The College of Arts and Architecture

Master of Music in Composition/Theory

Prospective Students

Information about our application process can be found here:

Program Goals

The master of music in Composition degree program is designed for students who wish to improve their compositional skills, work in electronic music settings either for the first time or at advanced stages of development, and boarden their theoretical background. Upon completion of this degree, students will have written at least twelve substantial works and had them performed in concert or recorded in reading sessions. They also will have written at least one paper on a theoretical subject, as well as acquired training in electronic and computer music. At this point, they will be prepared to make intelligent decisions about their future. Choices may include a career in academia (through entrance into a doctoral program in composition and/or theory), or composing, or a related field such as publishing, recording, or arts management.

Program Description

The master of music in Composition/Theory requires 36 credits of course work. Eighteen credits must be 500-level courses and at least 30 credits must be taken at University Park.  Knowledge of the history and theory of Western art music must be demonstrated by satisfactory completion of competency examinations or completion of specified remedial courses in addition to the curricular requirements listed here.  An oral examination in the major area must be passed near the completion of the program.

The 36-credit requirement is as follows:

Requirements Credits
Composition  12
Introduction to Music Reference and Research Material 2
*Theory 8-9
Electronic music 3
History or literature 3
Electives 4-5
Degree composition project 1
Master's paper (theory) 2

*Choose from:

  • Music 531 (Analytical Techniques)
  • Music 532 (Schenkerian Analysis)
  • Music 533 (Pedagogy of Undergraduate Music Theory and History)
  • Music 431 (Advanced Tonal Analysis)
  • Music 433 (Special Topics in 20th-Century Theory)
  • +Music 573 (Integrative Seminar in Music Theory and History)
  • Music 435 (Score Reading).

+Only one may be counted as a theory course; a second Music 573 may be taken as an elective.

Unsatisfactory performance on the competency examinations in music history and theory taken at the beginning of the program may result in the necessity of additional course work.

Admission Requirements

A candidate applying for admission should have completed a recognized bachelor's degree in music with at least a 3.0 junior-senior grade-point average. A typical bachelor’s degree in music includes the following: 

  • 12-16 credits in music theory and analysis
  • 6-9 credits in music history
  • Courses in form and analysis, counterpoint, orchestration, and keyboard harmony

A candidate who is deficient in any area may be considered for admission, but must be prepared to make up the deficiency, without credit toward the degree.

Student Aid

For an overview of current tuition and fees as well as the financial assistance programs available to graduate students at Penn State, see Graduate Financial Aid.

Admission Procedure Summary

Please click on "composition" in graduate audition requirements to discover what is required. Then, access Application Process for directions.

Please note that ALL application materials are to be uploaded to the online application EXCEPT the composition portfolio.  Upload the following materials:

  • an official transcript - NOT an advising or unofficial transcript - (or equivalent documents for institutions outside the U.S., e.g., degree/study certificates, diplomas, etc.) from all post-secondary institutions attended, in the language of instruction (and an official English translation if English is not the language of instruction)
    Chinese applicants must also submit an official graduation certificate and official diploma, in Chinese and translated English, if the applicant has already earned the previous degree(s).
  • names of two references and their email addresses (Penn State will contact your references directly)
  • statement of purpose (your professional goals and how graduate study will help you attain these goals)
  • sample of the applicant's prose writing on music (a paper written for an undergraduate music course is acceptable; maximum of 20 pages)
  • application for School of Music Graduate Assistantship (optional), see Graduate Financial Aid
Composition portfolio materials should be submitted via the Online Portfolio Submission Form:
  • composition portfolio online submisison form: HERE

The following should be submitted to Penn State by the testing agencies at your request.  Select "Penn State University" as the destination for your GRE, TOEFL or IELTS scores by selecting the correct school code below:

  • GRE scores (general test) - School Code 2660
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores (international applicants only) - School Code 2660

Phone: 814-865-5568
Fax: 814-865-6785