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Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

St Margarets student playing piano


The Doctor of Musical Arts is a three-year full-time programme in Music with three areas of specialisation: Performance, Composition or Studio Production. The DMA offers creative musicians the opportunity to develop their skills to the highest artistic and professional levels, while working within the innovative and stimulating environment of Otago's Music Department.

Attaining a DMA will demonstrate your mastery in a creative field of music perfomance, composition or studio production. The DMA signals to the professional and creative musical world that you are capable of independently conceiving and presenting high quality musical creative outputs in your area of specialisation.

Subject Information

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Regulations for the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Overview of the Degree

The degree of Doctor of Musical Arts is awarded on the basis of the presentation of:

  1. a performance programme;
  2. a portfolio of compositions; or
  3. a studio production.

The submission of an exegesis pertaining to the performances, compositions or studio productions will be required. The exegesis is a scholarly critique and analysis of the process involved in each case. Each artistic production and the exegesis (all of which are considered research outputs) should give evidence of the candidate’s ability to carry out research, that the candidate has shown originality and independence in research and artistic creation, and that the candidate has made a significant contribution to knowledge in the particular field. The work in the exegesis must be at a level worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The research should be of a kind that a diligent and competent student might reasonably be expected to complete within three years of full-time study, and must achieve creative outputs that demonstrate a professional level of skills, competence and originality.

  1. Admission

    1. Admission to the degree programme shall be subject to the approval of the Senate.

      Note: Applications may be made at any time. Applications must be approved before the candidate begins the research work.

    2. Every candidate must be a university graduate and produce evidence of ability to undertake study in the proposed area. Such evidence shall include:
      1. a Bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class Honours or equivalent; or
      2. a Master’s degree (including an appropriate research component); or
      3. appropriate experience in the proposed area of study.
    3. A candidate for a Master of Music degree may apply to transfer to candidature for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts, and may have the date of admission backdated as is considered appropriate.
    4. Initial admission to the degree programme shall normally be provisional, and shall be confirmed on receipt of a satisfactory progress report after no less than six months and no more than 12 months of full- or part-time study.
    5. If admission to the degree programme is not confirmed, then either provisional admission may be extended for one period of up to six months or the candidate shall be required to withdraw or to enrol for another degree. If admission is not confirmed after a period of extension, the candidate shall be required to withdraw or to enrol for another degree.

      Note: A person wishing to undertake the programme in Performance is required to sit an audition before admission into the programme.

  2. Full-time and Part-time Study

    1. A candidate may apply for admission on a full-time or part-time basis, but may, with approval, change that status at the start of any academic year.
    2. Holders of Divisional Teaching Assistantships shall be deemed to be full-time candidates, and Assistant Research Fellows may also be so deemed.


    1. A full-time candidate shall count as 1 Equivalent Full-time Student (EFTS) per annum (also see Note (iii) below).
    2. A part-time candidate shall count as 0.5 EFTS per annum.
    3. The University expects that full-time candidates will devote the majority of their working time to their studies.

  3. Additional Papers

    In certain cases a candidate may be required or allowed to take one or more prescribed papers in addition to the programme. No candidate may take any other paper or course additional to the programme without first obtaining the approval of the Senate, which must be satisfied that taking any such paper or course will not materially delay the completion of the candidate’s research.

  4. Duration of the Programme

    1. A candidate shall pursue a programme of study and research under supervision for a period normally equivalent to 3 full-time years.
    2. The minimum period of study shall be equivalent to 2.5 full-time years and the maximum period shall be equivalent to 4 full-time years. Exceptions shall be permitted only with approval of the Senate.
    3. A candidate shall be enrolled continuously for the entire period of the candidacy, except that a candidate may apply to the Senate for permission to withdraw temporarily from study.
    4. Normally, at least six months of study and research shall be carried out at the University.

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  5. Supervisors

    1. The Senate shall, on the recommendation of the Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts, appoint at least two supervisors, or one supervisor supported by a departmental advisory panel, to oversee the work of the candidate.
    2. One of the supervisors must be an appropriately qualified member of the academic staff of the University.
    3. In the case of a dispute between a candidate and a supervisor, the Senate shall have discretion to replace that supervisor.

  6. Progress Reports

    1. While a candidate is provisionally admitted to the degree programme, progress reports signed by the candidate, supervisors, Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Artsand Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) shall be submitted to the Doctoral and Scholarships Office at six-monthly intervals from the date of initial admission.
    2. Once confirmation has been granted, progress reports signed by the candidate, supervisors and the Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts shall be submitted annually.
    3. If an unsatisfactory report is received, the Senate may, after appropriate consultation, terminate the candidacy.

  7. Structure of the Programme

      1. The degree will be awarded in one of the following subjects:
        • Composition
        • Performance
        • Studio Production
      2. The Senate shall approve the proposed area of study on the recommendation of the Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).
      3. As a guide to the candidate, the recommended relative workload weighting can vary from 90% for the creative portfolio, performances or studio productions, and 10% for the exegesis, through to 70% for the creative portfolio, performances or studio productions, and 30% for the exegesis. The workload weighting will be determined by the Department's Postgraduate Committee, based on the nature of the proposed project. Detailed and descriptive programme notes should accompany each performance. Students are required to sit an oral examination.
    1. Composition
      The degree in Composition requires the submission of substantial original pieces of work, and must achieve creative outputs that demonstrate a professional level of skill and competence. The proposed portfolio will be approved by the Department's Postgraduate Committee before admission and may include orchestral works, chamber works, song cycles or albums, operas, music theatre, choral music, music involving cultural diversity, film music, music in popular styles, or music using electronic media, or other forms as approved. Compositions should be submitted in written and/or recorded form, depending on the genre used. At least one composition written for live performance should be presented both as a musical score and recording. The candidate shall not present a portfolio that has previously been accepted for another degree.

    2. Performance

      1. The degree in Performance requires performances that demonstrate a professional level of skills, competence and originality. Candidates are required to present four to five examination performances. One of the performances may be submitted as a recording; the other performances must be presented live to the examiners.
      2. The proposed performances will be approved by the Department's Postgraduate Committee before admission. The programmes are subject to the approval of the Senate on the recommendation of the Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) and shall feature major works in the candidate’s specific field. In the case of a classical music performer, the candidate's programmes would be expected to feature major works of the concert repertoire and encompass music of important and varied stylistic eras. There is a requirement for new knowledge, and this should be shown either through a performance or recording of new music, or through new reinterpretations of existing music. In the case of a popular music or world music performer, the candidate's programme would be expected to feature songs and/or instrumental items considered to be major works within their genre, and to be of considerable technical difficulty, as well as embracing new work.  The candidate may choose to specialise in the works of a specific composer or stylistic area. The candidate shall not present performances that have previously been accepted for another degree.
      3. The first three performances will be held in the first two years of study (or part-time equivalent) and will be examined by an internal and external (New Zealand) examiner. The first performance is probationary, and must be passed in order for the candidate to continue in the course. The final performance will be examined as stated in regulation 9. The required performances, exegesis and oral examination shall be assessed by a panel of at least three examiners. Two of the performances shall include an examiner external to the University (see also regulation 9).
    3. Studio Production
      The degree in Studio Production requires the submission of substantial original recordings and must achieve creative outputs that demonstrate a professional level of skills, competence and originality in the area of music production. The proposed portfolio will be approved by the Department's Postgraduate Committee before admission, and may include a number of albums or other recorded works, either audio recording or audio recording with video. Candidates are encouraged, but not required, to undertake compositional, arrangement, engineering and mastering duties. The candidate must be credited as producer on all recordings which will be examined based on the overall quality of the recorded product, and/or on the candidate's ability to explore and contribute to theoretical approaches and concepts relevant to the discipline of Studio Production Research. The pieces must be in the form of audio recordings or audio-visual material, and must be capable of being archived. The candidate shall not present a portfolio that has previously been accepted for another degree.

  8. Submission of the Exegesis

    1. Four copies of the exegesis explaining the results of the research shall be submitted for examination, in accordance with the regulations governing the Presentation of Theses.
    2. The length of the exegesis may vary from approximately 10,000 to 30,000 words (excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliography), in proportion to the weighting of the creative portfolio/performances (e.g. 10,000 words for an exegesis weighted 10%). The exegesis will include background information on the works, as well as theoretical perspectives on relevant performance/creative techniques, extra-musical sources of inspiration, and/or critical analysis of the performer's/composer's methodology. 
    3. A candidate may not present an exegesis which has previously been accepted for another degree.
    4. If the exegesis is not at an acceptable standard, the degree shall not be awarded, regardless of any result attained for the portfolio, performances or studio productions.

    Note: A refund of costs incurred in the printing and binding of two hardbound copies of the exegesis shall be provided to every candidate whose exegesis is submitted after no more than four years of full-time study, or the equivalent in part-time study.

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  9. Examiners

    1. One examiner shall be from outside New Zealand, one shall be from within New Zealand but external to the University, and one shall be internal to the University.

      Note: Normal patterns for examiners may be varied in exceptional circumstances.

    2. A supervisor shall not be an examiner.
    3. The entire examination shall be supervised by an independent Convener appointed by the Senate on the recommendation of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).
    4. The supervisors shall make a report on the work of the candidate which may be released to the Convener of the examiners.
    5. Each examiner shall supply a written report on the portfolio or performance, together with a preliminary recommendation for an examination result.
    6. An oral examination on the topic of the portfolio or performances or studio productions and on the general field to which the topic belongs is required.
    7. The oral examination shall be conducted by at least two examiners, one of whom is external to the University.
    8. At the discretion and invitation of the Convener, the supervisors and the Head of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts may contribute to the oral examination.
    9. After consultation with the examiners, the Convener may approve the attendance of others at the oral examination.

  10. Examination Result

    1. The Convener of examiners shall report to the Senate the recommendation of the examiners.
    2. The examiners may recommend that the portfolio and exegesis
      1. be accepted, or be accepted with minor corrections, and the degree be awarded;
      2. be accepted and the degree be awarded after amendments have been made to the satisfaction of the Convener of examiners in consultation with the internal examiner;
      3. be revised and resubmitted for examination;
      4. be rejected and referred to the appropriate authority within the University for consideration of the award of another degree;
      5. be rejected with no right of resubmission.
    3. Where the examiners cannot agree on a result, the Convener shall so report, and the Senate shall arrive at a decision after consulting a referee from outside the University.
    4. A candidate shall be permitted to revise and resubmit material for examination once only.

    Note: Once the final result has been decided, the student shall submit two hardbound copies of the exegesis and portfolio (the Department will record all performances for examination and archival purposes). The cost of these hardbound copies will be met by the University provided that the exegesis is submitted within four years of first enrolling for full-time study for the degree.

  11. Variations

    Notwithstanding anything in these regulations, the Senate shall have discretion to vary any provision set down if, in its opinion, special or unusual circumstances warrant such variation.

    Note: The Senate has delegated authority over the DMA degree to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise).

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