The Graduate Composition and Theory Program at the University of California, Davis, provides an invigorating and liberating approach to the art of music composition. Our highly selective program investigates many of the areas vital to young composers developing their craft in today’s world of endless choice and options.
Each year, the UC Davis Graduate Composition and Theory Program sponsors performances of the graduate composers’ works by the Empyrean Ensemble, the Department of Music’s new music ensemble-in-residence. Additionally, numerous artists-in-residence visit our campus each year, allowing for additional readings, performances, and recordings of graduate composers’ works. Many of these events take place in the magnificent Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Our graduate composers have collaborated with the Lyris and Calder Quartets, Alarm Will Sound, Firebird Ensemble, Yarn/Wire, Wet Ink Ensemble, Tony Arnold, and Paul Hillier, among other distinguished artists. Our graduate composers regularly participate in highly competitive workshops and summer courses, such as June in Buffalo, Wellesley Composers Conference, Norfolk Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, highScore Festival, to name a few.
The annual UC Davis Symphony Orchestra Composition Reading gives our graduate composers the chance to learn how to write for orchestra. The UC Davis Department of Music and the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts also sponsor a bi-annual music festival and composition workshop, which offers additional performance opportunities for our graduate composers.
Our Ph.D. candidates typically finish the program in 5 years, during which time they usually receive regular financial support from the University of California. Our graduate composers also gain valuable teaching experience by serving as TAs for a number of undergraduate courses.
Philip Acimovic, a Ph.D. candidate in music composition, has received a Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Educational Foundation Dissertation Writing Fellowship for the academic year 2017-2018.
Acimovic’s dissertation analyzes three musical works from different eras that challenge established musical conventions of clarity, intent and perception: “Musical Offering” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1747), “Holiday Symphony” by Charles Ives (1913) and “Melodien” by György Ligeti (1971).
Consideration for program admission requires:
• An Office of Graduate Studies online application with fee by the stated admission deadline.
• A bachelor’s degree comparable to a degree from the University of California in both distribution of academic subject matter and scholarly achievement
• Three letters of recommendation (recommenders can be listed in the “Recommendations” section of the application. Letters are submitted by the recommenders themselves to the application.)
• Official transcripts
• GRE scores (subject test in music not required)
• TOEFL or IELTS score (if applicable)
• Samples of work (a single PDF file of three recent scores) should be uploaded in the “Writing Sample” section of the application. Please be sure that all sound files are complete recordings, not excerpts. A link to recordings of the same three scores should be entered in the “Other Information / website link” section of the application. The recordings must be linked in a ready-to-play format using programs such as Sound Cloud, Band Camp, or on a personal website. The admissions committee will not listen to recordings that must be downloaded. Do not send hard copies of scores or CDs.
If you do not have a website or other link, please send your Mp3 sound files to email@example.com. If your scores are larger than 4 MB, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure that your file names begin with your last name.
• A CV
• A minimum GPA of 3.0
Composition and theory Ph.D. students must successfully pass an exam in two foreign languages, one of which must be a language relevant to the student’s fieldwork / research.
After the second quarter of the second year, students take comprehensive examinations, and then draft their dissertation proposal. At the end of the third year, they take a qualifying examination. Upon successful completion, students advance to candidacy.
For incoming graduate students who have completed their bachelor’s degree, work for the master’s degree is typically done as part of the Ph.D. program. However, with the consent of the graduate advisor and the Dean of Graduate Studies, course work completed at another institution may be credited toward the master’s degree. The limit for such transfer credit is six units from another institution or up to one-half of the unit requirement if earned from another campus of the University of California, provided the units were not used in satisfaction of the requirements for another degree. Students may transfer up to 12 units of work from the Concurrent Courses program offered by University Extension.
Candidates are required to present and successfully defend a dissertation in a final public oral examination. The doctoral dissertation is to be an original composition of scope and substance and an original theoretical or analytical essay. The dissertation is supervised by the faculty and approved by a committee named by the Graduate Division. The final copies should conform to the requirements described by the Office of Graduate Studies.
Length of study
Typical time to complete the Ph.D. is 4–5 years for students holding a bachelor’s degree, and not less than 3 years for students holding a master’s degree. All candidates must be in residence for at least six quarters.