Master of Music (MM) in Composition

The Master of Music in Composition at Boston University provides opportunities to study composition and allied topics within the robust environment of a professional music school in a college of fine arts. Collaborations with accomplished musicians and artists complement a strong curriculum in music theory, musicology, and performance. The Boston University School of Music and the Department of Composition & Theory are embedded in the vital international music scene through the multifaceted Center for New Music.

General Degree Requirements

The MM in Composition is granted upon successful completion of a program of study and terminal projects appropriate to the student’s field of specialization. Students must complete a minimum of 36 semester credits with grades no lower than B- in graduate-level coursework. All degree requirements must be completed within five years of the date of matriculation. Students may also be required to take prerequisite courses based on the result of the required proficiency examination.

Proficiency Examinations

All entering Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) students are required to take the Proficiency Examination in Music Theory and the Proficiency Examination in Musicology. These examinations are given before the start of classes. Accepted students are notified of the exam dates and are responsible for taking them. Exam results are used for advisement and may establish prerequisite or required coursework. Material covered in these examinations is commonly presented in most undergraduate degree programs in music. Detailed descriptions of these exams are supplied to accepted students. Students in composition, music theory, and musicology will also be examined in fugue; historical performance students will be examined in counterpoint.

Students with insufficient background in music theory may be required to take MU 400 Graduate Theory Review, which may be used as elective credit. The course is a seven-week, online course given twice per year in the second half of the Fall Semester and in the Summer Term.

Composition Program Outline

Performance of a half-hour recital of original compositions approved by the composition faculty is required.

Attendance at the Composers’ Forum—an informal series of lectures presenting composers and authorities in various musical disciplines—is required each semester. All graduate composition majors must be enrolled in graduate composition lessons each semester of study until the recital portfolio is approved.

Music Research Techniques 2 cr
Graduate Composition 9 cr
Advanced Orchestration 3 cr
Advanced Tonal Analysis 3 cr
Advanced Contemporary Analysis 3 cr
Electronic/Computer Music 2 cr
Musicology 3 cr
Musical Organizations 2 cr
Thesis 3 cr
Approved Electives 6 cr
Total 36 cr


Students majoring in composition for the MM degree must compose a work for orchestra or other large instrumental or vocal group of approximately 15–20 minutes duration. Permission to undertake a thesis composition is dependent upon the caliber of the student’s work and recital as reviewed by the department. Students must be enrolled in CFA MU 795 Master’s Thesis during the semester in which the work is completed.

Master of Music Comprehensive Reviews

An oral review for each MM candidate will be administered by the department during the final semester of study and after the thesis is completed. The panel will comprise a minimum of three members of the composition faculty. Approximately one hour in duration, the review is in two parts: (1) a defense of the candidate’s masters’ thesis and (2) questions similar to a doctoral exam by which the candidate should demonstrate a broad range of knowledge in composition and related fields such as music theory and critical issues.