This yearly award, made possible by the SMT-40 campaign, is intended to recognize and foster excellent research in music theory by helping highly qualified Ph.D. students to complete their dissertations.


Applicants must be current members of The Society for Music Theory who have completed all required coursework and examinations, and have received approval of the dissertation proposal, by the application deadline.


$3500 and recognition at the Annual Meeting and in the SMT Newsletter. These Fellowships are awarded to research projects that promise to make a significant contribution to the field of music theory. In keeping with the Society's mission to promote diversity and inclusivity, at least one of the two awards will support a topic in an area of music theory research that engages diversity, or an applicant who contributes to the diversification of the SMT community.


The SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship Committee consists of a Chair and three additional members appointed by the SMT President. It evaluates completed applications and selects up to two awardees per year. The Committee reserves the right not to make any award. Committee members recuse themselves from deliberations regarding any graduate student who attends their institution or who may pose a conflict of interest for them. Any recusals associated with the award winner will be made public when the award is announced. The winners will be notified in early 2021 and will have two weeks to accept or decline the Fellowship. An awardee may receive the Fellowship only once; it is not deferrable or renewable. The award may be accepted without the cash prize should this be a condition for accepting an award from a different source.

Application Process

Submit the online application form by FRIDAY OCTOBER 30, 2020. You will be asked to submit the following: 

  1. A PDF of your curriculum vitae (maximum of 3 pages).
  2. A PDF of your current dissertation prospectus (3000 to 4000 words, plus references and working bibliography, musical examples, and figures). In clearly written prose, the prospectus should describe the motivation for the dissertation (supported by, but not limited to, an assessment of relevant secondary literature), present its research question, outline the research methods, explain the significance of the project to the field of music theory, and describe its progress to date.
  3. A PDF of a complete sample chapter of original research (not a literature review).
  4. In addition, the Chair of the applicant's dissertation committee must email a confidential letter to Ryan McClelland, Chair of the SMT40 Dissertation Fellowship Award Committee, at dfc@societymusictheory.org
    • certifying that the student has completed all required coursework and examinations and that the dissertation proposal has been approved
    • evaluating the student’s academic work
    • explaining the project’s significance to the field and (as applicable) its contribution towards diversification of the field of music theory
    • describing progress to date.


Past winners

View a list of past winners of this grant.