About ICIT

What is ICIT?
Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology (ICIT) is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree offered by the Music Department in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UC Irvine. Applications are accepted for the PhD program only; it is not possible to apply to do only a Masters degree.

When was ICIT started?
ICIT began as an MFA degree, with the first class of students entering in 2008. The PhD degree later replaced the MFA degree, with the first PhD class of students entering in 2016.

How many students are in the ICIT program?
There are approximately a dozen students in the ICIT program. We typically receive in the range of 30-40 applications and admit 2 or 3 students per year. The Music Department also has graduate students in other graduate degree programs, and over 100 undergraduate music majors.

Which professors teach in the ICIT program?
ICIT is directed by a group of “core” faculty in the Music Department, who offer ICIT-related seminars and chair ICIT PhD committees, but students also take courses and independent studies with many other UCI faculty. The Music Department faculty members who are currently considered to have a core role in the ICIT program are Professors Christopher Dobrian, Kojiro Umezaki, Mari Kimura, Michael Dessen, and Rajna Swaminathan. In addition, faculty who previously held a core role in ICIT include the late Dr. Rae Linda Brown (at UCI until 2008) as well as Professors Kei Akagi (director of UCI Jazz Studies and affiliate ICIT faculty), Nicole Mitchell (at UCI from 2011-2019, and currently Distinguished Affiliate Faculty), and Lukas Ligeti (at UCI from 2015-2020). For more information, please see the Faculty page.

Why was ICIT started?
The Music Department previously offered an MFA in Composition and Technology and a separate MFA in Jazz Studies. Starting in 2007, we created the ICIT degree as a new MFA emphasis that merged and replaced those two programs, in order to offer a graduate degree we felt was needed in the field. We noticed that many graduate music programs were defined by binaries such as classical/jazz and western/non-western, and also separated technology into its own specialization, conceptions that do not reflect contemporary music practices outside of academia, where integrating different traditions and methods has long been common. We envisioned ICIT as a novel form of graduate music study that will serve diverse students and prepare them to contribute to multiple, overlapping fields. 

How do you pronounce ICIT?
By pronouncing the four letters “I-C-I-T” 


How do I apply to ICIT?
Please see the “Apply” page.

Do I need an undergraduate music degree to get into ICIT?
Probably. To be prepared for the coursework we require, most students need the skills and knowledge provided by an undergraduate music curriculum, and the majority of admitted students have an undergraduate degree in music. However, it is not a formal requirement, and we review each application as a whole.

Do I need a masters degree to get into ICIT?
No. ICIT admits students with and without master’s degrees. 

I have a masters degree. Does this change my degree requirements or normative time?
All ICIT students have the same normative time to degree and course requirements. Students who enter the program with prior graduate study may request that specific course requirements be waived based on equivalent graduate coursework completed at other institutions, up to a maximum of 12 units. 

Do I need to submit scores with my application?
Although there is no explicit requirement regarding the format that creative work submissions must take, we do recommend submitting at least some score-based work to demonstrate their skills in this area.

How much creative work should I submit with my application, and in what formats?
Please include several works that represent both the breadth and depth of your experience creating music. As mentioned above, including scores would be helpful, but audio recordings are also important. If you have video documentation or software programs that will help us understand your creative practice, you should include those as well. Regarding length, please see the explanation of the “curated playlist” on the Supplemental Materials page, linked from the Apply page on this site.

I do ________. Could I be a good fit for the program?
Our students come from diverse musical backgrounds, and we do not expect all applicants to have expertise across all three areas of composition, improvisation and technology, or extensive experience integrating them. However, we do expect strong skills in at least one of those areas, and it is helpful to have some background in one or both of the others. We also seek applicants who are actively engaged in the performance of their own music, and whose creative work embraces the realtime dimensions of music creation, since these are aspects that distinguish ICIT from many other graduate music programs.

Are you looking for applicants who make a certain style of music?
No. We are looking for serious musicians who want to explore the integration of composition, improvisation and technology. Students should arrive prepared to further refine and deepen their own work, but they should also be willing to engage with new creative practices and ideas along the way.

What are you looking for in the Academic Essay?
The Academic Essay requirement in the application enables ICIT and other faculty in the Music Department to evaluate your writing and critical thinking skills. We suggest you submit a research paper of at least ten pages, double spaced, on a music-related topic. Longer submissions are welcome (e.g. a senior or masters thesis), but quality is more important than quantity.

What should I include in the statement of purpose?
As with most graduate school applications, the statement of purpose is an opportunity for you to outline your larger artistic and career goals, explain why you are interested in this particular graduate program, and detail the kind of work you hope to do here. All the other application materials (i.e. creative works, performance video, academic essay, transcripts, reference letters) enable us to evaluate whether you are sufficiently prepared to successfully do the work you propose doing in this statement, as well as whether your stated creative goals are a good fit with our program.

What should I include in the personal statement?
Whereas the statement of purpose should explain your academic interests (see above), the personal statement is the place for you to share any relevant information about your personal background.

Do I need to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?
No. The GRE is not required for the ICIT Ph.D. application.

I have other questions. Can I talk with the faculty?
Each fall, the core ICIT faculty host an open Zoom livestream, and prospective applicants are invited to join and post questions by video, audio or text chat. That session typically takes place in November. The date/time and the Zoom link will be provided on the main page on this site the month prior, and a recording of the session is posted soon afterwards. We recommend attending this session because most applicants find it very helpful in getting a feel for the faculty and the program, and because it is often difficult for faculty to meet individually with prospective applicants during the application phase.

Do you interview finalists?
Yes. After the December 1st deadline, we review all application materials and identify a small pool of finalists, who are interviewed individually on Zoom by the core faculty in January. This gives us a chance to meet each person, and to respond to any questions they have. 

When do I find out if I have been admitted?
Applicants are usually notified by email in late February or early March. A very small number of applicants may be placed on a waiting list, in the event that any of the admitted applicants do not accept the offer.

What percentage of ICIT applicants is admitted each year?
In recent years, we have had approximately 30-40 applicants, and were able to admit 2 or 3 new students each year.

The Curriculum

What courses would I take as an ICIT student?
The required courses for the ICIT PhD program are listed on this page in the UCI catalogue.

Can I do the ICIT degree on a part-time basis?
No. All ICIT students must be enrolled as full time graduate students.

How many years is the ICIT PhD degree?
The normative time to degree is four years (12 quarters). Typically, students take three years (9 quarters) to complete their required courses, pass the Qualifying Examination and advance to Candidacy, after which they spend their final year (3 quarters) completing the dissertation.

Where can I get an idea what the courses are like?
The course descriptions will give you an idea of the content of the ICIT coursework. Some faculty members post their syllabi or course materials online, including some found on these pages:

Where can I see what kinds of PhD dissertation work or other thesis work past ICIT students have done?
Because the ICIT PhD program is so new, there are currently only a few completed PhD dissertations, but in fall 2021 we have begun a new open-access collection through our library’s eScholarship platform that will house past and future ICIT PhD dissertations, some past ICIT MFA theses, and other works submitted by ICIT faculty, students and alumni. Clicking the “Theses & dissertations” tab within that collection will display all works in that category, including ICIT PhD dissertations and earlier MFA theses.

How is your academic year organized?
UCI uses a quarter system, meaning that during the normal academic year, there are three quarters: Fall, Winter and Spring. (Graduate courses are not offered in summer.) Each quarter lasts for 10 weeks, with one additional week of exams. For more, see the UCI Registrar calendars

How many courses would I take each quarter?
All ICIT students must be enrolled each quarter in a minimum of 12 units of graduate level courses (i.e. with course numbers 200 and above). Graduate seminars are typically 4 units, though some less intensive courses may be 2 or 3 units. In addition, graduate students take some courses as independent studies or supervised research, and are expected to be working independently on their own creative work and research.

Can I take courses outside the Music Department?
Yes, we encourage students to take courses outside of our department, both in other departments in the School of the Arts as well as in other schools on our campus. As noted in the curricular requirements, students may satisfy up to 8 units of the “44 units” group of courses with approved comparable graduate seminars in another department. In addition, students can take courses in other departments as electives.

Resources and collaborating

Are there instrumental/vocal performers who can play my compositions?
Our undergraduate program has roughly 100 performance majors, as well as a smaller number of graduate performers in classical performance MFA programs. Many of these students are eager to collaborate with graduate composers. ICIT students typically organize their own performers in order to realize new compositions, drawing on these students, fellow ICIT students, or performers from outside our campus. Some ICIT courses also provide opportunities for realizing new work with other students in the class. In addition, we occasionally host residencies by professional guest ensembles who provide readings of new works by graduate composers. Because our ICIT students have a wide range of creative practices, the process of getting works performed is different for each person, but faculty assist students as much as possible in the process of identifying performers and helping realize new works.

What electronic/computer music facilities are available?
There are many computer music facilities within the Music Department, each with a different function, and faculty and students use them to explore spatialized audio, motion sensors, modular synthesis, telematic/networked music, virtual reality, and many other areas. Please see this document with details on technology facilities.

Do you have a way that I can learn to build interfaces, controllers, etc.?
Although there are currently no courses of this nature in the Music Department, the Art Department has a dedicated Mechatronics Lab, and various courses on mechatronic art, gizmology, and 3D printing.

Is there much collaboration in ICIT and the School of the Arts?
Yes, we place a high value on collaborative work. ICIT students frequently compose, perform and collaborate with one another, and also collaborate with graduate students in the Dance, Drama, and Art departments in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. Some seminars are also co-taught by faculty from different departments, and enable students to collaborate on interdisciplinary, intermedia projects.

Funding and Teaching Assistantships

Do you offer tuition waivers or Teaching Assistantships?
Yes. The department covers the full cost of tuition and fees for all ICIT students and provides a part-time, salaried Teaching Assistantship that includes health insurance; this funding offer is provided for up to a maximum of 4 years (12 quarters), the normative time to degree for the ICIT PhD degree.

What would I do as a Teaching Assistant?
Teaching Assignments vary each quarter and can include assisting a professor with a small undergraduate music major class, grading student work in a large lecture class, or assisting with a performance ensemble or technology support. We try to provide a variety of TA assignments so that students gain diverse teaching experiences, and the department also offers some students (once they have advanced to candidacy) the opportunity to design and teach their own undergraduate course as an instructor of record.

Are other funding sources available?
Some applicants may be nominated by faculty during the application process for additional fellowship opportunities from UCI Grad Division, which, if awarded, supplement department funding with additional stipends. Other funding opportunities to which students can apply themselves include a yearly School of the Arts Graduate Student Research and Travel Grant, a School of the Arts Medici Grant for summer projects, and travel/research grants from UCI Associated Graduate Students.


Do I need to live in Irvine? Can I commute from LA?
Where you live is your choice, and some UCI students and faculty commute from LA, but you are required to be on campus for your own classes and for classes you TA. There may be quarters for which this means you must be on campus four or possibly even five days per week, though course schedules vary each quarter.

Is graduate housing available?
Yes. For accepted students who apply to Graduate Housing before the May 1 deadline, a spot is guaranteed. For more information please see the Graduate and Family Housing website.