DMA Manuscript: Guidelines and Requirements

Definition and Scope

A DMA manuscript is required for either Option II (recording) or III (fifth recital). The manuscript is a 25– 30-page writing project that serves as a companion to the recording/recital. It offers intellectual context for the program as well as professional-quality descriptions of repertory and performers.

As stated in the Graduate Handbook, a program of unrelated, non-cohesive works is unacceptable. The student, in consultation with their major professor, should choose a program that has some kind of thematic cohesion, be it:

  • A composer’s works in a particular genre or for a particular instrument
  • Tracing a single musical genre across several centuries
  • Presenting representative works in a national or cultural tradition
  • Exploring meaningful connections between diverse composers or genres (e.g., innovative works for the instrument)
  • Some other connecting concept

However, for conductors in particular, a single large work may substitute for a series of smaller works.

The text of the manuscript should display the student’s ability to communicate their thinking about music as a future professional performer, educator, and researcher: a scholarly understanding of their chosen repertory and an artistic understanding of the program’s cohesiveness. Typically, the manuscript includes:

  • A detailed discussion of the artistic rationale for the program
  • An historical/cultural and analytical consideration of the works performed
  • In the case of recordings, biographical notes about the performers

Guidelines for the Written Manuscript

Manuscripts may take any approach(es) to the music that the student can demonstrate is/are appropriate, but should reflect an awareness of several factors relating to the chosen repertory:

  • Scholarly literature relevant to each piece and/or to the approaches (methodology or methodologies) used in the manuscript (historical, cultural, analytical, pedagogical, etc.)
  • An understanding of important stylistic elements of the repertoire
  • A familiarity with important contextual issues for each piece (e.g., how the pieces fit into the composer’s overall career, the music’s original performance context, issues relating to the music’s later reception history, its pedagogy, or other issues as appropriate to the repertoire and the methodologies chosen).

The depth of discussion required for each factor and each piece will depend on their relative importance to the repertory concerned and to the point(s) being made. For example, manuscripts involving newly composed works or improvisations should contextualize the music in terms of the works’ influences, background, and aesthetic intent.


The manuscript should be rooted in a clearly defined thesis (main point to be demonstrated) about the project’s significance. In most cases this will be a statement of the unifying factor related to the style and/or context of the chosen works, but may be another topic of the student’s choosing, as outlined above. This thesis should then be supported by arguments using examples and evidence from authoritative sources and the music itself. The thesis should be grounded in an introductory literature review of relevant research, where recent and authoritative sources on the works in question (encompassing historical, cultural, pedagogical, analytical, and/or other approaches) are addressed, as appropriate to the thesis.

Appropriate Sources and Citation

Ideas from these sources should be appropriately cited using Chicago style, and the sources should be included in a full bibliography. Citations of textbooks or shorthand reference works (such as Grout/Palisca/Burkholder’s A History of Western Music or Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians) are not appropriate, but citations to scholarly literature, relevant editions, and/or primary source material are required, as appropriate. Evidence that can be considered ‘common knowledge’ (well known facts, such as composers’ dates) does not need to be cited.

The bibliography for the project should be complete: that is, it should reflect exhaustive bibliographic searches in reference sources and databases that are appropriate to the topic(s). Depending upon the nature and scope of the project, a discography or videography may also be relevant. The student should be aware of the current state of knowledge on the particular pieces, issues, and areas about which they will be writing BEFORE they begin the writing process. Students who are not sure how to execute such a search should refer to Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, ed. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, et. al., 8th or 9th ed. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 2007/2018). They may also consult their advisor and appropriate members of their committee.

Discussion of the Music

Discussion/Analysis of musical details should be specifically related to the thesis. Effective analyses are constructed around important issues rather than a simple “blow-by-blow” description of musical details. Suggestions for successful performance or pedagogy may certainly be part of this discussion, in which case the suggestions should be carefully linked to the score/recording and to the scholarly literature on the topic. Musical examples should employ clear labels and captions indicating the example number, composer, title, and measure numbers (for scores) or track timings (for recordings or video). Permission must be obtained from copyright holders for use of their work. On writing about music specifically, see Jonathan Bellman, A Short Guide to Writing About Music (New York: Longman, 2000), which can be found at the Gorgas Library Circulation Desk under the call number ML3797 .B4 2000.

State of the Manuscript at Submission

Issues with spelling, usage, and grammar should be addressed before submitting a manuscript to the advisory committee. It is the responsibility of both the student and the primary advisor to assure this is the case. The committee is not responsible for copy-editing students’ manuscripts. Please consult the UA Writing Center ( or a professional editor if necessary. The committee reserves the right to return manuscripts to students if basic grammatical, organizational, or methodological problems need to be corrected.

Example of a successful DMA manuscript: Teodora Pejasinovic Proud

The Manuscript Proposal

The main purpose of the proposal is to demonstrate that the student is prepared to fulfill these requirements. Therefore, the proposal should contain clear statements of the following (see above for specific descriptions of the requirements):

  • A list of the repertoire and a short discussion of the unifying principle of the program
  • A statement concerning the work previously done by others on the repertoire and the issues concerned, with citations
  • A statement of the thesis (main point to be demonstrated), and a brief discussion outlining the reasoning for the choice of methodology (approach to the repertoire)
  • An outline of the argument and the evidence that will be used to establish the thesis
  • A well-researched and complete bibliography in correct (Chicago style) format

For help in fulfilling any of these requirements, the student should consult the following reference works, and may also consult the members of their committee:

  • Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, ed. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, et. al. 8th or 9th ed. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 2007/2018)
  • On style, spelling, and usage: The Chicago Manual of Style, on-line:, and through the UA library website under “databases.”
  • On writing about music specifically, see Jonathan Bellman, A Short Guide to Writing About Music (New York: Longman, 2000), which can be found on reserve at the Gorgas library Circulation Desk, under the call number ML3797 .B4 2000.

Timelines and Deadlines

There are established deadlines for completion of all DMA final project options; DMA Documents, DMA manuscripts, and DMA Recording Projects. The School of Music Graduate Student Deadlines page indicates these deadlines and time frames for your final document and defense. The timeline ensures that your major professor, committee chair, and other committee members will have sufficient time to carefully assess your work and provide the necessary guidance and critical reading for a successful paper.