How to Choose a Music Composition School

Dec 13, 2019

In music composition programs, students learn how to write and structure pieces of music in preparation for performances. Keep reading to see what you should consider when choosing a music composition school, and view some schools with music composition programs.

Students interested in music composition should first determine a career goal prior to enrolling in a degree program, and then find a school that offers an applicable degree, as well as relevant coursework, for the desired career. Many schools offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in music composition that prepare students for academic work or practical application in creating concertos, ensembles and contemporary scores.

10 Schools with Music Composition Programs

The following private institutions offer degree programs in the field:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2018-2019)*
Baylor University Waco, TX 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $45,542
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $53,948
DePaul University Chicago, IL 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $39,975
Elmhurst College Elmhurst, IL 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $37,055
Manhattan School of Music New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $47,300
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $51,828
Oberlin College Oberlin, OH 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $55,052
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $51,354
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $51,853
Union University Jackson, TN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $32,610

*Source: National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Keep the following in mind as you search for a music composition program:

  • Those interested in teaching should consider a bachelor's or master's degree that incorporates teaching to qualify for positions in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Aspiring music composers with specialized interests, such as computer-aided composition, film scoring or musical theater, should look for programs that offer suitable curricula.
  • Students who do not have access to particular equipment or instruments may seek a school that offers the on-site facilities necessary to practice composing, and some schools allow students to collaborate with performing departments to apply their musical arrangements to visual arts.
  • Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Music Arts degree programs typically pair students with one or more faculty members for academic and musical guidance. Students should search for schools that have faculty members that share similar interests and specialties.

Bachelor's Degree in Music Composition

Bachelor's degree programs in music composition may require an audition or the submission of a portfolio for acceptance. Substantial work in a major piece of music, such as a recital, stage play or film score, may be required to graduate.

Master's Degree in Music Composition

For master's degree students, concentration options exist in stage play, film score or electronic music. Master's students are typically required to complete a thesis research paper or composition.

Doctoral Degree in Music Composition

Doctoral programs in composition are typically completed under the guidance of music department faculty members. Students may select a concentration from variety of disciplines, such as orchestration, ethnomusicology or music research. A dissertation may be required for graduation.

Music composition can be studied at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels at several 4-year schools across the country. During the selection process students should consider a program's specialization options, on-site facilities and faculty interests.

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