Music Composition

The program is geared toward preparing students for graduate school or for careers as professional composers. The instructors are working composers, who provide a professional intensity to the undergraduate experience by means of one-on-one tutorials from the very first quarter, small seminar courses unique in approach and creative in design, and special projects. Typical past projects have included courses devoted to the recording of student-authored music, production of a musical cooperatively authored by the students as a group, as well as efforts pairing student composers with student choreographers and resulting in a public show. The College also sponsors short-term residencies by visiting composers of national and international stature, with an accent on student access to these figures.
Students considering the music composition major should have a basic knowledge of musical rudiments, be able to read and write standard musical notation, and must also demonstrate a talent for composing in the work submitted upon application. Successful admittees commonly demonstrate a great deal more musical background than the average college freshman.

Curriculum Outline

The highly malleable CCS curriculum design enables an individual’s course of study to bend in the direction of personal interests and goals, even as it maintains solid integrity in the form of a core curriculum. At the very center of this core is individual instruction with a composition teacher. One of the resident music composition faculty members will also serve as the student's faculty advisor for the duration of the program. While direct composition instruction is provided by CCS, students also take many courses in the Department of Music in the College of Letters and Science.

The following classes (or their equivalent) are considered to be the heart of the music curriculum.  Students are rarely, if ever, excused from them:

  • Music CS-101 - Individual Instruction in Music Composition, each quarter
  • Music 4ABCDEF - Ear Training**
  • Music 5ABC - Harmony**
  • One course in counterpoint***
  • Music 10ABC or other courses, approved by the faculty advisor, to fulfill the requirement for three courses in Music History****
  • Music 101ABC - Contemporary Techniques
  • Music 106ABC - Orchestration
  • Music CS-105 - Readings in New Music, when offered (generally winter quarter of each year)
  • Every student must successfully complete a Sophomore Jury, a Junior Jury, and a Senior Recital

**In academic year 2014-15, the Music 5 series was redesigned and compressed into one year, Music 5ABC.  Music 5DEF were offered for the last time in 2014-15. Students entering the program in Fall 2014 and after are therefore required to take Music 5ABC. There will still be six quarters of Music 4.  CCS students are required to take the full series.

***Counterpoint classes are no longer offered through the Music Department. CCS students will fulfill their counterpoint requirement via seminars offered within the College of Creative Studies.

****Beginning in academic year 2015-16, Music 12 and Music 112A/BCDEF are no longer offered by the music department. Music 10ABC replaces those courses.

A thumbnail sketch of a typical four year program includes:

Years One and Two: 

Private composition instruction supervised through CCS. Required work in Harmony (1 year) and Ear Training (2 years). First and second year students should also focus on completing CCS General Education requirements. Most CCS composition students take either Contemporary Techniques or Orchestration in the second year, with the other course following in the third year. Readings in New Music each year. The Sophomore Jury is submitted at the end of the second year.

Years Three and Four:

Private composition instruction.  At least one academic music course per quarter. Required upper division coursework in orchestration (one full year), contemporary compositional techniques (one full year), and counterpoint (one quarter). Required completion of three courses of music history, with historical focus eras chosen by the student. Readings in New Music each year. Full participation in specialized CCS seminar courses is also expected in both years three and four.  
In the third and fourth year, the faculty advisor will usually prescribe at least a year’s work in one of several available course streams in computerized/electroacoustic music. Further coursework might include a course in tonal (traditional) analysis or an elementary conducting course, or possibly a course in alternative musical tuning systems.
The Junior Jury must be submitted at the end of the third year and must be entirely fresh in content.
The fourth year is crowned by the student’s senior recital.
Ensemble and private instrumental instruction are not required but highly encouraged. Almost all students subscribe to one or both. But as the above sketch makes clear, the program is overwhelmingly focused on COMPOSITION. 


For further information, including a pdf of the Music Curriculum Guidelines, please contact

Dr. Jeremy Haladyna, 
Dr. Leslie Hogan,