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 an option in 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 composition 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.

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 music, choirs, orchestras, bands and jazz bands. Within driving distance of Boston and Portland, UNH is ideally situated to allow you to take advantage of the offerings of the many vibrant musical communities in the area.

Potential career areas

  • Academia
  • Cinema/theatre
  • Composition
  • Conducting
  • Education
  • Music theory
  • Performance
  • Radio/television
  • Research
  • Writing


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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.


Degree program has final approval from the National Association of Schools of Music.

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 891Research Seminar1-4
Supportive Courses in Music
MUSI 865Introduction to Bibliography3
MUSI 894Theory Seminar3
MUSI 869Musicology Seminar 33
Electives 19
Select 9 credits from the following:
MUSI 871
Music History Period Courses
MUSI 803
Music of the Renaissance
MUSI 809
Music of the Romantic Period
MUSI 811
Music of the 20th and 21st Centuries
MUSI #815
Survey of Opera
MUSI 831
Advanced Instrumental Conducting
Applied Lessons Courses
MUSI #841
Graduate Piano
MUSI 845
Graduate Voice
MUSI 848
Graduate Cello
MUSI 852
Graduate Clarinet
MUSI 853
Graduate Saxophone
MUSI 855
Graduate Bassoon
MUSI 856
Graduate French Horn
MUSI 857
Graduate Trumpet
MUSI 860
Graduate Tuba
MUSI 861
Graduate Percussion
Other Courses
MUSI 895
Special Studies 2
MUSI 869
Musicology Seminar

Normally, electives will be chosen only from offerings within the Department of Music. Students wishing to enroll in electives outside the department are permitted to do so in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Music.


MUSI 895 Special Studies may be used to enroll in large and studio ensembles for a total of 6 credits.


MUSI 869 Musicology Seminar can be repeated for credit.

Concentration and Supportive Courses are required; other electives are possible with the approval of the department.

General Competencies for All Music MA Programs

  • Demonstrate advanced capacities to work independently and make effective artistic and intellectual judgments and professional decisions in the area of specialization by producing a final project or equivalent.
  • Demonstrate advanced competence in the area of specialization.

Additional Competencies, M.A. in Conducting

  • Demonstrate advanced competencies in conducting through studies in gestural technique, score analysis, repertoire, and regular conducting experiences with appropriate ensembles.
  • Demonstrate engagement with other fields of music outside of conducting.
  • Demonstrate professional capability by rehearsing and conducting a concert-length performance or the equivalent.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply critical thinking to music literature and to have in-depth discussions regarding specific works in the repertoire.

Additional Competencies, M.A. in Composition

  • Demonstrate advanced competencies in composition.
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills in one or more related fields of music.
  • Complete a faculty approved final project.
  • Manage an advanced performance of their original composition.

Additional Competencies: MA in Musicology

  • Demonstrate advanced competencies in musicology, theory, and criticism through written work and research papers in graduate-level music history and theory courses.
  • Demonstrate appropriate competency in music theory and analysis by using the analytical tools and research concerns in music theory and analysis appropriately in writing and research.
  • Demonstrate professional capability in the major area of study by completing a final project that demonstrates advanced competence and intellectual independence in research and writing in musicology.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply critical thinking to music literature and to describe personal advanced independent work of particular interest.


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 (for more details see the accelerated masters information page)

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 upload a copy (PDF) of your official transcript in the application form. International transcripts must be translated into English.

If admitted, you must then request an official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. 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.

Transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions must be submitted and applicants must disclose any previous academic or disciplinary sanctions that resulted in their temporary or permanent separation from a previous post-secondary institution. If it is found that previous academic or disciplinary separations were not disclosed, applicants may face denial and admitted students may face dismissal from their academic program.

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 Andrew Boysen or Professor Michael Annicchiarico.

Important Notes

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

International Applicants

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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