Columbia College Chicago

Music, Composition, BMus

As a budding composer, you’ll wear many hats. The core of our program is intensive, project-based training in writing, orchestrating and recording. You’ll learn to develop original compositions from concept to finished product. Because our department emphasizes contemporary music, you’ll have the freedom to experiment and 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 Composition for the Screen MFA program and collaborate with Columbia 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, music for video games, and compositions for the concert stage and dance and theatre performances.

What to Expect Your First Year

As a first-year Composition student, you’ll begin your studies as a BA student 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. In your second year, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for the BMus program.

What to Expect Your Last Year

By your senior year, you will have completed a rigorous sequence of composition-focused courses, two levels of orchestration, and classes in Renaissance and Baroque counterpoint, including intensive piano training. You’ll take dedicated digital music composition courses and an advanced course in the fundamentals of conducting.

As a BMus student, you’ll also take a series of private lessons in advanced composition. You’ll be immersed in your craft during your final year in the program as you prepare to enter the industry as a professional composer or apply for graduate study.

As you approach graduation, you’ll assemble a professional portfolio of original compositions. Many advanced Composition students also get involved in Chicago’s robust music scene. For example, you may get involved with Chicago-based new music ensembles or work on collaborative projects with emerging filmmakers.

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the 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 to perform in a variety of settings 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 bands, choirs and more. Columbia’s Music Center hosts more than 200 student, faculty and guest artist in residence performances and workshops each year. Our department also offers exchange opportunities with Conservatorio Luisa d’Annunzio in Pescara, Italy, the Popakademie in Mannheim, Germany and other EU partner institutions.

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 reputation. We will help 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. 

Which minors complement this major?

This program is credit intensive. If you pursue a minor, your academic enrollment may extend beyond four academic years. However, if you have a significant number of advanced placement or transferred credits, you may be able to complete the minor in a timely fashion. Please consult with the College Advising Center before officially declaring a minor.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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