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Best schools for composers?

Indigo17Indigo17 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
edited January 2012 in Music Major
Forgive me if this has already been asked, but what music schools/programs are best for music composition as opposed to instrumental performance?

Also, what schools are "accepting" of non-classical methods of composition? I do write classical music/orchestra pieces, but my goal is to write for musical theater, which is sometimes a little quirkier--or at least, my compositions tend to be.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
Post edited by Indigo17 on

Replies to: Best schools for composers?

  • stephminstephmin Registered User Posts: 256 Junior Member
    Perhaps look into NYU if you're interested in Theatre.
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    There's a current related thread here http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/749881-best-liberal-arts-college-music-program-composition.html

    Some prior discussions with compmom, SpiritManager might reveal some info and schools for consideration. Try searching by username. Plenty of past comp threads here, try search this forum/advanced/composition (as keyword)/title search.

    I'm not aware of specific concentration in mt music composition, but it's something that should be available by looking at specific faculty and areas of interest, their styles, works and influences.
  • Indigo17Indigo17 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    Thank you!
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,681 Senior Member
    I know that when my son auditioned at Michigan there were composition students applying specifically interested in Musical Theater. Michigan has one of the top Musical Theater programs in the country. You might look into similar university Music Schools which are affiliated with strong Musical Theater programs, such as CCM, USC, and Northwestern. If I were you, I would check out the posts on the Musical Theater forum to find out which are the strong programs, then look in to their composition departments. Then email the head of the composition department and ask about collaborations with the theater department, or just their attitude towards composing for musical theater.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,324 Senior Member
    Just looked at the MT schools here, and, of the schools I know about (and there are many I don't: I am most familiar with the Northeast) would suggest: NYU, Hartt School (U.of Hartford), Boston Conservatory, Ithaca, maybe Emerson (has a little known BM program with Longy School of Music). Offlist: Oberlin. BU maybe.

    You can buy books like "Creative Colleges" (a great book) and Peterson's Guide for Performing Arts Schools, perhaps to cross-reference MT and music schools.

    I would also think that many universities and colleges would be good places for this. Your composing for musical theater might be more extracurricular there. Basically, any school that puts on musicals could work (one of my kids was just asked to do orchestration for a musical that only had a single piano score), and you could collaborate with others on writing new musicals.

    Majoring in music, whether a BA or BM (look into the difference) will give you the solid background, and then I would imagine you could move in the direction of composing for musical theater in specific classes, in collaborative projects with an MT dept., as an extracurricular for student productions, or even as a volunteer (say, working with a high school).

    As for composition programs in schools or conservatories that are specifically geared to composing for musical theater, I do not know...maybe someone else here does!
  • UC2008UC2008 Registered User Posts: 125 Junior Member
    CalArts is a very "free" school; i heard that you can focus on anything that you're interested in there, for example, if you're interested in new, contemporary music, you can focus on that.
  • Indigo17Indigo17 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    Thank you so much, SpiritManager and compmom--really helpful suggestions, all of which I will take into consideration.
  • Indigo17Indigo17 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    Thank you also, UC2008--I didn't even know about that one!
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,681 Senior Member
    I wouldn't suggest CalArts if you're interested in Musical Theater. Not their style at all, even if they are 'free' as suggested. We're talking much more experimentally inclined there. As I mentioned above, Michigan most definitely is willing to nurture a musical theater composer - I heard them talk about it.
  • EarlGr8EarlGr8 Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    SpiritManager has a good point. Now I don't know anything at all about the composition at CalArts, but it is true I don't usually associate the term "free" with musical theatre. Musical theatre is rather traditional, and tonal, and more mainstream; whileas "free" connotates super avant garde music.
  • nachtmusiknachtmusik Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Indigo17 - how did you search for a good mt/composition program turn out. update?
  • musicboymommusicboymom Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I have a question about which colleges my 10th grade son should be looking at. He is a serious classical composer (he has composed and scored dozens of pieces over the years, and had several played by adult and youth musicians). He also studies and plays piano seriously. He would most like to be a performing composer, but agrees that he needs to go to college with a back up plan in mind. He is also a good athlete, has done lots of volunteer work, and is a fairly good student (he has a 4.0 based on all his weighted honors courses) with an expected 2100 or so on the SAT (this is based on previous scores). We live in a small state (WV). His dream would be to go to Juilliard and do a joint degree at Columbia, or Tufts and NEC, or Oberlin. But I am concerned that he may not have the scores or contacts to get in to these schools. He wants to study a lot of music, and knows a lot of theory, but he also wants a solid liberal arts education (probably looking at English Lit). What schools are a reasonable reach for him? And which would be safety schools? What should he be doing to build his chances for the top conservatories? Thanks in advance for any ideas.
  • mamenyumamenyu Registered User Posts: 1,520 Senior Member
    Columbia is the toughest admit of the non-conservatories you mentioned - requiring top grades and some extraordinary extracurricular activities - much like Yale and Harvard in terms of competitiveness; Columbia-Juilliard is even tougher - there are many discussions about this program on this forum. Columbia BA in music does not offer a degree in composition, as you probably have learned from their online description of the music major; it is a general music degree, with emphasis on theory, music history, and ethnomusicology. And there are many requirements for the Core. Tufts and Oberlin accept a higher percentage of applicants (the acceptance rate at Columbia has been under 10%; at Oberlin it is more like 30% in the college and 26% in the conservatory, though the actual rates vary by instrument/voice/composition/TIMARA). Columbia has an excellent English department. Oberlin also has a popular and excellent English department (a high rate of future PhDs, lots of creative writing too). I don't know anything much about Tufts.
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,681 Senior Member
    Don't worry - there is no one "best" school for serious classical music composition. Many different choices that will all work for your son. If you read over the many many threads about music composition on this forum there are lots of suggestions of solid classical composition departments where your son could also pursue an academic education. First place for him and you to go is Peabody's thread about the differences between conservatories, schools of music in universities, double degrees, dual degrees, BA's etc - which link you will find in the threads.

    If he should choose to pursue a double degree, Bard and Oberlin come first to mind and would fit everything he is looking for, then the variation on that theme (not necessarily a double degree) at Harvard/NEC, Tufts/NEC. Peabody/Johns Hopkins. Eastman/Rochester. Or just a purely academic setting with support for composers like Yale. Or a BM in a serious academic setting where he could take courses in the general university even if not getting a double degree: Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Indiana, Rice, USC. I think, really, composers have more choices than those wishing to pursue a performance degree, as almost every college offers a music degree of some kind with a composition emphasis.The trick is for your son to clarify for himself what he's looking for in an undergraduate education - and start from there.

    As you read through all the threads and start to explore the schools on your own, and have your son explore the music departments, come back to us with more specific questions and we'll be happy to help if we can.
  • AstoldbySilverAstoldbySilver Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I would consider University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) for your son. I'm currently a senior in high school who is also interested in music composition, however, I'm not sure if I want to concentrate only in classical music seeing as I arrange/compose for various genres. University of Michigan has been my first choice in music; I work closely with the School of Music faculty and have been doing so since my sophomore year.

    U of M's music composition program is located in the North Campus. Most freshman music majors will start in this building anyways. It is designed specifically for prospective classical musicians/composers and is separate from the Jazz studies program they offer there (which I'm heavily involved with at the moment).

    The good thing about your son is that he probably site reads very well. Knowing all of his scales, having a traditional piece of music (such as Bach or Mozart) learned, and having a selection of his own archive should be all he needs to get into the school period. Also, seeing as his grades are excellent, and that he's competent in music, he could probably get a full ride or partial from both fields. My advice would be to go to the U of M (Ann Arbor) official website and look up their majors.

    The audition process is very rigorous, but filling out/ completing the common app will help in this school and other Ivy League schools. Also, be prepared to write about three essays. Make sure he starts filling out his resume now as well as a list of repertoire. Those are things you easily forget as the year progresses.

    Remember; U of M is ranked number 3 in the country. It's located in a beautiful campus and the music school is very competitive as well as challenging. He will be doing a lot of research leaving University of Michigan.

    I hope this helps : )
This discussion has been closed.