The student majoring in composition will study tonal harmony, counterpoint and fugue, tonal composition, 20th and 21st century compositional techniques, instrumentation, and orchestration. Music literature studied will emphasize the concert music repertoire of the 20th and 21st century, but also will include principal composers and styles from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The student will demonstrate mastery of these skills and concepts, as well as the development of an individual compositional personality and voice, by completing a portfolio of scores that will include (but not be limited to) a number of pieces in smaller forms, a tonal four-part fugue, a composition for solo voice or mixed chorus, a sonata in three movements, and a composition for full orchestra.

The study of acknowledged masterpieces from different historical periods will develop in the student an individual aesthetic vision and the critical ability to recognize and discuss music of quality. The student will gain skills by working with performers, leading rehearsals, and conducting and/or producing performances.

The composition major will develop sufficient skills and knowledge to function as a composer of concert music and to gain entry to a graduate program in music theory or composition in order to pursue a career as a teacher, scholar, and practitioner of music theory and composition.

Entrance Requirements


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of a major in composition, students will:

  1. Transcribe and analyze musical compositions in a variety of styles;
  2. Orchestrate music for ensembles of varying size and instrumentation;
  3. Synthesize and apply historical knowledge of compositional practices to the creation of original musical works;
  4. Rehearse and conduct a performance of his or her own compositions;
  5. Produce a recording of his or her own compositions; and
  6. Evaluate the historical, social, and cultural context of musical compositions.
Program Requirements: 
Read more about this program

30 credits for the major:

  • ISKB-211: Basic Keyboard 1
  • ISKB-212Basic Keyboard 2
  • CP-213: Advanced Counterpoint
  • CM-397: Directed Student in Small Forms 1
  • CM-398: Directed Student in Small Forms 2
  • LHAN-311: Style Analysis: Classical & Romantic
  • LHAN-312: Style Analysis: 20th Century
  • CM-231: Instrumentation and Score Preparation
  • CM-311: Contemporary Techniques in Composition 1
  • CM-312: Contemporary Techniques in Composition 2
  • CM-441: Scoring for Full Orchestra
  • CM-497: Directed Study in Sonata Composition
  • CM-498: Directed Study in Orchestral Composition 
  • Approved Specified Electives
  • Senior Portfolio 
Assessment Evidence
  1. Compositions. Students are required to complete a variety of compositional styles, synthesizing fundamental techniques (e.g. imitative counterpoint) and period styles. a. CP-213: Fugue, which fulfills the required assessment of counterpoint. The final project is a four-part fugue in the late Baroque style. Students must write a fugue that includes a subject with a tonal answer; an exposition; episodes with sequential modulations; middle entries; stretto; and a pedal-point coda. b. CM-497: Directed Study in Sonata Composition, which fulfills the required assessment of developmental sonata form. The final project for the course is twelve-minute composition for piano solo or piano with orchestral instruments in three movements. Students apply heir historical and theoretical understanding of the genre through the appropriate selection of forms (e.g. sonata allegro, rondo, theme and variations, minuet, and scherzo). c. CW-441: Scoring for Full Orchestra, which fulfills the required assessment of instrumentation and orchestration. Building on the curriculum of CM-231, students complete a variety of compositional projects that develop their orchestration skills.
  2. Analytical papers. In LHAN-311: Style Analysis of Baroque through Neo-Classical Periods and LHAN-312: Style Analysis of the Twentieth Century, students are introduced to a variety of analytical approaches -- Schenkarian analysis, set theory -- which they then apply to compositions. Students produce written analyses of scores.
  3. Live performance of original compositions. Students have many opportunities to hear their music performed live, both in the classroom and the concert hall. These performances create opportunities for peer review and faculty critique. Those opportunities include: a. Public recitals. In the fall and spring semesters, the department sponsors public performances of student works. This is one way the student may fulfill the requirement for a public performance of one of his/her works. Students may elect to produce their own concerts independent of this particular avenue. If students choose this option they must receive prior approval from the departmental Portfolio Committee before the proposed concert. b. In-class readings. Students have regular opportunities to hear their music performed in a classroom setting. In conjunction with the Scholarship Office and Professional Writing Division, the college sponsors several chamber music groups whose sole responsibility is to perform Composition students' music. These informal performances begin in the sixth week of the semester, and continue until finals week. c. Workshops with visiting artists. The Composition Department hires professional ensembles to read student works. Recent guests include the Esterhazy String Quartet and the Kalistos String Ensemble.
  4. Scores for full orchestra. In CM-341: Digital Score Preparation for Composers, students are required to produce an orchestral score using Finale.
  5. Capstone portfolio. All students are required to complete the Composition Department Capstone Assessment task. Students produce a portfolio containing eight scores of original compositions. Students are also required to submit a CD recording that includes at least 15 minutes of music from the portfolio, and proof that the compositions have been performed publicly. The portfolio items are reviewed by a Portfolio Committee consisting of several faculty members. Students are encouraged to submit items for their portfolio on an ongoing basis during their junior and senior years at the college. The Portfolio Committee accepts portfolio submissions from students seven times per calendar year: three times in fall, three in spring and one in summer. When student work is rejected by the committee, students receive a detailed written assessment of the work to assist them in revising and resubmitting their portfolio. a. A minimum of (four) works in "smaller forms". Each work should be at least three minutes in duration and be scored for one or more instruments, and/or voices, in transposed score. The combined total of these works must be at least twelve (12) minutes. No more than one of these works may be written in a pre-Twentieth Century idiom (e.g., a three-part fugue, a two-part Invention, etc.). Also, only one of these works may be a "graphic score". Generally these "smaller forms" works are selected from the projects composed in CM-311, CM-312, CM-397 and CM-398. If necessary, the Portfolio Committee may request that a score be revised and recopied. b. A four-part fugue for a keyboard instrument, or four homogeneous instruments, in a transposed open score format. The fugue must be in Late Baroque style and include a tonal answer, at least one countersubject, a stretto, and a tonic or dominant pedal point. It must also utilize middle entries in three related keys and at least one episode that modulates during a sequential passage. In addition, it must maintain a consistent motor rhythm relative to the time signature. All standard musical indications such as tempo, dynamics, articulations, etc. must also be present. c. A vocal composition for solo voice with accompaniment, or mixed chorus a cappella. d. A Sonata in three (three) movements for piano, or standard orchestral instrument with piano. This work is composed in CM-497. Duration of this piece must be at least twelve minutes. Guidelines can be found in the course syllabus. e. A composition for standard full symphony orchestra. Minimum duration of eight (8) minutes. This project is composed in CM-498. Guidelines can be found in the course syllabus. f. A CD recording totaling fifteen minutes in duration compiled from any of the above works. The recording must be of high quality both in performance and recording technique. The recording may not be a computer generated MIDI file or sequence. g. A copy of a public performance program.