Master of Arts in Music, Emphasis Ethnomusicology (MA)
The program 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 (composition, theory, and historical musicology).
What makes the program unique?
We balance diverse aspects of ethnomusicology by stressing performance, music transcription, theory and analysis, and social and intellectual history equally. We collaborate regularly with music theory, historical musicology, and composition divisions in the School of Music, and are linked to Area Studies and other departments across the university. Our goal for every student is to communicate our dedication to and love for the musics of the world, and to encourage original, critical, and constructive writing on music that will enable graduates to contribute actively to scholarship, education, and the cultures of world musics around us. The ethnomusicology students and faculty comprise a small community, but our time together is intense and vibrant, and excellent work is being done.
Contact the program
Admission Information & Requirements
1) Check Eligibility
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based
Overall score requirement: 93
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 6.5
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
The GRE is not required.
Prior degree, course and other requirements
Prior Degree Requirements
The applicant must ordinarily possess a B.Mus., B.S. or B.A. degree
The applicant must ordinarily possess a B.Mus., B.S., or B.A. degree and demonstrate strengths in a range of musical skills, including musicianship, transcription, and analysis, as well as prose writing skills. No rigid prerequisites are specified but a music major is strongly recommended, including courses in World Music Cultures and close study of individual world areas. Solid grounding in performance and/or fieldwork is an asset. Applicants should demonstrate interest in the practice and perspectives of ethnomusicology in its broadest senses, including its place (and the place of music) in the history of ideas and cultural relations. Predetermination of a focused research topic can certainly be helpful but is not expected at this stage. Sustained interest in European Art Music may prove beneficial. It is also recognized that ethnomusicology is closely related to other disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, folklore, Asian studies (or other area studies), and linguistics. Students with Bachelor's degrees in these disciplines are encouraged to consider this program and discuss its prerequisites prior to application.
Follow the general graduate application guidelines in How to Apply and in addition: Submit a maximum of two papers dealing with a topic in music that is representative of work to date.
Submit at answer to each of the following questions (max. 300 words per question):
- What are your strengths as a musician?
- What would you like to work on?
- What kinds of musical activities do you especially enjoy and why?
- Describe two books or articles about music you have particularly learned from or been stimulated by.
- Name some music you particularly admire and explain why. What draws you to music scholarship?
A transcription exercise will be required of all applicants to the program. This exercise will become available on the Ethnomusicology website the first or second weekend after the deadline for the application; applicants will be contacted by the department with further instructions. Most students will use standard Western notation, but modified Western notation or other systems are acceptable.
The applicant must demonstrate strength in a range of musical skills and prose writing skills.
2) Meet Deadlines
September 2022 Intake
Application Open Date10 September 2021
3) Prepare Application
All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Master of Arts in Music, Emphasis Ethnomusicology (MA)
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
4) Apply Online
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
"Catching a Groove: Stan Lynch's Relationship with Time." Classic Drummer(forthcoming)
"From Point Grey to Little Mountain: Connections and Intersections between UBC Music and Little Mountain Sound."MUSICultures (forthcoming)
Springate, Michael and Nathan Hesselink. “Küt: Shock and Awe.” In Revolt/Compassion: Six Scripts for Contemporary Performance, by Michael Springate, 259-84. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2019.
“The Ethnomusicologist as Composer.” Music and Culture 31:31-44 (2014).
“Rhythmic Play, Compositional Intent, and Communication in Rock Music. Popular Music33.1:69-90 (2014).
“Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’: Ambiguity, Rhythm, and Participation.” Music Theory Online 19.1.3 [13,500 words] (2013).
SamulNori: Contemporary Korean Drumming and the Rebirth of Itinerant Performance Culture.Chicago Series in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. (201 pp.)
“ ‘Yŏngdong Nongak’: Mountains, Music, and the SamulNori Canon.” Acts Koreana 12.1:1-26 (2009).
“Taking Culture Seriously: Democratic Music and its Transformative Potential in South Korea.” TheWorld of Music 49.3:75-106 (2008).
“SamulNori, Wŏn-Pang-Kak,and Cosmological Didacticism.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 39:140-61 (2007).
P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance. Chicago Series in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. (296 pp.)
“ ‘The Formation of Namsadang(Korean Itinerant Performer) Troupes’: Chapter One A Study of Namsadang Troupes,” by Shim Usŏng. Translated, edited, and with an Introduction by Nathan Hesselink. Acts Koreana 9.2:31-57 (2006).
“Samul norias Traditional: Preservation and Innovation in a South Korean Contemporary Percussion Genre.”Ethnomusicology 48.3:405-39 (2004).
Contemporary Directions: Korean Folk Music Engaging the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Korea Research Monograph 27. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. (262 pp.)
2019. “That’s All it Does: Steve Reich and Balinese Gamelan Music.” In S.Gopinath, and P. Siôn, eds., Rethinking Steve Reich. New York: Oxford. p. 303-322.
2019.“How Many Kinds of Rhythm are There?” In A. Hamilton and M. Paddison, eds., Philosophy of Rhythm, New York: Oxford. p.199-215.
2018. “Polyphony.” In A. Rehding and Steven Rings, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Basic Concepts in Music Theory. New York: Oxford. p. 597-641.
2018.“Chasing the Phantom: Features of a Supracultural New Music.” Music Theory Online 24/1.http://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.18.24.1/mto.18.24.1.tenzer.html
2017. “Transforming African Music Cycles.” Music Theory Spectrum Vol. 39, 2., p. 139-157.
2017. “In Honor of What We Can’t Groove To Yet.” In Robin Moore, ed. College Music Curricula for a New Century. New York: Oxford, p. 169-190.
2015. “Meditations on Objective Aesthetics in World Music.” Ethnomusicology, 59/1, p. 1-30.
2011. Analytical and Cross-Cultural Studies in World Music ( with co- editor John Roeder) New York: Oxford
2009. Let Others Name You. (compositions) New World Records Recorded Anthology of American Music CD80697
2006. Analytical Studies in World Music. (ed.) New York: Oxford.
2000. Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of Twentieth Century Balinese Music. Chicago: University of Chicago
Our primary regional specialties are Bali/Indonesia (Tenzer) and Korea/East Asia and Great Britain (Hesselink), but we pursue research on many kinds of music and have supervised work on Sri Lanka, Ghana, Zambia, Iran, Czech Republic, Brazil, Morocco, Japan and more. We especially welcome students with an advanced grounding in a tradition whose inner workings they seek to uncover.
From the state-of-the-art Chan Centre for Performing Arts, one of North America's premier musical venues, to the historic Old Auditorium and intimate Roy Barnett Recital Hall, to university-wide resources such as the Emerging Media Labs, graduate students in Ethnomusicology have access to world-class facilities.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,732.53||$3,043.77|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$969.17 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
Students admitted to the School of Music’s graduate programs are automatically considered for scholarships under the GSI (Graduate Support Initiative) program. These competitive awards typically range from $1,000 to 12,000 and are guaranteed for two to four years.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching Assistantships (GTA)
Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.
Research Assistantships (GRA)
Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
The ethnomusicology program accommodates interests in the discipline’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 (composition, theory, and historical musicology).