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Bachelor of Music, Global Composition

Master of Music, Global Composition

The composition major is designed to welcome students who bring a range of musical backgrounds and experience to their creative work as makers of new music.  We recognize that the majority of composers today come from backgrounds in a wide variety of popular genres, K-pop to hip-hop, EDM to Eminem, video games
to space operas, rock to reggae, metal to Mariachi.

We embrace all of these, and recognize the important cultural conversations taking place within them.  We see ourselves as contributors to that dialogue. 

Composition students compose works for various ensembles, including orchestra, film scores, EDM, song writing etc.  We give our students the tools to hit the ground running and seize many opportunities, from creating original work, to working in recording studios, creating their own software, publishing and even creating album artwork.

Students learn to trust their intuition, draw from the unknown, and apply structural and technical tools to realize highly personal, literate musical works.

Graduate students have opportunities to teach, and there is partial scholarship support available. We are growing the composition area and seek energetic graduate students and undergraduate students.

The music composition program at SDSU honors the maverick genius composer Harry Partch, whose ensemble was in residence here for several decades.  We aim to be an utterly unique composition program: open, inclusive, all embracing, deep, rigorous and dynamic, the best composition program in the country, on our own terms.


Audition Requirements:
Undergraduate deadline to turn in materials is February 15. The Graduate Deadline to turn in materials is also February 15.

**All printed materials (scores, music excerpts, recommendations, and grade transcripts etc.) need to be submitted via PDF format, all audio recordings need to be submitted via a link to BandCamp, SoundCloud, DropBox, Drive, YouTube, etc.**

  • Reproduce four one-page music excerpts with professional notation software, to demonstrate your notation abilities.  (Please send an email to to request excerpts and instructions.)
  • Performance audition: we want to hear you play to get a sense of your musicality. Do not sign up for a live audition.  Instead, please record a short video of you performing, and provide a link to the performance via YouTube.  Instruments may include traditional classical instruments such as clarinet as well as other cultures: tabla, berimbau, dumbek etc., and pop instruments such as turntables, electric guitar, laptop etc.  Repertoire can be anything: original, improvised, scored, cover, in any genre.
  • Three letters of recommendation from qualified professionals.
  • Unofficial grade transcripts from past 4 years of education.
  • Statement of purpose - a 2-3 page essay on your musical vision, life and career goals and preparations.
  • A written statement on your music-reading ability.
  • A statement on the technical, software, hardware and recording equipment and software used to create your composition portfolio.
  • Audio recordings, and printed scores (if available) of 2 - 4 original works. (printed scores are not required, but highly recommended)

The major is extremely competitive - compile your materials as if this was the ultimate dream job. They should be excellent and professional and demonstrate your interest and respect.


Summer preparatory projects:

If you are accepted you will be required to complete 3 preparatory projects in the summer before school starts:

  • You will be given a list of classical and world masterpieces to become intimately familiar with—you will need to put these on your iPod and listen to them everyday.
  • You will need to learn to write a 2 Part Invention in the style of Bach (You can buy Kent Kennan’s Counterpoint book to guide you);
  • You will need to complete the Eastman School of Music E-Music “Music Theory Fundamentals in 4 Weeks” course

All composition majors are expected to maintain at least a 3.75 GPA This major prepares students to have a good chance of success, whether in the best graduate programs or in the music industry.