Musicology PhD HPP Concentration

This is a specialized program within the PhD degree in Musicology offered by the Case Western Reserve University Music Department. Study in this program leads to a research degree that combines comprehensive knowledge of Historical Performance Practices (up to 1850) and music history. A minimum of three years of full-time study in Cleveland should be expected, plus whatever time is needed to prepare for the comprehensive examination, present the lecture-recital, and complete the dissertation (see below).

Admission Information

Admission to the program is granted to those who already show significant expertise in historical performance and who possess the necessary academic skills to become excellent scholars. Applicants will typically have completed a bachelors or masters degree in historical performance, but in exceptional circumstances an applicant who shows great potential without having formal historical performance qualifications may be admitted. Candidates who have passed a video audition and who are deemed by the admissions committee to be academically acceptable are invited to campus for a live audition and interview. The committee admits those candidates whom it considers able to combine and integrate to a very high level their academic and applied studies successfully. (Students may also petition to transfer from the DMA – two current students in the program entered this way.)

Audition Information

Three pieces are required, of differing style and character, with a total length of approximately 20 minutes. We are interested to observe the candidate’s command of various national idioms, ornamentation styles, and other aspects of historical performance as well as the overall level of artistry. Along with the application, candidates should submit an unedited digital audio or video recording for consideration by the admissions committee. From these, the committee will select those who will be invited to travel to Cleveland for a live audition and interview. For these on-campus auditions, it is expected that the candidate will provide an accompanist where applicable, unless arrangements have been made in advance to provide one through the Case Music Department. It is also possible to use the recording in lieu of the live audition, although a campus visit is strongly recommended as part of the audition process. Information on applying to CWRU, including audition deadlines.

Coursework and Applied Music

All programs are formulated to suit the needs of the individual student (based in part on a diagnostic examination taken upon entering the program) and require the consent of the graduate advisor. A minimum of 36 hours of course work, seminars and tutorials is required. In addition, a minimum of three semesters of applied music lessons (MUAP 501, 502, etc.) is required for zero credit hours.

Ensemble Participation

All students in this program will participate in one or more of the Case historical performance ensembles during each semester in which they are on campus. This is in order to benefit from working with the faculty, to learn repertory, and to contribute to the success of the ensembles.

Foreign Languages

Prior to the comprehensive examination, students must demonstrate ability to read in two languages approved by the graduate advisor as relevant to the student’s research. The minimum required level of reading ability is usually attained by the equivalent of two years of college-level study of the language plus further reading in musical and musicological writings in the language.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination is to be taken at the beginning of the third year of study, in September. It consists of two parts: written and oral. The orals are taken within two weeks of the written exam. Questions in the music history portion are drawn from the entire field of Western music and are not necessarily related to topics covered in seminars. The EMPP section consists of two one-hour essays (chosen from four given topics) and four short questions (chosen from six). The other sections each consist of two one-hour essays (chosen from four given topics). The second part of the written exam is an analysis test that requires a detailed critical commentary on compositional and contextual aspects of two works representative of different style periods. The oral follow-up exam, which extends over one and a half hours, focuses on questions posed in the written examination and on issues related to these questions.


One juried lecture-recital, relating to the topic of the student’s dissertation, is required (MUAP 751 for zero credit hours). It is generally presented as the dissertation nears completion. Generally, the lecture and performance components will be of approximately equal length, with the overall event not exceeding ninety minutes, including intermission(s).


A minimum of 18 credit hours of registration is required for the dissertation. (See requirements for PhD in musicology.) These 18 credit hours are in addition to the required 36 credit hours of coursework. The dissertation itself must be a significant scholarly contribution in the fields of musicology and Early Music. (See the Case Western Reserve University guidelines for doctoral dissertations.)

Placement Objectives

This is a select program within the PhD in Musicology and the HPP graduate programs, so there are not a lot of graduates. Nevertheless, we have had excellent success placing students in international fellowship programs and in positions of leadership. One alumnus is Director of the Early Music Program at the USC Thornton School of Music, and we expect that current students will be competitive for top positions nationally.

Download a PDF of the complete degree requirements.

The PhD program in Historical Musicology with emphasis in Historical Performance Practice was reviewed in 2016 as required by the Ohio Board of Regents. The next review will take place in 2024. These program goals and objectives were revised in the summer of 2016.