Music Composition Programs for Screen/Media Scoring

Thank you CompMom!!

Thank you for the details.

In the age of online learning, if you want your son to be competitive, I highly recommend finding a composition teacher willing to work with your son via Zoom for the next few months. He is going to need help building a strong portfolio. A composition teacher can help him. I listened to a podcast, awhile back, coming from a Juilliard Comp Grad who explained that his deep interest was picked up by a local Arizona State School professor who used to tutor him when he was in high school.

Also, there are plenty of people who don’t go to the big name schools for undergrad but find their way there for graduate studies. Finding quieter schools that happen to have good composition teachers is another choice. If he really loves it, he will excel and grad school can be the place he lands into one of these big named schools, if he even wants a big name school.

I am in slight disagreement about having stellar gpa and test scores. If a school really wants a music applicant, there is a little bit of wiggle room.

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It seems the student has a portfolio. The question appears to be whether he should enter a traditional composition program or try to fit a program that focuses on music for new media. Finding a teacher in the latter might be helpful since he has already had teachers in composition in various programs.

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Hello, Just joined this group. My rising Senior is shifting gears from applying to schools for a BFA in MT to BM or BA in Music with major in Music Theory / Composition. I am trying to navigate this and since we are in the thick of it any help I can get would be greatly appreciated. What schools would be a good fit? He’s interested in more composer style… like video games. He plays piano and guitar and has been focused on vocals for the past 4 years. Performance may still be an interest as a side. He has taken some AP Music courses in HS but is just starting out and needs to work on pre-screen material. Need help :)!!! Thank you in advance for any information you may be able to provide.

First, have you/has he read the Double Degree Dilemma essay in the Read Me thread closer to the top of this music forum?

In general:

A BA would be 1/4-1/3 classes in music, and often has no audition for admission, though an applicant can do a music supplement with video/recording, music resume and music letters of recommendation.

A BM would be 2/3-3/4 classes in music, and usually there is prescreen and audition (for composers the audition may or may not include an instrument, and sometimes is just an interview).

There are double degree double major and major/minor to consider.

What type of program does he want? And is he interested in a freestanding conservatory or a school of music/conservatory on a larger campus? What work has he done? Does he use a digital audio work station? Has he had a teacher or done any programs? Has he written for live instruments?

Many high schoolers want to write music for film or video games. It raises the question of whether a classical composition foundation is relevant or not. Also programs in, say , studio production may appeal to him. The terminology varies a lot.

So, for instance, he could go to Boston Conservatory for classical composition and work in music for media at Berklee, or he could consider Berklee.

Look at Columbia College Chicago for a good breakdown of different majors he might be interested in. Peabody Institute has a new program Music for New Media. Other schools that come to mind: Ithaca, U of Denver, SUNY Purchase, Hartt, Frost, many others…(see my other post). USC likes film scorers to get a classical foundation first.

I guess I would have to know more about where he wants to be and what his background is. I will PM you.

Hello!! I really appreciate your response. Is this the Private Message area? I’m new to this platform.

For private messages, look at your avatar on the upper right and a private message will be a green circle with a number, and responses will be blue.

@TeamNick My son wanted to study in a conservatory. We asked him to pick not a standalone conservatory. Just in case if he decides to study something else we wanted him to have an option. Compmom is great person to talk to. In the past she answered my endless questions.
If your son wants to study classical composition I would add CIM / Case in to the mix. Composition studio is small and they are very friendly.
I imagine USC might be a good fit for him.


The required SAT/ACT is for the university as a whole. Thornton and Steinhardt do not have separate admissions standards. So you are talking a minimum of 1350/31 at USC and similar (perhaps very slightly lower) stats for NYU and realistically higher than that. Both schools had record numbers of applications last year. They are quite competitive.

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Both schools are on the test-optional list, but you are saying the SAT/ACT is required. Can you explain?

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Having been through the whole test optional process (and having seen it play out with countless other kids) I can tell you that while scores don’t officially count, you’re not going to get into a USC or an NYU with an unreported 25 ACT and if you do you’re going to struggle. Test scores generally correlate with the rest of the package with some exceptions, obviously.


UCLA also has a strong composition program and they do not require their music or visual art candidates to have the same high gpa and sat as the rest of their applicant pool. If the portfolio is strong enough and they think the student can keep up with the academics, then they will consider that.


Test optional means test optional, or that scores are deemphasized. For kids in music who are pursuing a BM, I think it is fine to apply test optional.

Generally scores may be required for merit awards, but again, merit in music may in some cases be based on that alone.


I’m not going to argue with you. I’m just going to say that while there are programs that accept gifted musicians who are not academically strong, Thornton and Steinhardt are not among them. If you think you can get in to either without academic chops simply because they are TO, you’d be mistaken. And I never said not to apply TO. Not sure where you’re getting that.

Yes you need academic chops, but not scores. Last post on this.

I hear what you are saying. And I do think it’s a worthwhile point. I often don’t comment on the test score issues for high stat schools bc I don’t want to offend/discourage/etc. Also I do believe that kids can have lower test scores for a variety of reasons. They can still achieve academically. My D had very good scores…but not top test scores. It did inform our college search.

And, here’s a cautionary story: There was a kid at my D’s high school that was musically very gifted. He was wait listed at IU (the general admission which is based primarily on test scores and GPA) until after auditions. My D said that it was due to his academic scores. After the audition, he was accepted (which has been a policy at IU that the music school can advocate for a talented student). He dropped out after the first semester due to academic issues. He had a hard time keeping up in his classes.

I just wanted to say that all music schools have very challenging music classes…no matter the surrounding environment. The kids accepted to these programs will be a base line of musically gifted up to musically brilliant. You will want/need to do well in these classes. Music also takes a lot of time with ensemble requirements in the evening (which conflict with academic study groups). I think that this issue (tough, time consuming music classes and requirements) can get lost when considering the overall “status” of a school. So keep that in mind when adding challenging academics on top. For top academic students it may not be an issue. But for more “normal” students (like my own), parents may need to consider….how best can my student learn and achieve goals in a tough music school environment. For us, it was a challenging music/performance curriculum with a medium difficulty in general ed courses…so she could have the general ed courses but not necessarily worry about them.

In the end, a successful college experience is all about fit. You learn the most where you are happy and thriving…not desperately trying to keep up with peers. I hope that this is helpful in some way.

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One more post: whether scores are submitted or not, the issue raised by @hillybean and affirmed by @bridgenail about struggling academically is an important one.

That said, a kid who has trouble with, say, advanced literature or science classes, may not necessarily struggle with rigorous music theory. And music BA programs will not have the same kind of schedule as a freestanding conservatory BM program.

So- it depends - and bears checking out to make sure of the “fit” mentioned by @bridgenail.

Hi! I have been advised that you are the expert mom when it comes to music scoring/composition questions for college. My daughter is a Senior in high school. Would you be willing to help answer some of my questions? I’m feeling overwhelmed and need some direction :blush:. Thanks for your consideration!

All the best,

PM’ing you