DMA and PhD Program Page

Thank you for taking the time to review this section of the online materials. While much of the material you need to know will come from other areas of the online USC Thornton pages, this section is dedicated specifically to those in the doctoral programs. These three areas are the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), Doctor of the Philosophy in Historical Musicology (Thornton’s PhD program), and the Artist Diploma (ARTD) which is the highest Graduate Certificate award we offer for those in the performing fields.

Your Academic Advisor

Job Springer, Doctoral Advisor

Online Resources

Before you dive into the subsequent material, this is a reminder that many resources are designed for you in order to understand the inner workings of the University as well as your specific degree program. Take advantage of that available knowledge by exploring the following online resources:

DMA or PhD

While the title of “doctor” can be applied to both DMA and PhD, it is worth taking a moment to understand the difference. Though the medical community is most recognized for the title of “doctor” (most commonly MD), the terminal degree for research and theoretical fields are also well know via PhD. Those of you that have sought out the DMA know that it is also anchored in research and theory, but it adds a practical element that recognizes that not all doctors pursue positions of research academic writing, university administration, and think tanks. The DMA is for those that wish to also be critical consumers of research in order to rise to their potential in their respective work place.

Of all of our Thornton students in the doctoral programs, no more than four ARTD students are enrolled at any one time. We generally have about 10-12 PhD candidates, and the DMA recruits about 25-40 students each fall.

DMA Course Requirements

As noted above, it is important to know that your specific details of your unique DMA degree program can be found in the USC Catalogue by clicking through this link to find your program. However, this section will give the general overview of the program.

One of the unique strengths of the DMA program is its ability to be molded toward achieving your end goal, post-graduation. That is accomplished in part due to the flexibility in the five fields of instruction. In order to earn the DMA, you must earn at least 65 units of graduate-level units, and this must be done after completion of the bachelor’s degree. Some of those units can be considered for possible transfer credit (for classes that are essentially identical in content) through the Graduate Transfer Credit process. Click here to revisit that link. However, those units cannot be fully determined until you start your first semester in the program.

Transfer units aside, the rest of the 65 units can be found through the following break down:

Basic DMA Curriculum

This area consists of classes that each DMA student—regardless of major—needs to take. However, there are some classes that you may have taken during your master’s degree or other graduate level institution. Once the Graduate Transfer Credit process has been done, that will help you identify which of these basic curriculum classes you might be able to substitute with prior work (pending a successful review process by our faculty and University officials). The Basic DMA Curriculum is broken down as such (with some subtle differences in a few programs):

  1. Choral Conducting II * – MUCD 441, 2 units
  2. Instrumental Conducting II * – MUCD 443, 2 units
  3. Ensemble units – MUEN 5xx, 2 units (1 unit each)
  4. Research and Bibliography – MUHL 570, 2 units
  5. Music History – MUHL 5xx, 6 units (2 units each)
  6. Tonal Analysis* – MUCO 501, 2 units
  7. Post-Tonal Analysis* – MUCO 502, 2 units
  8. Music Teaching and Learning – MTAL 505, 2 units

(* Those classes identified with an asterisk above indicate that the DMA student must first pass the affiliated MGEE or pass the prerequisite beginning level class before taking these classes listed in the Basic DMA Curriculum. Please see the information on MGEEs for a fuller explanation.)

Academic Field

Each student will be required to choose an Academic Field. There are five from which to choose:

  1. Choral Music
  2. Music Teaching and Learning
  3. Musicology
  4. Sacred Music
  5. Theory and Analysis

During the fall semester, students will learn more about each of these fields through workshops offered by Job Springer and faculty associated with each field. The choice is yours, but you must still apply to each field as you are considered for acceptance by the respective department. While you will learn about each field during the fall and early spring, the final approval will not be fully approved until April of your first year (i.e., April 2024).

Elective Fields

Each student will also choose two different elective fields. Elective Fields are often smaller versions (number of units and work load) than the Academic Fields. Plus, there are also many other fields that are beyond the subjects already listed. While the Elective Fields are smaller, they are essential to fine-tuning your future career plans. They provide opportunities for you to dive deep into a topic you already know well, explore a topic you do not know, or provide balance to your overall curriculum through learning unique leadership and pedagogical strategies. There is not an exact number of elective fields. While some fields persist over time, other fields arise as needed. Some examples of the more popular Elective Fields are as follows:

With appropriate approvals, many students have sought one of their elective fields outside of Thornton. We have had students complete elective fields from the following USC degree programs: Marketing, Japanese, Educational Psychology, and more.

Foreign Language Requirement

From the USC Catalogue:

An academic reading knowledge of a language other than English is required of all Thornton doctoral students. This requirement can be met in any of the following ways:

  • Completion of a prior degree, as verified on an official transcript, from an accredited institution of higher education at which the primary language of instruction is a language other than English.
  • Completion of at least three semesters of college-level language instruction in a language other than English, as verified on an official transcript, at an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Completion of one or more USC language course(s) (in a language other than English) as approved by the Thornton School.
  • Earning a passing score on a written examination (in a language other than English) as approved by the Thornton School.

Departments within the Thornton School may require additional language skills. All language requirements must be fulfilled before entering the third semester in the program. Students who have engaged in extensive study of one or more languages other than English that does not meet this requirement as described above may request an exception.

The foreign language exam will be offered for free by Job Springer in October and in March. Therefore, it is important for you to try and pass the exam early. You have two attempts to pass the free exam prior to needing to take the two-unit class (generally offered in the summer semester).

Generalized Yearly Timeline

It is important to keep some tasks in mind as you plan out your entire DMA career. Here is a rough timeline for your degree program.

Year One:

*GCIs are meetings with you and several faculty members that guide the DMA curriculum. These GCIs are chances to show how you are doing, and to seek approval for the Academic and Elective Fields you are seeking. Your teacher will be there along with Job Springer and a subset of faculty from the Graduate Advisory Committee. They are benchmark checkpoints to ensure that your trajectory is on target.

Year Two:

Year Three:

*These are the final meetings where you take exams, submit capstone projects and papers, and meet with faculty as you seek your final degree steps. For those of you that have dissertations, these exams happen in the semester in between your coursework and your dissertation stage.

Year Four:

Beyond Four Years:

DMA Student Resources Portal

A reminder- for more information or details regarding your DMA Program, including first-year resources, requirements and details concerning academic and elective fields, and comprehensive examinations, visit the DMA Student Resources Section of the Thornton Student Portal.

Advisement Workshops

Your academic advisor, Job Springer, has emailed you at your USC email account with information for individualized advisement meetings on Zoom. You must attend an advisement meeting in order to register for the fall 2023 semester. If you do not meet with your advisor, then you will not have the necessary departmental clearances (D-clearances) to register for your classes.

Please be sure to have access to your myUSC portal during the advisement meeting so that you are able to use Web Registration.