The policies set forth below and in related documents (University Catalog, College website, etc.) were determined by the faculty of College of Music, in accordance with the rules of the Graduate School and the University of Colorado. These formal written policies are used to guide all decisions made by the faculty and administration, and students are expected to refer to them often as they work toward earning their degrees. All official decisions pertaining to degree requirements, including special exceptions granted by the faculty or Associate Dean are recorded in written form and kept in the student’s digital file. Oral agreements are not considered binding without written record in the student’s file (e.g., official letters, printed email communications, etc.). The faculty regularly reviews all Degree Plans and academic policies; the most current versions are posted on the graduate advising website. When degree requirements change, students may choose, with the consent of their faculty advisory committee, either to follow the revised plan or to continue with the degree as it was defined when they began the program. Many College of Music policies are governed by the Graduate School Rules for the campus; other important campus policies are detailed at the Graduate School Website.

The University's Honor Code

The College of Music expects all students to abide by the University of Colorado’s Honor Code, which promotes “academic integrity, moral and ethical conduct, and pride of membership in a community that values academic achievement and individual responsibility.” The Honor Code Pledge is posted across the campus and also appears on many course materials as a reminder that honor is a fundamental value at CU: “On my honor as a University of Colorado at Boulder student I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this work.” The Honor Code system is comprised of various committees that support students and faculty in the implementation of the code. The Honor Code website includes essential information and links to numerous resources that help students to understand plagiarism and other violations. It also explains the formal processes in place for reporting suspected violations and imposing sanctions on students found guilty of violating the code. Because this information is readily available, the faculty assumes that students have studied it closely, and therefore students cannot claim ignorance as an excuse for violating the Honor Code.

All suspected violations of the Honor Code must be reported to the campus Honor Code office. The academic and non-academic sanctions for violating the Code can be severe; so please take the time to review the information at the Honor Code website, especially the “Student Information” section.

Preliminary and Major Field Examinations for Incoming DMA Students

Immediately prior to beginning DMA degree work, students are required to take diagnostic Preliminary Examinations in music theory and musicology. The preliminary exams are offered online two times a year, two-three weeks prior to the beginning of Fall semester and one week prior to the beginning of Spring semester. Specific dates are announced in advance by the music Graduate Studies Coordinator, and students are expected to plan accordingly. The required preliminary exams differ slightly depending on the major area of study. Consult the Preliminary/Major Field Exam Requirements document and the Preliminary Exam Preparation and Remediation Information document for these and other important details.  Students who earned a BM or MM degree from CU-Boulder are exempt from the written theory (not including tonal and post-tonal analysis), aural skills, and musicology/ethnomusicology preliminary exam requirements. 

Results for each exam are posted anonymously as Pass (equivalent to B– or higher) or Remediate prior to the first week of classes. Any exam not passed on the first attempt may be taken a second time. IMPORTANT NOTEStudents who miss the scheduled mandatory preliminary examinations (for any reason) before their first semester of study must take the exam on the scheduled date during the week before their second semester and will forfeit their right to attempt a failed exam a second time.

Students who do not pass any required preliminary exam should begin enrolling in remedial course work no later than their second semester of study, and are expected to address all deficiencies as soon as possible. Students can petition the Assoc Dean to begin addressing deficiencies during the second year, based on degree plan requirements.  

Keyboard, strings, woodwinds, choral conducting, orchestral conducting, and voice students also must take the Major Field examination during orientation week. The scope and format of this examination vary by discipline, but the general aim is to evaluate the student’s background in areas directly relevant to their chosen major. For example, voice majors are asked questions about music history and literature (with a focus on vocal and operatic repertoire), phonetics, and stylistic analysis/score identification of German and French Song examples. The area faculty uses the Major Field examination to advise students on coursework necessary for completing the degree requirements.

English Proficiency

International students are encouraged to be evaluated by the staff in the International English Center (IEC) during the week before classes start. The IEC will recommend any necessary remedial coursework in English as a Second Language, and students are advised to begin enrolling in recommended coursework immediately to receive additional English language support. The IEC provides some scholarship support so that students may study with specialists in ESL instruction.

Doctoral Advisory Committee

The student’s main studio teacher usually serves as the major advisor (chair of the advisory committee) and is primarily responsible for advising the student toward completing all degree requirements. In consultation with the major advisor, the student should form the five-member faculty advisory committee by the third semester in residence. DMA students are allowed to complete one TMUS recital during the first two semesters of the program provided 3 members of the committee have confirmed their membership on the student’s advisory committee. All five committee members must hold graduate faculty appointments, and at least one member most hold the Ph.D. in a research discipline (the research faculty are rostered in music education, musicology, and music theory). Some areas specify the minimum number of committee members from the major area. The members signify their commitment to serve on the committee by signing the Graduate Advisory Committee form, which then must be approved by the Associate Dean and placed in the student’s digital file.

In selecting committee members, students should consider faculty members with whom they have studied directly, as well as those whose areas of expertise are especially relevant to the TMUS performances and research projects. Sometimes a particular area of interest emerges after the committee has been formed, and the student may wish to involve a faculty member who was not a member of the original committee. In such cases, changes to the committee may be proposed by the student, who submits to the music graduate office the Graduate Advisory Committee Substitution form (signed by the affected committee members and the major advisor).

All TMUS recitals and projects require grades and signatures from at least three committee members. (In the case of sabbatical leaves and exceptional circumstances, other qualified graduate faculty members may be asked to substitute for a regular committee member.) Once students are engaged in thesis projects and recitals (TMUS 8xx9), it is critical to plan well in advance to ensure that committee members are available to attend recitals/lecture recitals and also to provide detailed guidance on research projects. Students needing an accompanist are advised to schedule their recital(s) the semester prior the intended semester of the recital. Students are also advised to request and confirm a pianist prior to scheduling their recital date. A pianist must be requested at least 9 weeks prior to the scheduled recital. Students are required to announce the recital date to all committee membersMost College faculty members hold nine-month academic appointments that begin in mid-August and end in mid-May. Therefore, students should not expect faculty to do committee work during the summer unless special arrangements have been made directly with the faculty member. Faculty members grading the recital or lecture recital, except in extenuating circumstances as determined by the committee chair in communication with the Associate Dean, attend the recital. Other committee members may attend the recital, watch the recital via livestream (if available) or watch a video of the recital in order to offer feedback to the student or a recital grade.

DMA Degree Plan/Advising Checklist

A  degree plan should be formulated under the guidance of the major advisor and advisory committee during the first year in residence. The advising checklist serves as your individualized degree plan as it contains a semester-by-semester schedule for all required course work, tentative dates (e.g. fall or spring) for the written and oral Comprehensive Examinations and a schedule of the TMUS recitals and projects (the latter should include a brief description of the topic whenever possible, along with committee member graders). To help with planning your registration all TMUS courses are set up as variable credit. DO NOT register for more than the total number of credits required for each project. The advising checklist should be signed by the major advisor and submitted to the Associate Dean (via the no later than the third week of the third semester of residence.

Students should also submit the Graduate Advisory Committee form to the graduate studies office no later than the middle of the second semester in residence.  Careful planning helps the student to anticipate required courses that are not offered annually, faculty leaves, and to complete the degree as efficiently and economically as possible.

Course Requirements

Students must take a minimum of thirty hours of course and dissertation work.  In general, DMA students receive weekly applied lessons during the first four semesters of the degree, regardless of lesson credit registration (which is variable dependent on the degree). During subsequent semesters, students receive weekly lessons in preparation for recital/dissertation project performances. 

Some areas of specialization require more than thirty hours, including specific course work prior to or in conjunction with work on dissertation projects. Some students may be advised to take course work in preparation for the Comprehensive Examination.  Two 6000-level Advanced Studies courses, one in musicology (or ethnomusicology) and one in music theory, must be completed prior to scheduling the Comprehensive Examination (prerequisites for the seminars are six hours of graduate-level course work in each of the two fields). Please consult your own Degree Plan for a detailed list of requirements.

Grades and Quality of Work

Grade Point Average: A student is required to maintain at least a B (3.0) average in all work attempted while enrolled in the Graduate School, and a student must have at least an overall 3.0 average to receive a graduate degree. Courses in which grades below B- are received are not accepted for doctoral degree programs or for the removal of academic deficiencies. (Grades received in foreign language courses taken to fulfill the language requirement are not used by the Graduate School in calculating grade point average.)

Courses taken toward the fulfillment of requirements for graduate degrees may not be taken pass/fail. Graduate students may not register for more than 15 credits during any one semester.  Students whose cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0 at any time during their graduate career will be placed on probation by the Graduate School. See pp. 14–16 of the Graduate School Rules (2021 edition) for further information about academic standards.

An “I” or incomplete grade may be given when students, for reasons beyond their control, have been unable to complete course requirements. A substantial amount of work (50% or more of course requirements) must have been satisfactorily completed before an “I” grade request can be considered. See the Incomplete Grade Policy and Procedures for Graduate Students document for more information.

Transfer Credit

Previous graduate-level coursework may be transferred toward the DMA degree requirements (up to a maximum of 21 semester hours for doctoral students), after completing 6 credit-hours at CU.  Students who wish to transfer previous credits should obtain the Request for Transfer of Credit form. Carefully follow the instructions before submitting it to your major advisor for their signature.  The signed form, along with an original transcript, is then submitted to the Graduate Studies Coordinator, then to the Associate Dean for approval, who then forwards the form to the Graduate School for final approval.

Coursework taken (e.g., to complete a master’s degree) at CU-Boulder (or at other CU campuses) does not need to be transferred. The Graduate School does not allow courses counted toward another completed doctoral degree (at CU or elsewhere) to be transferred toward the requirements of the DMA. On the individual Degree Plans, courses listed as 0–x credit hours typically are background courses that do not need to be transferred toward the minimum 30 required hours for the DMA.

Foreign Language Requirement

Brass & percussion; collaborative piano; choral conducting; orchestral conducting; voice; and musicology students are required to demonstrate foreign language proficiency before being allowed to take the comprehensive examination. The choice of the language(s) must be approved by the student’s advisory committee.  Specific requirements include:

Brass & Percussion: Passing score on a common foreign language repertoire terms exam

Collaborative Piano: One year of French, German, or Italian 

Choral Conducting: Two years of one language

Orchestral Conducting: Two years of one language

Voice: One year of two languages (selected from French, German, or Italian) or two years of one language. Students must petition the voice area to accept two years of one language and/or to accept other languages

Musicology: Two years of two languages or specialty language training (with approval)

Proficiency must be demonstrated by completing a second-semester (for a one year requirement) or fourth-semester (for a two year requirement) undergraduate course within six years of admission to the degree program or by passing the foreign language translation examination. Students can fulfill year 1 foreign language proficiency by taking a reading knowledge course, (for ex German 1500) and earning a grade of B or higher, with Assoc Dean approval. The two-hour translation exam asks students to translate prose excerpts related to music, song or aria texts, and/or passages from opera libretti. Students are allowed to use dictionaries, grammar guides, and verb charts (e.g., 501 French Verbs) during the examination. 

Currently, the College of Music offers year 1 and year 2 foreign language exams in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. A student can petition the Associate Dean to take a foreign language exam in another language. A proficiency exam and grader must be available, and the alternate foreign language request must be approved by the student’s advisory committee. 

Because international students whose native language is not English have already demonstrated their proficiency in a second language before being admitted, they are exempt from this general language requirement, but they must fulfill additional discipline-specific requirements where required.

Please contact the Associate Dean to schedule your foreign language exam. Students needing to retake a foreign language exam are scheduled on a case-by-case basis.

Comprehensive Examination

A student is eligible to take the Comprehensive Examination when all course work (including the foreign language requirement) has been completed, and with the permission of the student’s advisory committee. The comprehensive exam is usually taken in the fall (between October 1- November 1) of the third year of study, but it must be taken at least one semester before completion of final degree requirements. Students should avoid scheduling the written portion of the exam any later than the tenth week of the semester. In extenuating cases (e.g. student is taking a doctoral seminar course in the fall of the third year), students typically take the written portion of the comprehensive exam between finals week and the week prior to the first week of spring semester classes. In such cases, the oral portion of the exam is typically scheduled between Feb 1-15. 

The student must be enrolled full-time during the semester when they take the exam. Students must file an Application for Admission to Candidacy with the Associate Dean at least two weeks before taking the exam.  Because the Graduate Studies Coordinator must coordinate the scheduling of exams and file official documents with the Graduate School, students must communicate with their advisory committee and the Graduate Studies Coordinator well in advance. (If necessary documents are not filed in time to meet Graduate School deadlines, the exam is canceled and must be rescheduled.)

The Comprehensive Examination is designed to assess the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge within the major area and beyond. The content is not limited to course work taken at CU-Boulder. Some committee members will provide general information about the nature of their question, but others may opt not to offer much detail in advance of the examination. Faculty members are not expected to provide their question in advance of the exam. Passing the written and oral portions of this pivotal examination determines whether or not the student advances officially to doctoral candidacy, and therefore the faculty expects thorough preparation. A successful candidate must receive affirmative votes from a majority of the members of the examining committee.  In case of failure, the examination may be attempted once more, after a period of time determined by the committee. On occasion, the student's advisory committee will grant a "conditional pass" on the comprehensive exam.  In such cases, the student's major professor, along with the advisory committee, will determine what conditions must be met before the exam will be considered "passed" or what parts of the written and oral examination are to be repeated.  If any part of the exam is to be repeated, students should not necessarily expect identical questions.  In all cases, the student will be notified in writing by the major professor as to the requirements prescribed by the advisory committee and a deadline for completing the requirements.

Each committee member submits material to the Graduate Studies Coordinator one month prior to the first day of the written exam. The major advisor then reviews the questions from the other committee members and constructs the four-day written examination. The questions may pertain to the student’s coursework or research interests, or they may address broader topics or areas of expertise that are expected in the student’s chosen discipline. Some committee members will provide general information about the nature of their question, but others may opt not to offer any details in advance of the examination. Comprehensive exams are administered online except for questions that require library reserve/reference materials (that cannot be checked out to the student) and/or no use of the internet. The student may choose the order in which to write responses for each day of the examination. Students write for four consecutive weekdays, and are scheduled to write from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Thurs. through Fri., rest on the weekend, and then finish the exam on the following Mon. and Tues. Typically, three days of the exam will be from the student’s “area” committee members, with the fourth day being split between the “outside area” member and the “PhD” member. At the discretion of the committee chair, the “PhD” member may be asked to submit a full-day question, with a committee member from the student’s “area” submitting a half-day question. Faculty are expected to complete their review of written responses 1-2 weeks after the student has completed the written portion of the exam. 

The oral portion of the Comprehensive Exam lasts approximately two hours and should follow the written examination by a period of not less than two weeks nor more than thirty days. Students are advised to simultaneously schedule the written and oral portions of the exam. Because all five committee members must be present, the oral examination should be scheduled well in advance, before the end of classes for the semester. It is the student’s responsibility to determine a mutually acceptable date and time with the committee members, and to reserve a room for the exam. Comprehensive examinations shall not be scheduled during the summer (from May through August). 

The committee chair is responsible for providing guidance on how to prepare for the oral exam. DMA students are expected to explain, elaborate on, and orally defend their written responses without much, if any, guidance from committee members. Therefore, committee members may or may not provide verbal or written feedback to students prior to the oral portion of the exam. Committee members should inform the student in advance what kind of feedback, if any, the student can expect prior to the oral portion of the exam. The student is responsible for soliciting feedback from committee members prior to the oral portion of the exam. In cases where students need to substantially expand their written responses, faculty will provide written or verbal feedback to the student at least one week prior to the oral portion of the exam. 

See this document for more information on Comprehensive Examination procedures and preparation. 

Continuous Registration

Once a student has passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination, he/she is reclassified by the Graduate School as a candidate (category D-DMA), beginning in the semester immediately following the exam. The student must then enroll and pay tuition and student fees for fall and spring semesters of each year until attaining the degree or formally resigning. After becoming a candidate, the student will enroll in any remaining TMUS dissertation project hours or TMUS 8029, Candidate for Doctor of Musical Arts degree, until the degree is completed. In the rare case that a student has enrolled in all required courses but has not yet passed the Comprehensive Examination, he or she will enroll in TMUS 8019, Pre-candidate for Doctor of Musical Arts degree, until attaining candidacy status. Please see the advice below in the Dissertation section regarding strategies for enrolling in TMUS recitals and projects.


The DMA differs from the Ph.D. degree in that the dissertation is comprised of 5-6 performance, research, and/or composition projects rather than a single, extended dissertation. The DMA dissertation projects (numbered TMUS 8xx9) are listed in Category III of each Degree Plan, and there are different requirements depending on the major area. Dissertation projects include: recital/conducting practicum, chamber recital, lecture recital, research lecture, repertoire project, editing & arranging project, pedagogy practicum, major document, and recording project. After successful completion of relevant course requirements, DMA students will be advised to begin work on dissertation projects concurrently with preparation for the Comprehensive Examination. Thus the student may earn dissertation hours throughout the entire program, while taking other coursework.

Though the TMUS projects are numbered sequentially, they may be completed in any order, according to the guidance of the major advisor and the student’s committee. Most students schedule the first TMUS recital or concert during the second or third semester in residence, and proceed to other projects each semester thereafter. DMA-Jazz Performance students are permitted to play one required recital off-campus, provided the venue is approved by both the department chair and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Please see the Jazz Studies Off Campus Recital Guidelines for more information. The faculty strongly recommends that one of the non-performance projects (e.g., pedagogy practicum, research lecture, etc.) be undertaken no later than the fourth semester in residence.

For each non-recital project, the student should select one member of the faculty advisory committee to serve as the main advisor (not necessarily the committee chair), who guides the student in preparing a written prospectus, which is then submitted to the faculty advisory committee for their suggestions and approval. A thoughtfully conceived prospectus is critical to launching a successful dissertation project. Students are encouraged to propose projects that ultimately will have multiple future uses in the beginning stages of their professional careers: as publications, conference presentations, interview presentations, and so forth.  With the approval of the faculty advisory committee and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, some DMA programs permit students to do a recording project for one of the TMUS dissertation projects.  Details can be found in the DMA Recording Project Guidelines document.

Before the student proceeds with the project, two members of the committee must agree to serve as first and second readers, who will guide the project to the final draft, which is then presented to the committee as a whole. Required documents should be in their final form before the public presentation of each lecture. Most students underestimate the length of time it takes to work through successive revisions with the faculty committee, so it is imperative to plan very carefully and communicate regularly with the advisor and committee.

Enrollment Advice: Because the TMUS projects collectively comprise the DMA Dissertation, and some take longer than one semester to complete, the Graduate School allows some flexibility as to when students enroll for each recital or project. If a recital or project is not completed during the same semester as registration, an IP (“In Progress”) grade is recorded. The IP grade is later replaced with the letter grade assigned by the faculty advisory committee, and the student does not need to register again for the same TMUS project. This means that when a student drafts a degree plan with the advisor, he/she may decide to enroll for a project one semester before or after the semester in which it is actually completed. Because DMA candidates must be continuously enrolled until graduation, it is usually more sensible economically to maintain enrollment with TMUS projects each semester instead of TMUS 8029 (Candidate for the DMA), which does not otherwise count toward degree requirements.

Students are required to submit TMUS written documents to CU Scholar via the Research Submission Page form as the approval document. 

Students are required to submit recital recordings for on-campus and off-campus recitals to be archived. Please see the recital scheduling page for recording submission information.  

Final Oral

The third major examination, in the final semester of registration, is a defense of all work done for the degree, with emphasis on the dissertation documents individually and collectively.  All required documents should already have incorporated the final revisions suggested by the committee and be ready for official approval and signatures at least two weeks before the examination occurs. The final oral usually lasts one hour and is open to the public; students are encouraged to announce their final oral to the department and to attend final orals of their peers in preparation for their own exam. As in the case of the oral Comprehensive, the student is responsible for arranging the date and time of the final oral with the five committee members and scheduling a room for the exam on the Student Information page.

CU's Graduate Teacher Program

Most students pursuing the DMA are planning on faculty careers in Higher Education. Some will already have experience as studio or classroom teachers, or have taken coursework in education (some DMA degrees at CU require coursework in pedagogy). Whatever the student’s previous experience, CU’s acclaimed Graduate Teacher Program is an especially valuable (and free!) resource for refining one’s teaching skills. The GTP offers workshops and training throughout the year, and some graduate students decide to work toward obtaining the Graduate Teacher Certificate and or Professional Development Certificate. The College of Music typically has two Lead Graduate Teachers, who are current graduate students, and who act as liaisons with the campus GTP office.  Workshops are offered throughout the year, within the College as well as on the campus at large. Find current information and resources on the GTP website.

25% Teaching Appointments:1 credit-hour scholarship

Compensation for 25% teaching appointment includes 5 credits of tuition remission each

semester. Compensation also includes a maximum of 6 credit hours of funding to be applied

toward degree required courses dispersed as a scholarship from the College of Music over the

course of your degree. Registration for the credit hours covered by the College of Music scholarship will be determined under advisement at the discretion of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. During the first year, if you are a nonresident or international student, the 1 credit-hour scholarship will be covered by the College of Music at the nonresident tuition rate. During all subsequent years, the 1 credit-hour scholarship will be covered at the in-state rate. For international students, the additional credit hour will be covered at the nonresident rate for the duration of the student’s appointment.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

CPT is one type of off-campus employment authorization for international students on an F-1 visa. CPT is authorized in conjunction with registration for an internship course approved as a support course needed to complete one or more of the dissertation projects required for your degree. 

There are two, 1 credit hour internship courses you can register for in conjunction with CPT, depending on the nature of the work:

  • MUSC 5908: Internship in Music Business: Music or music business organizations, including but not limited to ensemble performance, accompanying, conducting, and arts organization work
  • MUSC 5446: Supervised Teaching Practicum: Teaching at a community music school or school-based program

NOTE: Internships are regular work that are not one-time music engagements (gigs), with a minimum of 42 hours of work required per semester. MUSC 5908 is repeatable up to 3 total credit hours, and MUSC 5446 is repeatable up to 5 total credit hours. Both courses must be taken for a letter grade. It is strongly encouraged that you discuss the possibility of CPT with your faculty advisor in your first semester of coursework to determine if a music internship will add value to your studies.


Step 1: Read through the CPT guidelines

Step 2: Contact an ISSS counselor to determine the first semester you are eligible to apply for CPT.

Step 3: Meet with your faculty advisor the semester prior to internship course registration to confirm their approval of internship course registration for the following semester. The internship should help to prepare you for research or performance requirements for one or more of your dissertation projects. 

Step 4: Ask your faculty advisor to email the Assoc Dean confirmation that internship course registration is needed for the following semester. Faculty advisor approval is needed no later than two weeks prior to the start of the semester.   

Step 4: Register for the appropriate internship course.

Step 5: Apply for part-time CPT authorization. Be sure to list the Assoc Dean as your academic advisor and as the graduate program advisor. The CPT start date indicated in your offer letter must be at least 10 business days from the day you submit your CPT Request in the MyISSS portal to allow time for the Assoc Dean to sign the e-form and for ISSS to process the request. 

Pre-completion OPT (Optional Practical Training)

Work authorization is needed for off-campus work that occurs on a less regular basis (e.g. gigs, subbing in an orchestra). See the pre-completion OPT website for more information on how to apply for this authorization. Use of any practical training (both pre- and post-completion OPT) is counted cumulatively with only a total of 12 months allowed for practical training. Pre-completion OPT will count against that 12-month total and reduce time available for post-completion OPT.