First-Year Resources for DMA Students

This page contains important information and details for all Thornton DMA students in their first year.


DMA Curriculum Overview

The DMA consists of the following areas of study:

  1. Basic DMA Curriculum (20 units)
  2. Major Curriculum (varies)
  3. Academic Field Curriculum (8-12 units)
  4. Elective Field #1 Curriculum (6-8 units)
  5. Elective Field #2 Curriculum (6-8 units)

The total units required for the DMA is 65 units, which includes approved graduate transfer credits completed as part of a Master’s degree.

Review the USC Catalogue for detailed descriptions of your specific major curriculum requirements. This also includes details regarding non-coursework requirements including the Music Graduate Entrance Exams (MGEEs), the foreign language requirement, and recital(s).


DMA Student Timeline

The following is a general timeline of the DMA program. Please note any specific deadlines and items to be completed during the first year:

Fall (1st) Semester

  • MGEEs and review classes (as required)
  • Verification of prior degrees (delay in submissions will result in registration holds)
  • Transfer credit evaluation (initial request, syllabi, transcripts, specific evaluation requests)
  • Workshops to prepare for the spring Graduate Committee Interviews

Spring (2nd) Semester

  • Second and final MGEE attempt and review classes (as required)
  • Seek approval for Academic Field (Feb 1) and two Elective Fields (Mar 1)
  • Graduate Committee Interview (20-min interview on select Fridays in April)
  • First Recital (if required)
  • Language Exam should at least be attempted once or plans made for summer class

After All Coursework is Completed (approximately 3-4 years)

  • Comprehensive Examinations (all required components) – prior approval and registration required
  • Dissertation, Portfolio, Final Recital, and/or Final Project (if required)

Graduate Transfer Credit

Up to 30 units of previously completed graduate-level coursework (usually from a Master’s degree) may be applied to the DMA. Some transfer credit may be applied to the 65 units required for your degree but may not necessarily substitute for specific required coursework in your program. All transfer coursework must have been completed within 10 years of admission to the DMA to be applied to your degree.

Applying graduate transfer credit to your degree requires multiple steps. All steps are required in order for a thorough and complete transfer credit evaluation to take place.

  1. For all Graduate Transfer Credit (regardless of substitution): Submit the Graduate Transfer Credit Form (domestic or international) by your first academic advisement appointment in August. This is necessary to have all appropriate transfer credit reflected on your academic records to be considered for substitution.
  2. Graduate Transfer Coursework Substituted for Basic DMA Curriculum: This requires submission of DMA Course Substitution Request Form by mid-September.
  3. All Other Transfer Coursework Substitutions (e.g. major, academic, elective fields): After submission and approval of the Graduate Transfer Credit Form, all other requests for substitution must be made with the appropriate faculty by the end of the first year in your program.

All transfer credit petitions must be filed and decisions made by the appropriate faculty by the end of the first year in your program.


Language Examination

The DMA requires reading knowledge of either French, German, Italian, or Spanish. Petitions for other languages can also be considered, including Korean, Russian, Japanese, Polish, and Chinese.

The PhD requires reading knowledge in German and either French, Italian, or Latin. However, petitions can be considered for the additional language other than German.

The language requirement can be fulfilled by either:

  • Passing the DMA Language Examination administered during the spring semester
  • Taking the corresponding reading class during a summer term (e.g. GERM 020x)

The language requirement must be completed before entering the fourth semester of your program.


Graduate Committee Interview

The Graduate Committee Interview (GCI) is an important milestone of your first year in the DMA program. At the GCI, the USC Thornton School of Music Graduate Advisory Committee will review and consider for approval (1) your fields of study (major field, academic field, and two elective fields) and (2) the proposed members of your DMA Guidance Committee, who will oversee your work and administer your Comprehensive Examinations at the end of your program.

Guidance Committee

At your GCI, you will propose a Guidance Committee consisting of five faculty:

  1. Major Field – Chair of the Guidance Committee
  2. Supporting Major Field Advisor
  3. Academic Field Advisor
  4. First Elective Field Advisor
  5. Second Elective Field Advisor

This committee will oversee your work in your fields and administer your Comprehensive Examinations.

Rules and Exceptions for Choosing Fields

  1. No more than two of the four fields may be under the guidance of the same department
  2. No more than three faculty members can be from the same department
  3. At least one elective field must culminate in a written exam or substantial written document
  4. No more than two of the four fields can be in education or pedagogy.
  5. All academic fields and some elective fields require a separate application (more information available at the Academic Fields and Elective Fields)

Requirements to Fulfill Prior to Participating in the GCI

  • MGEEs or appropriate review courses must be completed or clearly indicated when expected to be completed
  • One recital must be scheduled or performed
  • All transfer coursework requests must be submitted and faculty decisions rendered
  • GCI must take place before 16 units are completed for the degree

GCI Timeline
Spring GCI

  • February 1Applications and Academic Fields are due
  • March 1 – Entire GCI Dossier application (described below) due
  • March 2-30 – Revisions, as needed
  • Early April – GCI dates (20-minute interviews)

GCI Dossier Guidelines

Your GCI Dossier must consist of the following forms in the order listed below. All forms are included in the full dossier template.

  1. Appointment of DMA Guidance Committee: This form must be submitted as the cover page for the GCI dossier. The proposed Chair of the Guidance Committee (a full-time member of the faculty from the department of the student’s major program), as well as the faculty member who will serve as a major field advisor (usually the student’s major teacher if that person is not the Chair of the Guidance Committee), must sign this form after the academic field form and both elective field forms (described below) have been completed and signed by the respective faculty advisors.
  1. Curriculum Vitae (CV): Students should carefully prepare this portion of the GCI dossier as if it were for an academic job application. The CV should include the following, as applicable:
  • Education History
  • Professional Employment History (emphasizing music-related work experience)
  • Compositions
  • Conference Presentations
  • Publications
  • Recordings
  • Significant Performances
  1. Academic Field Form: After applying and being approved for an academic field, the student must finalize a proposed academic field curriculum with the one who will serve as their faculty advisor for the academic field. Additional instructions are included on the academic field form in the dossier template.
  1. Elective Field Form (first of two): The student must finalize a proposed curriculum for each of two elective fields by working with the one who will serve as their faculty advisor for each respective field. Additional instructions are included on the elective field form in the dossier template.
  1. Second Elective Field Form (second of two): Same as for the first elective field. A separate elective field form must be completed for each of the two proposed elective fields.
  2. Proposed DMA Completion Timeline: In consultation with their proposed faculty advisors, the student must create a proposed completion timeline, indicating the specific requirements that have been and will be fulfilled each semester through graduation. More detailed instructions are included on the DMA Completion Timeline template in the dossier template.

The complete GCI dossier, including all components listed above in the order listed above, must be submitted to the Thornton doctoral advisor by 5:00 p.m. on October 15 for fall interviews or March 1 for spring interviews. The specific date and time of the student’s GCI will be scheduled once a preliminary review of their GCI dossier has been completed by the Thornton Doctoral Advisor.