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School of Music

Music Theory

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The Music Theory program within the School of Music promotes music theory as a subject of broad and passionate interest to performers, historians, ethnomusicologists, composers and theorists.
  • For undergraduates, we offer a wide range of courses with various levels of concentration in the discipline. While many of our undergraduates have gone on to have professional careers in music, others have used their music study as an enriching foundation for other pursuits. 
  • As a unit of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, our program offers M.M. degrees in Music Theory. The graduate program has traditionally prepared its students for careers as scholars and teachers in colleges and universities. Many of our graduates go on to earn a Ph.D. at another university, although some of our graduates have used their Master’s to find teaching positions at junior colleges or to qualify for jobs that combine music studio teaching with music theory instruction.


Students interested in graduate study in music theory will need to apply to both the Graduate School and the School of Music.  Contact Dr. Douglas Rust if you have further questions. 

A minimum of two years is needed to complete the requirements for the Master’s degree. Currently, the main requirements are: 

  • Eleven seminars or courses, spread over the two years of residency
  • Qualifying Examination at the end of the second year
  • Thesis 


  • Tae Young Hong (2016) finished a double major in Music Theory and Piano Accompanying at USM.  He has presented papers on Shostakovich and Ravel at two consecutive SCSMT music theory conferences.  He works as an accompanist at William Carey University where he is studying for his doctorate in educational administration.  
  • Trevor Hunt (2010) is Chair of the Department of Fine Arts & Communication and Director of the Brownstone Center for the Arts at Pearl River Community College. 
  • Rebecca Long (2009) completed her Ph.D. in Music Theory this year at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst.  She previously served as President of the South-Central Society for Music Theory, has taught music theory for two years at Mars Hill University, and currently works as an art archivist at the Redbud Gallery in Houston, TX. 
  • J.D. Frizzell (2008) is Director of Fine Arts at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis, TN, where he was awarded Outstanding Young Music Educator from TNMEA in 2011.  An active conductor of award-winning acapella ensembles and composer, Frizell completed his DMA in Choral Conducting at the University of Kentucky. 
  • Alan Theisen (2006) completed his Ph.D. at Florida State University and, after a year of post-doctorate teaching at Indiana University, he has taken a job as Associate Professor of music at Mars Hill University.  Theisen specializes in the analysis and pedagogy of 20th-century and contemporary classical music. He has presented research at academic conferences on the music of Elliott Carter, Gyorgy Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, and Frank Martin. He is currently writing a book on the late music of Tristan Keuris.



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