Master of Music (MM) in Composition

The Master of Music in Composition program at Boston University provides opportunities to study composition and allied topics within the robust environment of a professional music school within 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.

Proficiency Examinations

All entering Master of Music students are required to take a proficiency examination in the area of music theory. The examination is administered online before the start of classes. Incoming students are notified of the exam dates and contents in advance and are responsible for taking it by the specified deadline. Exam results are used for purposes of advisement and may establish prerequisite or required coursework. Material covered in this examination is commonly presented in most undergraduate degree programs in music.

Students with insufficient background may be required to take review courses as appropriate.

Language Requirement

Reading proficiency is required in one language, chosen from German, French, and Italian. Students may demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language by passing its corresponding reading course at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences: GRS LG 621, GRS LF 621, or GRS LI 621. Students may also satisfy the requirement by passing a foreign language examination, administered once each semester by the School of Music.

Composition Program Outline

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.

MH 611 Music Research Techniques 2 cr
MT 621 Graduate Composition 9 cr
MT 632 Advanced Orchestration 3 cr
MT 761 Advanced Tonal Analysis 3 cr
MT 762 Advanced Post-Tonal Analysis 3 cr
MT 635–37 Electronic/Computer Music 2 cr
Musicology 3 cr
Musical Organizations 2 cr
MU 795 Thesis 3 cr
Approved Electives 6 cr
Total 36 cr


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


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 determined 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 master’s thesis, and (2) questions similar to a doctoral exam’s, by which the candidate should demonstrate a broad range of knowledge in composition and related fields such as music theory and critical issues.