The Graduate Student Workshop Program (GSWP) emphasizes instruction, participation, and discussion among graduate students.

college library


The Graduate Student Workshop Program was founded by Wayne Alpern, who acted as Administrative Director of the Program from 2006–2011, and whose efforts, innovative ideas, and financial contributions supported the Program during its initial years.

View past workshops

Eligibility and Selection

  • All full-time students registered in a graduate program in music theory, or in a graduate program in musicology or composition with a substantial theory component, and who have not received their Ph.D. as of June 15, 2024, are eligible to apply. (Separate workshop opportunities are also available to those who have completed a Ph.D.) Students seeking a MM degree are welcome to apply.
  • Participants are selected by a random draw from the pool of applicants.
  • The GSWP is intended to provide students with the opportunity to study with a professor not at their home institution; therefore, students affiliated with the institution of the instructor are not eligible for that instructor’s workshop.
  • Prior GSWP participants are permitted to apply, but preference will be given to first-time applicants.
  • To encourage interaction, each workshop is limited to approximately 10–12 participants.


  • Please be sure to indicate for which workshop(s) you are applying—you may apply for one or both.
  • You must also have a professor at your institution send an email to the Executive Director, confirming that you meet the requirements for participation stated above. 
  • Deadline to apply is June 15, 2024.


  • Please note that GSWP workshops will take place the morning of Friday, November 8; by applying you are committing to arrive at the conference in time to participate in the workshop.
  • In the event that a student selected for a workshop also has a paper accepted to the conference and scheduled by the program committee at a time conflicting with the workshop, the student may need to forego participation in the workshop.
  • These workshops may require many hours of preparation in advance, including both reading and writing assignments. You are not expected to be an expert in the subject matter of the workshop(s) for which you apply, but you should have a serious interest in and commitment to it.


There is no fee to participate in the program. Participants are responsible, however, for the cost of SMT membership and conference registration (but not at the time of application), as well as for other expenses of attendance, including transportation, housing, and meals.

2024 Workshops


The question of how to analyze, teach, and otherwise engage music from diverse cultural contexts has loomed large in music theory in recent years. The question takes many forms: how to adequately address music in which one does not have deep expertise; how to attend to music on its own terms and resist imposing conceptual frameworks from without; how to be alert to all manner of different forms of socio-cultural sensitivities; how to practice non-extractivist modes of listening and responding. There are many more questions besides these, which shine a light back onto music-theoretical and -analytical methods and frameworks themselves, which include how we enact our practices of concept-formation, the way we understand different musical parameters to function in relation to one another, and even how we define (as a discipline, within subdisciplinary spaces, or as individuals) what it is we’re trying to accomplish when we analyze music. Underlying all of this is a foundational question: what (or who) is music theory for?

In this workshop we’ll attend to these questions through a form of “coalitional thinking” (Mohanty 2003). We’ll engage two bodies of work to do so. First is a selection of recent work in and around music theory and analysis, which includes exemplary analyses that model ways of developing sensitive and appropriate methodological tools to consider matters of musical structure and process. No surprise, the best work in this area also tends to richly engage ethical-political questions such as those outlined above. Second is a multi-part inquiry model that draws methodological themes from five decolonial theorists (Glória Anzaldua, Marie Battiste, Chela Sandoval, Catherine Walsh, and Sylvia Wynter) to reframe, first and foremost, that foundational question of what/who music theory is for. Drawing on all this, we’ll work together to consider some ways music theory can be (and in some historical instances, has been) a creative site of insurgent practice that contests and disrupts dominant epistemological frameworks.


Ernst Kurth is among the most enigmatic figures in the history of Western music theory, and Music Psychology (1931) is his most systematic attempt to “elucidate the process of listening” and situate music “as an activity of the mind.” In this workshop, we will consider three facets of this ambitious, inspiring, and occasionally challenging book. First, we will examine some of the intellectual foundations for Kurth’s ideas, particularly philosophies of the mind and developments in experimental psychology within Western Europe and the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. We will then focus on a few central concepts in the book, as selected by workshop participants, and discuss how these ideas are prefigured in Kurth’s earlier writings on linear counterpoint, 19th-century chromatic harmony, and form. Representative topics include musical phenomena as complex phenomena; impressions of force, space, and matter; dynamism and tonal systems; embodiment and memory. Finally, we will place Kurth’s ideas in dialogue with present-day concerns in music theory and music cognition, attending to parallel ideas and epistemological differences. 

Students with interests in any of these topics are welcome. I will provide English translations of all German-language source materials that we read together.


Apply to Participate


For additional information, please contact the Chair of the Committee on Workshop Programs.

View the full committee