Boston MA Music Masters Programs | Performing Arts Master's Degrees

For some people, nothing beats hearing the opening chords of an orchestra as they begin to perform; that is, unless you’re the one performing thanks to your masters degree in music! Whether your passions lie in creating, analyzing, teaching, or performing music, a music masters degree could be the push you need to elevate your techniques to a new, professional level. These degree programs aim to support artists using challenging academics and performance opportunities so that they feel comfortable and confident moving from the educational sphere to a career centered in music. With an array of formats to fit into musicians’ hectic schedule, there could be a perfect music masters degree out there for you! Review Music Masters programs below.

Music Masters Programs

Ready to move on to the next movement of your music education? Keep reading to find out how earning a masters degree in music might be a great choice for a budding performer.

What is a Masters Degree in Music? Choosing an MM, MFA, or MA

When talking about a masters in Music, it could encompass several degree types that deal with performing, conducting, composing, or education others about music. Oftentimes, you may see degree programs offered as either a master of music (MM), master of arts (MA), or master of fine arts (MFA). While these programs may have different titles, they each focus on developing students’ musical ability and their understanding of their craft. In order to give students a strong holistic foundation to use in the professional world, masters programs typically offer courses centered around topics in advanced music history and theory, performance techniques, and critique. Students at many universities are also encouraged, if not required, to take private lessons on their preferred instrument as part of their core curriculum. By doing this, students might be able to apply new instrumentation methods while simultaneously learning about the academics that surround their concentration.

It is important to note that students who wish to pursue music education concentration may find more programs offered in a MA format. This is because these programs are often conjoined with an institution’s general education departments. Students in these programs focus less on musical ability than performance concentrations and instead place their emphasis on pedagogical methods.

When considering the differing curriculum between programs, and variations between institutions, students could expect to earn a masters degree in music in 1.5 to 2 years, although program lengths vary by school.

As you might see from the above sample curriculum, music master degree programs tend to combine performance capabilities with challenging academics. Due to this, admission requirements intend to assess students’ abilities to excel at both. Students may be asked to submit a 3.0 undergraduate GPA in a similar field as well as perform an in-person audition. In addition, some schools require students to complete GRE examinations prior to be excepted to an institution. Check with intended programs for a comprehensive list of application and audition requirements.

Music Masters Programs: Formats

Performers often have varied, if not indeterminable, schedules due to performances, rehearsals, and auditions. In order to combat this, music masters degree programs are offered in a variety of easily incorporated formats that they may be accessible to everyone from the beginning amateur to the overbooked professional.

Masters degrees in music on campus might be an especially great choice for students wanting to pursue performance, conducting, or composing concentrations. By being in the physical classroom, you could have access to professors to oversee your musical development. This might include everything from correcting performance habits, to teaching advanced instrumentation techniques, to providing your first professional contact in the music industry outside of university. Since many of these concentrations require physical critique and adjustment, in-person, professorial attention could be especially helpful as you practice to grow as a performer.  These programs may be a perfect fit for students who haven’t made the jump into the professional sphere yet. The large amounts of time devoted to classwork and the practical application of performance methods might require much of your time, but potentially have a large pay off.

Online music masters programs may better support music master degree concentrations such as music theory, education, or critique. These disciplines may not need the in-person tutelage that performance majors could require for them to accel. Much of this coursework might be easily translated to the online classroom via handouts, textbook support, and discussions within the e-classroom. An online masters degree in music could be a perfect choice for performers who are looking to flesh out their abilities by developing their academic understanding of their craft. The online format is flexible and allows students to log into classes as time allows, making it great for the performer who might not be able to attend traditional class times. This may also be perfect for music teachers who are currently working in the classroom. Masters coursework could be easily incorporated into their busy schedule alongside their grading, extracurricular supervision, student concerts, and general day-to-day administration.

Or, if you’re having trouble deciding between these two options, you could also pursue a hybrid masters in music program. This program format combines the flexible scheduling of the online program with the in-person attention of the on campus. This may be a great choice for current performers looking to broaden their instrumental capabilities. Students could attend online courses while booking performances or auditioning and then attend traditional music classes as their schedule allows. 

Continued Education

After earning your masters degree in music, there are a few ways you continue your graduate music studies. Pursuing a doctoral degree is a common next step for students in the music industry. Depending on your PhD program, students could engage with a number of intense academic subjects in the realms of instrumentation, composition, or music research.

Some students who proceed to this level of study are interesting in conducting their own musical research. This include studying historical contexts, medieval instrument reproduction, ethnomusicology, or even the psychology of music. For more information on many of the degrees offered at the doctoral level, head over to the music PhD program page.

What to do after earning a Masters Degree in Music?

Many students – and perhaps their parents – may fear that when pursuing a career post-graduation, they will fall into the “starving artist” category. Aside from typically associated professions such as performing, a masters in music may open the door for a slew of other occupations. Depending on your concentration and courses taken during your masters degree program, you might consider pursuing some of the following positions:

  • Musician or Singer[i]
  • Music Teacher[ii]
  • Music Director[iii]
  • Composer[iii]

 

While there is typically no post-secondary education requirements for performance, conducting, or composition careers, many (especially in the classical fields) require at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for entry-level positions.[iv] While a masters degree in music may not be required, many employers prefer students with this level of education because it displays that you have a firm grasp of vital, advanced concepts such as music theory, composition, and history that are often not covered in undergraduate coursework.[v] This level of education could qualify you to perform in or direct elite musical groups.

 

Performance, composing, and directorial positions often work on a freelance basis, requiring practitioners to regularly audition for new gigs. Due to their irregularly scheduled hours, professionals may be able to schedule several jobs a month – or even in a day. This could directly affect compensation for these positions, with performers earning $26.94 an hour (or a median salary of $49,030 a year if working part-time)[vi] and directors and composers earning a median of $54,580 a year.[vii]

Teaching positions, on the other hand, require a bachelor’s degree and state mandated teaching licensure in order to pursue a career.[viii] While a masters degree may not be required immediately, many states require educators to earn one after obtaining initial licensure in order to maintain that status.[x] State requirements vary, so check with your local education department for details. Not only could your masters degree in music continue to allow you to teach, but many music educators might use this degree to enhance their own career and maybe step into a school district administrator role.[x] Unlike performance professions, teaching positions could potentially benefit from more stable employment opportunities because many educators remain with a single school district for several years at a time. Teachers could potentially earn a median of $57,200 a year. 

While students may be able to find the above positions throughout the country, states with larger metropolitan and urban areas typically offer more professional opportunities. For example, cities like New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Anaheim, and Chicago boast the highest employment levels of musical occupations in the country.[xii] Before settling down in a particular career, be sure to research your areas ability to support a wide range of musical professions.

Next Steps to Earn a Masters in Music

The conductor has risen their baton which means you’re ready to start your search for a perfect masters degree in music! To continue, scroll down this page to view a list of potential programs. To refine your search, select your preferred degree format from the menus on this page. Good luck finding a perfect masters in music. Or, as they say in the performing world, break a leg!


[i]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm |[ii]bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm |[iii]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm |[iv]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm#tab-4 |[v]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/music-directors-and-composers.htm#tab-4 |[vi]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm#tab-5 |[vii]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/music-directors-and-composers.htm#tab-5 | [viii].bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 |[ix]bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators.htm#tab-4 | [x]bls.gov/oes/current/oes272042.htm#st

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