DMA Elective Fields

The DMA degree in the USC 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, 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 USC 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 USC 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/​Theory and Analysis




Theory and Analysis

Performance (Instrumental or Vocal), Early Music, Jazz Studies, KCA, Opera

Jazz Studies

Opera Stage Directing

Keyboard Collaborative Arts

Early Music

Music Teaching and Learning/Collegiate Teaching

Music Teaching and Learning (6–9 units)

Collegiate Teaching (6–9 units)


Choral Music/Sacred Music

Choral Music (6 units)

Sacred Music (6 units)

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.


Theory Pedagogy

Keyboard Pedagogy


Classical Guitar Pedagogy

Studio/Jazz Guitar Pedagogy

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:

Arts Leadership

Screen Scoring/Film Music

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.