School of Music

Graduate Program Information for Matriculated Students


All incoming School of Music graduate students must take the Graduate Placement Exams scheduled on or about the first day of classes. The exams test knowledge of music theory & ear training and music history and literature. Also, composers will be tested on orchestration. Consult the School of Music for sample exams and the exam schedule.

Description of the exams:

  • Music History and Literature
    • The content of the music history exam will be based on information contained in a standard text on music, such as Grout/Palisca A History of Western Music or Stolba The Development of Western Music.
  • Theory & Ear Training
    • Ear training: identify intervals and chords, and detect errors in a dictated example; notate the following from dictation: melody, harmony, and rhythm.
    • Theory: harmonize a chorale melody in a common-practice style, SATB; analyze the thematic, formal, and harmonic structures of a short Classical or Romantic work and a brief 20th century work.
    • Sight Singing: sightread a melody containing chromaticism and modulation.
    • Keyboard Harmonization: harmonize at sight a melody using appropriate common practice chord progressions.
  • Orchestration (for composition students)
    • Know the ranges and transpositions of orchestral instruments
    • Prepare a piano reduction of a short orchestral excerpt
    • Orchestrate a short passage from keyboard to large ensemble


All graduate students in music must take exit exams in music history and music theory. These exams will be graded pass / fail. Each exam may be taken no more than three times. Students unable to pass after three attempts must withdraw from the program. Other requirements are particular to specific programs; please consult the faculty in these programs for a list of requirements.


  • All music graduate programs must be completed within six years from the date of matriculation
  • Students must maintain a B average in all course work and must have no grade lower than B-. Students who receive grades lower than B- will be reviewed for retention in the graduate program. Jury reviews are scheduled each semester for majors in performance and jazz studies. Consult the School of Music for policies on jury review.
  • Transfer credit: Six graduate credits may be transferred to USM from another NASM-graduate credits for work earned at USM in the five years prior to matriculation may be credited to the master's degree.
  • Residency: A one-year residency is required for conducting, jazz, and most performance programs. Performance program in piano requires a two-year residency. Composition requires a two-year residency. Music education has no residency requirement.