Music Performance Graduate Programs

Students interested in becoming professional musicians in a range of instruments may wish to pursue a master's or doctoral degree in music performance. Learn about degree options, their graduation requirements and standard admission requirements.

Most graduate degree programs in music performance prepare students for professional-level performance in their particular area of vocal or instrumental music and are available at the master's and doctoral levels. These programs provide students with plenty of skills instruction and usually culminate in a final performance. Compare a few different types of graduate programs in the field.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Jazz
  • Music Composition and Theory
  • Music History and Literature
  • Music Merchandising and Management
  • Music Pedagogy
  • Music Performing
  • Musical Conducting
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Piano and Organ
  • Stringed Instruments
  • Voice and Opera

Types of Graduate Programs in Music Performance

Master of Music in Music Performance

Master of Music (MM) in Music Performance degree programs may vary from about 32 to 34 credit hours. Students in these programs can choose from a range of concentrations, like voice, piano, percussion, strings, guitar and more. These programs may require comprehensive exams, various public performances, a final recital for the culminating experience and/or requirements in 1 or more foreign languages, such as French, Italian or German. In addition to skills courses and studio time in their particular instrument, students in these programs may also take courses in music theory, music history, music research and pedagogy.

Master of Fine Arts in Music Performance

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Music Performance degree programs typically take 2 years to complete and may require around 48 credit hours. Some of these programs may offer concentrations in areas such as piano, guitar/lute or other instrumental performance, while others may combine study in music performance and literature and have additional concentrations in areas like improvisation or solo and chamber music. Students in these programs can expect to participate in multiple performances, complete a graduate recital for a culminating experience and some programs may require a practicum experience and/or a master's thesis. Based on the concentration, some students may need reading knowledge in a foreign language and courses for these degree programs are a little more diverse than an MM program and may include topics in contemporary music, music literature, music history, post-tonal theory and analysis.

Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance

Doctoral degrees in music performance may be offered as a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Performance or as a DMA in Music with an emphasis in performance. These degree programs may range from around 48 to 90 credit hours and typically require reading knowledge in at least 1 foreign language. Some programs offer a dissertation or recital track, while other programs require recitals and a final research paper or project. Coursework usually include studio instruction and applied lessons with courses in topics such as music history, musicology, music theory and research.

Common Entrance Requirements

Admission requirements for graduate programs in music performance vary greatly by program, but typically students will need to apply to the university and to the music school and hold at least a bachelor's degree. Some students may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement and the majority of programs require students to undergo an audition process, as well as an interview process. Most students will also need to submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation with their application. Outside of these common requirements and depending on the specific program, students may be required to include GRE scores, a personal statement, a resume, evidence of participation in an undergraduate recital, a recorded audition or a repertory list.

Students can pursue an MM, MFA or DMA in Music Performance to take lessons in their instrument and various courses in music theory and history. These programs typically have a foreign language requirement and a final recital and/or research paper.


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