Registration for spring 2020 will begin on Thursday, October 24.  We will begin accepting Program Planning Sheets on Monday, October 21.  

The Auto-W Dealine for fall 2019 is October 27 (last chance to drop a fall semester class with a grade of "W" and in most cases last chance to drop a class at all).

We are in the eAdd/eDrop period for fall schedule adjustment.  See here for more details.

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Contact the Music Graduate Office

Office Location
East Studio Building 120 (JS 120)
205 S. Jordan Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405

Mailing Address
1201 E. 3rd Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

Hours: 8 am–12 pm, 1–5 pm
Phone: 812-855-1738Phone

E-mail: musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu

musicdgs [at] indiana [dot] edu (Eric Isaacson), Director 
serbes [at] indiana [dot] edu (Sara Erbes), Advisor
anmiller [at] indiana [dot] edu (Angie Miller), Recorder
musgrad [at] indiana [dot] edu (Laurie Staring), Secretary
musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu (Janis Cooper Parker), Doctoral Clerk

More Information

Guidelines for the Doctoral Piano Essay


Purpose, level and focus of the Piano Essay

The capstone for all doctoral degrees is a substantial research project or composition. For piano students, this is the Doctoral Piano Essay. There are different guidelines for the DM Final ProjectDissertation in Composition, and the PhD/DME Dissertation.

Piano students propose and write an essay of ca. 8,000-10,000 words (30-40 pages). The doctoral piano essay should be carried out at the highest level. It should build on the work you have done in the major field and be relevant to that field's repertory, pedagogy, history or practice.

You should submit an application for graduation no later than the beginning of the semester in which you plan to graduate. Click here for dates and information. Piano students enroll in 1 credit of M621 Doctoral Piano Essay at some point before graduation.

Guidance of the Doctoral Piano Essay

The doctoral piano essay is guided and read by a three person Research Committee, ordinarily made up of the major-field members of a student's Advisory Committee. The research committee nomination is part of the topic proposal process. These committee members ensure that the essay is relevant to the field and that it speaks to its scholars and practitioners. One major-field member of the committee (typically your teacher) serves as chair, and one member of the committee serves as research director. Especially for the role of research director, students are encouraged to enlist a faculty member with expertise in the subject. The same faculty member may serve as both chair and research director, but this is not required. 

Steps to Completing the Piano Essay

Step 1: Topic Proposal

Propose a topic for your piano essay in which you outline your research for approval by a proposed research committee. 

Detailed instructions for the topic proposal are provided here. 


  • Some students begin this process while still completing coursework. Others wait until they have started preparing for or taking their qualifying exams. 
  • The topic must be approved before a date for the major field written qualifying exam can be scheduled.
  • The approval time for the topic proposal can be 2-3 weeks, not counting breaks.
Step 2: Conduct research and prepare written component

Conducts research and prepare the essay. The essay should be a minimum of 8,000-10,000 words (roughly 30-40 pages). It must include a bibliography and should include a work list and discography as appropriate to the essay. 

Ordinarily, only the research director will be closely involved during this stage and the other committee members will wait until the after the research director has approved the essay for distribution before reading it, but you should ask the other members of the research committee how they would like to be involved at this stage of the piano essay.  


  • The essay must conform to these style guidelines. You are strongly encouraged to set up your essay according to the guidelines from the start.
  • You should ensure that the prose is edited for correct grammar, usage, and style before submitting drafts to your research director. While research directors can be expected to make editorial suggestions, correct occasional typographical errors, and so on, they should not be expected to work with poorly written or non-idiomatic English.
  • Some students begin the writing process while still completing coursework. Many get a lot done in parallel with preparing for qualifying exams. Most students do the bulk of the work after passing the oral qualifying exam.
Step 3: Approval by research director

When the research director is satisfied with your completed draft of the essay, the research director approves it for circulation to the rest of the research committee. Ask your research director to send an e-mail message to musdoc [at] indiana [dot] edu or a written note to the doctoral clerk in the music graduate office.


  • Depending on how closely you have been working with the research director during the writing process, the time the research director needs to review the essay and approve it for distribution to the research committee may range from a couple weeks to a month or two.
Step 4: Submit copies for research committee approval

Submit your piano essay to the Music Graduate Office for distribution to the Research Committee. You should ask each committee member whether they prefer a printed or electronic copy and submit a printed copy for each faculty member who prefers it in that form. You must also submit a copy to keep on file in the Music Graduate Office (we encourage electronic submission for the office copy, but a printed copy will be accepted as well). The piano essay will not be distributed for the committee to review until all necessary copies have been submitted to the Music Graduate Office. 

Electronic copies must be submitted using the electronic submission form below:

Electronic submission form for document drafts

On the electronic submission form, you will be asked to submit the names of research committee members who have asked to receive the document electronically and the names of committee members for whom you are submitting printed copies. If we learn from a faculty member that they have not approved receiving an electronic copy, you will need to submit a printed copy and the 8-week review period for the entire committee will restart on the date the printed copy is distributed.

Printed copies may be submitted in person or by mail (including UPS, FedEx, etc.) to the following address:

Music Graduate Office
Merrill Hall 011
1201 E. 3rd Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

You are strongly encouraged to submit printed copies double-sided. These copies do not need to be bound, but should be clearly separated.

If you are submitting ONLY printed copies for committee members, remember to submit either a paper or electronic copy for the office. We cannot distribute your piano essay to your committee until we have received an office copy.

Step 5: Approval by research committee

By Jacobs School of Music policy, members of the research committee may take up to eight weeks to review the essay and decide whether to approve it. Additional time is provided if the review period includes the summer, and the review deadline will never fall during the summer term or a break.

The music graduate office will inform you by e-mail when your essay has been approved by all the members of your research committee. You should not ask committee members for updates. The graduate office will follow up with faculty who do not respond by the review deadline.

Committee members may indicate in writing any changes or revisions necessary in the approved text. If the research committee does not approve the essay, you will be required to make revisions as directed by the committee and to resubmit the essay for another full review (steps 3 and 4). 

Step 6: Submit final copy

After the research committee approves the essay and you have completed any required revisions and had them approved as directed by the research committee, prepare the final copy and submit it as outlined below: 

This must be done by the last day of classes for the semester (or of the summer term) in order to graduate that semester.