A student sitting at a baby grand piano, with a guitarist playing in the foreground.

Music - Composition (BM)

As a student in the Music Composition Bachelor of Music (BM) degree program, you’ll be able to create your own path toward becoming a professional music composer. Learn music composition for every genre of music, and specialize in the genre that most interests you—including big band, classical, gospel, alternative rock, electronica and more. Small class sizes ensure you get proper attention and the opportunity to grow, and an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration allows you to work creatively with Film, Animation, Theater and Dance students. In UArts’ four-year, 120-credit Music Composition BM degree program, you’ll find your own distinct voice and receive instruction from different teachers with their own unique expertise.

In 2020, the School of Music was ranked #2 in The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Music Schools by Music School Central.

Gallery

Composition majors have composed music for live performances and studio recordings; re-scored films using virtual instruments and samples; designed soundscapes for citywide light shows; and collaborated with ProJazz in Santiago, Chile, and the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in the U.K. 

Each semester, visiting artists—including a professional chamber music ensemble—visit UArts to perform, record or discuss working as a professional musician. Students learn how to bring their creations to life.

UArts’ Matt Davis is a jazz guitarist based in Philadelphia. Davis is an active composer, teacher, arranger and performer with his original 12-piece modern chamber jazz ensemble, Matt Davis’ Aerial Photograph.

Curriculum

The Music Composition degree program is designed as a launching pad for students interested in writing and arranging music for film, games, animation, theater, dance and multimedia projects. The curriculum provides a foundation in jazz, popular, commercial and contemporary classical genres, with a focus on emerging technologies. You’ll have the opportunity to compose arrangements for UArts’ instrumental and vocal ensembles to perform and record.

Students graduating from the Music Composition program will:

  • demonstrate outstanding aural skills;
  • demonstrate outstanding theoretical knowledge;
  • understand the historical and sociological context of influential pieces and movements;
  • express understanding of music in verbal and written form;
  • be musically literate and technically proficient performers and composers;
  • possess knowledge and experience in diverse musical styles and cultures;
  • acquire the skills to use and integrate current technology  with their musical efforts;
  • compose original scores for solo artists and ensembles;
  • develop a unique compositional voice;
  • master the fundamentals in composition, orchestration, harmony, counterpoint, etc.;
  • rehearse, record and perform original pieces; and
  • use all of the above as the basis for creative output.

Sample Curriculum

Duration: four years, full time
Credits: 120 credits

Major requirements: 69 credits
Discipline history: 9 credits
Critical Studies: 33 credits
Free electives: 9 credits

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First Year

Fall semester: 15 credits
Composition Instruction (3c)
Chorus (1c)
Fundamental Music Theory I, Music Theory I or Advanced Music Theory I (3c)
Fundamental Musicianship I, Musicianship I or Advanced Musicianship I (3c)
Class Piano (1c)
Writing I Placement (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (1c)

Spring semester: 15 credits
Composition Instruction (3c)
Chorus (1c)
Fundamental Music Theory II, Music Theory II or Advanced Music Theory II (3c)
Fundamental Musicianship II, Musicianship II or Advanced Musicianship II (3c)
Music Technology Survey (1c)
Writing II Placement (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (1c)

Second Year

Fall semester: 15 credits
Composition Instruction (3c)
Fundamental Jazz Theory I, Jazz Theory I or Advanced Jazz Theory I (3c)
Fundamental Jazz Musicianship I, Jazz Musicianship I or Advanced Jazz Musicianship I (3c)
Class Jazz Piano I (1c)
Thinking Through Science (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (2c)

Spring semester: 15 credits
Composition Instruction (3c)
Fundamental Jazz Theory II, Jazz Theory II or Advanced Jazz Theory II (3c)
Fundamental Jazz Musicianship II, Jazz Musicianship II or Advanced Jazz Musicianship II (3c)
Class Jazz Piano II (1c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (2c)

Third Year

Fall semester: 16.5 credits
Arranging (1.5c)
Orchestration (3c)
Composition Instruction (3c)
Comprehensive Musicianship (3c)
Discipline history (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)

Spring semester: 15.5 credits
MIDI Orchestration (1.5c)
Composition Instruction (3c)
Basic Conducting (2c)
Discipline history (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)

Fourth Year

Fall semester: 15 credits
Analysis & Composition of Commercial Music (2c)
Composition Instruction (3c)
Discipline history (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (1c)

Spring semester: 13 credits
Senior Recital
Composition Instruction (3c)
Business of Music (2c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3c)
Free elective (your choice) (2c)

Facilities

The School of Music offers a robust set of performance spaces, recording studios, rehearsal rooms and music labs.

  • two state-of-the-art recording studios

  • seven production suites

  • eight rehearsal rooms

  • 16 individual practice rooms

  • two dedicated drum practice rooms

  • four smart classrooms that double as rehearsal spaces

  • one circuitry lab

  • one electronic music lab featuring the 4th Moog analog synthesizer, built specifically for the School of Music at UArts

  • two computer labs with keyboard controllers and audio interfaces

  • two drum teaching and practice studios

 

Laurie Wagman Recording Studios

In November 2019, UArts celebrated the grand opening of the Laurie Wagman Music Studios on the 11th floor of Terra Hall. The two recording studios are equipped with state-of-the-art, 24-channel API consoles and Antelope interfaces. There is a surround sound system in Studio A, while Studio B has a pair of Adam reference monitors. Both studios have a number of outboard compressors, equalizers and other effects processors. Studio A will also function as a fully analog space equipped with a 16-track tape machine.

Faculty Spotlight

The Music Composition (BM) program boasts renowned, award-winning faculty members who have performed across the world with artists including Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, Patti Labelle, Wynton Marsalis, Joel Frahm, the Philly Pops and more. As a Composition student, you’ll have the opportunity to form close connections with faculty members through one-on-one lessons and collaborations.

At UArts, you'll be taught by faculty who are all in-demand, working professionals.

Micah Jones
Micah Jones

Dean

Bassist and producer who has performed with Terence Blanchard, Randy Brecker, Patti LaBelle, Tiffany Jones, Patti LaBelle and others
UArts Pre-College Creative Jazz Institute Faculty Randy Kapralick
Randy Kapralick

Assistant Dean

Performer, composer and educator who has played with Aretha Franklin, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Four Tops, the Philly Pops and others
A headshot of Composition Program Head David Thomas.
David Thomas

Composition Department Chair

Music - Composition (BM)
Composition program director whose works have been performed throughout the U.S. and in China, Europe, Israel and South America
A photo of Tom Hedden holding a guitar.
Tom Hedden

Music - Composition (BM)
Emmy Award-winning composer who's written music for film, major orchestras, radio, television and video games
Charles Peck leaning on a piano.
Charles Peck

Music - Composition (BM)
Award-winning composer whose chamber music and orchestral works have been performed internationally at Carnegie Hall, the Beijing Music Festival and more.

Profiles & Careers

 

Career Opportunities

Throughout your studies in the Composition program, you’ll have opportunities to explore emerging technologies and the business side of composition, as well as the academics and theory behind it. You’ll be able to pursue a variety of music composition careers in TV and radio; with orchestras or chamber ensembles; and composing soundscapes for video games, events or industrial applications. You’ll have the option to complete internships, which could include a variety of roles, from administrative positions at music organizations to assistant roles at recording studios.

UArts’ study-away programs encourage students to explore the borderless and timeless language of the arts. Students will be immersed in a new culture, providing historical, intellectual and technical enrichment as they broaden their worldview. With a variety of locations and areas of study, students can meet their artistic and academic goals by studying abroad.

Common careers students could obtain after graduation include

  • Arranger/orchestrator
  • Composer
  • Concert band member or director
  • Entertainment booking agent
  • K–12 music educator
  • Military ensemble member
  • Music copyist
  • Music editor
  • Music director
  • Music teacher
  • Music supervisor
  • Orchestral musician in a major ensemble
  • Producer
  • Publicist
  • Recording engineer
  • Studio musician
  • Touring musician

Alumni Spotlight

UArts Composition students are set up for success inside and outside the classroom. Graduates are equipped with the experiential knowledge, well-rounded skills and new connections necessary for careers in the music industry.

My time at UArts gave me a ton of knowledge in a lot of different areas, but the biggest thing it did for me was help me to find my niche. Because of that, I have the privilege to make a living in music.

– Reed Bodenstein BM ’16 (Composition) MAT ’17 (Music Education)

 

In the foreground drawn music notes, through a clear whiteboard a man in the background draws the notes.
Mark Samani

BM '20 (Composition)

Music - Composition (BM)
Film score composer, audio editor, music copyist
A man with a mustache and bears sits in the foreground. In the background a piano.
Reed Bodenstein

BM '16 (Composition) MAT '17 (Music Education)

Music - Composition (BM)
Co-director and founder of Pinelands Music Academy in Medford Lakes, NJ
Headshot of jackson Teeley
Jackson Teeley

BM '16

Music - Composition (BM)
New musical 'Arrowhead' was recently produced in New York City and Boston
Kevin Korn headshot
Kevin Korn

BM '07

Music - Composition (BM)
Los Angeles agent representing major film and video game score composers
Michael Winstanley headshot black and white
Michael Winstanley

BM '15

Music - Composition (BM)
Won the Ensemble de la Belle Musique competition for one of his compositions

How to Apply

Admissions Deadline: There is no set deadline for applications, however the deadline for the Federal Applications for Student Aid (FAFSA) is Feb. 15. UArts operates on a rolling admissions basis, which means we receive and process applications throughout the year as space remains available in each program. 

Learn more about FAFSA and associated deadlines.

The following materials are required for your application.

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A completed application for admission

Our admissions team will help you throughout the process. Visit the Admissions section or start your application now.

View the application for admission.

A nonrefundable $60 application fee

A nonrefundable $60 application fee

A personal statement
  • Your individual voice and personal insights play an equally important and valued role in an admissions review. Your personal statement allows you to share your story, express yourself and place a spotlight on your creative journey—past, present or future. It helps us get to know you and your dreams, ideas, challenges, opportunities and/or goals in a way your transcripts and other application materials can’t. 

  • Here are some questions to help you shape your personal statement. Interpret them as you wish. There are no right or wrong answers—there’s only your story.

    1. When and how did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
    2. How will University of the Arts help you achieve your creative and professional goals?
    3. How do you want your creativity to affect the future?

  • There is no word count requirement, but we recommend you share your story in 250 to 500 words. Upload your personal statement with your application for admission or email it to undergradcredentials@uarts.edu.

Official transcripts
  • Official transcripts from the high school(s) you have attended are required. For transfer students, transcripts from each college you have attended are required. They must be mailed directly by your school in a sealed envelope to the Office of Admissions, emailed directly from your school, or sent through a secure electronic transcript delivery service. Transcripts sent or emailed by students are not considered official. They should be sent to the Office of Admissions, University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to undergradcredentials@uarts.edu.

  • For transcripts from outside the U.S., refer to the instructions for international undergraduate students.

An audition or interview
  • Every student applying to performing arts programs must pass an entrance audition or interview. This measures not only the student's creative and expressive facility, but also the level of skill acquired. Students are asked to select their preferred audition or interview date when completing the application. Learn more about Music Composition audition requirements.

  • You will receive an email confirming your requested audition date within 48 hours of submitting the application. An application for admission must be submitted to the Office of Admissions at least two weeks before the requested audition/interview day.

International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency. 

International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency

Optional materials 

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