DMA Elective Fields

The DMA degree in the Thornton School of Music requires three areas of concentration in addition to the Major Field and the Basic DMA Curriculum: one Academic Field and two Elective Fields. This page contains information regarding the Elective Fields that can be considered for your DMA degree

The Elective Fields consist of 6-9 units each and are to be proposed through consultation with a faculty advisor from two of the following areas:

  1.  Composition, Counterpoint, Orchestration, Choral Arranging, Theory and Analysis
  2. Performance, Early Music, Jazz Studies, KCA, Opera Directing
  3. Music Teaching and Learning, or Collegiate Teaching
  4. Musicology
  5. Choral or Sacred Music
  6. Instrumental Conducting
  7. Pedagogy
  8. Music Technology
  9. Arts Leadership
  10. Screen Scoring/Film Music
  11. New Thornton Field
  12. A field outside of the Thornton School of Music

Each field is represented on the candidate’s guidance committee by a faculty member. The Elective Fields are supported by courses that are determined by the department in which these fields are administered.

No more than two of the four fields may be under the guidance of the same department within the Thornton School.

The Comprehensive Examinations contain capstones that may be written research papers, proctored written exams, projects, compositions, recitals, or a combination of several of these. If a recital or other performance will be required as part of the comprehensive examination for an elective field, that recital or performance must take place before Elective Field examinations are administered, typically during the sixth week of the semester. At least one of the elective fields must culminate in a written examination or other substantial written document as part of the comprehensive examination. If a candidate pursues two elective fields that will both culminate in a recital or other performance, then both a recital (or other performance) and a written examination or other substantial written document will be required in one of these elective areas.

The information that follows lists sample curricula for possible elective fields in the DMA program. The actual elective field curricula may be individualized by the faculty in order to best fit the background and goals of each student. The finalized curriculum for each student must be approved by the Graduate Advisory Committee following the Graduate Committee Interview (GCI).


As part of your GCI Dossier, you will submit two elective field forms. Each form will detail the approved curriculum by the faculty advisor for the respective elective field.

Some elective fields require an application before a student can be approved to pursue that field. Ask Job Springer for guidance.

Composition/Counterpoint/Orchestration/Arranging/Theory & Analysis


  • MUCO 521x (2-2-2) Composition for Non-Majors
  • Contact: Dr. Donald Crockett, chair, Composition


  • MUCO 435a (2) Counterpoint III (Fall only, odd years)
  • MUCO 790 (2-2) Research
  • Contact: Dr. Donald Crockett, chair, Composition


  • For majors in composition:
    • MUCO 636 (2-2) Advanced Orchestration II
    • MUCO 790 (2) Research
  • For majors in other areas:
    • MUCO 436 (2) Orchestration III
    • MUCO 536 (2) Advanced Orchestration I
    • MUCO 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Dr. Donald Crockett, chair, Composition

Choral Arranging

  • MUCO 441 (2-2) Choral Arranging
  • MUCO 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Dr. Frank Ticheli, professor, Composition

Theory & Analysis

  • Three courses from Tonal Sequence, Post-Tonal Sequence, or Special Topics
  • Contact: Dr. Sean Friar, professor of practice, Composition

Performance (instrumental or vocal), Early Music, Jazz Studies, KCA, Opera


  • Individual instruction at the 501 level (6 total units, usually 2+2+2)
  • Contact: appropriate department chair

Jazz Studies

  • MUJZ 588/688 (2) Special Topics in Jazz Performance
  • MUJZ 501 (2-4) Individual Instruction
  • Contact: Bob Mintzer, chair, Jazz Studies

Opera Stage Directing

  • MPVA 407 (2 + 2) Directing for the Operatic Stage
  • MPVA 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Ken Cazan, professor, Vocal Arts & Opera

Keyboard Collaborative Arts

  • MPKS 501 (4) Individual Instruction
  • MPKS 560 (2) Song Interpretation Master Class
  • MPKS 561 (2) Chamber Music Interpretation Master Class
  • Contact: Dr. Alan Smith, chair, Keyboard Collaborative Arts

Early Music

  • MUHL 589 or 591 (2) Renaissance or Baroque Rep. & Perf. Practice
  • MPEM 501 (historical instrument, 2) Individual Instruction
  • MUEN 650 (1-1) Early Music Ensemble
  • Contact: Dr. Adam Gilbert, chair, Early Music

Music Teaching and Learning/Collegiate Teaching

Music Teaching and Learning (6-9 units)

  • Choose 1 course from:
    • MTAL 607 (2) Alternative Models in Music Education
    • MTAL 503 (3) Philosophical Foundations of Music
    • MTAL 504 (3) Psychological Foundations of Music
    • MTAL 502 (3) Sociological Foundations of Music
    • MTAL 535 (2) Community and Entrepreneurial Engagement Through Music
    • MTAL 608 (3) Creative Thinking in Music
    • MTAL 499/599 (2 or 3) Special Topics in Music Education
  • And choose 2-3 additional MTAL courses as advised by faculty advisor
  • Contact: Dr. Beatriz Ilari, chair, Music Teaching and Learning

Collegiate Teaching (6-9 units)

  • MTAL 652 (2) Pedagogy for Collegiate Teaching – Required Class.
  • And, choose 2-3 courses from:
    • MTAL 499/599 (2 or 3) Special Topics in Music Education
    • MTAL 650 (2) Teaching Music Appreciation and Fundamentals Courses
    • MUCO 550 (2) Teaching Music Theory (only offered every fall in odd years, ex. fall 2019)
    • MTEC 550 (2) Technology and the Collegiate Music Curriculum
  • Contact: Dr. Beatriz Ilari, chair, Music Teaching and Learning


  • MUHL 500-699 (6 units) – These are in addition to the requirements of the Basic DMA Curriculum.
  • Classes cannot be double counted toward any other field.
  • Contact: Dr. Bruce Brown, chair, Musicology

Choral Music/Sacred Music

Choral Music

  • MUCM 541 (2) Choral Literature I (Fall only)
  • MUCM 542 (2) Choral Literature II (Spring only)
  • MUCM 440 (2) Choral Development (Fall only)
  • MUCD 541 (2) Choral Conducting (Fall/Spring)
  • MUEN 5XX (1-1) Ensemble
  • Contact: Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe, chair, Choral and Sacred Music

Sacred Music

  • MSCR 571 (2) Music of the Great Liturgies*
  • Plus two of the following courses:
    • MSCR 473 (2) Hymns and Service Music
    • MSCR 474 (2) The Church Organist
    • MUCM 790 (2) Research
    • MUCM 4XX (2) Introduction to Jewish Music 400/500 level Religion Course or
    • MUHL 400/500 level History Course, such as MUHL 550 Music of the Holocaust
  • Contact: Dr. Nick Strimple, associate professor, Choral and Sacred Music

Instrumental Conducting

*Approval for this field generally requires an audition that takes place at the end of the first semester of MUCD 543. Often this means that only contingent approval can be granted in advance of the Graduate Committee Interview.

  • MUCD 543 (2) and MUCD 501 (2+2)-Instr. Conducting III, Individual Instruction
  • MUCD 543 (2+2) and MUCD 501 (2)–Instr. Conducting III, Individual Instruction
  • Contact: Larry Livingston, chair, Conducting


Theory Pedagogy

  • MUCO 550 (2) Teaching Music Theory
  • MTAL 652 (2) Pedagogy for Collegiate Teaching
  • MUCO 533ab (2-2) Analytical Approaches to Tonal Music
  • Contact: Dr. Donald Crockett, chair, Composition

Keyboard Pedagogy

  • MPKS 450a (2) Keyboard Pedagogy: Intermediate Lit & Functional Skills
  • MPKS 450b (2) Keyboard Pedagogy: Intermediate Lit & Functional Skills
  • MPKS 431a (2) Keyboard Pedagogy: Introduction & Practicum
  • MPKS 431b (2) Keyboard Pedagogy: Introduction & Practicum
  • Contact: Dr. Stephen Pierce, assistant professor, Keyboard Studies


  • MPVA 438 or 541 (2) Foundations in Vocology or Advanced Vocology (Fall only)
  • MPVA 542 (2) Vocal Pedagogy Teaching Practicum (Spring only)
  • MPVA 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Lynn Helding, Associate Professor, Voice and Voice Pedagogy

Classical Guitar Pedagogy

  • MPGU 417 (2) Classical Guitar Pedagogy (Fall only, odd years)
  • MPGU course (2)
  • MPGU 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Brian Head, chair, Classical Guitar

Studio/Jazz Guitar Pedagogy

  • MPGU 415 (2) Studio Guitar Pedagogy (Fall only, odd years)
  • MPGU course (2)
  • MPGU 790 (2) Research
  • Contact: Nick Stoubis, chair, Studio/Jazz Guitar

Music Technology

Appropriate knowledge and expertise is required as a prerequisite. 8 units in MTEC are typically required. Specific course requirements are based on faculty assessment of a student’s prior experience with music technology.

Example courses:

  • MTEC 446ab (2+2 units) Computer Assisted Recording and Editing (Pro Tools)
  • MTEC 443 (2 units) Desktop Music Production (Logic Pro)
  • MTEC 4xx (2 units)
  • Contact: Rick Schmunk, associate professor, chair, Music Technology

Arts Leadership

  • ARTL 502 (2) Issues in the Arts and the Contemporary World (Spring only)
  • And two courses (4 units) from the following:
    • ARTL 500 (2) Arts Leadership and Arts Entrepreneurship (Fall) or
    • ARTL 501 (2) Executive Leadership in the Arts (Fall)
    • ARTL 503 (2) Arts Organizations: Innovations and New Models or
    • ARTL 504 (2) Arts and the Community: Current Practice and New Visions
  • Contact: Ken Foster, professor, program director, Arts Leadership

Screen Scoring/Film Music

  • MUSC 450 (4) Film Music: History and Function from 1930 to present (Fall)
  • MUCO 521x (2) Individual Instruction (Film Music Orchestration with Professor Neal Desby) or approved advanced-level course in music technology (MTEC)
  • Upon completion of the above courses, then:
  • SCOR 501 (2) Individual Instruction in Advanced Film Music
  • Contact: Dan Carlin, professor, chair, Screen Scoring

New Thornton Field

For some students, the elective fields offered may not be exactly what they hoped to find. In conjunction with Thornton faculty, and with approval from GAC, some fields can be created to fit a more specific interest.
Contact: Faculty chair in program/department of interest

Field Outside of Music

Students opting for a field outside of music must find an advisor from the full-time faculty in the appropriate USC academic department. In consultation with the student, the advisor will select six to eight units of graduate courses as an appropriate curriculum, serve on the student’s Guidance Committee, administer a written examination in the outside field as part of the Comprehensive Examinations, and possibly be present at the oral comprehensive examination. No more than 2 units of Research (790) should normally be part of the curriculum supporting an outside field.

Examples: Educational Psychology through the Rossier School of Education, Japanese through the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Business Marketing through the Marshall School of Business.