Bachelor of Music (BM) in Composition & Music Theory

General Degree Requirements

To attain the Bachelor of Music, each student must meet the following requirements:

  • Satisfactory completion of all courses in the chosen program of study, as prescribed by the School of Music
  • Completion of a minimum of 132 credits (please refer to the Boston University Residency Requirement policy)
  • Demonstration of proficiency in all technical and professional courses, including satisfactory recitals at the junior and senior levels (for performance majors) and a recital of original compositions (for composition majors)

The curriculum falls into four main categories: Musicianship, Applied Studies and Ensembles, Departmental Requirements, and Liberal Studies. For specific policies and procedures, please refer to the School of Music Undergraduate Handbook.


Music Theory Sequence and Ear-Training/Sight-Singing

All undergraduate music majors must satisfy both the written music theory and sight-singing/ear-training requirement. Music theory consists of a six-semester sequence, while the sight-singing sequence lasts four semesters. All entering undergraduate music majors are required to take placement examinations in both music theory and aural skills during the Summer Orientation sessions. Based on the results of these placement exams, students may test out of some, but not all, of these courses.

Group Piano

All undergraduate music majors, with the exception of piano performance majors, have a two-semester Group Piano requirement. A non-mandatory Keyboard Proficiency Exam is offered for students wishing to test out of this requirement.


All undergraduate music majors have a two-semester conducting requirement, with the exception of voice performance majors, whose requirement is one semester. An introductory course is required of all students, covering basic techniques, terminology, and transpositions. The second semester specializes in either instrumental or choral techniques.

Music History Requirement

All undergraduate music majors are required to take four semesters of music history. MH 201 (211)–History and Literature of Music 1, and MH 202 (212)–History and Literature of Music 2, are required. The remaining music history requirement may be taken from a selection of elective offerings. The list of electives is broken down into two series. Series A, MH 321–328, which includes period, opera, and performance practice courses, requires the two survey courses as a prerequisite. Series B, MH 331–336, which includes courses in non-Western, jazz, and popular repertories as well as interdisciplinary topics, is open to all students and has no prerequisite.

Applied Studies and Ensembles

Applied Lessons

All undergraduate music majors must study a major instrument. Instruction is offered in the following areas: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, horn, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, piano, organ, harp, voice, violin, viola, cello, and bass. Prescribed levels of proficiency are adjudicated through juries and recital permission hearings. Performance majors are required to perform recitals during their junior and senior years.

Musical Organizations

All undergraduate music majors are required to perform in a musical organization for credit every semester in residence, up to a maximum of eight semesters. Music education students are exempt from Musical Organization during their semester of full-time practicum (student teaching).

Chamber Music

All undergraduate music performance majors are required to take Chamber Music. Two semesters are required for piano majors, and six semesters are required for string, woodwind, and brass majors. Due to limited repertoire, standard substitutions include Percussion Ensemble for percussion majors, Orchestra Techniques for bass majors, and approved electives for harp majors. Students will be placed in appropriate groups by the faculty based on auditions held in September.

Departmental Requirements

Each major has a number of courses tailored specifically to that major. These courses complement the rest of the general Musicianship and Liberal Arts components of the curriculum, and are a combination of professional development courses, literature and pedagogy courses, and electives.

Liberal Arts Studies

All undergraduate music majors are required to take a minimum of 32 credits of liberal arts courses from the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). The exact requirement varies by program, with some majors requiring 36 credits. All majors must complete CAS WR 100—Writing Seminar and two English literature courses. The remaining courses are specified in the program outline for each major.

Composition & Music Theory Program Outline

During the final year of study, candidates for the BM in Composition & Music Theory must present a program of original compositions of approximately 30 minutes duration, which must be approved by the faculty. Candidates must participate in the rehearsal preparation and/or performance of at least one of the works.

First Year 1st 2nd
Applied Music 3 3
Music Theory 1, 2 3 3
Ear-Training and Sight-Singing 1, 2 1 1
Musical Organization 1 1
Writing Seminar 4
Liberal Arts Elective 4
Approved Modern Language 1, 2 4 4
Basic Composition 1, 2 2 2
Composers’ Forum 0 0
Total credits
18 18
Second Year
Applied Music 3 3
Music Theory 3, 4 3 3
Ear-Training and Sight-Singing 3, 4 1 1
Music History 1, 2 3 3
Musical Organization 1 1
Approved Modern Language 3, 4 4 4
Group Piano 1, 2 1 1
Composition 3, 4 2 2
Composers’ Forum 0 0
Total credits
18 18
Third Year
Applied Music 2 2
Music Theory 5, 6 2 2
Music History Elective 3 3
Musical Organization 1 1
English Literature 4 4
Composition 5, 6 2 2
Modal Counterpoint 2
Tonal Counterpoint 2
Composers’ Forum 0 0
Total credits
16 16
Fourth Year
Applied Music 2 2
Musical Organization 1 1
Liberal Arts Elective 4
Electronic Music 1 2
Orchestration 1, 2 2 2
Intro to Conducting 2
Choral or Instrumental Conducting 2
Senior Composition 7, 8 3 3
Music Elective 2 2
Composers’ Forum 0 0
Total credits
14 16