Main menu

MM Guidelines

Applied Lesson 

Composition is taught in weekly hour-long private lessons and in the weekly Composition Seminar. Graduate composers study with two teachers over the course of the degree program.

The department strongly believes that composing is a practical act and that a consistently high production of music is of major benefit to a student composer. Feedback, growth, and assessment depend upon faculty being able to see a student's developing voice and helping to identify problem areas. For this reason the Applied Lesson carries some quite specific expectations for a student's Portfolio and for performances of student works.

Composition Seminar

This weekly meeting is a 1-credit required course for all Composition majors. There are three seminars which run simultaneously: Freshman Seminar; Sophomore & Junior Seminar; and Senior & Graduate Seminar. These seminars combine for masterclasses, clinics, and presentations. 

Listening Assignments

As part of the Composition Seminar students are given weekly listening assignments. It is expected that these works will be listened to a number of times with the score, where applicable, and that students will spend time familiarizing themselves with the circumstances surrounding each work's composition and the life of its composer. A final examination tests familiarity with the assigned works.


Individual Composition Juries are held in the final week of each semester, and provide an opportunity for a student to receive feedback from faculty other his or her private teacher. They also provide the opportunity for faculty to assess a student's portfolio and to offer observations and suggestions for future direction. 

In advance of each jury students submit a portfolio which should include a Jury Information Sheet listing all works submitted. 

15 minutes:
• discussion of portfolio
• private teacher assessment of semester
• general comments and questions


MM composition students are expected to produce a growing and sizeable body of work for various forces in order to graduate. To encourage this practice the department sets minimum requirements for composition and for performances of new works. Every work submitted in a student's portfolio must be accompanied by a program note of between 100 and 400 words. Scores should be double-sided, spiral- or coil- bound with a title page and an instrumentation page. CD's should include a printed insert with track listings. 

Minimum Portfolio Requirement 

Completion of the semester's minimum portfolio requirement is worth 10% of the total final Applied Lesson grade.

Year 1

Fall – 8 minutes of music
Spring – 10 minutes of music, no fall semester work

Year 2

Fall – 12 minutes of music
Spring – 15 minutes of music, no fall semester work

Jury Portfolio Contents

• Jury Information Sheet
• a bound, double-sided score of each work composed during the semester, with title page and cover
• a CD of recordings of each work performed during the semester, with track listing on an insert
• a program note (between 100 and 400 words) to accompany each score and recording

Graduate Thesis

As part of the portfolio MM composition students are required to complete a graduate thesis in the final year of their program. The submission deadline is the first composition lesson of the spring semester. This should be a substantial work displaying the ability to control large forces over an extended period of time. For MM students the requirement is a work lasting a minimum of 15 minutes for orchestra or comparable large ensemble.

Performance Requirements

Completion of each semester's minimum requirement is worth 10% of the total final Applied Lesson grade. The following are minimum requirements for works performed on the Composer Recital Series. Workshops, readings, and clinic performances do not contribute to these performance requirements.

Year 1

Fall – 5 minutes of new music
Spring – 10 minutes of new music

Year 2

Fall – 10 minutes of new music
Spring – Graduate Recital (45 minutes of music including at least one new work)


The final grade for the Applied Lesson rests largely upon an assessment of the student’s growth as a practicing composer, taking into consideration completion of the portfolio and performance requirements. The Applied Lesson grade is calculated from assessment in five areas:
• creativity and originality 20%
• notation: clarity of conveyed intentions 20%
• ability to write effectively for instruments and voices 20%
• progress and growth 20%
• effort and application 20%
• insufficient or incomplete portfolio and/or performance requirements will affect the final combined grade.

Oral Comprehensive Exam

All graduating MM students are required to take a pass/fail Oral Comprehensive Exam. The purpose of this exam is to assess how effectively the student is able to integrate knowledge of music history and music theory with his or her own specific discipline. For instrumental and voice majors the panel asks questions arising from the student’s own program notes for the Graduate Recital. Composition students are asked to write program notes for an imaginary recital of three works taken from the final semester's Listening Assignments.

Back to top