MFA in Music Direction | Intro

The UC Irvine Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Music Direction prepares artists for a professional life in the theatre as musical directors. The UCI program is housed within the Department of Drama at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts in Irvine, California.

Students work with faculty members and other professionals in the Musical Theatre field, receiving instruction and mentoring in conducting, vocal coaching for the actor, musical preparation, script and score analysis, composing and arranging music for the stage, sound design, and singing pedagogy. Students also gain valuable first-hand experience through internships, which most recently have included the Sacramento Music Circus and South Coast Repertory Theater.

Typically, applicants already have experience in aspects of music direction for musical theatre, and are looking to refine/ improve their knowledge base and experience in vocal coaching, conducting, musical preparation of singers, rehearsal techniques, composing, arranging, producing, etc.  Excellent keyboard skills (including sight-reading, transposition), basic orchestra score-reading and conducting skills, and an understanding and appreciation of musical theatre as a genre are required of applicants.

This three-year residency provides a rich, authentic collaboration with MFA Drama students, whose focus may include acting, stage direction, design, stage management, and dramaturgy, developing artistic teams to create both large and small works for the stage. Students have the opportunity to work on musical productions each quarter while being closely mentored by the department’s Musical Theatre and associated faculty.  Serving as Music Director for a main stage production is the basis of candidates' thesis projects.

In addition to on-campus study, MFA candidates serve as Music Directors of the month-long New York Satellite Program in Musical Theatre, which includes NYSP Presents new works series. Candidates also accompany classes taught by New York casting directors, choreographers, and directors.

Coursework includes:

DRAMA 199 – Performance projects

DRAMA 24 – Graduate projects

DRAMA 241 – Singing Pedagogy

DRAMA 242 – Conducting

DRAMA 243 – Script & Score

DRAMA 246A – Musical Scene Study: Operetta & Early Musical Comedy

DRAMA 246B – Musical Scene Study: Book Musicals & Musical Drama

DRAMA 246C – Musical Scene Study: Sondheim to Contemporary

DRAMA 247 – Musicals Abridged

DRAMA 248A – History of American Musical Theatre: From Colonial America to 1930s

DRAMA 248B - History of American Musical Theatre: 1940s-1960s

DRAMA 248C - History of American Musical Theatre: Sondheim to Contemporary

DRAMA 249 – Graduate Musical Direction

DRAMA 251A – Script Analysis

DRAMA 251C – Genres and Theatre Making

MUSIC 136 – Instrumentation

For more information, please contact Professor Robin Buck, Graduate Advisor for Music Direction, at