Guidelines for Proposals

Applying the principles of critical editing to a variety of American idioms, including jazz, psalmody, popular song, twentieth-century chamber music, art song, Native American ceremony, and the Broadway show, MUSA is devoted to expanding the legacy of American music available for study and performance. By bringing notated music and scholarly interpretation together in the same volume, each MUSA edition seeks to place the sounds of music-making in the United States within the context of the nation’s cultural life.    

Founded in 1988, MUSA is a collaborative venture administered by the American Musicological Society through its Committee on the Publication of American Music (COPAM) and is published by A-R Editions of Middleton, Wisconsin. COPAM, which serves as MUSA’s advisory board, is made up of leading scholars of American music; the Society for American Music contributes to the development of the series through its representative to COPAM. Volume editors receive an honorarium of $1,500 when their editions are published. MUSA is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is based at the University of Michigan.  
Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact MUSA’s Executive Editor for a preliminary discussion of their projects. You may be asked to submit a brief preliminary proposal that will be circulated to the members of COPAM in order to gauge whether it is a good fit for the series. This preliminary proposal should make a case for the significance of the music to be edited, explain how it will fit into MUSA as a whole, and describe the planned content of the introductory essay. The preliminary proposal should also include a few representative pages of the music to be edited, and a brief description and evaluation of the sources for it. 

If the proposed edition is thought potentially to be a good fit for MUSA, you will be invited to prepare a full proposal. For this proposal you should submit the following, keeping in mind MUSA’s goal of publishing works from a broad range of eras, genres, composers, and performance media, and of representing notable achievements in the diverse music history of the United States:    


A summary argument for making the music of the proposed edition available to scholars and performers; please consult the COPAM guidelines for shaping your arguments. Your argument should place the music in its historical, social, and aesthetic contexts and describe its importance to the wider study of music in the United States. If the music for the proposed edition is chosen from a larger body of work, you should give objective criteria by which the selection was made.


Every MUSA volume includes a substantial introductory essay, of the length and substance of a major scholarly or interpretive article. Your formal proposal to MUSA should include a prospective sample from such an essay, of sufficient length to show its overall direction and quality of thought. The essay should have a distinctive title that is different from the volume as a whole. The essay sample and the project narrative will be evaluated for style as well as content; the essay should aim to address a broad readership of scholars, students, and performers. The essay is regarded as a key element of the edition and a substantial contribution to scholarship in American music.


Your proposal should include:

a. A representative edited sample of the music to be included in the edition, illustrating the types of editiorial problems that the music presents and the way in which the volume editor will solve them. Prospective editors are encouraged to use previous MUSA editions as models for their approach to the editorial method and critical notes (see items c and d below).

b. A description of the available sources for the edition, including a rationale for how the primary source for the edition was chosen, and how concordant sources, if any, will be used in preparing the edition.

c. A description of the editorial method employed—that is, what general principles the editor has adopted in preparing the music for a scholarly edition. This section details solutions to editorial problems that apply to the volume as a whole.

d. Critical notes for the editing sample that report the readings of the principal source at points where the editor has made corrections or emendations. All discrepancies between the edition and the principal source (or sources) must be addressed, in either the critical notes or the editorial method.

e. Digital images or photocopies of the principal source(s) used for the editing sample.


a. A proposed table of contents for the volume as a whole: you may also want to suggest a frontispiece photo of the composer(s) and from three to five facsimile plates that will help illustrate the elements of your essay. (While these images are not required in the proposal, they will be included in the publication. Note that each plate used may require permissions.)

b. An estimate of the total length of the proposed volume (text, music, and critical apparatus).

c. A select bibliography.

d. A brief statement of how much prose material and edited music you have already prepared, and an estimate of the time needed to complete the manuscript, including a proposed submission date.

e. A detailed explanation of the permissions that need to be secured for the edition, including the names and contact information for all copyright holders and an estimation of any required fees. Completed letters of permission from copyright holders will greatly strengthen a proposal. All documentation must be in writing. Please request a copy of MUSA’s permission template.

f. A curriculum vitae and brief autobiographical statement that summarizes research, performing, teaching, and publishing activities pertinent to work on the edition.


a. Whenever possible, please submit all text and musical materials as .pdf files or (in the case of text) as .doc or .docx files. The files should be submitted directly to the Executive Editor of MUSA, either as e-mail attachments, or via DropBox or a similar cloud service. If electronic submission is not possible, you may mail printed copies of all materials directly to the Executive Editor, but this submission must be accompanied by copies of any digital files (on, for example, a CD-ROM, a DVD, or a USB drive).

b. Please number every page of text and music copy.

c. Please DO NOT send raw files from a music typesetting program (Finale, Sibelius, etc.), but instead please print the music to .pdf or to hard copy. If your proposal includes hand-notated music, please contact the Executive Editor for instructions. If your proposal includes marked-up copies of original sources, please use red ink or pencil so that your editing can be easily distinguished from the original notation, and please submit either your original marked-up hard copies or color scans.

 Applicants should use MUSA editions already in print as models to help shape their editions. MUSA follows A-R Editions’s Style Guide in most respects; if you are unable to download a copy from the link, a hard copy may be obtained from MUSA’s Executive Editor. The About Us page on this site provides a brief history of the project, as well as a summary of the criteria used by COPAM to evaluate proposals. Examples of successful proposals will be provided on request.

Proposals are reviewed twice yearly, usually in late February and late October. To be considered in a timely fashion, proposals must be received in the MUSA office by January 1 or September 1. Applicants are encouraged to submit drafts of their proposals at least six weeks in advance of those due dates, so that MUSA staff can perform a preliminary review and offer suggestions to make the proposal more competitive. Proposals received less than six weeks before the deadline may receive attention, depending on the availability of MUSA’s staff.

Please feel free to contact MUSA’s Executive Editor to discuss your project. The wide range of musical idiom and styles included in the MUSA series demand a flexible, yet precise approach to scholarly editing. We look forward to hearing from you.