MA in Music Theory

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MA students in Music Theory at UB take courses that span the gamut of the methodological approaches that characterize the discipline today. Alongside this core curriculum, every MA student receives training to help them become innovative and vibrant teachers, and each student is given constant support through faculty mentorship and courses designed to strengthen professional skills.

Our MA is designed to prepare students for a diverse set of paths after UB, ranging from further study in the field's most competitive Ph.D. programs, to high school teaching that integrates a student's enhanced understanding of music theory and music theory pedagogy.

Every student is involved in our department's prestigious Baird Lecture Series. This series brings six prominent guest lecturers to our campus throughout the year. Giving lectures, teaching courses, and working directly with our graduate students, this series gives students access to the most important scholars, composers, and performers today. 

And finally, students in our MA program have the unique opportunituy to complete a dual degree, earning an MS in Music Librarianship. This program is one  of the strongest in the country, and features an exceptional record of placing its graduates in libraries and collections across the world.

Course Requirements

Graduates of the UB MA in music theory are extremely well prepared for the most competitive Ph.D. programs. Every student completes four seminars in music theory, three seminars in musicology, and a two-semester colloquium. Two capstone experiences in a student's final year are direct preparation for a career as a scholar, as well as job interviews and graduate school applications.

* The curriculum outlined below is in effect Fall 2023. Current students can consult this document, which outlines the old curriculum in relation to the new one. 

Required Courses

Four seminars in music theory:

  • Discourses in Music Theory (Mus 614)
  • Topics in Tonal Theory and Analysis (Mus 621)
  • Analyzing Popular Music (Mus 613)
  • Analyzing Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Music (Mus 629)

Three seminars in musicology, chosen from the following and including "Discourses in Musicology":

  • Discourses in Musicology (Mus 615)
  • Music and Queer Studies (Mus 515) 
  • Music, Gender, and Sexuality (Mus 517)
  • Popular Music Studies (Mus 525)
  • Studies in Music History(Mus 526)
  • Music and Modernity (Mus 527)
  • Media, Memory, and Notation (Mus 528)
  • Studies in US Music (Mus 529)
  • Experimental Music (Mus 530)

Two, consecutive semesters of the" Music Theory and Musicology Colloquium" (Mus 500). 

Capstone Projects

Each student completes two capstones experiences:

  1. Portfolio: All MA students in music theory develop a professional portfolio of their work as part of the requirements of the degree program. This portfolio allows students to develop work they've begun in seminar courses into a polished representation of their skills and interests, suitable for submission to graduate programs, conferences, and scholarly journals.
  2. Comprehensive Exam: MA students complete a comprehensive exam in the second year of their program. In addition to encouraging students to connect ideas from across their coursework, this exam asks students to prepare for questions in a particular area of interest. 

Retention standards

All degree coursework must be completed with grades of "A," B," or "S."

Dual Degree Opportunity in Music Librarianship

Students in the music history or music theory masters program can also apply to do a Cooperative degree program with the Department of Information Science. This program awards students with two masters degrees (an MA in music theory and an MS in Music Librarianship) and makes them highly qualified for both music and other librarianship positions.  

The cooperative degree program has a long and venerable history, being one of only 7 such programs in the country to be recognized by the Music Libraries Association. Students from the program have been notably successful in securing significant job placements including music librarianship posts at the University of Michigan, Belmont University, College of the Holy Cross, National Defense University, and the University of Oregon; and other prestigious positions including Manager of Metadata Services at the New York Public Library, Media and Metadata Librarian at the Curtis Institute of Music, Head of Shared Cataloging and Special Formats Metadata at Brown University, and Technical Services Librarian in the Conservatory Library at Oberlin College.  

The MS in Information and Library Science degree requires 36 credit hours; the MA in music history or music theory requires 38 credit hours. Up to six (6) credits can be shared by both degree programs. The program generally requires five semesters and at least one summer session to complete. Students must be accepted by both the Department of Information Science and the Music Department.


Contact professor Brian Moseley, Music Theory Area Coordinator

Brian Moseley

Director of Undergraduate Studies; Associate Professor (Music Theory); Area Coordinator; Music Theory

Department of Music

418 Baird Hall

Phone: (716) 645-0646