I think I want to be a composition major. What do I need to know?
Many people do not start pursuing composition until late in their music studies. Students who enjoy improvising or learning about how music is put together may be composers. If this is you, the best way to start pursuing writing music is through a music theory course. Illinois State has an honors music theory track that incorporates several composition assignments into the curriculum. Students may also wish to take MUS 220 (Analysis Through Composition) or MUS 205.01 (group composition lessons) their sophomore year.
Audition/Admission to Composition Program
Students must audition into the ISU School of Music on a specific classical instrument/voice. Once admitted to the School of Music, students may declare a composition major. Typical composition majors do well at music theory, are highly motivated to write music, and are intrigued by how music works.
Student composers’ works are performed regularly as part of the Illinois State University concert series. These “Music Factory” concerts feature students compositions performed by undergraduate and graduate music students. Student composers have had works performed for up to 25 instruments for this concert. In addition, large ensemble directors at Illinois State University regularly schedule reading sessions for student composers.
Electro-Acoustic Music at Illinois State
Illinois State University has a cutting edge Arts Technology program with an emphasis in multi-media design and electro-acoustic sound art. Composition majors are required and encouraged to take classes in Arts Technology. In recent years, student composers have paired with student directors to create original narrative videos with accompanying music scores.
New Music Festival
Illinois State hosts an annual new music festival featuring performances by nationally acclaimed specialists in contemporary music such as Amy Dissanayake, David Russell, Dal Niente, and Eric Mandat. Master classes and reading sessions of student composers’ works are regularly held during the festival.
New Music in the Bloomington-Normal Area and Beyond
Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University both host numerous new music concerts during the academic year. In addition, one of the hottest new music scenes in the nation, Chicago, is within driving distance.
Opportunities after Illinois State
Students graduating with a degree in composition have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at institutions such as University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance , University of Iowa, Ithaca College, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Several former students have obtained teaching positions at universities.
Further inquiries about composition may be directed to our Theory and Composition Area Coordinator - Martha Horst.