Master of Arts in Music

Master of Arts in Music

This program provides advanced study for students with highly developed interest and attainment in specific areas of music; prepares teachers for certain types of college music positions; provides prospective doctoral aspirants with a sound foundation for advanced graduate study; provides advanced academic qualifications for public school teachers; and prepares students for professional careers in composition. All emphases require either a culminating creative project or a master's thesis.

All students must complete a 9 unit core requirement and complete an emphasis as designated below. Enrollment is required during the semester of graduation.

Admission to Program

Students should apply by April 1 for the following fall or October 1 for the following spring. Applicants are required to file two applications, one with the University and one with the School of Music. Admission to conditionally classified status requires acceptance by both the University and the School of Music. A departmental application form may be obtained by writing to the School of Music, or by calling (415) 338-1431. University applications may be requested from the graduate admissions office or online at

Requirements for admission to conditionally classified status in music are as follows.

  1. A baccalaureate degree, with a major in music or equivalent musical experience.
  2. A minimum 3.0 grade point average in the last 60 units of undergraduate study.
  3. A completed Application form for graduate study in music.
  4. A 200–500 word narrative statement of purpose. This statement should include a description of the applicant's previous accomplishments.
  5. An official copy of the applicant's undergraduate transcripts, and graduate transcripts if the student has been previously enrolled in a program of graduate study.
  6. Two letters of recommendation from current or former teachers or professionals who are familiar with the applicant's qualifications.
  7. Completion of Graduate Classification Examinations in Music History, Theory, Aural Skills and, for music education candidates, the Music Education Master's Advisory Exam. These examinations must be taken prior to entry into the program. Students who demonstrate deficiencies in one or more areas may be accepted into the program contingent upon remediation of all deficiencies within one academic year of entry into the program. Undergraduate coursework taken to remove deficiencies may not be used as part of the 30 units required for the master's degree in music.
  8. Additional requirements for specific programs are:
    1. For applicants to the Master of Arts in Music with an emphasis in Music Education: a written description of the nature and extent of teaching experience. Applicants must also provide evidence of a valid teaching credential.
    2. For applicants to the Master of Arts program with an emphasis in Music History: representative examples of student analytical papers.
    3. For applicants to the Master of Arts program with an emphasis in Composition: representative scores and, if possible, tapes of recent musical compositions.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One

Applicants to the M.A. program are required to submit writing samples, demonstrating graduate level, discipline-specific proficiency in music research. Samples may include writing assignments submitted to satisfy requirements in undergraduate history courses. Applicants with substandard writing may be considered not admissible. Students who have recently earned an undergraduate degree from SF State may be exempted from this requirement.

Level Two

Level Two is satisfied with satisfactory completion of the Music History seminar from the 750 series.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy occurs when an Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form has been completed by the student and approved by the major advisor, college graduate coordinator, and the dean of the Graduate Division. Prior to completion of the ATC form, the student must have been granted fully classified status (see #7 above); have satisfactorily completed both Written English Proficiency Requirements; have completed at least 12 semester units applicable to the degree with a B average or above; and have successfully completed review of the student's program with the faculty advisor.

Master’s Examination

All candidates for Master of Arts in Music degree must pass a comprehensive examination that demonstrates their ability to communicate, both orally and in writing, their command of music theory, history, research and analytical skills, and musical repertoire. (This examination must be taken during the semester in which the student completes all course work.)

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate and apply advanced knowledge in music analysis and music history
  2. Demonstrate an increased sense of individual composition style and the technical skills to express style
  3. Demonstrate the ability to analyze new works and understand the compositional techniques utilized
  4. Demonstrate the ability to aurally identify, write about and discuss comparative compositional techniques and styles of music and place them in historical context
  5. Demonstrate the abiity to discuss, rehearse and perform contemporary music.

Music (M.A.) — Minimum 30 units

Core Requirements (9 units)

MUS 700Introduction to Graduate Study3
MUS 710Advanced Analysis3
Select one graduate seminar in Music History (MUS 750MUS 755)3

Music Education Emphasis (21 units)

This program is open to students who are either enrolled in the music teaching credential program or are credentialed music teachers seeking advanced qualifications. All candidates must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university and have satisfied the requirements for the San Francisco State University approved subject matter program in music education or equivalent in the candidate's home state or country.

Music Education Courses

MUS 761/852Curriculum and Instruction II: Music (on advisement)3
Non-music electives on advisement9
Students enrolled in the music teaching credential program may fulfill these units with:
S ED 751
S ED 752
Classroom Environment and Management
and Professional Perspectives and Practices
Select one of the following on advisement:3
Creative Work Project
Master's Thesis
Students preparing for advanced study at the doctoral level should complete a master's thesis as a culminating project.

Music History Emphasis (21 units)

Music History Seminars (selected from MUS750–MUS 755)6
MUS 899Independent Study 14
Non-music electives on advisement6
Electives in music on advisement2
MUS 898Master's Thesis3
Foreign Language Competency Examination (French, German, Italian, or other approved language) 2

Composition Emphasis (21 units)

MUS 716Graduate Theory Seminar3
MUS 720Directed Projects in Theory or Composition 21
MUS 725Practicum in Composition 71
MUS 894Creative Work Project3
Non-music electives on advisement6
Approved elective in music1
Foreign Language Competency Examination  (French, German, Italian, or other approved language) 2

Unit totals indicate the minimum requirement. Additional instruction may be required before the thesis/composition is undertaken.


To be successfully completed prior to advancement to fully classified status in the program.