The Catholic University of America

Admissions Information for Undergraduate Applicants

Bachelor of Music admission and entrance requirements

All applicants to the Bachelor of Music program in Composition are required to pass an audition in their principal performance area (instrument or voice) in order to be admitted to the School of Music.

Portfolio and interview (required)

Applicants to the Bachelor of Music program in Composition must also submit a portfolio of original compositions for review by the composition faculty, and must also take an interview with the composition faculty. This interview is usually done in person at the live audition. If a student is submitting a video audition, they should contact Dr. Stephen Gorbos, the head of composition-theory, to set up a video audition on one of the School of Music's audition days.

Please see the guidelines at the bottom of this page for tips on presenting the best possible portfolio. Details on portfolio submission can be found here.

No doubt, you have many questions.  Some of the most frequently-asked questions can be answered on our website.  If you still have questions, however, please do not hesitate to contact the head of composition, Dr. Stephen Gorbos.

Audition (required)

All applicants to the Bachelor of Music program in Composition are required to pass an audition in their principal performance area (instrument or voice) in order to be admitted to the School of Music.

Portfolio (required)

In addition to auditioning, applicants to the Bachelor of Music program in Composition are required to submit a portfolio of original compositions.

A strong portfolio should typically include:

  • Scores of two to three compositions for varied forces (if possible). Scores should be neat, clean, legible, and bound. Either manuscript or computerized printouts (made with notation software) are acceptable; in either case, however, scores should demonstrate a student's level of knowledge of musical notation.
  • Recordings of works in the portfolio (if available).  Please send recordings in hard-copy format (CD or DVD: no digital audio files at present, please).  Please note that MIDI or other electronic realizations of pieces should not be submitted in lieu of recordings of live performances unless the realization is of particularly high quality. A poor MIDI realization may create an inaccurately poor impression of your work: a good general rule in this regard is: if in doubt, don't send. The faculty are generally able to assess the quality of your music quite well by reviewing your scores. Electronic or works involving digital media submitted as part of a portfolio are not required to be accompanied by scores.
  • Optional: Performance history. This would consist of a list of the pieces you have composed, if and when they were performed, and by whom.
  • Optional: CV or resume. This can be a helpful supplement to your compositions and recordings, especially if it highlights additional areas of interest or accomplishment (your experiences as a ballet accompanist, perhaps, or your time spent in a rock band). Focus, if you do choose to provide a CV, on providing information not available elsewhere. CV's should be 2 pages maximum and should give a brief summary of your education and any additional musical activities to date (i.e., compositions premiered, any summer camps or institutes such as Interlochen, Aspen, Tanglewood, Brevard, etc., which you might have attended), and any competitions or prizes which you may have won.
  • Optional: composer biography. A good bio gives details of your previous education and your experiences in composition (performances, etc.). If you are a newcomer to composition, more or less, chances are that your bio may not be particularly helpful just yet. If you have won a competition or have participated in summer institutes such as Tanglewood, Aspen, Interlochen, Brevard, etc., this would be important information to include, either in a bio or the CV (see above for CV or resume). The best bios are limited to around 200 words.

Specific tips to strengthen your portfolio

Here are some tips for making your portfolio as accessible and informative as possible when it is actually before the admissions committee. It is helpful to keep in mind that the committee has a great number of applications to consider and cannot devote a great deal of time to any single application. So, the more helpful and easy your materials are to review, the greater the chances are that the committee will receive the best possible impression of your work.

  • Recordings in CD (or DVD) format should include a track listing in the jewel case of the CD. This is very helpful for the committee to have when reviewing your CD: do not place the track numbers and timings on the CD label only, as the committee is not able to navigate your CD when the disc is in the player!
  • You have a right to be judged by your best work, so be sure to show your best to the committee. If you are submitting a recording and have editing software which allows you to provide short samples of the most interesting parts (i.e., the "highlights") of your music, your CD should be presented in this way. For example, if you have a 7-minute piece which begins very softly and slowly, but builds to an impressive climax at 4:56, you would want the committee to hear the part of the piece around 4:56, of course!
  • In connection with the previous tip, if you want the committee to see the score passage corresponding to your highlights, mark the score in such a way so that the committee can turn immediately to that passage. One good method would be to enclose a tab divider on the score page in question, labelled with the track of the CD to which it corresponds.
  • If you have an extensive highlights list with corresponding score samples, you may wish to include a separate sheet of paper which serves as a "listening guide." This is, however, not necessary so long as the CD is clearly marked (don't forget to include a track listing, with timings, in a jewel case insert!).
  • Try to include music which fits the profile of the department or school to which you are applying. For example, if you are primarily a composer of electronic and computer music, there are other schools which will serve your needs much better than CUA. CUA focuses on acoustic and theatrical classical composition.
  • If you wish to have your materials returned, please provide a self-addressed, stamped padded mailing envelope.

IMPORTANT: Admission to the School of Music as a beginning Composition major does not automatically include formal admission to the BM degree program in Composition. In order to secure admission to the BM Composition program, the student must be formally approved for admission by the Composition faculty, generally after the second year of study.