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Graduation Requirements

Admission to Candidacy

Application for Admission to Candidacy for the Master's degree is made only after the student has completed all required review courses and approximately one semester of graduate course work with an overall "B" average in all courses taken for graduate credit.

Admission to Candidacy Forms can be found at See instructions for Completing Admission of Candidacy

After the student has filled out one of the forms, and secured signatures of his/her Master's Committee, he/she must submit the completed copy to the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office.  The deadline for the completed copy to the Music Graduate Secretary is ONE WEEK before the published deadline by the Graduate School. The Graduate School deadline may be found HERE

The Associate Director for Graduate Studies in Music will then check to determine that all degree requirements have been met. The original and two copies of the Admission to Candidacy Form, and one copy of the student's academic history will be submitted to 201 Student Services Building.
The Admission to Candidacy form must be submitted and accepted by the Graduate School before comprehensive examinations can be scheduled.
All review classes must be successfully completed and the Admission to Candidacy form approved before the recital and comprehensive exams are executed.

Comprehensive Examinations

The Graduate School requires all candidates to pass a final written and oral examination. The examination is "not merely a test over course work, but a demonstration of the candidate's ability to integrate materials in the major and related fields" (Graduate Catalog).

In the School of Music, all students must pass a comprehensive written and oral examination as described below. Thesis students must also pass a Thesis Defense.


The completion of comprehensive exams must be no later than November 15 for the fall term and April 15 for the spring term. All portions of the exam must be completed by these dates including the written and oral portion, as well as any requested revisions.  Students would be wise to allow a minimum of one week from their scheduled oral exam for such revisions.

A student may choose to take comprehensive exams at any time during the semester, provided that the Music Library is open, and that the oral exam is completed before the Graduate School deadline as published online.

NOTE: All deficiencies in musicology, music theory and ear training must be removed and the admission to candidacy form completed and accepted by the graduate school before comprehensive exams are scheduled.

The student and Committee Chair should schedule the exams (written and oral) at a time agreeable to the members of the Master's Committee. It is the responsibility of the student to file with the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office a completed copy of the form "Recommended Arrangements for Final Examination" at least TWO weeks before the exam. On this form, non-thesis students list the date, time, and place of the oral exam; thesis students list the date, time and place of the Thesis Defense.  A photocopy of the approved Candidacy Form MUST be attached to the Recommended Arrangements form.

The Pre-Examination Meeting

As soon as the student's Master's Committee has been formed, the committee chair sets up a meeting with the student to review the student's goals, plan of study, etc. After meeting with the student, the Committee will discuss examination questions.

Each of the three Master's members must submit a question for a minimum of three questions on the examination.  Each take-home essay question integrates and assimilates the knowledge and skills gained in course work taken for credit toward the master's degree.

The student will not be given the questions in advance of the exam date. Questions from each member of the committee are due to the Chair by Friday, 5:00 p.m. of the week before the exam. The Committee Chair will then submit the questions to the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office by 9:00 a.m. of the day of the exam.

The Written Exam

The comprehensive written exam takes the form of a minimum of three take-home essay questions that integrate and assimilate the knowledge and skills gained in course work taken for credit toward the master's degree.

The student receives the questions in the main Music Office on a Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. and has until the following Monday at 9:00 a.m. to turn in three copies of the exam to the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office.

The student is excused from class attendance while researching and writing the exam. 

The Oral Exam

A follow-up oral examination is held for the purpose of defending the written examination. During the oral exam, the Committee may ask the student to explain and expand on his/her written answers to the questions, or any other related areas.

The oral examination should be scheduled no sooner than four days after the written examination is turned in.

The Pass/Fail Form

The Committee Chair will put a copy of the student's pass/fail form, signed by the committee with the indication "Pass" or "Fail" and the date, into the student's permanent file in the music office. The Committee Chair should give the original to the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office, to be forwarded to the Graduate School Office at 201 Student Services Building.

The student will give a copy of the written exam to the graduate secretary in the main Music Office; the exam will be placed in the student's permanent file. 

Failing the Comprehensive Exam

In case of failure, the candidate may not be re-examined until the following semester. The result of the second examination is final.

Time Limit

Candidates have six calendar years from the time of enrollment in the Graduate School to complete the degree. Students who change degree programs during this six-year period may be granted an extension after review and approval by the Graduate School.

In any event, courses used toward a Master's degree must have been taken within six calendar years of graduation. 

Applying for Graduation

A student planning to graduate must submit an application for graduation directly to the Graduate School no later than the last day of classes of the term prior to the term s/he intends to graduate.

To be eligible for graduation, a student must be enrolled for at least one hour of credit during the semester they wish to graduate.  The only exception: Students may graduate without being registered in that semester IF they have not completed the final comprehensive exam and they have paid the "exam" fee.  Contact the Graduate School for questions concerning this.

Final Projects for Non-Thesis Programs

The Graduate Recital or Lecture Recital is given in lieu of a thesis by Master's degree students with emphasis in performance, pedagogy, and collaborative piano. A Choral or Instrumental Conducting performance is given in lieu of a thesis by students in these programs. 

Students may not schedule comprehensive exams or perform their recital until the Admission to Candidacy form has been completed and accepted by the Graduate School. 

Recitals and/or pre-recital hearings that are cancelled or failed may not be rescheduled until the following semester. 

Pre-recital hearings and/or recitals may be scheduled a maximum of three times during a student's matriculation. 

A student may attempt a hearing or recital twice.  The result of the second hearing or recital is final.

The Graduate Recital (MUSC 501)

The Graduate Recital consists of the performance of representative repertoire for the student's instrument or voice, chosen in consultation with the major professor. It includes significant works that represent major areas of compositional style for the instrument/voice.

The recital program should be a minimum of 50 minutes in length, exclusive of pauses and intermission.

Any student performing a graduate recital off-campus must file a professional quality recording of his/her recital in the main Music Office prior to the end of the semester in which the recital is given, otherwise the recital will be graded "Incomplete." Recordings of recitals given in the campus concert halls will be submitted automatically by the auditorium manager. A recording fee is required. 

Students are required to enroll in lessons concurrently with MUSC 501 Graduate Recital.  

All graduate recitals should be presented within the greater Knoxville area. All performers that assist in graduate recitals must be approved by the student's major professor.

Scheduling the Recital

After consultation with the major professor, dates for the Pre-Recital Hearing, the Graduate Recital, and the rehearsal times needed in conjunction with these should be scheduled with the Music Office. All forms pertaining to recitals are found HERE.

The student should notify in writing all members of his/her committee of these dates. 

The student should consult the School of Music Office staff at least four weeks in advance of the recital date concerning deadlines for submission of program and publicity material.

The student must submit directly to Susan Harbin at the Recital/Concert Program form of his/her program in which acceptable conventions for printed programs are observed. Handwritten or paper copies are not acceptable.  The program must be submitted no later than two weeks before the recital date

Words and Music by Helms and Luper provides a useful guide to program design. The following sentence must appear on the program: "This recital is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Music degree with a concentration in __________."

The Pre-Recital Hearing

The Pre-Recital Hearing must precede the recital by at least two weeks.

All works, including ensemble pieces, must be prepared for performance at the hearing. The area faculty, at the time of the hearing, will select works to be performed.

It is an expectation that graduate recitals presented at the University of Tennessee School of Music exhibit informed performance.  Performers should be well-versed in the cultural, historical, and compositional/theoretical information related to pieces performed.

The student passes the Pre-Recital Hearing by a majority vote of the student's area faculty.

If the student's area faculty recommends that the recital not be given, the recital must be postponed at least one semester.

The Lecture Recital (Music General 511)

The Lecture Recital consists of the performance of selected works or movements of larger works illustrating one or more aspects of compositional style for the instrument/voice, plus an oral presentation that focuses attention on one or more details of the performance, such as performance practice, analysis, or historical development.

The Lecture Recital program should consist of 25 minutes of performance and 25 minutes of lecture, exclusive of pauses and intermissions. 
Scheduling, Pre-Recital Hearing, and Subsequent Procedures for the Lecture Recital are the same as those for the Graduate Recital, with the following exceptions:

  • At the Pre-Recital Hearing the student must also be prepared to present selected portions of the lecture component of the program.
  • The student must present a written copy of the lecture component of the recital, which serves as the Pre-Recital Paper.

The Choral Conducting Project (MUVC 594)

The Choral Conducting Project involves the preparation and performance of a selected body of choral literature with one of the University choral ensembles or with a choir approved for the project.

In addition to the performance, each graduate conducting candidate will prepare a written critical document about the music being performed.

The Instrumental Conducting Project (MUIN 595)

The Instrumental Conducting Performance involves the preparation and performance of selected works for instrumental ensemble(s) with one of the University bands or orchestra or an ensemble approved for the project.

Scheduling of rehearsals and performance(s) will be arranged in consultation with the major professor and conductors of participating ensembles.

The Master's Thesis (MUSC 500)

A thesis is required of all students working toward a Master's degree with a concentration in Musicology, Music Theory, or Composition, and is an option for students in the Music Education concentration.

The student must register for MUSC 500 each semester that he/she is working and receiving guidance on the thesis.

The Graduate School requires that master's thesis students enroll for a minimum of three hours of thesis (MUSC 500) during the semester in which the thesis is submitted.

The Thesis Topic

A Thesis Topic Approval Form must be submitted and accepted by the student's advisor before the student first registers for Thesis (MUSC 500). This form asks the student to specify the general topic area of the thesis, justification of need for research in this topic area, the research procedure, and a preliminary bibliography. The Approval Form provides places for signatures of the advisor and the area chair.

For the concentration in Composition, the thesis takes the form of an extended original composition and a formal expository paper to be bound with the composition. This paper will place the composition in its proper historical position, set forth clearly the compositional procedures used, detail formal organizational structures used, and place the work in the context appropriate to similar genres in the literature.

The Thesis Proposal

The student, having selected a thesis topic and major professor, will submit a Thesis Proposal to each member of their Master's Committee by the end of the first semester the student is registered for Thesis (MUSC 500).

The Thesis Proposal is a clear statement of the nature and scope of the research to be undertaken.

The Musicology Thesis proposal should include the following elements:

  • Introduction  & Statement of Thesis
  • Scope, Parameters, & Definition of Terminology
  • Discussion of Methodology Employed
  • Review of Existing Literature & Need for the Study
  • Overview of Thesis Contents & Organization

Once the Thesis Proposal is approved by the student's Master's Committee, a copy of the Thesis Proposal and the signed approval form should be given to the Graduate Secretary in the main Music Office.

Guidelines and suggestions for writing the thesis proposal and thesis can be obtained from books dealing with thesis writing, such as the following:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 14th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  • MLA Style and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Modern Language Association of America. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1998.
  • Holoman, D. Kern. Writing about Music: A Style Sheet from the Editors of 19th- Century Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. 
  • Harnack, A. and Kleppinger, E. Online.  A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources. Bedford/St. Martins, 2000.
  • Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 6th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Thesis format

Refer to The Graduate School, The University of Tennessee Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, Tenth Edition. For information on formatting the thesis.  This reference is also available at The University of Tennessee Book Store. In this reference, the authors set forth style and format guidelines for theses to be presented to The University of Tennessee.

Assistance with thesis format is available from the Graduate School thesis consultant. Consultations with the thesis consultant are encouraged while the writing of the thesis is in progress. Theses may be submitted electronically; see information online. General information is available at the UT Thesis/Dissertation Website.

The Thesis Defense

In addition to the written and oral examinations in Music (see Comprehensive Exams below), thesis students must present a one-hour thesis defense. Copies of the thesis, in a form approved by the major professor, should be distributed to the student's Master's Committee at least two weeks prior to the thesis defense.

The Thesis must be read and approved by the chair of the Master's Committee before giving to the committee at large.

Submitting the Thesis

After the defense and upon approval of the thesis, two copies of the thesis on 100% cotton paper, together with the Thesis Approval Form signed by the student's committee, must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than two weeks prior to Commencement. The final date for submission of theses is published online.

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