Music Teaching & Learning

Doctor of Musical Arts – Music Teaching and Learning

  • The program details described below are subject to change. Actual degree requirements for a given academic year may differ from what is listed here.
  • Refer to the 2017-2018 USC Catalogue for complete course descriptions and degree requirements.
  • See the Thornton Admission page for specific application information.
  • Current students should refer to the specific requirements list for their major, which is available through the Thornton Student Affairs office.


The DMA in Music Teaching and Learning consists of the following areas of study: the basic DMA curriculum, course work in the major, an academic field and two elective fields.

The DMA curriculum has been designed to extend beyond the public school setting and prepare students for collegiate teaching in both traditional and alternative settings (such as community-based and on-line programs). Further, the degree offers innovative courses on teaching at the college level. Students have the opportunity to intern with university professors in music education methodology classes. The program also includes core scholarly subjects, such as research, sociology, philosophy, psychology and history of music education. The focus goes beyond the traditional band/orchestra/choir model and extends to additional areas especially relevant to the current diverse and technologically proficient student population.

The professional degree stresses teaching with cutting-edge technological tools while developing core knowledge and expertise in pedagogical skills and scholarship. Students will acquire writing and design skills for a wide range of multimedia publications, while being able to pursue a choice of research activities or advanced creative work that will enable them to lead our profession to new heights. USC is one of the few universities that equally values students being able to declare elective fields in areas outside of music education, while also achieving rigorous scholarship, writing and multimedia design skills, and gaining pedagogical experience that prepares them for collegiate teaching in a rapidly changing society.

Sample Summary of Program of Study

Basic DMA Curriculum (20 units)

MUCD 441 Choral Conducting II (2 units)
MUCD 443 Instrumental Conducting II (2 units)
MUCO 501 Introduction to the Analysis of Tonal Music (2 units)
MUCO 502 Introduction to the Analysis of Post-Tonal Music (2 units)
MTAL 505 Teaching and Learning Music (2 units)
MUHL 570 Research Materials and Techniques (2 units)
MUHL 500-695 Music History electives (6 units)
MUEN 5__ Ensemble electives (two 1-unit courses)

Program Intensive Courses (20 units)

MTAL 500 Research Foundations in Music Teaching and Learning (3 units)
MTAL 502 Sociological Foundations of Music Teaching and Learning (3 units)
MTAL 503 Philosophical and Advocacy Issues in Music Teaching and Learning (3 units)
MTAL 607 Alternative Models in Music Teaching and Learning (2 units)
MTAL 615 Assessment and Reflective Practice (2 units)
MTAL 720 Quantitative Research in Music Teaching and Learning (3 units)
MTAL 721 Qualitative Research in Music Teaching and Learning (3 units)
MTAL 790 Research (1 unit)

Electives within MTAL Department (6 units)

Electives within MTAL will be chosen in consultation with the department.​

Electives to Fulfill the Academic Field and Two Elective Fields (20 units minimum)

It is possible for Music Teaching and Learning students to elect either the academic field or one of the elective field options from outside of the Thornton School. Possible options might include psychology, sociology, education, social work or statistics. These options must be approved by the Graduate Advisory Committee.​

Comprehensive Examinations (0 units)

Examinations include the major area, one academic field and two elective fields.

Capstone Projects (4 units)

Comprehensive Exams which include the major area, one academic field and two elective fields
MTAL 794ab Doctoral Dissertation (two 2-unit courses)

Total Units: 68

MTAL 500 satisfies the requirement of MUHL 570 in the basic DMA curriculum.

All curricular requirements are evaluated on an annual basis and are subject to change. Students follow the curricular requirements as published in the USC Catalogue for their year of matriculation. A typical graduate credit load is eight units per semester.

A maximum of 30 units from the Masters Degree may be applied toward the 65 units beyond a Bachelors Degree required for the DMA. Petitions must be prepared with the Thornton academic advisor, all of which must be signed and approved by the appropriate faculty.

A language examination to demonstrate reading knowledge in one foreign language (French, German, Italian or Spanish) must be passed before the comprehensive exams are taken.

Music Graduate Entrance Exams (MGEE) are administered during Orientation Week just prior to the start of your program. See the MGEE page for more information.