The Catholic University of America

Frequently-Asked Questions About Composition at CUA

Q: How do I apply to CUA?

A: All prospective students may apply to CUA online, and that is probably the best way to start. 

Q: Is an audition required?

A: YES for all students, if you wish to be considered for a music scholarship (more about these in a moment). All undergraduate applicants are required to pass an audition in a principal instrument or voice. MM and DMA Composition applicants are not required to audition, although an audition is strongly encouraged (see the financial considerations below).

All Composition applicants, whether or not they audition, are required to submit a representative portfolio of compositions for review by the Composition faculty.

Q: Is an interview required?  

A: Yes.  An interview with composition faculty will be scheduled for all undergraduate applicants during their on-campus audition date.  For graduate applicants, or for undergraduates who audition remotely, a skype interview with composition faculty will be arranged on the designated audition days. For those students applying to the MM Stage Music program for entry in fall 2017, all interviews (both live and via video conference) will be scheduled on December 3rd, 2016. 

Q: How do I schedule an audition?

A: Please go to the audition website to request a live audition.

Q: What are my possibilities for financial aid?

A: All applicants are eligible for music scholarships by auditioning on an orchestral instrument. Through the university at large, graduate students may be eligible to be recommended for academic scholarships (ranging from half to full tuition) based solely upon GRE scores.

If you are a graduate applicant, in order to put yourself in the best possible position for financial aid from both the School of Music and the university, you should plan to take the GRE, even though the test is not required for admission by CUA or the School of Music.

Also, if you are a vocalist or instrumentalist, you should plan to audition!
Again, even though instrumental/vocal auditions are not currently required of DMA or MM Composition applicants, audition is encouraged.  Pianists are also welcome to audition for potential scholarship opportunities in return for service to the School of Music. 
Performance scholarships are given in return for some service given to the School of Music: for example, playing in the orchestra or, if you are a pianist, accompanying or chamber music duties.
Audition information and dates are available online. For those students applying to the MM Stage Music program for entry in fall 2017, all interviews (both live and via video conference) will be scheduled on December 3rd, 2016.  If you have further questions about the audition process, please contact (202) 319-5414.
Q: What is the application deadline? 
A: February 1st for financial aid consideration.  CUA has a rolling admissions policy, which means that applications are considered (not for aid) after February throughout the summer prior to the fall semester.
Q: I am a graduate applicant interested in theory teaching assistantships. What possibilities exist at CUA?

A: Teaching opportunities in the undergraduate theory sequence are often available to graduate students as sections and courses are available.  Qualified graduate students are paid a stipend for teaching duties.
However, this is generally done on a case-by-case basis, and assistantships as such are not presently part of the School of Music's financial aid structure. As a rule, many of our graduate students do obtain significant teaching experience during their time in the School of Music.
Auditions for graduate student teachers in theory are typically held each spring semester by the Theory-Composition division. Also, students who are interested in teaching theory should plan to enroll in MUS 713, Pedagogy of Theory, offered every second year.
Q: I am interested primarily in electronic composition. Is CUA a good fit for me?

A: Yes. The Composition program at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music has, in recent years, focused on acoustic composition and the composition of theatrical/stage music. However, a new electronic studio was established in the School of Music in summer 2008, and we are gradually expanding our software and hardware with an eye towards developing a fully-fledged electronic music program. Dr. Stephen Gorbos has been placed in charge of expanding the resources of the electronic studio. Starting in the Fall of 2008, each division recital has featured electronic music composed in the studio by student composers, many of whom worked with Dr. Gorbos to create their pieces.  The BM Composition curriculum has added a newly-required course, Introduction to Music and Electronic Media, which will be offered in the spring 2011 semester.
Cross-disciplinary ventures are also welcomed and encouraged.  For example, in spring 2009, Dr. Andrew Simpson taught a course on "Composing for Silent Film," in which student composers created new scores to be performed with film.  As a composer and performer of music for silent film, as well as a film pianist and organist, Dr. Simpson is interested in continuing to explore connections between music and film. 
Q: What performance possibilities exist at CUA for my music?

A: CUA student composers enjoy the benefit of many performance possibilities.  Each semester, the composition division presents a recital that features student and faculty works alongside the Contemporary Music Ensemble (under the direction of Dr. Robert Baker) performing music from the past 50 years.   
Each semester, the CUA Symphony Orchestra gives readings of student works, which are recorded. We also frequently host guest ensembles that do readings of student works (recent guests include New Morse Code and SONAR new music). 
Each fall, the School of Music commissions a student composer (usually a graduate student; every third or fourth year the commission goes to a faculty member) to compose a choral-orchestral fanfare to open its annual televised Christmas Concert in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located on the CUA campus.
Additionally, CUA composers benefit from the Washington, DC area's network of new music organizations: such ensembles as the Great Noise Ensemble, 21st Century Consort, Contemporary Music Forum, and Washington Music Viva have performed works by CUA students and alumni, and many CUA composers are active in the Washington DC metro area as performers, arts administrators, and conductors.
Q: What kind of music is being written and performed at CUA? Is there a particular "style" which is favored by the division, or an expectation of writing in a given way?
A: To answer the second question first, the short answer is "No." The most important thing at CUA is to make sure that whatever style in which you choose to compose, your works have as much structural and formal coherence and expressive range as possible. Although undergraduate students are often encouraged to widen their stylistic boundaries as they learn new and (to many) unfamiliar repertoire, the emphasis lies principally upon technique and expression, regardless of the style of the music.
To answer the first question, our composers write in a great variety of styles, and cover a broad spectrum of musical interest and practice. To hear some examples of music being produced by CUA students, faculty, and alumni, please visit our New Music from CUA page to hear streaming audio examples of CUA composers' music. This catalogue of CUA composers' music is being continually updated, and as many inclusions as possible are encouraged.
Q: Who are some CUA alumni, and where are they now?

A: CUA has produced many fine composers who enjoy successful careers as composers and musicians.
Here is a partial list of notable CUA alumni composers
Q: What graduate programs do recent BM graduates attend?

A: Recent BM graduates are currently in, or have recently graduated from, graduate composition programs at the Peabody Conservatory, Boston University, New York University, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Q: What are students currently enrolled in the Composition program at CUA doing?
A: Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, and are involved in a wide range of activities.