Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Music regrets to announce that we will not be accepting applications in fall 2020 for students hoping to begin studies at Penn in fall 2021. The School of Arts and Sciences has made this difficult decision in order to allow allocation of available support to current students who require extra time to complete their degrees as a result of the global pandemic. While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we also believe that this is the most responsible course of action in these unsettled times.  We anticipate that we will accept applications again in the fall of 2021 and welcome new students into our program in fall 2022.

We always love to hear from prospective students. Please feel free to reach out to our graduate chair, Dr. Jim Sykes ( with any questions.



The Ph.D. program in Composition stresses training in the craft of composition, contemporary repertory, and theory and analysis. Instruction in composition comprises much of the course requirement; such instruction takes the form of private lessons. Participation in the concert life of the department and attendance at Composers’ Forum events complement that instruction. Students are assigned to particular instructors for composition lessons by the Director of Graduate Studies on the advice of the composition faculty. Composition instructors are assigned on a rotating basis to assure that all students are exposed to a variety of approaches and have the opportunity to work with each member of the composition faculty during the period of coursework. The Department of Music at the University of Pennsylvania also offers a Ph.D. program in Music Studies, and composition students also take several courses with the music studies faculty during their coursework. 

Music Studies

The graduate program in Music Studies (Ethnomusicology, Historical Musicology, Theory) at the University of Pennsylvania serves students who intend to conduct cutting-edge research, produce high-quality scholarship, and develop teaching and professional skills in order to pursue academic positions in music studies; it also serves those who want to consider career opportunities beyond academia in both music and non-music domains. Faculty apply methodological tools from ethnomusicology, sound studies, musicology, and music theory to a wide range of research projects. The goal of the graduate program is not to entrench these disciplinary distinctions, but rather to seek out productive and innovative means of placing them in dialogue with each other. This orientation toward holding all of the sub-disciplines in view is reflected in the graduate curriculum as well as in the multiple colloquium series that animate departmental life.

The curriculum is designed with flexibility in mind—designed specifically to offer students the freedom to craft a path of study that best addresses the research needs and methodological concerns of their particular dissertation projects. It combines the wide range of courses offered by the world-class faculty in the music department with the possibility of enrolling in seminars in other Penn departments and taking classes at consortium schools such as Princeton, Yale, and Columbia. Our colloquium series provides another means of engaging in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary conversations. In addition, workshops, public performances, and working papers presented by graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty offer a wide range of perspectives on musical practice and scholarship, focusing variously on public lives in music, current research, craft and compositional issues. 

The faculty is particularly interested in teaching and research in the following areas: Archives, Textualities, and Materialities; Audio Politics and Sound Studies; Conflict, Healing, and Displacement; Gender, Sexuality, and the Body; Global Medieval/Renaissance; the Global South; History, Memory, and Intangible Heritage; Life Forms and Forms of Life; Opera and Performance Studies; Race, Ethnicity, and Empire; and Religion, Ritual, and Secularism.