Carnegie Mellon University

School of Music

Where artistry and innovation share center stage


With an intense program in composition and a university environment enriched by computer technology, the School of Music places a strong emphasis on contemporary music. All members of the composition faculty are professional composers, who share the creative evolution of their own works with their students in a master/apprentice relationship. Students compose works for all types of instrumental and vocal groupings.

The Composition Program at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music values:
An open mind, a commitment to hard work, and a willingness to try new things as a way of opening up creative possibilities. We have no “House Style” here, but we do believe that there is something to be learned from any type of music.

An Undergraduate degree (BFA) in Composition provides guidance, space, and time to:
-explore and develop your creative voice
-learn about and try new methods for generating and developing material
-develop the technical skills necessary to best communicate your ideas to performers and audiences through notated scores.

A Graduate degree (MM) in Composition provides guidance, space, and time to:
-continue to hone your creative voice
-explore new techniques and ideas
-increase the efficiency and efficacy of your technical skills to best communicate your
ideas to performers and audiences through notated scores
-prepare you for your next career steps

Any composer’s goals are achieved through rigorous work in: ear training, transcription, an understanding of creative health, orchestration, score study, analysis, listening and discussion, and regular concert attendance. As always, the best teacher is to put your work into practice; students are expected to compose regularly and share their work publicly during their time at CMU.

Composer Opportunities
During their time here, ALL composers (BFA, MM, BXA, Music Tech-Composition Track)
are encouraged to:
-Compose music for a variety of instrumentations, large and small ensembles
-Have their pieces performed by their fellow students
-Attend a weekly meeting of the composition department (Composers Forum)
-Compose original music for readings and workshops featuring professional musicians outside of
the School of Music
-Take courses which expand their creative practice (including courses in Electronic Music,
through the IDEATE program, music and technology, courses outside the school of Music, etc)
-Participate in extracurricular music-making: (Scotch ‘n Soda, Playground, AUO, a capella
-Plan and host a shared Junior Recital, where you and a colleague build, organize, and run a
recital of your original works (for undergraduate students)

During their time here, BFA and MM students ONLY are required to:
-Have at least one piece (for MM, two pieces for undergraduates) performed in a student
composer concert (excluding the orchestra concert requirement) during their time here.
-Attend a weekly meeting of the composition department (Composers Forum)
           -Present at least once in Composers Forum (required for MM students only) on a relevant
            topic of your choosing
-Produce scores in shareable, standardized, western notation to be performed by musicians other
than themselves.
-Compose a piece for full orchestra in the 2nd year of their master's degree or the 4th year of
their BFA (for BFA and MM students ONLY).
-First-year undergraduate students (BFA only) are required to participate in the production of the
freshman showcase, hosted in the Spring of their first year
-Perform in an ensemble to gain first-hand experience of what it looks like to rehearse and bring
a piece of music to a performance-ready level (undergraduates only, masters students highly

Concerts Featuring New Works by Student Composers
These concert opportunities are available every year:
Yearly student composer concerts
Yearly student orchestra concerts (2nd year MM and 4th year BFA students only)
Freshman showcase (Spring of each Academic Year)
Masters Student Composer Showcase
(Shared) Junior Recital (optional)

Other concert opportunities on a rotating basis:
CMU Contemporary Ensemble Readings
Mini-Opera Project
Professional Chamber Music Readings
Student Performance Recital Pieces (in consultation with comp and performer studio faculty)

The foundation of the Undergraduate curriculum contains five elements:

  • Studio: weekly individualized instruction within a major area of study
  • Theory: to develop listening skills, to acquire theoretical knowledge, to recognize structural techniques, and to manipulate technological resources
  • History: in depth study of western music and survey of non-western styles and structures
  • Ensemble Work: student participation in some of the School of Music Ensembles
  • Academics: one General Studies course outside of the School of Music per semester and six semesters of Elective courses

Carnegie Mellon courses are measured in units rather than credits or credit hours, with three units equaling a standard credit. There is no charge for extra credits taken at Carnegie Mellon.



Music Theory




Music History


Major Ensemble


General Studies Courses




Keyboard Studies






Music Technology


Performance Electives




 Theory Teaching


For more specific information regarding curriculum for the undergraduate Composition program please click here.