Music Composition


One of the first and most distinguished centers of classical music training in the American west, Brigham Young University has long devoted itself to the teaching of composition. Now in its second century, the School of Music offers aspiring composers Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. Students in composition have the opportunity to study in the Harris Fine Arts Center, which houses all university departments in the arts as well as an array of concert and recital halls, theaters, and galleries, first-rate analog and digital equipment (known as the ALMA lab and EMS), computers and software for score preparation, and a fine music library committed to constant acquisition of scores and recordings of the music of our time.


Beyond the broad preparation for professional musicianship provided by the School of Music core requirements, the BM in Music Composition readies its graduates to

  • Write in a variety of contemporary “art music” musical vocabularies for the purpose of modern and post-modern artistic expression
  • Write in a variety of historic vocabularies (e.g. eighteenth-century counterpoint) for the purpose of accompanying theatrical or cinematic productions (as well as to understand the traditions and structures that link past and present western music)
  • Orchestrate (and compose for orchestra as well as smaller mixed ensembles) in various idioms
  • Recruit, organize, and rehearse players to perform new music for concerts or recordings
  • Proceed to deeper and more rigorous compositional study in a university graduate program

In addition to classes and private lessons that hold forth current scholarship in theory, aesthetics, and compositional techniques, the composition program also offers a weekly composition seminar for performance of student works and aesthetic discussions, and recitals by the Group for New Music and Group for Experimental Music.

The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition Education Grant provides strong support for student scholarships, guest composers, guest soloists and ensembles, in addition to four Barlow Internships that directly benefit composition students. For a more detailed description of the Barlow Education Grant and the activities it supports, please visit the Barlow Endowment homepage.

The university undergraduate catalog lists the complete degree requirements, including the suggested plan by which to achieve them, called the Major Academic Plan (MAP).


For questions about undergraduate composition study, please contact:

Steven Ricks
Division Coordinator of Music Theory and Composition

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Graduate study in music composition at BYU focuses on non-commercial music and prepares students to enter doctoral programs in composition at competitive institutions or begin careers as professional composers. Typically a two-year program, students participate in a composition seminar, complete courses in theory and history, and receive weekly private lessons before going on to complete a masters composition during their second year of study. The program includes frequent workshops with visiting professional ensembles and lessons and master classes with internationally acclaimed composers through the support of the Barlow Endowment Education Grant.

Students interested in applying to the MM in Music Composition degree program are expected to have completed a bachelors degree in composition or to have completed the equivalent work and training through some other means, as evidenced in their transcripts and portfolio.  Admittance into the program is highly competitive. Once admitted, graduate students work closely with their graduate advisor and two additional committee members to design a curriculum that best suits their needs and interests. This course of study will include graduate courses in music history, music theory and analysis, orchestration, and library research, in addition to private composition lessons with the student’s advisor and other members of the composition faculty.

The MM degree is expected to take two years and consists of a total of 32 credit hours, which translates into roughly three classes per semester (including composition seminar/lessons). Students generally complete a majority of the academic classes during their first year of study so that more time is available to focus on their Masters Composition—a mature and ambitious work that is the culminating requirement of the degree. There is a final oral exam, conducted by the student’s committee, in which the student’s composition and performance in coursework are evaluated and judged. Complete requirements may be found in the university graduate catalog.

Successful graduates of the program are prepared to teach music theory and composition at private high schools, high-school level music academies, or junior colleges.  Some graduates pursue careers in freelance composition, while most continue on to prestigious doctoral programs in music composition.

For questions about graduate composition study, please contact:

Christian Asplund

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