Columbia College Chicago

Music, Composition, BA

As a budding composer, you’ll wear many hats. The core of our Composition program is intensive, project-based training in writing, orchestrating and recording music. You’ll learn to develop original compositions from concept to finished product. Because our department emphasizes contemporary music, you’ll compose in a variety of modern idioms.

You’ll study with a faculty of working professionals, build a strong network of collaborators, and gain the practical experience you’ll need to enter the competitive, challenging field of music composition. We’ll encourage you to interact with graduate students in the MFA Composition for the Screen program and collaborate with students in other programs, such as Cinema Art and Science, Dance, Game Design and Musical Theatre. During your years at Columbia, you’ll create film scores and music for video games, as well as compositions for the concert stage, dance and theatre performances.
What to Expect Your First Year

As a first-year Composition student, your studies begin with the Music core, including courses in aural skills, keyboard, theory and history. You’ll start composing music from the very beginning of your academic experience using digital audio workstation (DAW) software. You’ll strengthen your proficiency on piano or another acoustic or electronic instrument by working with fellow musicians in departmental ensembles.

What to Expect Your Last Year

By your senior year, you will have completed a rigorous sequence of composition-focused courses. If you choose to pursue Composition electives, you may take classes in orchestration or intensive piano training. You may also choose to take a dedicated digital music composition course. Because the BA track allows for time to explore your passions in other disciplines, you may be finishing up a minor of your choosing, such as Music Business Management, Education, Arts in Healthcare or even Photography or Web Development.

As you approach graduation, you’ll focus on creating a professional portfolio of original works that clearly demonstrate your unique voice.

For degree requirements and detailed four-year and transfer plans, visit the course catalog.


Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

Composition students are encouraged to collaborate with Columbia students in other disciplines, such as film, dance and theatre. As a musician, you’re encouraged—and expected—to perform in a variety of settings, both on campus as part of your coursework and in the city’s vibrant music scene. Chicago is a robust, diverse and accessible place for a working musician, even if you’re just starting your career. Our students play in dozens of ensembles, including professional and community bands, choirs and more. Columbia’s Music Center hosts more than 200 student, faculty and artist in residence performances and workshops each year. Our department also offers exchange opportunities with the Conservatorio Luisa d’Annunzio in Pescara, Italy, the Popakademie in Mannheim, Germany and other EU partner organizations.

What are my internship options?

You’ll have the opportunity to intern at recording studios, record labels, production companies and radio stations or as an assistant to composers, musicians or music business managers. However, your real-world training will most likely occur through interacting with the city’s many talented musicians and composers. Our official student group of composition majors facilitates networking and performance events around the city with the help of Columbia faculty.

A career in composition requires you to be proactive in seeking opportunities and building a network and a reputation. We will work with you to develop your own unique networking style, and will help you make connections to get work. We encourage students to practice their craft by collaborating with students in other disciplines on projects, such as student films, game designs and musical theatre projects. 


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