Composition FAQ

The Composition Program includes the BM in Composition, MM in Composition, the DMA in Composition and the MM in Digital Arts and Sound Design. The common thread throughout these four degrees is the focus on creating concert music.

Who are the members of the composition faculty?
What or who is the Distinguished Composer-In-Residence?

Each year we have a prominent composer in residence for six-weeks, during which time s/he will give lecture/presentations, Masterclasses, have performances of his/her music, and -- most importantly! -- give individual composition lessons to our comp majors. This isn't just a "drive-by" situation where you would have a one-time 20 minute "lesson," but rather each student has multiple lessons and the chance to develop a meaningful relationship with the composer.

Our composers-in-residence are listed below:

  • Stephen Hartke (2015)
  • Martin Bresnick (2016)
  • Augusta Read Thomas (2017)
  • Christopher Theofanidis (2018)
Will I be able to choose my teacher?

We do our best to accommodate the desires of students of who they want to study with, and normally are able to do so. We do encourage composers to rotate and study with more than one person, to get differing perspectives and experiences.

Is it possible to get a degree in music composition and still take classes in jazz composition, film-scoring, and/or electronic music?

Yes! Nearly all students write a fair amount of electronic music and take advantage of our facilities. We have state-of-the-art electronic/computer music studios. Students can have access to both once they are "licensed". There is a third recording studio for the Music Engineering majors, which composition students have access to for recording their compositions. Jazz composition is also available -- MTC students are welcome to take jazz arranging and composition classes by making arrangements with Gary Lindsey (Director of the jazz comp program).

Composition majors (grad & undergrad) can take any class in the Media Writing and Production area, including Film Music. There is a great deal of cross-fertilization, and the “concert music" composers have many opportunities to work in the studios, score films/videos, and do multimedia projects.

What is the size of the Composition Program?

We are highly selective and keep our enrollment at a point where students have optimum individual contact with the faculty and their primary professor. We limit the enrollment to about a 10-12 undergraduates and 8-10 graduate students between the MM and DMA levels.

What is the size of the music school?

Between 650-700 students.

What are the performance opportunities for student works?

This is a big strength of the Frost composition program. The number of performance opportunities at the Frost School for student composers is staggering. The bottom line is that just about anything and everything you can write can get a performance. We encourage you to go to the “Opportunities for Student Composers” link on the Composition page to see a list of many of them.

What other resources and opportunities are there for student composers?

One of the great assets of the Frost School of Music is the steady stream of guest composers who visit campus and work with our student composers. In addition to this new Distinguished Composer-in-Residence program, each year we bring eminent composers of international stature and other Guest Composers to lecture and work with student performers and composers. In recent years the list of composers who have visited campus is a veritable "who's -who" list of important American composers, including: Bernard Rands (Pulitzer Prize winner), John Corigliano (Pulitzer Prize winner), Philip Glass, Steve Reich (Pulitzer Prize winner), Jennifer Higdon (Pulitzer Prize winner), Christopher Rouse (Pulitzer Prize winner), Ellen Taaffe-Zwilich (Pulitzer Prize winner), Libby Larsen, Michael Daugherty, Michael Torke, John Mackey, Joel Puckett, Alejandro Vinao, Steven Bryant, Mark O'Connor, Frederic Rzewski, Ken Ueno, Mason Bates, Mary Ellen Childs, John Duffy, Yui-Hui Chang, Howard Frazin, Brian Hulse, and Jose Serebrier. Few composition programs afford student composers the chance to meet as many preeminent composers as the Frost School of Music.

What about off-campus performance possibilities?

Miami is a fabulous city. As with many of the major cities, Miami has its share of dance and opera companies, and The New World Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas is just one example of the exceptional professional groups that reside in the Miami area. But beyond that, there is a vibrant art and experimental scene that has developed recently. Miami’s yearly Art Basil festival is the most important art show in the United States bringing in experimental artists from all over the world. Miami also boasts a plethora of theatre companies and its film festival is internationally recognized. And that is just in the Miami area!

In the realm of contemporary music, Miami hosts the "12 Nights" concert series (focusing on electronic and multimedia works) and the Acoustica 21 concert series (both founded by faculty member Juraj Kojs), the Kendall Sound Arts monthly new music series, the Subtropics Festival, the Deering Estate "Living Artist" series, the ISCM/New Music Miami series, and Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Art (FETA).

Are there composition scholarships and assistantships available?

There is a good amount of financial support for students. 

At the undergraduate level, many students are offered scholarships and financial aid. These financial aid packages range from partial tuition to full tuition.  Financial aid and scholarships are based on a variety of factors, including academics (GPA and SAT scores), the instrumental audition, composition portfolio, and financial need.  

There are several different levels of support for graduate students:

Teaching Assistantships are available which allow students to teach and work within the unique Experiential Curriculum at the Frost School of Music.  These assistantships include tuition and stipend.   Qualifying for an Assistantship is part of a very competitive process.  The number of assistantships available each year varies and is directly dependent on the number of students who are graduated.

Partial Tuition waivers are also available.  For DMA students these are 50% of tuition and for MM students the tuition waiver is 40%.

More details about TA'ships and financial aid can be obtained from Karen Kerr (Director of Admissions), Dr. Mason (Chair), and Dean Shannon de l'Etoile (Dean of Graduate Studies).

Do I have to interview or audition as part of the application process?

Undergraduate: Undergraduate applicants must audition on their primary instruments in addition to submitting a composition portfolio.  The requirements for each instrument differ so make sure you go to the Admissions page to see what requirements fall under your instrument.  Regional auditions take place at various locations around the country (see the School of Music website under "Admissions" for details).  Though an on-site audition is not required, we recommend it if possible, as it will give upi and your parents a chance to visit the University of Miami campus and see the Frost School of Music facilities. It also will give you a chance to attend Composition Forum and sit in on other classes, if desired and to meet current composition students.  Most importantly it will provide a chance for you to meet with the composition faculty.

Graduate: No instrumental audition is required for MM and DMA applicants.  An on-site interview is not required for admission. You will be contacted by the chair of the department if you are a finalist for an assistantship to participate in an on-site interview, which is required for consideration for a Teaching Assistantship. 

A part of the interview is a short test to evaluate your qualifications and skills in theory and eartraining/musicianship.  Most TA's teach in the EMC (Experiential Music Curriculum), and it is absolutely imperative that they have solid skills in theory/harmony, as well as a high level of proficiency in aural skills, sight-singing, and keyboard skills.  We do not require TA's to be "pianists"; but they need to be able to play basic chord progressions (without notation), cadences, and be able to play basic examples for students in class.

A short test is given to assess these skills.  You will be asked to play a fairly straight-forward chord progression (for example, i-VI-iv-V/V-V-VI), using proper voice-leading and standard voicings.  You may be asked to elaborate a diatonic progression with chromatic harmony (Neopolitan or Aug-6 chord), and/or modulate to another key. A similar type of progression will be played for you, and you will be asked to identify the harmonies.  You may be asked to play a few measures from a Bach Chorale or something similar, and asked to do some straightforward harmonization or analysis.

Students interested in the technology assistantship will interview separately and will be asked to describe their experience with current technology software.