We designed the Master of Arts in Music with an emphasis on ethnomusicology to educate scholars and performers, both to teach and to engage with the shifting lines of inquiry and methodological debates that define the field.

Division Chair: Dr. Nathan Hesselink

The MA degree can accommodate interests in ethnomusicology’s wide range of geographic areas and intellectual issues. We strongly encourage performance, close interaction with related disciplines (anthropology, area studies, sociology, linguistics, etc.), as well as border crossing within music studies.

Students interested in designing a course of study integrating ethnomusicology with music theory, composition, or historical musicology are encouraged to inquire. The ethnomusicology division is located in the Old Auditorium (Room 206) and in 105 Asian Centre, our ensemble room.

Entrance requirements

No rigid prerequisites are specified, but a music major is recommended, including courses in world music cultures. Successful ethnomusicologists tend to be individuals with good stories to tell.

Most applicants possess a Bachelor‘s degree and demonstrate strengths in musicianship, transcription, and analysis, as well as prose writing. However, we recognize that many with distinctive visions for a career in ethnomusicology may not possess every feature of the preceding description, and we hope such people will apply nevertheless!

We especially welcome applicants grounded in the performance of more than one musical tradition. We recognize that ethnomusicology is related to other disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, area studies, and linguistics. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in these disciplines, we encourage you to consider this program and discuss it with us before applying.

An application should demonstrate an interest in the practice and literature of ethnomusicology and curiosity about its place (and the place of music) in the history of ideas and cultural relations. Predetermination of a focused research topic is not expected at this stage. Admission is highly competitive, and a maximum of two students are admitted per year.

Program duration and time commitment requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requires master’s students to be in residence on a full-time basis for at least one winter session and 12 months. For most students, however, two winter sessions of full-time study will be necessary to complete the program as stipulated below. Only in cases of special preparation, such as graduate credits accumulated elsewhere, should students contemplate programs shorter than the two-year norm.

At their discretion, faculty may offer students the option of acceleration into the PhD in Music (with an emphasis on ethnomusicology) after they have completed one year in the MA program.


You must complete a total of 32 credits as follows:

  • 529A and/or B Introduction to Ethnomusicology: History and Orientation - 3/6 credits
    • Versions A and B are taught by different instructors in alternating years and cover different topics. You may take either version or both.
  • 530 Readings in Ethnomusicology - 3 credits
  • 549 Thesis - 6/12 credits
    • If you intend to write an MA thesis, you must register in MUSC 549 in your first summer session and remain registered in it until you finish your program. Where the scope of the project warrants, and at the discretion of the student's committee, a thesis may be accorded as many as 12 credits.
    • You may ask to replace MUSC 549 with either two additional graduate seminars or one additional graduate seminar plus a directed study (MUSC 512). This requires the approval of the supervisory committee, the Chair of the Graduate Committee, and the Director of the School of Music.
  • 565 World Music Ensemble - 3 credits
    • Graduate students may take up to 6 credits of music performance, but only 3 credits may be counted towards the MA requirement.

Electives should be chosen from this list of courses, and other courses may be approved in consultation with the supervisor.

  • Music 512 Directed Study 3 credits
  • 531 Seminar in Ethnomusicology 3/6 credits
  • 532 Advanced Studies in Music History and Musicology 3/6 credits
  • 533 Advanced Studies in Music Theory 3/6 credits
  • Music Electives - 6 credits
    • Elective courses in Music must be at the 300 level or higher; a maximum of 6 credits of courses at the 300 or 400 level may be counted toward the degree.
  • Cognate Electives - 6 credits
    • Courses are normally chosen from the related disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, and area studies, in consultation with the student's committee. Elective courses must be at the 300 level or higher; a maximum of 6 credits of courses at the 300 or 400 level may be counted toward the degree.
  • Language of research and/or area specialization
    • The language area is ideally related to the student's area of concentration. An examination shall be administered by the Ethnomusicology faculty. During the examination, you will be provided with a roughly 500-word excerpt in the original language (generally relevant to the student’s field of research), and given 60 minutes to provide a written translation that demonstrates accurate comprehension of the passage (a polished translation is not required). You may use a dictionary for this examination. In cases where a faculty member in the division of musicology is not available or competent to administer such an examination, arrangements will be made with faculty in another department at UBC. The language requirement may optionally be satisfied by the completion of two years of university coursework with a minimum of second-class standing.

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