Composition Department


Frequently Asked Questions

For other questions, contact the coordinator of music composition. Additionally, feel free to write to Professor Don Freund if you are applying for the BM, Professor Aaron Travers if applying for MM or DM, or Professor Larry Groupé if applying for a music scoring degree, certificate or minor.

Will the size of the School of Music mean I will receive less attention from the faculty than I would at a smaller school?

The enrollment of graduate and undergraduate composition majors is maintained at a level commensurate with the number of composition faculty; the proportion of faculty to students within the Composition Department ensures ample faculty attention. Beyond this consideration, the Department views the size of the School of Music as an asset, as the large number of good instrumentalists and singers means increased possibilities for the performance of student works.

Will I have a choice of composition teacher? How often will I have a lesson? 

Preferences for a particular teacher will be honored, subject to the constraints of individual faculty teaching loads. Students are free to change teachers during their course of study, and are indeed encouraged to avail themselves of the differing viewpoints and insights that studying with various members of the faculty will provide. Composition majors receive weekly private lessons with the faculty and also meet together each week at Composition Forum for presentations by visiting composers and other guests and for discussion of issues of mutual interest.

Will I also have lessons on my instrument?  Do I need to audition on my instrument?

BM composition students must study their primary instrument every semester (and participate in an ensemble).  Performance Study Option 1 is at the 400 level with faculty and requires an entrance audition, freshman jury, upper-division examination, and eighth-semester jury. Performance Study Option 2 is at the 100 level with associate instructors and requires NO entrance audition, upper-division examination, or eighth-semester jury.

How many compositions should I submit with my application?

Both undergraduate and graduate applicants should submit a portfolio of their work representing a variety of forms and media. Undergraduate applicants should include two to four works; graduate applicants should include four to six works. Also required is a list of the applicant's completed compositions, including date of composition, instrumentation, duration, and any performances. Recordings of performances are recommended for B.M., B.S.O.F. and M.M. applicants. D.M. applicants are required to submit recorded performances demonstrating the range of their abilities, and must include one work for large instrumental ensemble (orchestra, wind ensemble, chamber orchestra or sinfonietta) - with recording if possible.

Computer Music Composition: Applicants must submit a portfolio of electronic, multimedia and/or acoustic compositions (scores/recordings/videos) and a complete list of compositions with dates. Scores are not required for solely electronic or video works. For multichannel works, a stereo mix must be uploaded with application materials. If desired, a link from a host, such as Dropbox or GoogleDrive can be provided on the list of works for downloading the individual mono channel stems for multichannel works, which must be clearly labeled (i.e. L, R, Ls, Rs).  Similarly, video works should be hosted via Youtube, Vimeo, etc., and a link to the work provided in the list of compositions.  Do not upload video or multichannel works with application materials.

What do you look for in compositions of applicants?

There is a complex array of talents, skills, experiences, and attitudes that go into being a composer. In evaluating compositions submitted by applicants, we are looking for engaging musical ideas which emanate from creative impetus, musical sensitivity, curiosity, invention, and a substantial appreciation of the experience of creating, performing, and critically listening to music. The works should display imagination in their use of melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, and texture, and demonstrate the composer's awareness of elements of extension, development, variation and contrast in creating a formal structure. Scores should show the composers' familiarity with the conventions of score presentation and their ability to notate music clearly and accurately (including such important compositional elements as tempo, dynamics, and articulations). Scores (and recordings - see the following "question") should show the composers' creative response to their understanding of the characteristics and potentials of the voices, instruments, and ensembles for which they are writing.

Should I submit MIDI recordings of my music?

Applicants are encouraged to write some music for performing resources they have available, and to obtain a live performance and high quality recording. The ability to conceive and develop music for actual performance situations, to communicate with performers, and to organize performances and recordings is a very important part of a composer's craft. While MIDI can be an extremely useful resource to a composer, it can also obscure the personality of the work and give the impression of a composer desensitized to the role which real instrumental charateristics and real performer involvement plays in the musical experience. In situations where a representative recording is not available, a MIDI recording can be helpful, but young composers should be advised that a 2-minute duo adequately performed can communicate more of a composer's ideas and technique than a half-hour of MIDI orchestra music.

What opportunities are there for arranging performances of the music I write?

Performance opportunities are numerous and frequent. Each academic year the composition department schedules eight general Student Composition Recitals; all composition majors are encouraged to program their works on these recitals, which usually comprise solo instrumental and vocal pieces, works for chamber ensembles, and electro-acoustic compositions. An additional recital each semester is devoted to works created at the Center for Electronic and Computer Music. Toward the end of their degree programs, all composition majors present an individual recital of music composed during their residency on campus.

Each semester a week of readings by one of the school's orchestras is devoted to student compositions. Composition majors may use this opportunity to hear sections of newly completed works, or to experiment with various orchestrational possibilities. All reading sessions are recorded, and the participating composers are provided with tapes. From time to time other ensembles, such as the Symphonic Band, the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and the New Music Ensemble, also schedule readings for composers.

Will my doctoral dissertation or master's thesis be performed?

Most orchestral works written as doctoral dissertations are performed publicly during the orchestra season. Many orchestral works written as master's theses also receive public performances; orchestral Master's theses receive preference in the twice-annual orchestra readings. We also have a new opportunity begun in 2017 - the New Voices for Orchestra concert, a juried orchestral concert open to composition majors at all degree levels.

Does the Composition Department offer lessons in popular and commercial music, and musical theater? Will I be expected to compose in a particular style?

The Department believes that the best training a young composer can have, regardless of his or her ultimate interests, is a thorough grounding in the techniques of Western art music from earliest times to the present, the so-called "classical" tradition. With training such as this as a background, composers can go on to write virtually whatever type of music they wish. Aside from a basic philosophy grounded in the tradition of Western art music, and a belief that all composition students should receive a thorough technical training, the Composition Department does not promote any particular compositional style or ideology; faculty and student composers alike represent many diverse stylistic outlooks. 

Have IU composers been successful at finding jobs after graduation? 

Though the Jacobs School of Music naturally cannot guarantee jobs for students upon completion of their degree programs, the composition department is pleased to note that virtually all doctoral composition students who have graduated in recent years have found teaching positions in colleges and universities, or significant work in film and commercial music, shortly after (and in some instances prior to) graduation.

What types of financial aid are available? 

There are a number of kinds of financial aid available to assist in making your studies at Indiana University affordable. Please be in contact with the Jacobs School of Music Admissions Office to obtain the best information about financial aid. We do have scholarship money available. Additionally, graduate students can apply for positions as Associate Instructor or Graduate Assistant (see next FAQ). These positions offer fee remission and a monthly stipend. For incoming students with the most outstanding academic credentials, there is also the possibility of being considered for a Chancellor's Fellowship, which provides for four years of generous financial assistance and three years of teaching experience.

How can I apply for an Associate Instructorship or Graduate Assistantship? 

The Deadline for applying for Associate Instructorships and Graduate Assistantships in the Composition Department is February 15. More information can be found in the Application Guidelines (printable .pdf format). Please wait to apply for these positions until after you hear from us in late December or early January, once we have completed our screening process for graduate applications.

Note: We strongly encourage new (and current) graduate students to apply for Associate Instructorships in the Theory Department. To do so, simply express your interest in such a position during your composition interview.  For selected students, interviews with the Theory faculty will be held at a later date (via Skype most likely).

Current IU composition majors should apply for Theory AI positions by filling out the online application before the early January deadline. Interviews are held on audition weekends in January, February and March.