Doctorate Programs in Music Performance: Program Information

Doctoral programs in music performance emphasize advanced study for instrumentalists or singers. Students perform works from several different historical periods as soloists and ensemble members, complimented by courses in music history and theory.

Essential Information

Although there is a strong component of academic courses, the focus of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree, occasionally called Doctor of Music (DM), is on applied music. These programs prepare students for performing careers or for teaching at the university level and typically include concentrations in any of the major orchestral or solo instruments as well as vocals. Several public recitals and a major research project are required.

Applicants usually need to hold a master's degree in performance and complete a live audition as part of the application process. Students are also usually tested on their knowledge of music history and theory.

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DMA in Performance

Program coursework includes performance studies as well as classes in music history, music theory, and music pedagogy. Courses in the following topics are common:

  • Solo performance
  • Ensemble performance
  • Music history
  • Music theory
  • Methods of teaching musical performance

Popular Career Options

DMA graduates usually start or continue professional careers as performers in a variety of contexts (as soloists, accompanists, or members of large ensembles). The other major career path, sometimes pursued concurrently, is university teaching, which is a significant reason for the broad curriculum requirements.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), musicians and singers should see a 3% growth rate from 2014-2024, which is slower than average, with a 2015 median hourly wage of $24.20. Postsecondary teachers of art, music, and drama earned a median annual salary of $65,340 in 2015. Jobs for these postsecondary teachers are predicted to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 11% from 2014-2024 (

A music performance doctorate trains students for careers in both musical performance and academia. In addition to performance requirements, these programs will generally include theoretical studies in the curriculum as well.

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