Bachelor of Music (BM) in Composition & Music Theory

At Boston University, the Composition & Music Theory programs will help you gain a broad knowledge of contemporary and historical compositional practices, and a mastery of analytic techniques for tonal and post-tonal music. Studying with composers and theorists who are significant figures in the musical life of Boston, our programs prepare students for meaningful careers as composers, theorists, teachers, and academics.

The Composition program will help you work to attain a personal compositional aesthetic and the techniques to express it through sound. Through performance opportunities, comprehensive training, and collaborations with accomplished musicians and artists, you will be presented with an array of opportunities to hear and discover diverse musical styles and develop the skills necessary to navigate the professional world. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Learning Outcomes

All students graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree are expected to demonstrate:

  • A practical knowledge of basic music theory, musicianship, composition, and analytical skills.
  • An appropriate level of technical and interpretive performance skills.
  • A broad understanding of music history and cultures and associated repertories of music in a global context.
  • The ability to apply creative approaches to problem-solving and self-directed study.

Students graduating with a Bachelor of Music in Composition & Music Theory are additionally expected to:

  • Demonstrate evidence of a developing personal compositional voice through a portfolio of original works, and basic understanding of the prevalent approaches to music theory, created over the course of their undergraduate career.

BU Hub Requirements

All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Composition & Music Theory will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Aesthetic Exploration, Historical Consciousness, Quantitative Reasoning, some of the Communication requirements, and some requirements in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

In addition to BU Hub requirements and specific major requirements, CFA School of Music students must also meet all requirements for obtaining a Bachelor of Music. School of Music requirements can be found here.

Major Requirements

Students in the major take a combination of professional development courses, literature and pedagogy courses, and electives, as outlined in the Program of Study below.

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.


Music Theory Sequence and Aural Skills

All undergraduate music majors must satisfy both the written music theory and aural skills requirement. Music theory consists of a six-term sequence, while the aural skills sequence lasts four terms. Entering undergraduate music majors may take placement examinations in both music theory and aural skills. Exams are given during the Summer Orientation and at the start of each term. Based on the results of these placement exams, students may test out of some, but not all, of these courses. Music theory must be completed through Level 6 (CFA MT 302) and aural skills for four terms and/or through Level 5 (CFA MT 311). School of Music students will not earn units for CFA MT 105. Students may substitute other upper-level music theory courses for CFA MT 302 by petition, including CFA MT 411 or MT 472.

Group Piano

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


All undergraduate music majors have a two-term conducting requirement, with the exception of voice performance majors, whose requirement is one term. An introductory course is required of all students, covering basic techniques, terminology, and transpositions. The second term specializes in either instrumental or choral techniques. Students may petition to count CFA ME 330–1, 430–1, or 530–1 toward conducting requirements.

Music History

All undergraduate music majors are required to take four terms of music history, consisting of MH 211–212, plus two music history electives from MH 403–480. At least one of these courses must be in ethnomusicology: MH 404, MH 409–411, MH 415, MH 420, MH 429, MH 431, MH 435–436, MH 480.

Applied Studies and Ensembles

Applied Lessons

All undergraduate music majors must study a major instrument for units every term in residence, up to a maximum of eight terms. 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. For a student to receive units for a term of applied music study, a grade of C– or higher must be earned. Please see the General Applied Lesson Syllabus (on the CFA School of Music website) for detailed information.

Music Organization

All undergraduate music majors are required to perform in a music organization for units every term in residence, up to a maximum of eight terms. Music education students are exempt from the music organization requirement during their term of full-time practicum (student teaching).

Program of Study

First Year 1st 2nd
Applied Music (varies by instrument/voice) 1 2
CFA MT 101, 102 Music Theory 1, 2 3 3
CFA MT 111, 112 Aural Skills 1, 2 1 1
CFA MT 121, 122 Basic Composition 1, 2 2 2
CFA MT 520 Composers’ Forum 0 0
Music Organization (varies by ensemble) 1 1
First-Year Writing Seminar (e.g., CAS WR 120) 4
Writing, Research, and Inquiry (e.g., CAS WR 151/152/153) 4
Approved Modern Language 4 4
CFA FA 100 Doing, Making & Knowing: The CFA Experience 2
Total units 18 17
Second Year
Applied Music (varies by instrument/voice) 2 2
CFA MT 201, 202 Music Theory 3, 4 3 3
CFA MT 211, 212 Aural Skills 3, 4 1 1
CFA MT 221, 222 Composition 3, 4 2 2
CFA MT 520 Composers’ Forum 0 0
CFA MH 211, 212 History and Literature of Music 1, 2 4 4
Musical Organization (varies by ensemble) 1 1
CFA MP 111, 112 Group Piano 1, 2 1 1
BU Hub requirement(s) outside the major 4 4
Total units 18 18
Third Year
Applied Music (varies by instrument/voice) 2 2
CFA MT 301, 302 Music Theory 5, 6 2 2
CFA MT 321, 322 Composition 5, 6 2 2
CFA MT 341, 342 Modal and Tonal Counterpoint 2 2
CFA MT 520 Composers’ Forum 0 0
Electives in Music History 4 4
Music Organization (varies by ensemble) 1 1
BU Hub requirement(s) outside the major 4 4
Total units 17 17
Fourth Year
Applied Music (varies by instrument/voice) 2 2
CFA MT 421, 422 Senior Composition 7, 8 3 3
CFA MT 431, 432 Orchestration 1, 2 2 2
CFA MT 435 Composing with Electronic Sounds & Computers 1 2
CFA MT 520 Composers’ Forum 0 0
Music Organization (varies by ensemble) 1 1
CFA MP 390 Conducting 1 2
CFA MP 391 Conducting 2 2
BU Hub requirement(s) outside the major 4
Electives 1
Total units 13 14
Program total 132