3-Year Program

This challenging Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) program is not a double major, but instead seeks to foster musical artists who holistically combine innovative performance practices with new compositional models. In this process, students who are already accomplished composers and skilled executants thoroughly integrate these practices in their original work.

The ethos is exploratory and experimental through and through. Students arrive from diverse stylistic origins, but all are driven by artistic visions that can be realized only by a meaningful expansion of the language of music beyond its current boundaries.

DMA performer-composers work closely with their faculty mentors to develop an individualized course of study, which is built around composition and/or performance lessons, doctoral seminars, topic-driven research and explorations, performance projects and a series of electives. Since DMA students also teach in The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, they are required to continue developing their pedagogical skills through teaching practicums.

Students are required to carry out a Doctoral Project to obtain the DMA degree. Proposals for the Doctoral Project must outline a program of scholarly and creative research that supports a practice of original composition combined with its realization. DMA candidates must pass a First-Year Review, a Qualifying Examination and a Final Review to successfully complete the Program.

Research Areas

Doctoral proposals must outline a program of scholarly and creative research supporting original composition combined with execution by the student. Any proposal that meets this broad criterion will be considered.

CalArts’ music faculty comprises innovative, internationally recognized leaders in performance, composition, improvisation, jazz, world music and music technology. Some current areas of creative activity and research among our faculty include the following.

  • new music composition and performance
  • diverse disciplines of improvisation
  • conventional and unconventional instrumental and vocal performance practices
  • experimental sound practices, live electronic music, installation and intermedia art
  • interactive musical technologies, interface design and robotics
  • new strategies for interdisciplinary performance design
  • experimental jazz, rock, noise and electronica
  • African, Indonesian, North Indian, Persian, Latin and other world musics
  • applied inter-cultural experimentation in music
  • new tuning systems: theory and performance practice
  • contemporary music theory, analysis, history, criticism and aesthetics

All DMA students are eligible to study with music faculty members in any program area. Opportunities exist for collaborations involving CalArts’ Schools of Dance, Theater, Film, Art and Critical Studies.

Application Procedures

Students admitted into the DMA program will have previously attained a master's degree in music, or will have a master’s degree in another field along with skills and knowledge that are commensurate with a master’s degree in music.

Prospective applicants may wish to familiarize themselves with the following information.

  • The Program Requirements for the DMA program as published in CalArts' Course Catalog
  • Course offerings in the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts
  • The faculty members of The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, including their creative and research interests and links to their personal websites.

DMA Faculty

Faculty who have taught in the DMA Program in recent years plus regular Performer-Composer faculty*:

*DMA students may draw on the expertise from any faculty in the Music School who may be available and appropriate to guide their work. 

CalArts' Current DMA Students

DMA Program Alumni



Full Curriculum

Detailed curriculum and academic requirements can be found in the online course catalog.

View Curriculum Requirements 
Filter for Doctorate Courses

Ready to Begin?