Welcome to the Composition Department at CU Boulder! We offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, with many of our students commissioned to create works for faculty and local musicians.
The Composition Department is a tight-knit, creative community of 18 students (about equal between grads and undergrads). All our students are encouraged to pursue their individual interests, be they concert music of all types, collaborations of all types and much more.
Among the many curriculum course offerings, opportunities exclusive to Composition include:
- working closely with several Composition faculty members, as well as the best acoustic musicians in Colorado (students and faculty);
- having your music performed regularly in our Pendulum New Music Series (live streamed and recorded);
- explore music technologies (state-of-the-art hardware/software);
- writing for marquee ensembles, such as the local Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and the Graduate String Quartet (apprentice quartet to the world-renowned Takacs Quartet), and the Boulder Altitude Directive Ensemble. The B.A.D. Ensemble performs about three new works by our students per semester, which includes a recording session and a professionally edited recording of each work;
- working with national and international contemporary music groups and composers (i.e., Alarm Will Sound, Loadbang, Onix Ensemble, ~Nois Saxophone Quartet, composers George Crumb, William Bolcom, Libby Larson, Pamela Z and many more);
- writing an opera scene as a part of CU NOW (CU New Opera Workshop) and work closely with a world-renowned composer and librettist on the creation of your scene, which will be staged and performed by the college’s finest operatic performers; and
- attending the CU Boulder Study Abroad Program at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, as a composer working with internationally renowned composers and chamber musicians.
Additionally, there are:
- nearly a dozen in-house commission opportunities and in-house prizes exclusive to current Composition students;
- regularly scheduled in-house Orchestra and Wind Ensemble composer readings/recordings;
- Weekly department seminars (oftentimes featuring a special guest).
- TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS are offered annually to some MM and DMA applicants. The assistantships include a tuition-waiver (with a stipulation to achieve Colorado state residency by the student’s second year). Oftentimes there are additional funds added onto the TA-ships to further help with living expenses during the degree. These assistantships fall into two categories: Music Theory (Aural Skills teaching) and Electronic Music. Each applicant is encouraged to indicate which of these categories is of interest upon applying (or both). If the applicant is offered a Composition interview after applying, there will be an additional interview for either Music Theory and/or Electronic Music in order to gauge the student’s qualifications for classroom teaching.
- DMA applicants only: Composition’s ATLAS Fellowship was established in 2007 for one doctoral student each year. During the third and final year of the student’s degree as a teaching assistant, they are given the opportunity to develop an evening-length program of original music (usually incorporating electronic and/or video components along with other technologies) to be showcased in the ATLAS Blackbox Theater in the final semester.
- UPON APPLYING, both undergraduate and graduate applicants are encouraged to submit what they believe are their best 3-4 works (scores with audio or video files or links). MIDI IS ACCEPTABLE. In addition to the application requirements online, graduate students are to include four letters of recommendation.
Director of Admissions/Recruitment: Veronica McClellan
What is the student experience like?
Undergraduate composition student Jack Gaffney had this to say about his time studying abroad:
After having recently taken a semester away from the CU College of Music to study music composition in Sydney, Australia, I’m left with a new sense of perspective. I now understand how special our College of Music is. The professors at CU care so deeply about their students and it translates directly into student success both during their studies and beyond. The CU College of Music fills me with nothing but pride.