Composition FAQ

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Composition is an essential part of any music student’s training. While some students want to specialize in a the performance of a particular instrument, others want to dive deeply into creating original scores themselves. A core group of committed faculty work individually with each composition student to build a well-rounded, versatile composition background. Creating concert music is the focus of the program.

What is the Composition Program?

The composition program offers a variety of degrees at varied levels: a Bachelor’s of Music in Composition, a Master’s of Music in Composition, a Doctor’s of Musical Arts in Composition, and a Master’s of Music in Digital Arts and Sound Design. Six faculty members as well as a full-time faculty theorist remain consistent at the school in addition to an annually-appointed Composer-in-Residence. Recent composers-in-residence include Christopher Theofanidis and Melinda Wagner.

What Kinds of Financial Aid are Available to Composition Students?

Many different kinds of financial aid is available for students. Undergraduates are eligible for scholarships and financial aid. Some students benefit from partial tuition support, and some are eligible for full tuition support. A variety of factors dictate which kinds of financial aid and scholarships a student is eligible for, including GPA, ACT/SAT scores, instrumental audition, the composition portfolio, and financial need.

Graduate students are also eligible for a variety of financial support opportunities. Competitive teaching assistants are available for students who can teach classes while they work on their graduate degrees. These assistantships not only include a tuition waiver, but they also include a financial stipend. The number of assistantships that are available depend on the number of graduate students who are enrolled. 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).

How Important is the Location of a Composition Program?

Many students are interested pursuing performance opportunities off-campus during their degree. Miami is a fabulous city and has its share of dance and opera companies. The New World Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas is just one example of the exceptional professional groups that reside in the Miami area. Miami’s yearly Art Basel festival is the most important art show in the United States, bringing in visual artists from all over the world. Miami also boasts a plethora of theatre companies. Our film festival is internationally recognized. Being surrounded by a community of artists can be generative for any composer.

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).

What Kinds of Interviews and Auditions Does the Frost Composition Program Require?

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 find out which requirements apply to your instrument. Regional auditions take place at various locations around the country. Though an on-site audition is not required, we recommend it if possible, as it will give you a chance to visit the University of Miami campus and see what the Frost School of Music is all about. Visiting will also give you a chance to attend Composition Forum, sit in on classes, and meet current composition students and faculty.

For MM and DMA applicants, no instrumental audition is required. An on-site interview is not required for admission either. You will be contacted by the chair of the department if you are a finalist for an assistantship so that you can participate in an on-site interview. This interview is required if you’d like to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship.

One part of the interview is a short test to evaluate your qualifications and skills in theory and ear training/musicianship. Most teaching assistants work within the EMC (Experiential Music Curriculum), so it is imperative that all TA’s have solid skills in theory and harmony as well as a high level of proficiency in aural skills, sight-singing, and keyboarding. We do not require TA's to be professional pianists per se, but they need to be able to play basic chord progressions without notation, understand cadences, and be able to play basic examples for students in class.

A short test will be given to you 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 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 a similar work 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.

How Many Students are a Part of the Composition Program?

We are highly selective and keep our enrollment at a point in which 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.

How Many Students are a Part of the Frost SChool of Music?

Between 600 and 800 are enrolled in the Frost School of Music.

Will I Get to Perform My Compositions?

Opportunity for student performance is a major 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.

How Will I Know if the Composition Program is Right for Me?

The best way to figure out whether the composition program is right for you is to visit the school yourself. Talking with faculty, meeting current students, sitting in on a class or hearing a performance, and even walking around campus gives you information that will be valuable as you make your decision. The office of admissions is more than happy to assist you in arranging your visit.