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.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the program, students are expected to demonstrate:

  • Advanced knowledge of current compositional trends and repertoire and development of a personal voice.
  • Knowledge and skill in related fields such as music history and literature, musicology, ethnomusicology, and performance.
  • Advanced proficiency in tonal and post-tonal analysis.
  • Superior proficiency in verbal and written communication of musical ideas and concepts.
  • Capacity for artistic judgment and skills for navigating the professional world.

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. Students must take at least 6 credits combined in music theory and musicology. Approved music elective courses may include MET, MH, MP, and MT courses numbered 500 or higher. PDP courses (e.g., tennis, dancing, or yoga) do not count as approved music electives for graduate students. Students in all Master of Music programs must pass comprehensive examinations in their area. These examinations are normally given in the fourth or final semester of study. All degree requirements must be completed within five years of the date of matriculation.

Students in Master of Music programs who are interested in pursuing a double major should speak with the chairs of both intended areas of study and then consult with the Director of Graduate Studies to work out details of the combined programs. A petition to the Graduate Studies committee is required for approval.

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. No retakes of the exam will be permitted.

Required Courses

Any deficiencies identified by the proficiency exams must be addressed as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not the student plans to take other courses in these areas. Students may not take advanced graduate courses in a particular area OR graduate until all deficiencies have been addressed. Prerequisite and other required courses may include:

  • CFA MH 401 Graduate Music History Review
  • CFA MT 401 Graduate Music Theory Review
  • CFA MT 601 Analytical Techniques 1
  • CFA MT 602 Analytical Techniques 2

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.

CFA MT 621 Graduate Composition 9 cr
CFA MT 632 Advanced Orchestration 3 cr
CFA MT 761 Advanced Tonal Analysis 3 cr
CFA MT 762 Advanced Post-Tonal Analysis 3 cr
CFA MT 635–37 Electronic/Computer Music 2 cr
Musicology 3 cr
Musical Organizations 2 cr
CFA MU 795 Thesis 3 cr
Approved electives 8 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.