Northwestern’s Program in Music Theory and Cognition is unique in its combination of two related disciplines that share a common goal: to examine how musical structure interacts with creativity (composition, improvisation), performance (reproduction, movement), and reception (listening and interpretation).

The concept of the “listener” is thematic to our research, and inherently rich and diversified in its definition and application: it includes the reconstruction of historical listeners circumscribed by stylistic conventions as much as it accounts for contemporary listeners’ experiences of global soundscapes and electronic media. We understand the interactions of music theory and cognition as fluid and capable of taking different forms and using different methodologies. This includes music theory informed by cultural and historical knowledge of listening environments and current research in cognition, as well as empirical research involving methods such as corpus studies, lab experiments, and fieldwork. 

This breadth of epistemological perspective and diversity of methodological approaches is reflected in the wide spectrum of repertoires studied by our internationally acclaimed faculty, reaching from the eighteenth century to electronic dance music. We seek PhD students who wish to become professional music theorists in academic settings, and we welcome applicants whose research interests intersect with our particular strengths in schema theory, topic theory, rhythm and meter, musical meaning, embodiment, popular music, and videogame music.

The graduate student support provided to PhD students includes year-round tuition and stipend and fully subsidized health insurance.

About the Music Theory and Cognition Program

At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students receive first-class training and experience in the ever expanding and diversifying discipline of music theory.

Our faculty are leaders in evolving sub-disciplines such as systematic music theory, popular music studies, historical music theory, and situated cognition. Northwestern students have the further advantage of studying with renowned scholars in the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, both within and outside the Bienen School of Music.

Undergraduate students develop facility in traditional areas such as counterpoint, harmony, ear-training, melody, rhythm, and form, while also studying music history and culture. The undergraduate programs of study address questions involving musical construction, listener response, the features of musical style, and the basis for common metaphors used in describing music. They offer excellent preparation for continued graduate study in music research—be it in theory, musicology, or cognition—or for careers in other sectors where a solid foundation in music will be useful.

Graduate students are encouraged to pursue research in areas among the faculty's expertise. These include topics such as the following:

  • Schema theory, categorization, and style

  • Music and memory

  • Tonality

  • Rhythm and meter

  • Eighteenth-century music

  • Popular music

  • Musical design in relation to gender and sexuality

  • Technologically mediated performance; expressive performance

  • Music and communication

  • Historically informed theory and cognition

Beyond these specializations, the faculty may supervise a broad range of topics, from traditional areas of music theory such as Formenlehre and the history of music theory to specialized topics in the cognitive sciences, including music and neuroscience.

Graduates of Our Program

Stephen Hudson (PhD19)

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Richmond

Bruno Alcalde (PhD18)

Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina

Olga Sanchez-Kisielewska (MM11, PhD18)

Lecturer of Music Theory, University of Chicago

Rosa Abrahams (MM11, PhD17)

Assistant Professor, Ursinus College

Kristina Knowles (PhD16)

Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

Karen Chan Barrett (PhD15)

Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Otolaryngology, University of California San Francisco Medical Center

Janet Bourne (PhD15)

Assistant Professor, University of California-Santa Barbara

Cora Palfy (MM13, PhD15)

Assistant Professor, Elon University

JiChul Kim (PhD13)

Postdoctoral researcher, University of Connecticut

Benjamin Anderson (PhD12)

Senior Data Scientist, Sysco

Ben Duane (PhD12)

Assistant Professor, Washington University of St. Louis

Kyung Myun Lee (PhD12)

Assistant Professor, Korean Advanced Technical Institute of Science and Technology

Ives Chor (PhD10)

Lead Product Manager, Groupon

Caroline Davis (PhD10)

New York-based jazz musician and educator

Stacey Davis (PhD02)

Associate Chair of the Department of Music and Associate Professor, University of Texas-San Antonio

Cynthia McGregor (PhD00)

Dean, School of the Arts, Communications and Social Sciences, Southwestern College

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Music Theory and Cognition PhD Students

PhD Candidate

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Anjni Amin

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PhD Candidate

anjniamin2014@u.northwestern.edu

Anjni Amin’s research engages a range of topics, including expressive performance, music theory pedagogy, world music pedagogy, and music education. Her dissertation examines the development of expressive interpretation skills through interaction between performer-pedagogue and student in the collegiate performance studio. She has presented her research at the International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition and the International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music, as well as at meetings of the College Music Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology. Her work dealing with both music theory and world music pedagogy is published in The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy. Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned her B.S. in music education from The College of Saint Rose and her M.M. in music theory from Northwestern. Currently, Anjni is on the faculty at Oberlin College & Conservatory teaching theory and aural skills.

2nd year PhD

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Sara Bowden

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2nd year PhD

SaraBowden2019@u.northwestern.edu

Sara Bowden grew up at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maryville, TN. They earned their undergraduate degree in Music Theory from The University of North Texas (B.M. 2018, Thesis: “Kill or Be Killed: Music as a Moral Catalyst in Toby Fox’s Undertale”) and their master’s degree in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (M.M. 2019, Thesis: “Narrative Transformation and Music in Mediatized Moral Space in Charlie Brooker’s Bandersnatch”). Their research interests include sound studies and public cultures, video game music and affect, and players’ encounters with video game music as enriched by music’s relationship to rhetoric in the visual novel category. Their published work on musical disruption in psychological horror games may be read in The Soundtrack. They have presented papers at regional, national, and international conferences including IASPM-ANZ, Music and the Moving Image, and Music Theory Midwest. Outside of their academic pursuits, Sara is an in-demand marching arts educator, choreographer, and guest clinician. As an educator in the Chicago area, Sara currently works as a field instructor for the seven-time Bands of America Grand National Champion Marian Catholic High School Marching Band. An active performer, they are a trombonist for the Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Chicago’s first street band comprised solely of women and non-binary performers.

Master's Student

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Laura Casti

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Master's Student

LauraCasti2021@u.northwestern.edu

Laura Casti is a native of Sardinia, Italy, where she worked as an orchestral musician and high school music teacher until moving to the USA in 2019. She holds three artist diplomas “vecchio ordinamento” - old system- in harp, choral conducting, and composition; two bachelor’s degrees in orchestral conducting and tourism; two master’s degrees in composition and modern languages obtained - all seven with top grades, four of them with honors - in the Italian conservatories/universities of Torino, Sassari, and Trapani. Laura has won national and international contests as a harpist and her composition master has been subsidized by the foundation CRT of Torino. Her previous researches in music theory involved the relationship(s) between musical and linguistic phraseology, Gestalt theory and music perception, and the use of past-related quotations in polystylistic music of the 21st century. Having been a passionate teacher of music theory and composition at the Liceo "D.A.Azuni" in Sassari, Laura would also love to dive deep into the compositional techniques of the Neapolitan school and partimento art of the 18th century, to help disclose that well-crafted music is not only a prerogative of “musical genius” but that it is accessible to every highly trained musician.

3rd year PhD

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Lena Console

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3rd year PhD

LenaConsole2023@u.northwestern.edu

A native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Lena Console holds two bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music: a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Music Theory & Philosophy. After a lifetime in the Midwest, Lena spent four years working and performing in Seattle, Washington. There she worked as a research coordinator for the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, researching impacts of group music-making on children’s empathy and pro-social behavior; and as a teaching artist for various organizations, including the Seattle Symphony, where she piloted a community composition residency program with adults who are facing homelessness. As a trumpet performer, her experiences range from historical performance to modern jazz and rock covers. Lena’s current research interests focus on the intersections between aesthetic perception and mindfulness, exploring cognitive components such as attention, memory, and expectation. Also passionate about community engagement, Lena hopes to develop her academic research to create accessible programs for those outside of academia. 

Anjni Amin

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PhD Candidate

anjniamin2014@u.northwestern.edu

Anjni Amin’s research engages a range of topics, including expressive performance, music theory pedagogy, world music pedagogy, and music education. Her dissertation examines the development of expressive interpretation skills through interaction between performer-pedagogue and student in the collegiate performance studio. She has presented her research at the International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition and the International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music, as well as at meetings of the College Music Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology. Her work dealing with both music theory and world music pedagogy is published in The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy. Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned her B.S. in music education from The College of Saint Rose and her M.M. in music theory from Northwestern. Currently, Anjni is on the faculty at Oberlin College & Conservatory teaching theory and aural skills.

Sara Bowden

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2nd year PhD

SaraBowden2019@u.northwestern.edu

Sara Bowden grew up at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maryville, TN. They earned their undergraduate degree in Music Theory from The University of North Texas (B.M. 2018, Thesis: “Kill or Be Killed: Music as a Moral Catalyst in Toby Fox’s Undertale”) and their master’s degree in Music Theory and Cognition from Northwestern University (M.M. 2019, Thesis: “Narrative Transformation and Music in Mediatized Moral Space in Charlie Brooker’s Bandersnatch”). Their research interests include sound studies and public cultures, video game music and affect, and players’ encounters with video game music as enriched by music’s relationship to rhetoric in the visual novel category. Their published work on musical disruption in psychological horror games may be read in The Soundtrack. They have presented papers at regional, national, and international conferences including IASPM-ANZ, Music and the Moving Image, and Music Theory Midwest. Outside of their academic pursuits, Sara is an in-demand marching arts educator, choreographer, and guest clinician. As an educator in the Chicago area, Sara currently works as a field instructor for the seven-time Bands of America Grand National Champion Marian Catholic High School Marching Band. An active performer, they are a trombonist for the Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Chicago’s first street band comprised solely of women and non-binary performers.

Laura Casti

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Master's Student

LauraCasti2021@u.northwestern.edu

Laura Casti is a native of Sardinia, Italy, where she worked as an orchestral musician and high school music teacher until moving to the USA in 2019. She holds three artist diplomas “vecchio ordinamento” - old system- in harp, choral conducting, and composition; two bachelor’s degrees in orchestral conducting and tourism; two master’s degrees in composition and modern languages obtained - all seven with top grades, four of them with honors - in the Italian conservatories/universities of Torino, Sassari, and Trapani. Laura has won national and international contests as a harpist and her composition master has been subsidized by the foundation CRT of Torino. Her previous researches in music theory involved the relationship(s) between musical and linguistic phraseology, Gestalt theory and music perception, and the use of past-related quotations in polystylistic music of the 21st century. Having been a passionate teacher of music theory and composition at the Liceo "D.A.Azuni" in Sassari, Laura would also love to dive deep into the compositional techniques of the Neapolitan school and partimento art of the 18th century, to help disclose that well-crafted music is not only a prerogative of “musical genius” but that it is accessible to every highly trained musician.

Lena Console

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3rd year PhD

LenaConsole2023@u.northwestern.edu

A native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Lena Console holds two bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music: a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Music Theory & Philosophy. After a lifetime in the Midwest, Lena spent four years working and performing in Seattle, Washington. There she worked as a research coordinator for the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, researching impacts of group music-making on children’s empathy and pro-social behavior; and as a teaching artist for various organizations, including the Seattle Symphony, where she piloted a community composition residency program with adults who are facing homelessness. As a trumpet performer, her experiences range from historical performance to modern jazz and rock covers. Lena’s current research interests focus on the intersections between aesthetic perception and mindfulness, exploring cognitive components such as attention, memory, and expectation. Also passionate about community engagement, Lena hopes to develop her academic research to create accessible programs for those outside of academia. 

PhD Candidate

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Sarah Gates

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PhD Candidate

sarahgates2015@u.northwestern.edu

Sarah Gates’s research, which is supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, interrogates the iterative loop between thinking and listening within the discipline of music theory. This interdisciplinary endeavor combines cognitive science (musical imagery, mental representation, categorization, expertise acquisition, ecological perception), and music theory (theory and analysis, schemata, pedagogy) to explicate the acquisition of theoretical concepts and their affordances within listening, thinking and analysis. She has presented her work at several national and international conferences in both music theory and cognition, including the International Conference on Music and Emotion (2015), the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception (2016, 2018), and the Society for Music Theory annual meeting (2017, 2018). Sarah Gates is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and contemporary composition from Wilfrid Laurier University (Gold Medal Recipient), as well as a Master of Music in saxophone performance from the University of Toronto. Most recently, she completed a Master of Arts in Music Theory at McGill University where she studied under Stephen McAdams and Robert Hasegawa. Her thesis project, which was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Award (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, investigated perceptual interactions of pitch and timbre by exploring the effect of timbre change on musicians’ ability to verbally identify melodic intervals.

4th year PhD

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Stefan Greenfield-Casas

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4th year PhD

StefanGreenfield-Casas2022@u.northwestern.edu

Stefan Greenfield-Casas’ current research is primarily concerned with theories of arrangement and, more specifically, the concertization and "classifying" of video game and film scores. Stefan’s dissertation develops a theory of transformative dissonance in relation to this phenomenon, situating it in a dialectics of formal analysis and fandom. He has presented research on this and other topics at national and international conferences, including meetings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Royal Musical Association’s Music and Philosophy Study Group, Music and the Moving Image, and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. Stefan's forthcoming publications include invited chapters in The Music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy Series (Intellect's Studies in Game Sound and Music series), The Oxford Handbook of Arrangement Studies, and The Oxford Handbook of Video Game Music and Sound. He has also contributed shorter essays to the American Musicological Society and Ludomusicology Research Group's respective blogs. Stefan is especially interested in fostering space for dialogues within (and to situate) his work; to this end, he has interviewed the likes of Daniela Riojas, John Phillip Santos, Benyamin Nuss, and Eric Roth (among others) for various research projects. Stefan holds additional degrees in horn performance and music theory from The University of Texas at San Antonio and The University of Texas at Austin, respectively, as well as certificates in interdisciplinary pedagogy and critical theory from UT Austin and Northwestern, respectively.  

PhD Candidate

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Fred Hosken

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PhD Candidate

fredhosken@u.northwestern.edu

Fred Hosken’s research investigates musical time, specifically what makes music groove and what gives particular performers their specific "feel." His focus on the perception of groove is coupled with theories of rhythm, meter, and the beat, as well as computational methods of performance analysis, to advance a theory of beats as "pockets" of time. He has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and the Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop. Recently, a digital humanities research grant facilitated his participation in a workshop in Oslo hosted by The Nordic Sound and Music Computing Network. He has published work on the subjective, human experience of groove in Psychology of Music (2018), work that evolved out of his master's thesis. Prior to his studies at Northwestern, Hosken earned a bachelor's degree from King's College London and master's degree from Oxford University. Currently, he serves as a Graduate Writing Fellow at Northwestern and an editorial assistant for Music Theory Online.

PhD Candidate

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Aubrey Leaman

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PhD Candidate

aubreyleaman2021@u.northwestern.edu

Aubrey Leaman holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with honors distinction from the University of South Carolina. She has previously served as the marketing manager for the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble, and her research explores the interactive roles of empathy and agency upon listening to western art music, as well as the broad, prosocial effects that may come out of a listener's newly-formed connections to a previously-stereotyped genre. In the past, she has studied musical enjoyment through the lens of narrative research, including the creation of a narrative mapping strategy for in-time listening to classical music, as well as a silent film based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" coupled with a live performance of a Haydn piano sonata at her senior recital.

Sarah Gates

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PhD Candidate

sarahgates2015@u.northwestern.edu

Sarah Gates’s research, which is supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, interrogates the iterative loop between thinking and listening within the discipline of music theory. This interdisciplinary endeavor combines cognitive science (musical imagery, mental representation, categorization, expertise acquisition, ecological perception), and music theory (theory and analysis, schemata, pedagogy) to explicate the acquisition of theoretical concepts and their affordances within listening, thinking and analysis. She has presented her work at several national and international conferences in both music theory and cognition, including the International Conference on Music and Emotion (2015), the International Conference for Music Cognition and Perception (2016, 2018), and the Society for Music Theory annual meeting (2017, 2018). Sarah Gates is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and contemporary composition from Wilfrid Laurier University (Gold Medal Recipient), as well as a Master of Music in saxophone performance from the University of Toronto. Most recently, she completed a Master of Arts in Music Theory at McGill University where she studied under Stephen McAdams and Robert Hasegawa. Her thesis project, which was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Award (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, investigated perceptual interactions of pitch and timbre by exploring the effect of timbre change on musicians’ ability to verbally identify melodic intervals.

Stefan Greenfield-Casas

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4th year PhD

StefanGreenfield-Casas2022@u.northwestern.edu

Stefan Greenfield-Casas’ current research is primarily concerned with theories of arrangement and, more specifically, the concertization and "classifying" of video game and film scores. Stefan’s dissertation develops a theory of transformative dissonance in relation to this phenomenon, situating it in a dialectics of formal analysis and fandom. He has presented research on this and other topics at national and international conferences, including meetings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Royal Musical Association’s Music and Philosophy Study Group, Music and the Moving Image, and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. Stefan's forthcoming publications include invited chapters in The Music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy Series (Intellect's Studies in Game Sound and Music series), The Oxford Handbook of Arrangement Studies, and The Oxford Handbook of Video Game Music and Sound. He has also contributed shorter essays to the American Musicological Society and Ludomusicology Research Group's respective blogs. Stefan is especially interested in fostering space for dialogues within (and to situate) his work; to this end, he has interviewed the likes of Daniela Riojas, John Phillip Santos, Benyamin Nuss, and Eric Roth (among others) for various research projects. Stefan holds additional degrees in horn performance and music theory from The University of Texas at San Antonio and The University of Texas at Austin, respectively, as well as certificates in interdisciplinary pedagogy and critical theory from UT Austin and Northwestern, respectively.  

Fred Hosken

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PhD Candidate

fredhosken@u.northwestern.edu

Fred Hosken’s research investigates musical time, specifically what makes music groove and what gives particular performers their specific "feel." His focus on the perception of groove is coupled with theories of rhythm, meter, and the beat, as well as computational methods of performance analysis, to advance a theory of beats as "pockets" of time. He has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and the Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop. Recently, a digital humanities research grant facilitated his participation in a workshop in Oslo hosted by The Nordic Sound and Music Computing Network. He has published work on the subjective, human experience of groove in Psychology of Music (2018), work that evolved out of his master's thesis. Prior to his studies at Northwestern, Hosken earned a bachelor's degree from King's College London and master's degree from Oxford University. Currently, he serves as a Graduate Writing Fellow at Northwestern and an editorial assistant for Music Theory Online.

Aubrey Leaman

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PhD Candidate

aubreyleaman2021@u.northwestern.edu

Aubrey Leaman holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with honors distinction from the University of South Carolina. She has previously served as the marketing manager for the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble, and her research explores the interactive roles of empathy and agency upon listening to western art music, as well as the broad, prosocial effects that may come out of a listener's newly-formed connections to a previously-stereotyped genre. In the past, she has studied musical enjoyment through the lens of narrative research, including the creation of a narrative mapping strategy for in-time listening to classical music, as well as a silent film based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" coupled with a live performance of a Haydn piano sonata at her senior recital.

3rd year PhD

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Morgan Patrick

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3rd year PhD

MorganPatrick2023@u.northwestern.edu

Morgan Patrick is a third-year PhD student from Westport, Connecticut. At Brown University he created an undergraduate degree in music cognition, graduating with an interdisciplinary honors thesis in the Departments of Music and Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences. There, his research focused on parallels between Western tonality and the cognition of visual narrative structure. Patrick's current research investigates how musical form guides attention during real-time listening and during multimedia experiences of narrative. He is also interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie theme learning in film and concert music, especially as they relate to the psychology of expectation and immersion.

1st Year PhD

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​​​​​​​Emily Schwitzgebel

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1st Year PhD

EmilySchwitzgebel2025@u.northwestern.edu

Emily Schwitzgebel’s current research focuses on expectation in music, with intersections in music and emotion, music and language, and uses of computational modeling. She has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition and the Northeast Music Cognition Group, as well as at the annual Music and Informatics interest group meeting hosted by the Society for Music Theory. Prior to her studies at Northwestern, Emily earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and Composition from the College of Wooster, and a Master of Music in Music Theory from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A strong advocate for interdisciplinary research, she aims to engage with several fields of study, drawing on her research expertise to bridge the gap between scholarship and pedagogy.  
 

1st year PhD

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Michael Slattery

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1st year PhD

MichaelSlattery2020@u.northwestern.edu

Michael Slattery is from Hartland, Michigan. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, both from Northwestern University. His work there as an undergraduate included a project, funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research, on sacred quotations and topical content in the symphonies of Anton Bruckner as well as a senior thesis on virtual agency in the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Michael is interested in understanding the construction of musical meaning through an variety of approaches, particularly topic theory and theories of form. Outside of his academic life, he has worked as a collaborative pianist for voice lessons at Northwestern.

PhD Candidate

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Cella Westray

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PhD Candidate

cellawestray2021@u.northwestern.edu

Cella Westray is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her bachelor's degree in music and biology from Grinnell College. After graduating she completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with the Grinnell Music department, focusing on recreating the compositional process of Ravel in the context of his partimento and thoroughbass training at the Paris Conservatoire. Currently, her research investigates historically-informed compositional tools and ways of thinking in repertoires of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drawing on partimento pedagogical practice and on schema theory. In addition to period composition, she is also interested in a broad range of themes connected to the historically-situated perception of music, including the relationship between schemata and tonal perception. Outside of her academic life, she also enjoys performing on the viola da gamba with various ensembles in the Chicago area.

Morgan Patrick

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3rd year PhD

MorganPatrick2023@u.northwestern.edu

Morgan Patrick is a third-year PhD student from Westport, Connecticut. At Brown University he created an undergraduate degree in music cognition, graduating with an interdisciplinary honors thesis in the Departments of Music and Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences. There, his research focused on parallels between Western tonality and the cognition of visual narrative structure. Patrick's current research investigates how musical form guides attention during real-time listening and during multimedia experiences of narrative. He is also interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie theme learning in film and concert music, especially as they relate to the psychology of expectation and immersion.

​​​​​​​Emily Schwitzgebel

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1st Year PhD

EmilySchwitzgebel2025@u.northwestern.edu

Emily Schwitzgebel’s current research focuses on expectation in music, with intersections in music and emotion, music and language, and uses of computational modeling. She has presented at conferences held by the Society for Music Perception and Cognition and the Northeast Music Cognition Group, as well as at the annual Music and Informatics interest group meeting hosted by the Society for Music Theory. Prior to her studies at Northwestern, Emily earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and Composition from the College of Wooster, and a Master of Music in Music Theory from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A strong advocate for interdisciplinary research, she aims to engage with several fields of study, drawing on her research expertise to bridge the gap between scholarship and pedagogy.  
 

Michael Slattery

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1st year PhD

MichaelSlattery2020@u.northwestern.edu

Michael Slattery is from Hartland, Michigan. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, both from Northwestern University. His work there as an undergraduate included a project, funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research, on sacred quotations and topical content in the symphonies of Anton Bruckner as well as a senior thesis on virtual agency in the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Michael is interested in understanding the construction of musical meaning through an variety of approaches, particularly topic theory and theories of form. Outside of his academic life, he has worked as a collaborative pianist for voice lessons at Northwestern.

Cella Westray

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PhD Candidate

cellawestray2021@u.northwestern.edu

Cella Westray is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received her bachelor's degree in music and biology from Grinnell College. After graduating she completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with the Grinnell Music department, focusing on recreating the compositional process of Ravel in the context of his partimento and thoroughbass training at the Paris Conservatoire. Currently, her research investigates historically-informed compositional tools and ways of thinking in repertoires of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drawing on partimento pedagogical practice and on schema theory. In addition to period composition, she is also interested in a broad range of themes connected to the historically-situated perception of music, including the relationship between schemata and tonal perception. Outside of her academic life, she also enjoys performing on the viola da gamba with various ensembles in the Chicago area.

FAQs

What would I study and learn in the program?

The PhD program is rooted in the discipline of music theory. Students receive thorough training in the analysis of musical structure, systematic and historical aspects of music theory, and psychological aspects of musical structure. Areas of research in the program deal with style analysis in historically informed ways, the intersection of theory and culture, expressive performance in music, the psychological nature of musical styles and structure, and the psychophysiology of musical experience.

See Full Degree Requirements:

Should I apply for the Master's or the PhD?

Students whose ultimate goal is to pursue a PhD in music theory should apply directly to the PhD program. It is possible to apply directly to the PhD with a bachelor's degree; a master's degree is not required. Our MM degree functions more as a one-year course of study than an entry point in the PhD. The MM program is more appropriate for students who wish to explore or strengthen their knowledge of music theory before embarking on further graduate study.

Why focus on the PhD and not the Master's?

While a Master's degree is a beneficial step towards a career in academia, our streamlined 5-year PhD program allows students to acquire the equivalent of a Master's degree in the process of obtaining their PhD.  It is beneficial to the student because it provides full funding for the entire 5-year course of study. In addition, the end degree has a higher likelihood of job placement for our exiting students. We admit up to two PhD students per year.

What will I do with a PhD when I'm done?

Students with a PhD in Music Theory and Cognition will be qualified for a career as a professor in a college or university music department. Our program is not intended for students seeking positions in psychology or neuroscience departments. Within the field of music theory, more and more job descriptions are listing cognition as a desired area of research emphasis, and our graduates will be strong contenders thereby.

What should I do to prepare?

You should have as strong an undergraduate background in music theory, music history, and music performance as possible. Courses in form, atonal analysis, and advanced harmonic analysis are advisable. A semester of statistics is helpful, as well as an introductory course in experimental methods. Our accepted students usually have a broad background, and many have publications or conference presentations on their record before admission.

It would be helpful to read journals such as the Journal of Music Theory, Music Theory Spectrum, and Music Perception, and to attend conferences such as the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory. There is also burgeoning literature in music cognition that you can read as you prepare. If your interests are cognitive you should also join the Society for Music Perception and Cognition.

How do I apply?

Application requirements include two transcripts, letters of reference, the general GRE, TOEFL (for international students), and writing samples.

MM applicants apply through the Bienen School of Music. PhD applicants apply online via The Graduate School at Northwestern; start by reading the PhD Application Process.