Composition studies focus on helping students develop their individual creative voices
within an environment dedicated to musical excellence, broad academic inquiry, and
strong professional skills.
Undergraduate composition studies begin with an introductory composition class that
centers on specific writing projects and the development of individual work. Upper-level
undergraduate and graduate studies focus on one-to-one private instruction. Students
work closely with our distinguished composition faculty, whose work has been performed
around the world by venues and ensembles such as Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Symphony,
National Cathedral, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mannheimer Philharmoniker, Minnesota
Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Imani Winds, Wet Ink Ensemble and more.
Each week, composition students and faculty meet for Composition Seminar, where we
discuss topics related to creativity, composing and musical analysis. Frequent guest
speakers include composers, conductors and performers, as well as artists and scholars
from other disciplines whose work might enrich our composing. Recent notable guest
composers have included Michael Abels, Andy Akiho, Martin Bresnick, Courtney Bryan,
Steven Bryant, Du Yun, Kyle Gann, Michael Torke and Zhou Long.
Composition students benefit from the rich and diverse musical resources at USC, including
outstanding student performers and conductors, two advanced computer music studios,
and our extensive holdings in the Music Library. We also encourage composers to collaborate with artists in other fields. For example,
composition students have worked closely with students in USC's Media Arts program on scoring for film and games, with students in our Recording Arts classes and facilities, and with biology students working on mutational genetics.
At the end of each semester, composition students have the opportunity to present
their work on our New Voices concerts. This student-produced concert series also provides
invaluable education in practical matters of rehearsing, concert production, publicity,
and artistic collaboration. Composers also benefit from frequent readings and professional
recording sessions of their music by renowned guest artists such as the Grammy-winning
Parker String Quartet, Imani Winds, the Westerlies, C Street Brass, JACK Quartet,
and the International Contemporary Ensemble, as well as by readings and performances
by the USC Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Winds, Collective Ensemble, our choral ensembles,
To help support your studies, the composition program offers competitive financial
assistance. Undergraduate awards include composition and performance scholarships,
and USC's webpage on Financial Aid and Scholarships has additional information about other forms of financial assistance. For eligible
graduate applicants, we can offer fellowships as well as generous assistantships that cover the cost of tuition (up to nine credits per semester), plus yearly stipends.
Composition and theory assistantships also offer valuable professional experience
in teaching as well as working with our award-winning Southern Exposure New Music Series and Collective ensemble. Other graduate assistantships are available to eligible applicants.
New Music at USC
Our nationally recognized Southern Exposure New Music Series features a wide variety of new music performed by world-class artists. Alarm Will
Sound, the Kronos and JACK string quartets, yMusic, International Contemporary Ensemble,
Imani Winds, Bang on a Can All-Stars, So Percussion, Sandbox Percussion, and acclaimed pipa virtuoso Wu Man have all participated
in what has become one of the hallmarks of our program. In addition, composition students
frequently have the opportunity to have their original works read and professionally
recorded by these visiting artists.
Under the direction of Reginald Bain, the USC Computer Music Concert is a showcase
for students and faculty interested in computer music and using computers as compositional
tools. Produced by the Experimental Music Studio (xMUSE), it features the creative products of active research programs in digital synthesis,
real-time interactive composition/performance, and musical sonification. Students
interested in music technology may also want to take courses in Recording Arts and Music Industry Studies.
Our composition graduates have found positions composing concert music, music for
film, television, and games, work in audio production, recording, radio broadcast,
arts management, teaching music, and more. In addition, composers who have graduated
from the School of Music have received a Rome Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, awards
from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, nominations for multiple Grammys and
the Pulitzer Prize in Music, as well as performances by the New York Philharmonic,
Washington National Opera, Brussels Philharmonic, and the Spektral Quartet, among
other distinctions. And our undergraduate composers have been accepted into prestigious
summer music festivals and graduate composition programs both nationally and internationally.
Whatever creative path you choose, our goal is to help you succeed.