Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context. According to the Society for Ethnomusicology, it is a highly interdisciplinary field that involves training in music, as well as “cultural anthropology, folklore, performance studies, dance, cultural studies, general studies, race or ethnic studies, area studies, or other fields in the humanities and social sciences.” An online ethnomusicology masters degree would provide students the opportunity to learn the general principles of ethnomusicology, as well as develop an area of specialization. Programs would prepare them for work in the field, conducting research or performing, or teaching themselves.
Why a Master’s Degree?
Specialization in ethnomusicology doesn’t begin until the master’s degree level. So students considering pursuing this type of liberal arts degree would have to be on a graduate track. Before starting, students also typically need a basic knowledge of European music history, musical analytical skills, and melodic dictation. At this level, they will be able to explore both the theory and methodology of ethnomusicology. The degree would prepare them to work as researchers in the field or as educators themselves.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Requirements vary from school to school. But generally, here’s what you may be asked of when applying to an ethnomusicology masters degree program:
- Bachelor’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution
- Official college transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Audition tape
Inside an Ethnomusicology Master’s Degree Program
Master’s degrees can take between two to three years to complete. Through a master’s in ethnomusicology, students can learn the general principles of ethnomusicology, the methodology of the field, and the role of ethnomusicologists. Programs typically include a combination of academic research and scholarship; skill development, such as in non-Western music theories and alternate systems of notation; performance; and application, such as field experience, a thesis, or a project. Courses might include transcription and analysis in ethnomusicology, tools of ethnomusicological research, theory in popular music studies, historical readings in ethnomusicology, and geographically-focused courses with topics in Asian, Latin American, and African music. Students may also be required to study languages pertinent to their research specialization.
While many courses can be taken online, with lectures, assignments, and discussions occurring virtually, students should expect some on-site, in-person requirements. For example, Liberty University’s online master’s degree in ethnomusicology demands a residency consisting of four intensive courses that can be completed in one or more summers. So when researching programs, make sure to find out any on-campus requirements.
What’s Next for Ethnomusicology Master’s Degree Holders?
Graduates of ethnomusicology programs have several different career paths to follow upon graduating. They might work as researchers, studying music in the field from any part of the world. They might work as educators, teaching music courses from a global or cultural perspective to high school or college classrooms. They might teach the public at-large, too, working for museums, record labels, or music festivals to promote the appreciation of world music.
Continued education could also be in the ethnomusicologists’ future. A master’s degree in ethnomusicology would prepare students for continued graduate study, working towards a Ph.D. This would allow them to future specialize and become an expert in their area of interest, conduct research, and teach at a college or university.