Our doors are always open. Members of the theory faculty prioritize being accessible to students throughout their time at MSU, advising them both formally and informally on research, teaching, and professional development.

The combination of pedagogical and scholarly mentoring I received from the faculty at MSU more than prepared me to continue my studies. The faculty are approachable and are experts in the field. I couldn't have asked for a more worthwhile graduate experience.

Samantha Waddell '21, now a Ph.D. student at Indiana University
photo of music theory colloquium

Music Theory Colloquium

Acting as a bi-weekly "studio class" for graduate students in music theory, the music theory colloquium brings faculty and students together to share research, discuss readings, conduct analytical roundtables, welcome guest presenters, and brainstorm about professional strategy. It is also one of the ways in which we maintain such a close-knit community among students, among faculty, and between the two.

The theory faculty at MSU are fantastic mentors; my teaching across disciplines improved dramatically under their guidance. Each faculty member is an inspiring teacher, so theory students get to learn both from their example and through experience followed by specific, meaningful observation and feedback.

Dr. Cassie Keogh '13 (MM Theory), now an Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Clarinet at the University of North Dakota at Fargo

Pedagogical Mentoring

Cara Stroud Teaching

Graduate students grow as teachers through a variety of mentoring opportunities. Most directly, they work with a faculty course supervisor as part of their graduate assistantship, conversing each week about strategies for teaching, supporting, and engaging students. Graduate assistants are also observed in their classrooms at least once per semester. Furthermore, they have the opportunity to teach the large "lecture" class normally taught by faculty for a short segment each semester. And finally, as a capstone to their degree, each Master's student presents a teaching demonstration, which simulates the teaching portion of a job interview.

In addition, graduate students have daily access to faculty members and fellow graduate students for informal conversations and strategy sessions about issues in their teaching.

Even though you might be the only teacher in the room during your assigned lab, you never feel alone; colleagues and faculty mentors are always willing to have conversations about teaching. We build a community where everyone cares about teaching and about making the experience positive for both students and teaching assistants.

Stefanie Bilidas '19, now a Ph.D. student in music theory at the University of Texas at Austin


Career mentoring workshopCareer Mentoring

The MSU College of Music boasts an innovative and wide-reaching program in music entrepreneurship and career services, known as Running Start. The music theory area regularly partners with Running Start to bring career-related programming to students on subjects such as writing a curriculum vitae or cover letter and networking effectively. In addition, career strategy is a regular component of our music theory colloquium, with topics suggested by both faculty members and students on a regular basis. Recent sessions have included interview strategy and writing personal statements.


research mentoring with Gordon Sly

Research Mentoring

Research mentoring begins in the classroom, where students enrolled in MUS 973 (Readings in Music Theory) and MUS 971 (Pedagogy of Music Theory II) pursue independent research projects that often end up as successful conference proposals and article submissions. And the mentoring continues outside the classroom, where students work one-on-one with members of the music theory faculty on research projects of their choosing as part of independent studies. Faculty and students may even have the chance to co-author and co-present their research. Whichever path they follow, graduate students frequently propose and present this work both within and outside MSU.

Michigan State's instruction in music theory has changed the way I think about learning. I have been introduced to a unique level of enthusiasm and an openness to student opinion that have kindled in me a deep love of the subject.

Kayla Makela '20, undergraduate dual major in Music and Computational Mathematics


Degree Advising

Degree advising for graduate students in music theory is shared between the graduate office and the music theory area chairperson. Students meet at least annually with the Graduate Advisor of the College of Music, and at least once per semester with the area chairperson of music theory. However, both are available more often than this. Please contact us if you have any questions or need any advice related to your degree program(s)!