Master Degrees

Master of Music

This degree brings together advanced students and professional faculty in a high-level, collaborative environment. Private studio instruction is at the center of the performance, conducting and composition.

Graduate assistantships and scholarships are available. Graduate conducting students serve as assistant conductors for ensembles.

Areas of emphasis include:

  • Classical Solo Performance
  • Chamber Music
  • Conducting

This degree is particularly appropriate for students intending to perform or conduct music professionally, to teach applied performance in college/university settings or private studio, or to pursue doctoral studies in performance. The program culminates in a formal graduate recital.

Learn more about the M.Mus in the SF Bulletin.

Master of Arts in Music

The Masters of Arts in Music program provides advanced study for students with highly developed interest and attainment in specific areas of music.

This program:

  • Prepares teachers for certain college music positions
  • Provides prospective doctoral aspirants with a sound foundation for advanced graduate study
  • Provides advanced academic qualifications for public school teachers
  • Prepares students for professional careers in composition.

All focus areas require either a culminating creative project or a master's thesis.

Learn more about the M.A. in the SF Bulletin.

Classical Performance Emphasis

Strings, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Voice, Piano, Harp and Guitar

Private studio instruction is at the heart of the performance program. Our faculty of artist-teachers, many of whom perform with the San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, work with students to achieve levels of performance suitable for entrance to the world of professional music as performers and teachers or for admission to doctoral-level study. In addition to solo recitals and large-ensemble concerts, high-level performance opportunities also include chamber ensembles coached by the Alexander String Quartet, operas, and concerto competition, and positions in the highly acclaimed chamber choir.

Chamber Music Emphasis

Strings, Winds, Brass, Percussion, Voice, Piano and Guitar

Applied lessons and chamber music coaching with members of our applied faculty form the hub of the master’s degree in chamber music. Electives include secondary instrument or voice instruction, advanced score reading and transposition, and numerous seminars in history and literature.

Conducting Emphasis

Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Choir

Private studio instruction combined with large-ensemble podium time is at the core of our curriculum, which is designed for preparation for professional conductors and those wishing to continue in doctoral programs. In order to provide maximum conducting experience, this program is kept very small—a limited number of students are accepted into each program at any time. Student conductors typically spend at least one year as assistant conductor of a university ensemble. Students refine conducting and rehearsal techniques in private lessons and seminars as well as conducting and rehearsal techniques, develop score preparation skills, explore literature and continue to develop a broad knowledge of music history and theory.

Please note: The school is currently not accepting applications for the Choir Conducting Emphasis.

Music Education Emphasis

The School of Music offers two options for the Music Education Emphasis:

Primary / Secondary Education Credential Track

This option is a terminal degree for those wishing to advance their career in K-12 education while enrolled in the teaching credential program. Students learn research techniques specific to music education, participate in classes on designing and implementing curricula, and seminars on secondary education. In addition, students complete fieldwork and a master’s thesis in an area of interest, in consultation with the faculty.

Doctoral Preparation Track

The second option is preparation for doctoral study and is an opportunity for teachers with a credential and two years of experience to lay the groundwork for advanced studies. In addition to classes in research methods specific to music education and in curricular development, students are encouraged to take non-music classes in areas related to future doctoral study. Many classes are scheduled after working hours.

Music History Emphasis

Prepared to study. Prepared to teach others. Prepared to teach yourself.

Surrounded by vibrant classical music and vital cultural life in San Francisco, our music history students advance to careers in college and university teaching; or as doctoral students. Graduates in the Music History Emphasis are well-equipped to continue research in their topic areas after graduating. Classes and seminar topics include music research techniques and study music of all periods.

Composition Emphasis

Students work closely with faculty mentors, some of the most highly respected composers in the country. Composition majors have opportunities to write for faculty ensembles, and advanced student ensembles coached by the Alexander String Quartet, as well as opportunities for large-ensemble readings. Performances and readings are digitally recorded, preparing a portfolio for doctoral programs. In addition to private lessons, courses are available in a variety of topics including tonal and post-tonal analysis and composer-specific seminars. Scholarships and Graduate Assistantships are available.

The normal load during spring and fall is between nine to twelve units per semester. For international students please check with the Division of Graduate Studies to ensure your immigration regulations requirements are met.

Thank you for your interest in the School of Music! For current application deadlines please see the California State University’s Application Dates & Deadlines.

If you have any specific questions about admission to the School of Music please contact the Director, Dr. Cyrus Ginwala, by email at

Graduate Applications

  1. Review graduate admission requirements for SF State
  2. Apply to Division of Graduate Studies
    Domestic Application Info
    International Application Info

All application material will be submitted through the Cal State Apply Graduate Studies Application.

School of Music Application Requirements Include:

  • Undergraduate degree with a major in music, or equivalent experience. 
  • Minimum 3.0 grade point average in the last 60 units of undergraduate study.

The following materials should be submitted as part of the application:

  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts of all college work
  • Writing samples demonstrating graduate level, discipline-specific proficiency in music research
  • Statement of purpose

Additional Materials for Music Education

  • A written description of the nature and extent of teaching experience.
  • Applicants must also provide evidence of at least two years of school music teaching and/or a valid teaching credential.

Additional Materials for Music History

  • Representative examples of music research papers, such as those written for undergraduate music history classes.

Additional Materials for Composition

  • A minimum of two representative scores and, if possible, recordings of recent musical compositions.

Audition Information for Classical Instrumental/Vocal Performance, or Chamber Music

  • Auditions are completed in up to two rounds. Applicants may schedule a live audition before members of the Music Faculty or Submit links for pre-recorded, un-edited videos by taking the School of Music Audition Form (link here). The video should be 30-45 minutes in duration, demonstrating the student's current level of accomplishment. A repertoire list is also required, including an indication of those works on the list which have been performed in recital.

Audition information for Conducting - Orchestra or Wind Ensemble 

Conducting Auditions are completed in two rounds. After video review, selected candidates may be invited for a live audition with the SF State Orchestra. Details will be forwarded when appropriate.

  • First Round: A streaming video, posted on Vimeo, of a rehearsal or concert. Camera should show a front view of the conductor (camera placed at rear of ensemble) from a reasonable distance, and ideally demonstrate a varied selection of repertoire. Links can be submitted to Dr. Cyrus Ginwala ( via email.
  • Please include your name, a repertoire list (with timing numbers), and the performance date.

Ready to Apply for Graduation?

Go to the Division of Graduate Studies website to Apply for Graduation.

SF State School of Music Graduate Program Profile: Amelia Romano