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Writing a DMA Document

Lindsay Leach-Sparks | October 2014

    Writing my doctoral document about Hugo Kauder was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my musical education. Although now the document is optional in many Doctor of Musical Arts programs, when I was at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, I did not have a choice in the matter. All DMA candidates at CCM had to write a doctoral document if they wanted that diploma, and many students struggled to find a suitable topic. To paraphrase my musicology cognate advisor, Bruce McClung, a DMA document is your calling card for opening doors and getting jobs. He was right, because not only did the experience of writing it hold academic value, my journey led me to rediscovering unique repertoire for the flute that is still opening doors for me today.

Selecting a Topic
    By far, the most difficult part is finding a topic. I had many interests, but formulating a thesis that was new research and interesting to others was very challenging. Important things to consider are whether a subject interests you enough to continue with it and whether there is enough source material to support your work.
    My husband is also a musical scholar and suggested some study on the composer Hugo Kauder. He became interested in Kauder’s work when he was hired to be the archivist for the Hugo Kauder Society in 2005. Kauder (1888-1972) was an Austrian-American Jew who fled Europe in 1938 with nothing but a briefcase of his music. After short stints in Holland and London, he immigrated to New York and did not return to visit Austria until the summer of 1955. Elements of his fascinating story are evident in his music. Kauder spoke multiple languages, was self-taught studying Obrecht and Ockeghem manuscripts, and even wrote a textbook about counterpoint. I decided that if a style analysis and biographical investigation of Kauder intrigued me, then I could hopefully turn out a product that would be exciting for others as well.

Finding Sources
    The issue of finding source material is always at the forefront of any significant research undertaking. In my case, Kauder is not a popular hit in the RILM ( database, so my sources came from interviews of his composition students, a few reviews found in JSTOR ( of performances of his pieces, Kauder’s own publications, and publications of Kauder’s contemporaries. For example, Kauder and Hindemith were colleagues, so Hindemith’s Craft of Musical Composition was very helpful in deciphering some of Kauder’s musical gestures and harmonies. Ernst Krenek, another Kauder acquaintance, wrote a style analysis of Ockeghem that explained some of Kauder’s writing style. Although these materials are considered secondary or tertiary sources, no other reference literature existed on Kauder that directly described his style, and they were instrumental in constructing my own analysis.
    Interviews are a great resource if subjects are available. I was able to interview Norman Dee, President of the Hugo Kauder Society and former Kauder composition student, which was a huge help in my analysis. When conducting interviews, I felt that it was always best to email the interview request and questions rather than calling. This gives the subject of the interview some time to formulate responses, and it gives you a written catalogue of their answers to your questions. I found that Dee was an enormous help in deciphering Kauder’s style.

Answering the Question, So What?
    Once you have a topic and sources, you need a thesis. The best way to construct one is by answering the question so what? Will this research contribute to my field of study? Could others use this as a source in a formal paper? In my case, I felt that Hugo Kauder’s pieces were largely unknown, but presented a unique and enjoyable style, and therefore were worthy of performance and study. My answer to So What? became “in order to promote the music of Hugo Kauder and add his distinctive repertoire to our active flute literature, thereby expanding our chamber music repertoire.”
    In order to effectively address this in my document, I had to narrow down the research to include specific pieces that helped prove the thesis: unique works that made good additions to the repertoire and ones for which I could identify their musical value. Because Hugo Kauder’s Sonata for Flute and Piano and Sonata for Flute Alone are readily available, I decided to focus instead on reviving three trios from Kauder’s manuscripts: the Trio for Flute, Cello, Piano, the Trio No. 2 for Flute, Oboe, Horn, and the Trio for Flute, Horn, and Piano. These trios exhibit some interesting features including neo-medieval characteristics, Kauder’s compositional invention of the double scale, Eastern European folk influences, imitative counterpoint, and frequent changes of meter. Moreover, they offer different instrumentation and form compared to some of the other standard chamber music, and are enjoyable for both performers and audiences, making them ideal pieces to add to the flute repertoire.

The Committee
    Selecting a committee (one advisor and two readers) can sometimes be challenging. Since my document focused on expanding flute literature, it seemed natural to pick my CCM flute professors Brad Garner and Randy Bowman as my advisor and reader respectively. Choosing my second reader took a little more consideration. Because of Kauder’s tendencies to use early music as inspiration, I chose Vivian Montgomery, then Professor of Harpsichord and Early Music at CCM. I was also her teaching assistant so it was very easy for me to stay in touch with her on a regular basis, as it was with my other committee members.
    The most important thing to remember about selecting a committee is the finished product. It is essential to select individuals who have an expertise in your area of research as well as those who are accomplished writers and editors. In fact, one of the biggest arguments made to me for completing the DMA document (rather than other projects or seminars) was that after having gone through the processes of writing, revising, and publishing, I would then be ready (or at least better prepared) to guide a student through that same process in the future. In addition, it is important to choose committee members who are easy to contact and with whom you can work well. These people will be working with you for months (or longer) and will be pointing out flaws in your writing, loop-holes in your research, and errors in your presentation. It is a different experience than being critiqued in a lesson and can easily be taken personally. Choosing committee members who you respect as professionals and who you know will give honest feedback is essential.

Dealing with Writer’s Block
    After having gone through the process of presenting a proposal to the graduate thesis committee, I thought that once I was approved, writing my document would be smooth sailing. Wrong! Even though this was a subject that I enjoyed and in which I had taken an interest, I still found it very difficult to get in the groove of writing. The best remedy for this was to set a schedule where the first thing I would do every morning was get a cup of coffee, go to my home office (where I usually did my studying), shut the door, and get out my document draft. If I checked my email, my morning was lost. If I practiced first, I was too exhausted to write later. If I answered a text or phone call, it would break my concentration. I reserved every morning from 8:00 am to noon for my document and that alone. I found that once I prioritized my time this way, I could accomplish much more than writing an hour here or there. This is a technique that I have taken with me into the professional world whether I am building a course online, preparing for an audition or performance, or developing a lecture presentation.
    Once I had a suitable body of work organized, I felt like I had run a marathon, but the grueling editing process was just beginning. In addition to incorporating suggestions from the committee on focusing my research, I needed to be sure that my grammar and writing were correct. I found that at times my writing mirrored my speech, which is not something desired in a formal document. I had to comb through my writing as objectively as possible. Do all of my statements support my thesis (or better yet, my topic sentence)? Am I writing in active voice or passive voice? Should this analysis go in the next chapter? Is this a misplaced modifier? Do I have evidence for all of my claims? Are all of my footnotes formatted properly? I must have gone through the document a hundred times. I kept thinking that once it is published, there is no changing it. Through it all, though, I had to remember my audience: the graduate research committee, other scholars, flutists, and performers. If I put myself in their shoes, could they follow and understand the analysis and writing? If so, I was on the right track.

Publishing Your Document
    What many DMA students do not know is that although writing the document is the most difficult part of this process, the publishing can take an extra six to eight weeks, just for the review and paperwork. Additionally, the fees are often a surprise. Formatting is another obstacle that slowed down my publishing process. Of course I followed Turabian meticulously in my Microsoft Word document, but transferring everything to a PDF correctly formatted for the University of Cincinnati was another ballgame. Every school is slightly different, but at CCM, we had to submit a single electronic PDF copy complete with title page, table of contents, abstract, appendixes, and references, which was not easy when these were all created in separate documents. Then there was the copyright. I understood that the University of Cincinnati would officially own the document, but could I expand and publish it outside of the school at a later date, and what exactly were my rights as an author? Only your advisor can really help through those questions. The bottom line is to save time for the publishing step because it may take some working through.
    When writing a document that is searchable in online libraries such as Proquest ( and DDM, arguably the most important part of your work is the abstract. The abstract is published in RILM, and it is sometimes the only thing that a researcher will read before selecting your entire document for review. The goal in the abstract is to put as much information into as few words as possible (500 max), and typically this is the last thing you write after all of your supporting research. It has to be something that piques the reader’s interest and launches your argument in a miniature format. Keywords from the abstract are used for triangulation in searching in online databases.
     For the same reasons, the title can be a tricky item. You may start with one title and decide to tweak it into something that is more encompassing of your research. I found that titles that took on the format “General: Specific” were the most informative and interesting in my research, so that is what I followed: “Performing Hugo Kauder: An Expansion of Flute Literature.”

Promoting Your Product
    As Dr. McClung predicted, my DMA document has definitely become my calling card. Since writing it, I have had the opportunity to present my Kauder research and perform his pieces at mini-lectures, regional flute fair sessions, and concerts. I recently received an Artist Grant from the Orange County Arts Commission through which I am publishing a new CD of chamber works for the flute by Hugo Kauder (available in summer 2015). I have even spoken to the Hugo Kauder Society about writing the first full biography on Kauder. Although the process was rigorous, I found it to be very worthwhile and rewarding. I hope to continue my research and I encourage DMA students to not shy away from relatively unexplored territory. In the end, it is worth it.