Music: Composition (M.A.)

Music: Composition (M.A.)

Student reading choir music

Why get a master’s degree in music composition?

The M.A. in music with the composition option offers both a broad knowledge of music and the opportunity for in-depth study of music composition. This graduate program encourages mastery of technique and theory, culminating in a final project in an area of interest such as a composition, a composition recital, a lecture recital or a research paper. Our faculty’s interests span all styles, periods and approaches, and the program is responsive to the individual ambitions of its students to prepare them for their professional careers in the best way possible.

Why choose UNH for your music degree?

Take advantage of all of the resources of the music department, including a wealth of faculty expertise, lectures and performances by acclaimed musicians, conductors, composers and researchers. You can take part in a rich musical life at UNH, including chamber, vocal and concert ensembles, jazz bands, and the University Symphony Orchestra. Plan approval and accreditation for the program is pending from the National Association of Schools of Music. Located within driving distance of Boston, central and northern New England, UNH is ideally situated to take advantage of the musical offerings of the many vibrant cities and communities in the area.

Potential career areas

  • Academia
  • Cinema/theatre 
  • Composition 
  • Conducting 
  • Education 
  • Music theory 
  • Performance 
  • Research 
  • Sound design 
  • Writing


Curriculum & Requirements

The master of arts1 in composition option offers the opportunity for in-depth study of music composition. Some graduates of the program will go on to earn a doctoral degree in composition or music theory, while others will seek careers as film and theater composers, sound designers, teachers, and freelance writers. The program is responsive to the individual ambitions of its students to prepare them for their professional careers in the best way possible.

Completion of the program requires a final project in an area of interest. Projects can take several forms (for example, a composition, a composition recital, a lecture recital, a research paper, etc.) and are usually proposed and developed in concert with the graduate studies coordinator and a faculty member who serves as the project adviser. A final oral examination assesses the candidate's ability to apply compositional skills, and/or to describe advanced independent work of particular interest.

All of the Master of Arts in Music options require 30 credit hours as well as a final project for completion of the degree.

MUSI 875
MUSI 876
and Composition
MUSI 877Advanced Composition3
MUSI 991Research Seminar3
Supportive Courses in Music
MUSI 955Introduction to Bibliography3
MUSI 994Theory Seminar3
MUSI 959Musicology Seminar3
Electives 19
Select 9 credits from the following:
MUSI 871
MUSI 803-MUSI 815 Music History Period Course
MUSI 881-MUSI 882 Analysis: Form and Structure
MUSI 831- MUSI 832 Conducting
MUSI 895
Special Studies 2
MUSI 959
Musicology Seminar 3
MUSI 995
Independent Study in the History and Theory of Music
MUSI 831-MUSI 832 Conducting
Applied Lessons MUSI 841- MUSI 864
Total Credits30

Concentration and Supportive Courses are required; other electives are possible.


Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Feb. 15 (for funding); April 1 (recommended US; final international); July 1 (final)
  • Spring: Dec. 1
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: VT

Accelerated Masters: Yes

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester and UNH Non-Degree work. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must request one official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. International transcripts must be translated into English. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives,
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Additional Department Requirements

Accelerated Masters program: Applicants must have a minimum 3.4 GPA. Applicants are required to submit 2 letters of reference from UNH Faculty. 

Additional Requirements

Entrance Exam: An exam in music theory and music history is required. The exam will be sent to you upon completion of your on-line application with the graduate school. You are required to arrange for an instructor at your current institution or similarly qualified person to proctor the exam for you. Please contact the Department of Music graduate coordinator for details. 

Writing Sample: A sample of academic writing, preferably on a musical subject, should be submitted to the Department of Music graduate coordinator, either electronically (pdf file via email) or in hard copy. This might be a paper that has been submitted for a course. 

Composition: Applicants should submit a portfolio of compositions, and arrange for an interview with Professor Christopher Kies or Professor Michael Annicchiarico.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program specific application questions.

International Applicants

The University of New Hampshire recommends that international applicants who are living outside of the United States, and are planning on pursuing a research based degree, submit a preapplication form before submitting a full application. Your preapplication request will be carefully reviewed and a decision usually provided within 3 weeks. If your preapplication is approved then it is recommended you then submit a full application. If you are currently living in the United States (on a H1B visa, etc.), or you plan on pursuing a professional master’s degree, then you do not need to submit a preapplication.

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

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