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Group photo of the members of Ensemble Ibis taken at the University of Miami Group photo of the members of Ensemble Ibis taken at the University of Miami
Frost Composition Competition
Open to composers who will be enrolled in high school as of 9/1/18, and enrolled as college undergraduates as of 9/1/18. Students enrolled in the Frost School of Music are ineligible.

COMPOSITION

Welcome to the Composition Program of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Our mission is to guide composition students towards finding their unique styles, while providing them with a wide range of specialized skills that will make their composing careers a reality. 



EVENTS

A recording studio with two chairs and a mixing console, with a rack of equipment in the background

Frost School of Music Facilities

Situated on the northwest corner of campus and overlooking Lake Osceola, the Frost School of Music houses stunning concert and recital halls, premiere recording studios and labs, a growing technology center, a world-class music library, and an array of rehearsal and practice rooms, fully equipped to cater to student needs.
A recording studio with two chairs and a mixing console, with a rack of equipment in the background
Ensemble Ibis practices together on stage

What is Music Composition?

Before music is performed, it must be composed. Performers will each take a different approach to interpreting a piece, but the music is first created. Even in improvisational music, parameters are set in place before the performance begins. Composers have been writing music as we know it for hundreds of years, and many musicians are composers themselves.

Traditionally, composers scored their music with handwritten notation so that anyone who could read music could play it. With the advent of digital recording and other innovations, many composers’ approach to notation has evolved to meet 21st century technological advancements. Attending the highly acclaimed Frost School of Music is the best way to learn composition fundamentals.

Ensemble Ibis practices together on stage
Ensemble Ibis in Concert at the University of Miami

What Does a Musical Composer Do?

Composers create music. They may write music for a solo musician, a small ensemble, or a larger group like a symphony. No matter the genre or approach to writing, a composer needs a strong handle on music theory, music technique, and how the instruments they’re writing for work. It also helps immensely if composers have a solid foundational knowledge of their genre.

Some composers are commissioned to create work—the patronage model is an old one. A particular theater or ensemble may have a certain piece of music in mind and pay a composer to write it. Other composers write music that they will play themselves. Even if you consider yourself a musician before you consider yourself a composer, it’s useful for any musician to have composing skills. The more you know about how music works, the stronger musician you will be.

Ensemble Ibis in Concert at the University of Miami
Stamps Brass Quintet class of 2020 playing trumpets

How Do Composers Create Music?

There are as many approaches to composing as there are composers. Some take the approach of playing a random array of different notes and groups of notes until they hear something they like. Once a phrase or a melody catches, they work from there. Other composers, especially those in pop music, work with chord progressions. There are several rote chord progressions that are especially prevalent in popular music. Composers build off of these chord progressions to create original compositions. A variety of music notation software is on the market, and many composers take advantage of this. With notation software, it’s easier than ever for composers to get ideas from their head and their hands onto a page. A school of music can provide a studio with cutting edge notation software.

Stamps Brass Quintet class of 2020 playing trumpets
Teacher and student looking over a mixing console

What are the Considerations a Composer Must Make?

Copyright and Other Legal Issues: Music was not able to be copyrighted in the United States until 1831. Luckily, congress made changes so that musicians could copyright their unique music. When the creation of a piece begins, copyright protection commences. That being said, most composers register their copyright federally for added protection. Attending a music school can help clarify some of the copyright questions that composers may have.

Recording and Sound Engineering: Composers in the baroque and classical periods preserved their compositions through written notation only. These days, many composers hope to have their creations recorded by musicians for wide audiences to enjoy. Technology engineering and production skills are helpful for composers to have.

Teacher and student looking over a mixing console
Stamps Woodwind Quintet Class of 2019

What Are The Skills a Composer Must Have?

Musical Ability: Composers need to be well-versed in the instruments they’re composing for. They need to be strong musicians. Private lessons at a school of music in one or more focus instruments can help composers become masterful musicians.

Creativity: Creativity is key in composing. Successful composers can enter a state of flow, or optimal experience, in which they are working at their peak. There has been much research done about what conditions encourage creativity for composers. These include consuming significant amounts of music, hands-on studio time, and learning from other musicians. It’s important that composition students are exposed to a range of instruments, modalities, and approaches for many reasons, not least of which is encouraging creativity.

Stamps Woodwind Quintet Class of 2019
Interior of the Student Center at the University of Miami

What Do I Need to Know Before Pursuing a Degree in Music Composition?

As you pursue a degree in music composition, it’s important that you identify what classes will help you achieve your goals. The Frost School of Music has an integrated approach in which you can add classes in other music-related areas to compliment your composition studies. Attending a music school is your chance to gather skills that will help you launch your career. Creating and hearing new music are the exciting parts of life as a composer; however, there are several other considerations that a composer must know about as they continue creating music. Knowledge of collaboration, improvisation, music pedagogy, and the industry is imperative.

Interior of the Student Center at the University of Miami
Exterior of the Student Center at the University of Miami

How Do I Find the Music Composition Degree That is Right for Me?

Music composition is a creative, cerebral field with a range of opportunities. Entering a school of music for music composition is an important step on the way to becoming a successful composer. As you select a school to apply to, make sure that the program is aligned with your focus areas and incorporates all of the elements you need to become a well-rounded composer. The Frost School of Music is the only school of music that uses The Frost Method™, an experiential learning model that puts you in the classroom with small ensembles and groups of students for applied learning. It provides you skills not only in composition, but also in marketing, communications, improvisation, critical thinking, piano, engineering and much more.

Exterior of the Student Center at the University of Miami