The Catholic University of America

Compose: CUA Trains Professional Composers

Naturally, being a composer starts with learning to compose.  We work to give you the best training in the art and practical craft of composition: for example, how to combine different voices effectively, how to create and sustain distinctive melodic lines, how to limit musical ideas and exploit them to the fullest, how to structure a piece so that its pace and length are appropriate, how to orchestrate and arrange your music so that your ideas receive their truest possible aural realization. 

These things are best taught and learned through private instruction: focused work between teacher and student.  All composition majors and minors at CUA, beginning in their first semester of residence, take private lessons with a composition faculty member.

There is no "official" style of composition here at CUA: our composers are not compelled to write music in a specific manner, or to employ a predetermined, required technique. What we do expect of our composers, rather, is to write as well as possible in any number of styles, with the help of our guidance and instruction.  You will find that CUA composers write in a great diversity of styles, but all are united by a solid technical foundation. 

Our undergraduate composition curriculum reinforces private lessons in class settings.  Composition majors take courses in counterpoint, orchestration, form and analysis, conducting, music theory, music history, electronic music, and a wide range of special courses dedicated to such diverse topics as scoring for theatrical pit band, set theory, 18th-century opera, Latin American music, and more.  

Undergraduate music majors who are interested in composition, but already have a major in another area, are able to pursue an undergraduate minor in composition

Our graduate degree programs - the MM Concert Music Emphasis, MM Stage Music Emphasis, and DMA in composition - offer focused, specialized instruction at an advanced level for students with prior compositional and musical background. 

Graduate students with an interest in Latin American topics can pursue a concentration in Latin American music, offered in conjunction with the School of Music's Latin American Music Center.

We also believe that the practical business affairs involved with composition are worth discussion and attention: for example, the importance of preparing legible scores and parts, of meeting deadlines, of being flexible with performers' suggestions, of attending rehearsals and performances, of working to gather performers, as well as how to seek and apply for grants, enter competitions, and negotiate a commission.  These are equally important parts of being a composer - those parts beyond writing - and we take care to instill good standards of professional practice in our students.  Composers, we feel, have greater prospects for success if they are good citizens and generous colleagues as well as good musicians.

What next? 

Innovate

Learn

Perform

Return to Our Community

Music by CUA Composers

Listen Petruchio, tone poem for orchestra (Andrew Earle Simpson, Ordinary Professor, Chair)

Listen "Plumtree 2," from the opera Oblivion (Kyle Gullings, DMA student) Rachel Barham, soprano

Listen Deliberation, music for dance by Tim Eisman (MM Stage Music student)