So I’m studying music theory, and in this field in particular you’re essentially setting yourself up to teach music at the university level. To do that you pretty much have to have a PhD. So by my senior year at Butler I knew I had to go through and get a PhD. My advisors suggested I get a masters degree first, and not try to do a five year graduate study at one school. That would give me extra time building up teaching experience and an opportunity to work with a wide variety of professors to learn different approaches and analytical methods within music theory.
So I applied to about eight different masters programs and got accepted into the program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Their program is very pedagogy heavy (meaning: studying how to teach), so I got great teaching experience. The program is very interested in modern/contemporary music, so I was able to write about film music for my masters thesis.
I then applied to about ten different PhD programs, and got accepted to The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Kansas, and UC-Santa Barbara, all schools with music departments that are known to do research into film music. I went with UT because the offer was great, I’d get lots of teaching experience, and the cost of living in Austin is relatively low.
I took about two years of classwork here at UT, and have taught for four years. I started out as a teaching assistant, teaching lab for a class with a different, primary instructor. I then became an assistant instructor and lead my own classes. I’ve taught mostly freshman music theory and aural skills, but I have also taught an introduction to film music class to non-majors a few times.
Right now I’m a PhD candidate, meaning I am ABD (all but dissertation). My week is mostly teaching and writing my dissertation. I’m writing about the music and sound design of Doctor Who (mostly the classic series).
The grad school you go to should be based on two things: will they pay your tuition and give you a stipend (or give you a nice fellowship or scholarship in return for teaching or a research assistantship), and are there professors there that are well-known in your area of interest. I only applied to places with professors that had given papers and published extensively on the topic of film music. That way I knew I’d work with people that knew what I wanted to do and would help me be the most productive with my research.
Hope that helps!