The Master of Music (M.M. or M.Mus.) is, as an academic title, the first graduate degree in Music awarded by universities and music conservatories. The M.Mus. combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization (usually music performance, composition, or conducting) with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The degree, which takes one or two years of full-time study to complete, prepares students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. The M.Mus. is often required as the minimum teaching credential for university, college, and conservatory instrumental or vocal teaching positions.
The M.Mus. is widely available in performance (sometimes with a specialization in pedagogy and/or music literature), composition, conducting, and music education. In 2005, Boston University launched an online Master of Music program in music education, the only fully online program at this level. The music education degree may also be awarded as a more specifically titled Master of Music Education. The master's degree in music theory, musicology, and ethnomusicology is typically the Master of Arts (M.A.). Nevertheless, some universities in the UK (e.g. Sheffield University) utilise the M.Mus. as a special research degree. Programs focusing on sacred or church music may alternatively be labeled Master of Church Music (M.C.M.) or Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.).
M.Mus. students typically complete applied studies, such as lessons or mentoring with a professor, and take courses within their area of specialization. In many M.Mus. programs, all of the different M.Mus. streams (e.g., performance, composition, conducting) take a common core of music theory and music history courses.
Some programs additionally require a sub-specialization in a cognate area within music, such as music history or performance practice, which contributes to their area of specialization. For example, a student doing an M.Mus. in Baroque violin might do a sub-specialization in Baroque music history. Some institutions permit M.Mus. students to do a sub-specialization in a field outside music that contributes to their professional and academic goals. For example, a student completing a M.Mus. in piano pedagogy may be able to do a sub-specialization in the psychology of learning in the university's department of psychology.
The last stage of the M.Mus. degree is usually the performance of one or two recitals and the completion of comprehensive exams. Most programs require that the recitals include advanced-grade pieces that are drawn from the different eras of music history, such as Baroque-era solo suites (late 17th century to mid-18th century); Classical-era (mid-to late 18th century) sonata or concerto; a Romantic-era (19th century) concerto or solo; and a Contemporary era (20th and 21st century) The specific components of the recital vary between schools. Some programs allow students to include chamber music pieces, in which the student plays a major role as part of a chamber group, for some of the pieces.
In some schools, students are required to give a lecture for one or both of the recitals, in which they explain the historical context or music theory or compositional issues involved in the piece or pieces. This approach, called a "lecture-recital", is designed to give students experience explaining and contextualizing the pieces or songs that they perform. This skill is important for performers, because many performers also teach or coach students, and some will go on to become professors at universities, colleges or conservatories, where they may be required to give lectures on music history, theory, or composition.
Some M.Mus. programs require students to pass comprehensive exams on their area of specialization and on subjects such as music history and music theory. The goal of this exam is to ensure that the student has obtained a well-rounded knowledge and understanding of music that extends beyond their specialization (e.g., performance). Since the M.Mus. is the standard minimum credential to teach applied subjects (performance or composition) at universities and conservatories, it is important that M.Mus. graduates have this broader understanding of music history and theory.
To be admitted to a M.Mus. degree program, most institutions require an undergraduate degree or diploma in music, such as a B.Mus. degree or a B.A. degree with a major in music, usually with a grade average of "B+" or higher. M.Mus. programs in performance usually require a live audition that includes advanced pieces or songs from a wide range of styles. Some institutions use videotaped recitals or performances as a pre-screening method. This approach helps to eliminate candidates who do not meet the school's minimum performance standards, and as such, it saves those candidates the time and cost of travelling to the institution for an in-person audition. Some universities have multiple audition locations, to reduce the travelling expenses faced by candidates. Applicants are typically asked for official transcripts from all postsecondary programs and letters of recommendation. Some programs may also request a "statement of intent" or another type of essay, in which the candidate explains why she wishes to be admitted to the program. Some programs may request copies of recital programs from previous performances, or a list of performance experience. In some universities, candidates must also be admitted to the university's graduate school; as such, applicants may have to achieve a certain mark on standardized tests, such as the GRE. Admission to M.Mus. programs in conducting often requires a video recording of a live rehearsals and performances as a pre-screening element. Composition programs usually require the submission of a portfolio of compositions, including scores and recordings of live performances.
The M.Mus degree is usually undertaken to prepare students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers; as such many recipients of the M.Mus. degree do not seek further formal education after they complete the M.Mus. The M.Mus. is the credential that allows them to teach instrumental or vocal performance at universities, colleges, and conservatories. Some graduates do additional graduate or professional study in other areas, such as a law degree or medical degree. Recipients of the M.Mus. may also make use of the general education provided in the degree (e.g., in writing and researching) to get a job in government, university administration, or in the non-profit or arts administration sector.
Other recipients of the M.Mus. may go on to further graduate studies in music by continuing their M.Mus. specialization in performance or conducting at the doctoral level, by completing a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in those areas. Some students branch out to another area of music at the PhD level, such as musicology or music theory. While PhD programs in musicology and music theory normally require an MA in music, in some cases, students with a M.Mus. in performance or composition who show strong promise may be conditionally admitted to PhD programs in musicology or music theory.
As well, some recipients of the M.Mus. degree may go on to do graduate work in another area in which music is a supporting field, such as an Ed.D. in music education (e.g., specializing in music instruction) or a master's degree in Library Science, in order to become a music reference librarian. M.Mus. graduates who wish to pursue graduate studies in an area that is not directly connected with music may be conditionally admitted to PhD programs in areas such as women's studies or sociology, subject to the condition that they complete a list of qualifying courses.