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 (MD). One of only two such graduate programs of study in the United States (the other being at the Penn State University), the UCI program is housed in the Department of Drama of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts in Irvine, California, which offers excellent proximity to major arts organizations in Southern California.

Candidates must be excellent pianists and have musical theatre experience. 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, musical arranging, sound design, and singing pedagogy, as well as first-hand experience through internships, which most recently have included the Sacramento Music Circus and South Coast Repertory Theater.

This three-year residency also provides a rich, authentic collaboration with MFA Drama students, whose focus may include acting, design, stage management, and dramaturgy, developing artistic teams to create both large and small works of art for the stage.  You have the opportunity to work on musical productions each quarter while being closely mentored by the department’s Musical Theatre and associated faculty, gaining access to fresh insights into the running of a positive, productive rehearsal, and an understanding of what it takes to mount a first-class musical production. Serving as Music Director for a main stage production is the basis of your thesis project.

In addition to on-campus study, during one quarter the MFA candidate travels to and lives in Manhattan to serve as the Music Director of the month-long New York Satellite Program in Musical Theatre, which includes serving as MD for the NYSP Presents new works series, as well as accompanying classes taught by New York casting directors, choreographers, and directors.

Coursework includes:

Select three Projects in Theatre:

DRAMA 199 - One class in each of three areas: Acting, Directing, Sound Design

Complete three courses in singing:

DRAMA 241 – Singing Pedagogy

Complete nine courses in conducting:

DRAMA 242 – Conducting

Complete one course in form and analysis:

DRAMA 243 – Script & Score

Complete three courses in scene study:

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

Complete three quarters in abbreviated musicals:

DRAMA 247 – Musicals Abridged

Complete three courses in American Musical Theatre History:

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

Complete nine quarters in musical direction projects:

DRAMA 249 – Graduate Musical Direction

Complete two courses in Foundations in Theatre:

DRAMA 251A – Script Analysis

DRAMA 251C – Genres and Theatre Making

Complete one course in orchestration:

MUSIC 136 – Instrumentation

In addition, one Elective course is required. A total of 128 quarter units in graduate or approved upper-division undergraduate courses must be completed with a grade of at least B in each course.

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