College of Fine Arts Music

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USD offers the only Master's of Music degrees in the state with areas of specialization in Music Education, Music Performance, Music History, and the History of Musical Instruments, as well as a variety of degree completion options.

Graduate Auditions take place on the afternoon of February 14, 2015 in the Colton Recital Hall within the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts.

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Music Education

Programs of study include Instrumental Music Education and Vocal/Choral Music Education. This program prepares students for an advanced level of K-12 teaching or for doctoral degree work in music education. Students choose between two cumulative options: the master's thesis or the graduate music education project, which is applicable to the specific teaching area. Topics are chosen in consultation with the student's graduate committee/chair advisor.

The core for the Music Education Concentration includes: Music Bibliography, Music Theory, Music History and Literature, and Music Education.

The Master of Music degree in music education is a hybrid degree that offers courses online and face-to-face during the summer and academic year. The disbursement of the course materials are structured to meet the needs of the working public school teacher and the post-undergraduate looking for an advanced degree. The degree program is flexible in its offerings to allow for successful completion within a two year period.

Music Performance

Programs of study include Music Performance–Vocal, Music Performance–Instrumental: Brass, Keyboard, Woodwinds, Strings and Percussion. These programs are designed to increase expertise on a specific instrument, offering a strong grounding in music history, music theory and in the performance and pedagogy of the instrument. The degree prepares students to pursue a doctorate in performance or other educational or entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Performance Concentration includes 30 hours and a recital.

Music History

The Master of Music degree with Specialization in Music History is designed to increase knowledge of music in the western world from Classical Antiquity to the present. Students receive strong grounding in the six style periods in addition to an introduction to world music, preparing them to pursue a Ph.D. in music history or to teach music history.

A core of 18 credit hours is required in music literature taken from the Bibliography, Theory and Music Literature areas. Reading proficiency in one foreign language is required.

If a student chooses to prepare a thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements, the advisory committee must approve the topic for the paper. Students preparing a lecture/recital must submit a paper as part the lecture presentation. The advisory committee must approve the topic and format for the lecture/recital. The lecture/recital materials must be presented to the faculty advisory committee three weeks in advance of the public presentation.

Collaborative Piano Specialization

The Master of Music degree with Specialization in Collaborative Piano allows skilled pianists to complete lesson, coursework and performance requirements in vocal and instrumental duo, small chamber ensemble, choral ensemble and opera/musical theater. This selective, nurturing program provides extensive repertoire development, musical growth opportunities and preparation for further academic and/or professional work in the field of collaborative piano.

Please see the Audition Repertoire for the requirements of the collaborative piano specialization audition.

Music Certificate

Conducting Specialization

The Master of Music degree with specialization in Conducting is designed to increase technical skills and provide the more advanced theoretical information necessary for a career in the conducting field. Students will have the option to focus on conducting specifically in the choral or instrumental realm or take a mixture of both concentrations. This program prepares students for advanced level K–12 ensemble teaching (no certification) or for doctoral work in various musical areas.


Degree Completion

Students have seven years to complete their degree program following Graduate School guidelines. With a master's degree in music from USD, students have gone on to doctoral study at the nation's premier music schools, obtained teaching positions at university and community colleges, and procured jobs in a wide range of music-related fields. 

You can choose the traditional fall/spring semester option or can complete their degree exclusively through attending classes during the summer. For those students who attend during the fall/spring semesters, a variety of funding opportunities exist, including graduate teaching and research assistantships and performance fellowships.


  • All required materials must be received at the USD Graduate School at least six weeks prior to the start of the semester. 
  • All prospective students must have an on-campus interview with the appropriate faculty member in the area of interest, the Graduate Coordinator in Music Studies, and the Chair of the Department of Music prior to acceptance to the program.  
  • Students interested in the Master of Music degree with specialization in the History of Musical Instruments must meet with the Coordinator of Graduate Studies in the History of Musical Instruments at the National Music Museum, the Graduate Coordinator in Music Studies, and the Chair of the Department of Music prior to acceptance to the program. These face-to-face meetings must be set up through the Graduate Coordinator in Music Studies.


Students must audition for entry into the program. See our Audition Requirements.


View our Graduate Course Rotation Schedule for specific course information.

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