After you Apply: Next Steps

Once you have submitted your application to the Music Education Ph.D. program, an acknowledgement will be sent to the email address you have included in your application.

Track your application status

  • You can track the status of your application online using uApply.
  • If you have questions about your application, contact the admissions office through the uApply communication tool. We will also contact you through uApply if we need more information from you.
  • If you are unable to get in touch with us through uApply, contact us by email or telephone.

Waiting for news?

After we have reviewed of everyone's applications, we send out decision notifications. You will likely hear from us between mid-February and April 15th.

  • We make every effort to notify all applicants as soon as we can.  In return, we ask for the courtesy of a response, usually within three weeks of receiving an official acceptance. A prompt response from you allows us to make decisions about candidates on our waiting list.
  • First round scholarship offers are typically made within three weeks of receiving an official acceptance; subsequent rounds are offered as they become available.  Deadline to accept the offers are final.

Already accepted? Start preparing for placement exams

These exams will determine whether your academic preparation for the Music Education Ph.D. program is sufficient. Depending on the exam results, you may be required to take certain remedial courses in Music Education or other undergraduate preparatory courses.  All of these courses form an additional part of your program of study.

About one month after you accept our offer of admission, placement exam descriptions will be sent to you. You will have three weeks to complete and return them. You are not required to have an invigilator, but you are expected to write these examinations without assistance (internet, text books) and within the allocated time for each question.

It will take you about 5 hours to complete your placement exams. You can start preparing now by following these general descriptions:

Sample questions

Music Education (3 hours)

Essay questions covering historical and contemporary music education philosophies and methodologies, string, brass, woodwind, vocal, orchestra/band techniques and choral conducting, and recent research developments. Example questions:

  1. Trace the important events in the history of compulsory music education in either Canada or the United States from 1850 until the present day.
  2. Outline briefly the historical development of one of the following elementary music methodologies: Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, Dalcroze with a focus on its introduction into North America.
  3. What do you believe are the major factors influencing the implementation of Music Education programs in contemporary classrooms? Discuss.
  4. Music education research is expanding beyond the traditional classroom to include early childhood education, community music, and life-long learning. How should the field react to this in terms of teacher training?
  5. Using a common problem experienced by music students (i.e. breathing issues,  rhythmic inaccuracy), explain how you would identify and solve this issue in a classroom or studio setting based upon current research findings.
  6. Technological advances are drastically changing the contemporary music education studio and classroom. Critically analyze the use of 1-2 of these advances and their possible impact upon teaching and learning.

Music Theory (2 components, 1 hour each)

A. The 19th-century analysis exam [1 hour] is an analysis of a large-scale form (usually one movement of a sonata), with discussion of its normative and non-normative aspects as defined in Part IV of Caplin, Classical Form, and its motivic materials, as well as identification of chromatic harmonies as presented in Chs. 26-31 of Aldwell/Schachter/Cadwallader, Harmony and Voice Leading or a similar theory textbook (applied chords, extended and altered chords, Neapolitan sixth chords, and augmented sixth chords).  The chapters include relevant exercises. Example questions:

  • Johannes Brahms, Sonata for clarinet and piano in F minor, op. 120 no. 1, mvt. 1 (view PDF file):
    1. Keys, cadences, harmony: Annotate the score, using the symbols you are used to, of the following two passages: mm. 1-24 and 77-89. Label all cadences and clearly indicate any modulations. 
    2. Form: Answer the following questions pertaining to the form:
      1. What is unusual about the tonal organization of the recapitulation in relation to Classical norms?
      2. To what extent does the tonal organization of the recapitulation conform to Classical norms?
      3. In what measure does the recapitulation begin? Why?
      4. What is unusual about the tonal organization of the subordinate theme group in relation to Classical norms?
      5. To what extent does the tonal organization of the subordinate theme group conform to  Classical norms (i.e., the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven)?
      6. In what measure does the subordinate theme group begin? Why?
      7. What are the boundaries of the transition?
      8. In what measure does the main theme end? Why?

B. The post-tonal analysis exam [1 hour] is a consideration of the pitch structures in a work, using set theory or twelve-tone theory where appropriate, discussion of motivic relationships, and structural shifts in rhythm, texture, register and timbre.  Chs. 1, 3, 7 and 10 of Roig-Francoli, Understanding Post-Tonal Music are recommended for study and include sample questions. Example questions:

  • Charles Ives, “The Cage” (view PDF file):
    1. Analyze the pitch structures within the work, their potential for combinatorial and complement relationships, and the realization of such relationships, and/or lack thereof.
    2. Discuss the phrase structure, rhythmic organization, texture within the piano part, relationship of piano and vocal parts, and use of register.
    3. How do the musical elements discussed above relate to the title or text of the song?
    4. Comment on which aspects of this song are typical of Ives’ compositional oeuvre, and which are not.

Supplemental reading list

Music Education:

  • Abeles, H.F., Hoffer, C. R., & Klotman, R. H. (1994).  Foundations of Music Education.  (2nd ed.)  New York: Schirmer Books.
  • Chosky, L., Abramson, R. M., Gillespie, A. E., & Woods, D. (1986).  Teaching Music in the 20th Century.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Elliott, David.  Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education.  Oxford University Press, 1995. 
  • Kohut, Dan.  Musical Performance ... Learning Theory and Pedagogy. 
  • Madsen, C. & Madsen, C. (1978).  Experimental Research in Music Education.  Raleigh, NC: Contemporary Publishing Company. 
  • Mark, M. (1986).  Contemporary Music Education. (2nd ed.)  New York: Schirmer Books. 
  • Merrion (1989).  What works: Instructional Strategies for Music Educators.  Reston, VA: MENC. 
  • Schafer, Murray.  Creative Music Education. 
  • Various journals:  Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, and Psychology of Music.
  • Philosophic Foundations and Developmental Sections in Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning.  ed. R. Colwell.  Schirmer Publications, 1992. 
  • Method books (instrumental, vocal, and elementary). 

Music History:

  • Chadabe, J. (1996). Electric sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall. 
  • Assayag, G. (1998). Computer assisted composition today. First Symposium on Music and Computers, Corfu. 

19th-Century Analysis:

  • E. Aldwell, C. Schachter, and A. Cadwallader, Harmony and Voice Leading, 4th ed., chaps. 28-33
  • S. Kostka, D. Payne, and B. Almen, Tonal Harmony, 7th ed., chaps. 21-25
  • William Caplin.  Analyzing Classical Form.  New York: Oxford University Press, May 2013. 

Post-tonal Analysis: 

  • Joel Lester.  Analytic Approaches to Twentieth-Century Music.  New York: W.W. Norton, 1989.
  • Joseph N. Straus.  Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory.  3rd ed.  Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • Miguel Roig-Francoli.  Understanding Post-Tonal Music.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.


As a new student at McGill University, you may have a lot of questions on the resources available on campus to support your academic and personal success. You can contact our Graduate Studies staff anytime. Orientation and advising takes place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

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