Ph.D. Composition/Theory | School of Music | Kent State University

Ph.D. Composition/Theory

The Doctor of Philosophy in Music Composition/Theory is designed to prepare composers, college and university teachers, and research scholars in the area of music theory and composition. The degree program is based on the premise that original composition of high quality requires a strong background in theory, and that significant scholarship in theory requires experience in original composition.

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcript(s)
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resumé
  • Statement of career goals
  • A substantial term paper on a theoretical topic or a master's thesis in music theory written in English
  • At least three scores of original compositions demonstrating a variety of genres (chamber, orchestral, piano, choral, etc.)



Students compile a body of completed compositions.


Students demonstrate and apply compositional techniques for creation of new works including musical style and structure.


Students analyze music from a wide range of styles and style periods and communicate results in written and oral formats.


Students are able to recognize, identify, and analyze representative literature from different historical periods, countries and composers.


Students are able to communicate knowledge of composition, theory and other aspects of music in classroom and private teaching.

Candidacy Examination

A comprehensive, qualifying, candidacy examination is given by a faculty committee. Exams generally include essay and terminology portions, and score analysis from written and aural excerpts. Exams generally include both a proctored and non-proctored portion. Material is based on coursework taken during the degree program, current professional literature, and trends with which the student should be conversant. Successful completion of the candidacy exam is necessary before beginning the dissertation phase of the degree program.

Dissertation/Dissertation Defense

Students write and submit a two-part dissertation. Part One consists of a major original musical composition. Part Two consists of a significant theoretical topic such as analytical, descriptive, experimental, historical or pedagogical. Students defend both parts of the dissertation in an oral examination before a committee made up of the advisor, two additional members from the graduate music faculty, one graduate faculty member from a discipline outside music, and an appointed graduate faculty representative.