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About the PhD Program in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University

Important Notice to Prospective Applicants (Posted Fall 2013): The Columbia Ethnomusicology PhD program is NOT admitting a new cohort in 2014 for 2015 matriculation.  The Columbia Ethnomusicology PhD program admits cohorts in two out of each three years. We will admit our next cohorts in 2016 and 2017 (with applications due Dec. 2015 and Dec. 2016, respectively).  Please contact Prof. Fox with any questions about this schedule.

The head of the Ethnomusicology area faculty committee for 2013-14 is Aaron Fox (  Please contact Prof. Fox with inquiries about the PhD program or the application process only AFTER reading the description below and the Frequently Asked Questions page.  Together, these two sources provide a detailed description of the structure and mission of our graduate program, offer valuable insights into our application process, and explain our funding structure for PhD students.

The information in this description is subject to change. Current students should note that this description (and the FAQ) are also the official policy documents of the program, providing specific interpretations, relevant to students in the Ethnomusicology area, of the encompassing policies of the Department of Music and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 


In this section you will find advice for potential applicants, and a detailed description of the Ethnomusicology PhD program in the Department of Music at Columbia University.  (Again, please also read our "Frequently Asked Questions" page if you are considering applying to the program!)

Advice to Prospective Applicants to the PhD Program in Ethnomusicology:

The deadline for applications for the following academic year is usually in mid-December, but can be as late as early January. This date is set by GSAS and is NOT flexible! Please make sure you check this year's deadline on the GSAS application page. ALL applications are processed online by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. No materials should be sent directly to the Music Department or to any faculty member. Please contact the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for deadlines and admissions procedures.The Department does not receive applications until GSAS determines that they are complete.

Note: We do not offer a part-time enrollment option, a distance learning program, an MA-only option, or enrollment at mid-year.

Degrees Offered:
M.A., M. Phil., and Musicology/ Ethnomusicology affiliated with the Department of Music. at Columbia University. Note that we do not offer an "M.A.-only" option. All applicants are assumed to be seeking the Ph.D.

The Center for Ethnomusicology incorporates a digital media laboratory, special library collections, the Laura Boulton sound archives and other audio archives of historically important field recordings, and a field research equipment collection. We sponsor regular colloquia, concerts, and conferences featuring important scholars and performers. Other resources are available through the Columbia Center for Jazz Studies, the Columbia Computer Music Center, the Columbia University Music Performance Program, the World Music Ensembles Program, and the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program. Our setting in New York City provides access to one of the richest and most diverse musical scenes in the world.Columbia's library system is one of the largest in the world, and includes many specialized collections of interest to ethnomusicologists. Columbia University maintains specialized centers and programs in East Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, Slavic and Central Asian Studies, American Studies, African Studies, African-American Studies, Asian-American and Latino Studies, Western European Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Gender Studies, and many other fields of study. The University also has one of the top Anthropology Departments in the United States. A formal consortium agreement allows Columbia graduate students to take selected courses for credit at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, New York University, Fordham University, New School for Social Research, Princeton, Rutgers University, Stony Brook University, and The Teachers College. Multi-year fellowship support (described in detail below) is available for approximately two to four entering students per year.

Ethnomusicology Website:

Kevin Fellezs
(PhD, History of Consciousness [American Studies], University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004) Assistant Professor of Music and African-American Studies.  Black Music; Jazz; Fusion; popular music studies; Hawai'i and the Pacific; Asian and Asian American Studies; Native and Indigenous Studies.

Aaron A. Fox (Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Texas 1995) Associate Professor of Music; Chair, Department of Music. Popular music; working-class cultures; language and music; race, class, and indigeneity; ethnographic theory and method; history of social thought; linguistics; Native American Studies; cultural and intellectual property issues.

Ana María Ochoa Gautier (Ph.D., Ethnomusicology and Folklore, Indiana University 1996) Associate Professor of Music; Director, Center for Ethnomusicology: cultural policy, music and armed conflict, intellectual property, history of aurality, Latin American Cultural Studies, music and globalization, coloniality and modernity.

Christopher Washburne (Ph.D., Ethnomusicology, Columbia University, 1999) Associate Professor of Music; Chair, Ethnomusicology Area Committee, 2008-9; Director, Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program. Jazz; Salsa; Latin American and Caribbean musics; music and identity; performance.

Postdoctoral Fellows With Ethnomusicology Affiliations:

Melissa Bilal (PhD, Music, University of Chicago, 2013) Mellon Teaching Fellow in Music

Martha "Marti" Newland -- (PhD, Ethnomusicology, Columbia, 2014) Core Teaching Fellow, 2014-16

Program Description:
The Graduate Program in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University is a transdisciplinary program centered on critical and applied approaches to the study of music and sound as central perspectives on human social life. We emphasize the social scientific tradition within ethnomusicology, and have extensive interdisciplinary dialogues with the fields of anthropology, cultural studies, popular culture studies, media studies, history, and sociology. We also focus on critical theory and on subjects such as modernity and tradition, nationalism and globalization, indigeneity, cultural rights, intellectual property rights, new media and technology, cultural policy, music and violence, music and gender, among other emphases which strengthen our relationships with other fields and disciplines. We emphasize rigorous, sustained field research as the basis of the discipline's unique contribution to musicology and social thought. Increasingly, we also emphasize applied, policy-oriented, public-facing, and collaborative approaches to ethnomusicological research. 

The graduate program requires three (or four, in some cases) years of coursework for the Ph.D., including a two-semester foundations seminar sequence (intellectual history of the field and key ethnographic texts), and a year-long field methods seminar (resulting in a Master's Thesis project based on fieldwork in New York City).

Typically, students take 3 courses per semester for a total of 9 credits per semester, but in some cases students take fewer courses per semester. Eighteen credits are required for the MA and 24 credits beyond that are required for the M Phil. ("doctoral candidacy" or ABD status). We also require at least a year of full-time field research for the dissertation, demonstrated competence in two languages other than English (including an oral exam in a fieldwork language, if applicable), and the completion of a rigorous sequence of exams prior to doctoral candidacy.

All students (except those admitted with advanced standing) must complete an M.A. thesis based on substantial field research in New York City (supported by a two-semester sequence of field research seminars). Advanced standing, which exempts a student from one year of coursework and the M.A. thesis requirement, is only granted to students with Master's degrees from peer institutions, and who have completed a substantial ethnographic (fieldwork-based) thesis equivalent to theses written in our program. Advanced standing is granted only on a case-by-case basis, and only after a student is enrolled in the program.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) requires all students to complete the MA degree within two years of entering our program, and we observe this rule strictly unless there are significant mitigating circumstances -- health or family emergencies, for example, necessitating a personal leave -- along with strictly enforcing the requirement that the thesis be substantially finished (in near-final draft form) by the beginning of the first semester of year two. In most cases, students have met all requirements for the MA when they have completed the thesis. The emphasis of our program is on the PhD dissertation, and immediately upon completion of the MA thesis we expect students to turn their attention to the development of an original contribution to the scholarly literature that will be the foundation for their dissertation research. Indeed, we generally hope and expect that the MA project will lead the student, directly or indirectly, toward that project.

The program is constantly under revision and may change from year to year. Here are the current requirements for students enrolling in the forthcoming year (in general, you can expect to be held to the requirements in force in the year you matriculate in the program):


Year I, Fall Semester: Proseminar in ethnomusicology 1 or 2 ) depending on what is offered that year), Fieldwork Methods 1 and one elective within the Music Department (9 credits)

Proseminar in Ethnomusicology I: An Intellectual History of the Field --  This course aims to contextualize the modern enterprise of Ethnomusicology and the cultural study of music in a broad history of musical and social thought reaching back to the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of modern science, the political and economic contexts of colonialism and social change in global modernity, especially within Europe and the United States (but obviously as affecting peoples and cultures around the globe), and the specific disciplinary history of major contributions to social thought about music since the 1890s, the modern era of "Comparative Musicology," the "Anthropology of Music, " and "Ethnomusicology" as institutionalized disciplines, concluding with a consideration of the rise of cultural studies and popular music studies as alternative disciplinary and theoretical and empirical foci. (In some years, students will begin the Proseminar sequence with “Proseminar II,” which is dedicated to reading important examples of musical ethnography, and is complementary to Proseminar I).

Field Methods I -- The first of a two-semester required sequence of courses in field-based ethnographic research, the goal of this course is to assist students in developing an independent ethnographic research project in New York City. There is some reading of the literature on fieldwork and ethnographic methodology, but most of the course is devoted to the practical tasks of developing a research problem, seeking and entering a field research site, conducting interviews, documenting musical performance in context (including practical skills in audio and video recording and photography), and organizing preliminary fieldwork into the form of a fully realized research proposal. The work done in this seminar is typically continued by students into the Spring Semester, when it is continued in the second course in the Field Methods sequence.

Proseminar in either Historical Musicology or Music Theory -- We expect  our students to take a proseminar in one of our sister musicology disciplines (both are offered annually).

Year 1, Spring Semester (9 credits)

Research Seminar. This course explores different topics in the field of ethnomusicology and of critical thinking about music and sound in general. The specific topic to be explored will change from year to year.

Field Methods II -- A continuation of the first course, this course is run as a workshop, in which students bring materials to class from their work in the field and discuss problems and issues related to both the field research itself and the development of a theoretical and analytic framework for writing about this research. Assignments will be tailored to specific problems raised by specific projects and lead to the writing of the thesis. As the semester proceeds, students will begin to turn in drafts of their MA thesis, and the goal of the seminar is to oversee the completion of a complete draft of the MA thesis by the end of the semester. The MA Thesis is conceived of as an extended publishable project of 35-40 pages. A final, edited and revised draft (as mentioned above) will be due at the beginning of the Fall semester of year 2.

Elective in Area Studies: A course of the student's choice, from a long list of possible choices offered around the University and at the consortium schools, in which a student is able to pursue some specific area of potential research focus for the MA and PhD projects to come. This choice is made in consultation with the entire Ethnomusicology faculty in an advising session at the beginning of the semester. Area studies may be defined by region but also by topic (i.e. media studies, anthropology and nature, etc.).

Year 2, Fall Semester (typically 6-9 credits)

Proseminar 2: Contemporary Musical Ethnography (alternates with Proseminar 1, – students must take the two seminars during their first three semesters in the program). Description: this course entails an exploration of topics in contemporary critical theory of music by closely examining a series of key contemporary and historical ethnomusicological works -- primarily ethnographic monographs.

Elective research seminar in Ethnomusicology, anthropology, or a related field -- generally related to the project focus of a student's developing MA/PhD project, but not necessarily so. If a research seminar -- even on a topic unrelated to a student's major area of interest -- is offered within the Ethnomusicology program, this will generally be the best choice for most students. (Chosen in consultation with the Area Committee advising process)

Elective courses in anthropology, Ethnomusicology, area studies, etc. (chosen in consultation with the Area Committee advising process).

** Depending on a particular student's need for time to write, conduct fieldwork for the MA thesis, complete any remedial language study, begin more advanced language study, and begin teaching or other work under the terms of the fellowship offer, a third course may not be required by the Area Committee for any particular student in this semester if it places too great a burden on the student in the context of these other obligations, since it is possible s/he will already have met the 18 credit minimum requirement for the MA degree.

Year 2, Spring Semester (typically 6-9 credits)

Research Design Seminar. The focus of this semester is the early process of preparing for the exam sequence and the dissertation project proposal. The objective of this research design seminar is for the student to prepare a successful dissertation project proposal and the bibliographies for the exams. The course requires intensive writing and the individual reading required for creating a successful proposal.

Since most students will have met the 18 credit requirement for the MA degree, this semester is relatively flexible. Students should plan on taking at least two seminars or courses, preferably at least one of which is directly related to their area of primary interest for dissertation research, and any required ethnomusicology seminar that is offered (see above) which has not already been completed, in the event that such a seminar is not offered in the Fall (this may occur due to scheduling and faculty availability).

The focus of this semester is the early process of preparing for the exam sequence and the dissertation project proposal. Therefore, any coursework done in this semester should be oriented toward completing requirements, developing a dissertation project, and accumulating the 24 additional credits (8 courses/seminars/independent studies) necessary for the M.Phil. degree, which is the precursor to doctoral candidacy, achieved upon completion of the doctoral exam sequence and the successful defense of a dissertation proposal (including meeting all Institutional Review Board requirements for human subjects research compliance).

Year 3: The Exam Sequence

Note: See the "Year 4" section below for an explanation of how we are accelerating our program so that students begin to apply for external field research funding in Year 3.

During the third year in residence, students are expected to develop a balance of courses and seminars to prepare for dissertation field research and grant writing. The emphasis is not on requirements or the accumulation of credits (although most students will still need some coursework towards the accumulation of the 24-credit requirement for the M Phil, past the 18 credits earned for the MA degree) but on the acquisition of knowledge necessary to compete for outside funding for field research, to design a dissertation project that will comprise an original and major contribution to ethnomusicological scholarship, to publish or present at meetings research already completed or in development (for example, research based on the MA thesis), and to prepare for exams. Be aware that students are frequently very busy teaching as well during this year, and striking a balance between these competing demands is difficult and important. Here is the sequence of exams. Many students also seek funding for dissertation research beginning in Year 3, and it is possible for highly motivated and well prepared students to complete the exam sequence in Year 3 and begin dissertation field research in Year 4 in our program.

Exam 1: Analysis Presentation -- This exam is ideally taken at the beginning of the Fall semester of the third year. For this exam students are asked to submit several musical "artifacts" (CDs, instruments, websites, films, etc.) related to their major area of interest. The faculty will choose one submission and the student has 30 days to develop and present a "conference-style" paper on one of the three choices assigned, with no assistance from faculty members. This presentation should be professional in tone and manner, last exactly 20 minutes, and present an “ethnomusicological analysis” of the assigned artifact, balancing issues of sonic and social significance, the immediate features of the artifact itself and some of the myriad contexts in which the artifact might be said to make sense or be located -- or for that matter, within which the artifact might be problematic or controversial. The presentation should be explicit about the theoretical premises of the analysis presented. After the presentation, a discussion with the Area Committee members in attendance for the presentation (which is also open to other faculty members) ensues, during which the student is evaluated on her/his ability to field and address questions of the sort one might expect at a conference presentation or job interview.

Many of our students have developed their Analysis Exam projects into conference papers and publications.

Exams 2 and 3:  Written Comprehensive Exams:

Exam 2: “General Ethnomusicology” and
Exam 3: “Major/Minor Area”

These exams, taken beginning in the spring of the 3d year (and usually extending into the fall of the 4th year for Exam 3)  consist of two five-hour sessions, during each of which a student writes three essays in response to three of five possible questions posed by the area committee for each session (based on questions submitted by the student for the Major/Minor area exam; questions are developed by a faculty committee for the General Ethnomusicology exam). The first session, entitled "General Ethnomusicology," (taken in January of the third year) tests students on their mastery of the history and practice of the discipline, the legacy of key figures in that history, and the trajectory of key ideas in that history. Increasingly, this exam focuses on contemporary popular music and media studies. The second session, entitled "Major and Minor Areas," tests students their mastery of the areal and theoretical literatures and concepts related to their primary area(s) of research -- the subject of their dissertation project. The “Major” area portion comprises two of the three essays, chosen from three questions developed in consultation with the student. This will usually deal with the “area” literature relevant to the student’s dissertation project, as well as the major theoretical frameworks of the project. The "minor area" requirement generally deals with a related, but modular, area of theoretical or methodological concern related to the student’s dissertation project (or it can deal with a wholly unrelated second “area” of study). Here, we pose two questions and expect one essay. In both cases, the questions posed are based in large part on annotated bibliographies prepared by students and submitted to the Area Committee prior to the scheduling of the exam. For the major area, we expect an extensive bibliography of between 50 and 100 items, at least. For the minor area, we expect a less comprehensive bibliography of 25-50 items.

There is one additional requirement for the M.Phil. degree, which is that a student must pass a proficiency exam in a second language. In cases where a student plans dissertation research in a language other than her/his native language, this exam will be an oral exam in that language, with a qualified speaker (ideally, a native speaker) chosen by the Area Committee, and generally taking the form of a conversation in the language in question with the examiner. In cases where field research will be conducted in a student's native language, this requirement may be met by passing a second reading exam in a different language from the one used to meet the requirement for the MA degree.

At the conclusion of the exam sequence, and assuming a student has 24 credits of coursework past the MA requirements (most have many more) and has passed a second language exam, a student is awarded the M.Phil. degree. This leaves only the successful defense of a doctoral dissertation proposal, and of course, the dissertation itself, successfully defended, as the remaining requirements for the PhD.

Year 4 and Beyond: Grant Proposals, the Dissertation Proposal, the Proposal Defense, Field Research, and Dissertation Writing and Defense

Note: Some students can complete most of the stages listed below during the 3d year. We are encouraging this accelerated scheduled for all students in the program for whom it is possible. The major goal of year 4 in our program is to craft a comprehensive proposal – ideally one that is externally fundable -- for dissertation research. This must be a substantial (25 pp. average) document that explains the theoretical, practical, empirical, and contextual bases for the project. We expect students to begin serious work on this proposal at the conclusion of the exam sequence, during the Summer between years 3 and 4. However, in recent years many of our students have applied for external funding in year 3, concurrently with taking exams. It is certainly possible, for a motivated and well prepared student, to conduct fieldwork in the 4th year and complete the dissertation in the 5th year at Columbia. It is more common to take 6 or 7 years, but even in such cases, we’d rather see the additional years spent on the dissertation itself.

Because the cycle of funding source deadlines favors proposals that are well underway by the Fall of the year before funding begins, we expect that students will spend the Fall semester of their 3d (and if necessary 4th) year applying for as many external sources of fieldwork support funding as possible. We have developed an impressive recent track record in this area, and for the past several years we have led all US Ethnomusicology programs (and most US socio-cultural Anthropology PhD programs) in securing external funding from social science granting agencies for PhD dissertation field research. The majority of our students receive at least one major grant for fieldwork. The department also offers a small number of unencumbered dissertation fellowships, and the University also offers several competitive research and writing fellowships. But you should expect to be a partner in funding your dissertation research. It is very difficult to do field research – especially abroad – unless you win a major grant to support it. However, nearly all of our students do win such grants.

Pursuing external funding may require extensive preliminary fieldwork (often conducted in the summer months between years 2 and 4, often supported by Departmental summer fellowships or small grants such as FLAS summer grants). In any case, as the proposal takes shape, a student also begins to form a dissertation committee. Once the Area Committee as a whole rules that a draft of a dissertation proposal is ready for defense, a defense of the proposal is scheduled with members of the Area Committee and, often, a faculty member from outside the department who will serve on the student's dissertation committee in attendance. (In such a case, the outside member must also agree that the proposal is defensible.) Typically, students approaching a proposal defense approach a member of the ethnomusicology faculty with a request to "sponsor" (or "advise" in the terminology of other universities) her/his dissertation. The sponsor, plus two other faculty members, comprise the core "reading committee" for a dissertation, and it is generally advised that one member of this reading committee be from outside the department. (When the dissertation is defended, two more faculty members, with as many outsiders as necessary to have two on the final defense committee, are added to what is known as the "dissertation defense committee" -- but this leaping far ahead). As a matter of process, the proposal defense can be conducted with any quorum of music department faculty members in attendance (usually three). At this defense, the student presents a brief overview of the project and is then orally examined by the proposal defense committee. If the result of this defense is a positive vote of the faculty members present, the student is then advanced to doctoral candidacy, meaning that all s/he now has left to do is to conduct field research, write a dissertation, and defend it. (No small feat, of course!)

Generally, but increasingly, year 4 is spent doing primary field research, usually with outside funding. And Year 6 (and sometimes Year 7) is spent in residence at Columbia, writing a dissertation. Because our 5-year fellowships can be deferred in any one year for field research away from Columbia, a student whose fieldwork is externally funded for a year can expect to return to Columbia and take up the final guaranteed year of her/his fellowship support (usually entailing teaching duties) while s/he writes the dissertation. Alternatively, if an external grant is taken as "substitutional" funding (replacing rather than deferring a Columbia GSAS fellowship year), the Graduate School will "top up" significant external grants (over $10,000) to the full value of a GSAS fellowship plus a bonus (for a total that is currently over $25,000 in annual stipend, plus tuition and fees).

Support for year 7 is available, but only in cases where the Department's labor needs and fellowship budget allow, and where the student is making strong progress toward completing the dissertation during year 6. (All these numbers can be extended by an additional year if a student manages to fund 2 years of field research from outside or personal sources.)

In their fifth year of GSAS fellowship funding (which, again, could be your 6th year in the program if you externally fund one year), all PhD students in Music are offered “unencumbered” Dissertation Fellowship from GSAS. This allows the student to focus on writing the dissertation with no teaching duties. In some, rare, cases, this fellowship may also be used to support field research if external sources are not found, but we discourage this unless absolutely necessary. The University also offers several competitive dissertation-writing fellowships in addition to these Departmental ones (which, while they are not guaranteed, usually are available to every student in candidacy in year 4, 5, or 6 who has made solid progress); these include the Whiting and Lane Cooper Fellowships (administered through GSAS). Our program has one of the best records of any unit of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for winning these prestigious internal fellowships, as well. We also strongly encourage students who are at the writing stage to apply for external dissertation-writing fellowships where they are eligible to do so, and our students have won a significant number of these as well.

Columbia's GSAS requires the PhD degree to be completed within 7 years (and the MA degree within 2 years, and the MPhil degree within 4. These deadlines are now being strictly enforced by GSAS, and we are enforcing them within our program very strictly, though we will of course consider mitigating factors such as exceptionally difficult or complex dissertation projects, health problems, family crises, pregnancy, etc. as reasons for extensions. Students who do not complete a dissertation by the end of their 7th year risk serious consequences, up to and including being cut from the program without having earned the doctorate. GSAS will not fund PhD students past the 7th year, except in very rare cases, and post-7th year students are no longer eligible for University Housing (again, with rare exceptions). Under a new GSAS policy, after the 9th year, PhD students may not register for credit, which means they are not eligible for Columbia health insurance, library services, or financial aid, until their committee certifies that they are ready to defend the dissertation. At that point, they may register for one semester. We are unlikely to carry any student in the program beyond nine years; if the GSAS 9th year rule is invoked, you will likely be dropped from our program without the PhD. In a nutshell, plan on finishing in 7 years or fewer. In fact, plan on finishing in 6 years, and treat the 7th year as a contingency.

We have instituted strict oversight of the progress of students in candidacy -- in the field, and especially, in the writing phase, requiring reports on progress every semester and the submission of new work to the entire area committee (not just the dissertation committee of the particular student in question) with each report. GSAS also expects an annual report on progress, certified by a faculty adviser, from every student in year 2 or beyond in all Arts and Sciences PhD programs. The major GSAS deadlines must be met in a timely manner to continue on in our program.

The program is small and exceptionally communal. Approximately 12-15 students are in residence at any given time, with another few in the field, and we have produced approximately one or two Ph.D. graduates per year in recent years. In the past five years, graduate student research has been sponsored by the Fulbright Fellowship Program (Hays and IIE), The Wenner-Gren Foundation, The Korea Foundation, The Social Science Research Council (7 fellowship grants since 2001), The National Science Foundation, IREX, The Mellon Foundation (for Summer research grants), The Ford Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education's Foreign Language Area Studies program, among others.We have the premier record among ethnomusicology programs in the United States for external funding of student field research. Recent and current students have worked in Senegal, Kenya, Ukraine, Togo, China, Korea, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mali, Nepal, The Republic of Georgia, the Czech Republic, Panama, Canada, and Argentina and at numerous sites around the United States. Our students present papers at national meetings on a regular basis, and frequently publish significant articles during their graduate school career.

Columbia graduates work at universities across the country and around the world, including the University of Chicago, Oklahoma University, The University of Tennessee, Evergreen College, Ramapo College, University of Richmond, University of California at Santa Barbara, Connecticut College, Ewha University (Korea), The Graduate Center of CUNY, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal), Bar-Ilan University (Israel), Reed College, The University of Toronto, University of Pittsburgh, The Ohio State University, Tulane University, The University of Hawai'i,  and many other institutions. Our Ph.D. graduates have received several numerous post-doctoral fellowships as well, including Yale University, Kenyon College, Cambridge University (UK), Oxford University (UK), University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, New York University, Columbia University, and the University of Leiden, among others.  Over the past decade our program has a placement rate of approximately 85% in tenure track jobs or postdoctoral fellowships (and usually both, in sequence) within 2 years of completing the PhD. (See our complete placement record.)

The goal of our program is to prepare a small number of students for careers in academic research, teaching, and activism. Applicants should also be aware that we do not offer an M.A.-only option. We admit students with the expectation that they are seeking the Ph.D., and know why they are seeking a Ph.D. All students in the program are on a Ph.D. track pursuant to satisfactory academic performance.

Fellowship Support and Admission Requirements and Procedures:
Fellowship support, provided by Columbia University and the Mellon Foundation, includes an annual stipend of approximately $26,000 (and an additional $3200 in  summer support), each year for five years;  coverage of all tuition and most fees, subsidized housing in university apartment buildings, health insurance, and opportunities for additional funding for summer research, language study, and attendance at scholarly meetings to present original research. A $1000 annual child care subsidy and married student housing are also available to help support students with families.

Fellowship offers normally extend to five years of guaranteed support, and may be extended beyond that term in some cases to as many as seven years (usually involving intervening external grant and fellowship support, which the vast majority of our Ethnomusicology PhD students do in fact obtain). Additional part-time employment opportunities are available in the Center for Ethnomusicology.Students on fellowship are expected to teach or assume other duties after the first year in residence -- during the second, third, and fourth year of their five year package.

All students also receive final-year dissertation fellowships unencumbered by teaching duties in the fifth year (unless deferred by external support in a prior year). Many of our students also win competitive internal and extenral dissertation writing grants, and the majority win multiple internal small grants and awards that help support their research.  (Many students work as musicians in various settings as well to supplement their income.) The Center for Ethnomusicology also frequently directly subsidizes research expenses and conference travel for Ethnomusicology students over and above the modest amount of subsidy for conference travel available from GSAS.  New York City can be a challenging place to live on a salary of approximately $30,000 a year even with subsidized housing, and applicants should consider this.  But in real terms, your income is likely to exceed this amount if you take advantage of the diverse opportunities for supplemental funding and support as well as paid work.

We offer teaching assistantships and instructorships in some ethnomusicology courses (such as our two "Asian Music Humanities" courses), and in the department's undergraduate core course, "Music Humanities," as well as an assistantship in the Center for Ethnomusicology and two assistantships connected with the student-produced journal Current Musicology.

Specific additional support is available for students from recognized minority groups and also to a wider range of admitted candidates from non-traditional or academically under-represented backgrounds, as assessed by the Graduate School. Our program has an extraordinary record for diversity, including having two Ford Fellows currently in the program. 

Please contact Dean Andrea Morris at Columbia GSAS's Office of Minority Affairs ( for information, or write to Prof. Fox.

Please be advised:
Admission to our program is highly competitive. We make only three to five funded fellowship offers per year, in two out of every three years, and we see many more qualified applicants than we can admit in each cycle.

Admission and fellowship decisions are based on a student's prior educational record, demonstrated writing ability in English (please submit a substantial writing sample with all applications; non-native speakers of English must submit a TOEFL test score and an English writing sample), GRE scores (General Test only; Music Area exam not required); three letters of recommendation, preferably from faculty members who have directly taught the student and/or supervised the student in an independent research project; and prior experience with musical and cross-cultural research and travel. Relevant foreign language skills are a strong qualification.

We seriously consider applicants with undergraduate degrees in all fields. Most of our students are also musicians, but that is not a requirement for admission to the program. Because many of our top applicants are comparably qualified, a number of other factors come into play when we select an entering class. These are described more fully on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Prospective applicants should contact Professor Fox, the Chair of the Ethnomusicology faculty Area Committee (2013-14) by email ( as soon as possible in the application cycle, but only after they have read the FAQs page. We encourage (but do not require) prospective applicants to visit our program during the Fall of the year in which they apply to meet our faculty and students, visit our classes and seminars, and view our facilities. We especially encourage applications from women, military veterans, and members of groups which have been historically under-represented in American academia. Our admissions process is the same for international students or US citizens, with the exception of TOEFL requirements for international students. Our funding offers are the same for both international applicants and US citizen applicants.

Online Resources:

A Brief History of Ethnomusicology at Columbia: There has been a tradition of ethnomusicological research at Columbia University since the days of George Herzog, who taught here from 1938 to 1948. In the 1920s Herzog, as a student of Erich M. von Hornbostel and Franz Boas, merged European comparative musicology and American anthropology into what is now called ethnomusicology. that is, the study of music as a vital aspect of human culture and social life. Many distinguished scholars in the field of ethnomusicology have been associated with the university, including Bela Bartok and David McAllester (1940s), Curt Sachs and Walter Wiora (1950s), and Laura Boulton, Willard Rhodes and Nicholas England (1960s), prior to the establishment of a formal doctoral program in ethnomusicology and the Center for Ethnomusicology during the year 1965-66. Since then, such scholars as Adelaida Reyes (formerly Reyes-Schramm), Philip Schuyler, Harold Powers, Peter Manuel, Sean Williams, Kay Shelemay, Daniel Ferguson, Steven Feld, John Baily, Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, Barbara Hampton, Gage Averill, and Stephen Blum, among others, have taught in the program.

Contact Us:
: MC 1825, Columbia University, 2960 Broadway, NY NY 10027
Tel. 212 854 9862
Fax: 212-854-8191
Email: (Prof. Aaron Fox, Chair, Ethnomusicology area committee 2013-14)

Further Information Online

Read the "Frequently Asked Questions" Page For Much More Information On Our Graduate Program

View the Music Department's official "Handbook for Graduate Students in Musicology" (including Ethnomusicology and Music Theory).

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