The Catholic University of America

The Master of Music in Composition, Concert Music Emphasis

  Cherry blossom trees, Washington, DC
  Springtime cherry blossom trees near the Jefferson Memorial

The MM in Composition, Concert Music Emphasis, is designed for students to build upon a strong compositional foundation gained in an undergraduate music program by means of intensive private composition study combined with advanced coursework in music history and theory.

Normally a two-year program, the MM in Composition, Concert Music Emphasis emphasizes the development of increasingly sophisticated compositional skills, including a special focus on longer forms, while providing the strong academic foundation necessary to pursue doctoral study, either at CUA or at another institution.

Composition work in lessons is directed towards two goals: the creation of chamber music in preparation for the graduation recital (see more below), and the larger thesis composition, submitted to the Composition faculty as a graduation requirement.  Because the performance and reading of your compositions is a paramount objective, because it is in performance of your music that the most valuable and immediate lessons are learned. As a result, you are encouraged to take as much advantage as possible of the many performance and reading opportunities open to you at the School of Music.

Master of Music in Composition, Concert Music Emphasis curriculum


Total: 35 required credit hours

Comprehensive Examinations

Also required is the successful completion of comprehensive examinations (COMP 598-01 w/classes; COMP 599-02 w/o classes) in the areas of theory and analysis, and repertoire and compositional practice post 1900.  The student may schedule the comprehensive examinations following the adviser's written approval.

Graduation recital

A recital of original chamber music (minimum 30 minutes of music) must be presented prior to graduation, typically in the final semester of study (MUS 940, 0 credit hours).  Students presenting this recital must submit completed scores of their recital programs at least 30 days in advance of the recital date. All materials should be emailed as a pdf to the composition faculty. Composition faculty approval is required for this recital to take place (students are encouraged to submit well in advance of the 30-day deadline). You have two opportunities to pass the graduation recital. Should you fail the recital a second time, you are dismissed from the MM degree program in Composition.

The division records all composition recitals in the school of music. 

Graduate recitals are scheduled at the beginning of each academic year.  Contact the Production Office of the School of Music at to schedule a recital date at the beginning of the year in which you plan to graduate.  Graduation recitals may be held during the summer sessions; however, you must be registered in the session during which your recital takes place.  You must also submit complete program information to the Music Office at least two weeks prior to the recital date.

Thesis requirement

As a thesis, you must deposit a score of an extended work for orchestra or large instrumental ensemble.  Please consult CUA's detailed thesis guidelines, which discuss document formatting and submission procedure. 

Concentration in Latin American music

In cooperation with the Latin American Music Center, housed in the School of Music at CUA, a concentration in Latin American music is offered with the MM Concert Music Composition degree program. The curricular requirements listed above apply, with the following exceptions:

Additional notes and requirements pertaining to composers

The MM in Composition, Concert Music Emphasis, normally consists of 35 hours of non-remedial coursework. Additional remedial coursework may be assigned pending review of your admissions file and transcripts, and your performance on the Theory Placement Examination, given to all entering graduate students.

MM Composition students are not required to complete a performing ensemble requirement.

You must complete at least two semester (6 credit hours) of full-time composition lessons (3 cr. lessons). At the end of each semester, you must submit a portfolio of compositional work done during that semester to the Composition faculty for the end-of-semester jury, at which time your semester grade will be assigned.