Wesleyan M.A. students may be admitted to the Ph.D. program on condition of satisfactory completion of the M.A., however, they compete with other applicants on an equal basis. In certain exceptional cases, the DGS and the Admissions Committee may determine that a three-year residency may be appropriate for Ph.D. students entering from outside Wesleyan.

10.2 Early Admissions

Current Wesleyan ethnomusicology MA students are eligible to apply for early admissions to the Ph.D. program. Application deadline: November 15. Application materials should include:

  • arecommendation letter from the applicant's adviser and from each of the faculty with whomm the applicant took or is taking a graduate seminar;
  • a prospectus on the MA thesis, or a chapter of the thesis if that is available;
  • a detailed statement on the dissertation project;
  • $75 nonrefundable application fee
The applicant can apply again during the regular admissions process (deadline January 15) if not admitted in the early round. The application fee will be waived in such a case.     

10.3 Course of Study

A total of 12 credits are required (plus 506 and 507 if necessary*):

Credits  Courses
1 One core seminar
5 Five elective graduate seminars (2 may be fulfilled at the MA level at Wesleyan)
2 Two performance courses (in different musics)
1 One courses outside the department (see Section 3.3)
1 Four semesters of Music Dept. colloquium (1/4 credit per semester) (see Section 1.6)
2 Thesis tutorial: 591, 592


* If the two core MA ethnomusicology seminars (506, 507) or their equivalent were not taken at the MA level, then they are additionally required.

10.4 Combined M.A./Ph.D. Program in 3 years (19.5 credits)

Same as the M.A. + Ph.D. requirements, except one less performance course and .5 less colloquium credit

10.5 Language Requirements

One foreign field and one foreign research language, or two foreign research languages. Appropriate languages are chosen in consultation with the adviser. (See section 4.)

10.6 Qualifying Examination

a. Students shall choose qualifying examination topics and committee members in consultation with their advisers at the beginning of the third semester, if not earlier. The qualifying exam committee consists of three members including the adviser, a second reader (chair of the oral exam) who must be a Music Department faculty member, and a third reader, who is usually a Music Department faculty, but need not be. The committee should meet or consult in some fashion: 1) at the start of the third semester to set up the topics and format of the qualifying examination; 2) during the third semester to approve the dissertation proposal; and 3) for the oral component of the qualifying examination. The candidate shall take primary responsibility for initiating these meetings in consultation with the adviser. In some cases, it may be necessary to substitute other communicative mechanisms for face-to-face meetings when all the parties cannot be present. 

b. The examination usually takes place in the fourth semester and is the prerequisite to the start of dissertation writing. The format typically is: 1) three essays of 15 pages each (not including the bibliography) on fixed topics completed within a time period of two weeks (usually during Spring Break in March), and 2) an oral exam in which the candidate must defend his/her essays about two weeks after the essays have been handed in. Each committee member submits a topic. The exam as a whole is designed to prepare students for in-depth research in their particular dissertation area as well as the breadth of scope necessary for a career in their area of expertise. The student is responsible for coordinating with the administrative assistant for pickup and delivery (three complete copies) of the exam. 

c. Students on a 3-year residency or those on the accelerated MA/PhD program take the exam in the spring semester of their final year in residence.

10.7 The Ph.D. Dissertation Committee

a. The qualifying examination committee forms the basis of the Ph.D. dissertation committee. Any changes in membership (e.g. adding an outside member) should be made in consultation with the adviser and the rest of the qualifying exam committee. The dissertation committee consists of at least three members including the adviser, a second reader (chair of the examination and committee) who must be a Music Department faculty member, and a third reader, who is usually a Music Department faculty, but need not be. Other readers may be appointed, but the majority of members must be Wesleyan faculty. The responsibilities of non-Wesleyan committee members should be clearly spelled out to all concerned, particularly in relationship to committee meetings.

b. The committee should meet or consult in some fashion: 1) at the end of the semester in which the qualifying exam is taken; 2) at any time, but regularly during the research and dissertation- writing period to review progress; and 3) just before and at the defense. The candidate shall take primary responsibility for initiating these meetings in consultation with the adviser. In some cases, it may be necessary to substitute other communicative mechanisms for face-to-face meetings when all parties cannot be present.

10.8 Candidacy for the Ph.D.

After completing the qualifying examinations, the student is considered a Candidate for the Ph.D. if, and only if, the DGS certifies that the student has met all of the requirements for graduation other than the dissertation. While on leave from the University, students in the research and write-up phases are expected to keep in touch with their advisers and committees as the research project unfolds. The dissertation must be defended within ten years of the qualifying examinations, unless a written exception has been granted by the DGS, or the student shall not be considered to be in good standing (see Section 10.9).

10.9 ABD (All But Dissertation) Status and Fees

At the beginning of each semester, the DGS, in consultation with the dissertation adviser, notifies the Office of Graduate student Services the ABD status of Music Department ph.D students. There are three categories of ABD status:

a. ABD_FIELD. An ABD student is permitted to register for a maximum of 2 years (4 semesters) in the category of ABD-FIELD while carrying out fieldwork research. 

b. ABD-ENRL. An ABD student is permitted to register for a maximum of 5 years in the category of ABD-ENRL, which includes the 2-year ABD-FIELD period. During this 5-year period, no Continuation-of-Registration Fee will be charged.

c. ABD-NOT. An ABD is considered in this category beginning from his/her 6thyear in the ABD status. ABDs in this category are charged the Continuation-of-Registration fee of $250.00 per semester by the Office of the Graduate Student Services. The maximum number of semesters that a student can be charged this fee is 10. ABDs in this category are no longer eligible to registe

d. If a student submits a dissertation beyond the period specified by the ABD-NOT category, a Reactivation Fee of $500.00 will be charged by the Music department.

10.10 Dissertation Write-up Stipends

a. All Ph.D. students are eligible for one write-up stipend of 9 or 12 months (June or September to May). Students on the 3-year accelerated M.A./Ph.D. program are eligible for two write-up stipends. Students must be in residence during the 9-month academic year and carry out 12 hours of weekly TA work. Students are eligible to receive support during the summer months preceding the academic year (pending available funds) if they are still at the site of their full-time research and need funding to complete their work and return to campus or are in residence and actively working on their dissertation. 

b. Students on a write-up stipend must limit any outside work that may inhibit full-time dissertation writing. Any exceptions must have the approval of the advisor and DGS or the student will risk forfeiture of the stipend.

c. Students are expected to be in contact with their advisor during the write-up period and to either complete or substantially complete the writing of the dissertation in the write-up year.

d. Students apply for the write-up stipend by submitting a proposal by January 15 preceding the write-up period. The proposal should consist of the following:

  • a description of the research accomplished and a writing timetable (not more than 2 pages total);
  • a detailed chapter outline of the thesis
  • a complete draft of a chapter

e. Students must take the write-up stipend within four academic years after becoming ABD (or the semester in which they would normally take the ABD qualifying exam in case of delay).

10.11 The Dissertation

a. The dissertation must constitute an archivable product displaying mastery of, and an original contribution to, the understanding of an aspect of world music. The requirements for length and format shall be decided with the adviser and shall conform to the handout from the Office of Graduate Student Services called "Writing of the Dissertation - Specification." The Department recommends standard works such as the Chicago Manual of Style for matters of form and style. Commonsense rules such as definition of foreign terms and legible music examples are to be followed. 

b. The department strongly recommends that dissertations do not exceed four hundred pages (not including appendices and ancillary materials). Dissertations exceeding this length require the student to submit the final draft to committee members well in advance of the usual six weeks before the desired defense date (see8.11a). The exact schedule must be agreed upon by all committee members.

10.12 The Defense

a. A final draft of the dissertation must be given to each member of the committee at least six weeks before a desired defense date. All committee members must read, comment upon, and ultimately communicate their approval of the dissertation to the adviser at least two weeks before a desired defense date. If approved, a final copy of the dissertation must be deposited in the music department office for inspection a full two weeks before the desired defense date. Only at this point may the defense date be finalized in consultation with the adviser and DGS. A notice stating that the dissertation is available for inspection and announcing the defense date needs to be posted and circulated to the music community a full two weeks before the defense date. The student should coordinate with the music department office staff to insure that the dissertation has been received and the notice circulated in time for the two week deadline. Late submission of the dissertation may prevent receipt of the degree at the upcoming commencement. The defense is open to all.

b. The typical order of events is: opening question by adviser; follow-up questions by Ph.D. committee members and other faculty who have read the dissertation; and finally questions and discussion from the floor. When there is a consensus that the defense has run its course, the candidate, and all those who are not faculty members, and faculty members who have not read the dissertation leave the room. Those remaining discuss the student's performance and make any final suggestions concerning the dissertation. These may range from a list of typographical errors to the stipulation that certain revisions be made before final acceptance is given.

c. The examination committee (members of the Ph.D. dissertation committee plus faculty who have read the dissertation and have participated in the defense) has sole discretion over that final acceptance, taking into account any suggestions by other faculty members who have read the dissertation. These must be submitted in writing within three days of the defense if not settled at the defense. If such differences of opinion become intractable, the DGS serves as final arbiter, with the entire department faculty acting as appeal committee if the DGS fails successfully to arbitrate outstanding differences of opinion on the validity of the dissertation.

10.13 Approximate Timetable

The following timetable will help Ph.D. students plan their graduate program. It also includes the last dates for submission of the dissertation in order to graduate in a specific year. In practice, students complete the dissertation at various points in the year. Students in residence for three years will have their timetables adjusted accordingly.

  • First semester: Take foreign language exam, choose adviser.
  • Second semester: Discuss qualifying examination and dissertation proposal with adviser.
  • Start of third semester: Form qualifying examination committee. Submit dissertation proposal during the semester for approval by the committee. Begin applying for grants.
  • End of fourth semester: Take and pass qualifying examinations. Finalize dissertation committee. If necessary, finish language requirements.
  • The graduation year, Feb. 15: Dissertation rough draft to adviser. Pick up exit packet.
  • The graduation year, mid March: Submit revised draft to committee members at least six weeks before the oral defense. Deposit approved copy with the Music Department Office two weeks before the defense. Finalize the date of the oral defense.
  • The graduation year, April (date to be decided): Provide the dissertation title to the Office of Graduate Student Services.

Passed: 5/86.

Last revised:

6/30/12 by Su Zheng in consultation with members of Music Department faculty.