All applicants to the Composition Area must apply and be accepted by The Catholic University of America as well as their program in the School of Music, Drama and Art. You may submit an online application to CUA via this link.
Prospective students should survey the following links for more information on studying composition at CUA: undergraduate and graduate application information, frequently asked questions, and financial aid information.
If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Stephen Gorbos, the head of the Division of Composition and Theory, at Gorbos@cua.edu.
Submitting Composition Portfolios Online
We prefer online submission of scores and audio files: please read the guidelines below and follow this link to access our upload form. If you need to send hard copies of materials, please mail them c/o Dr. Stephen Gorbos to the departments of music at The Catholic University of America. However you choose to submit your portfolio, we request that portfolios be received by us at least one week in advance of any composer audition interview.
What you can upload
You can upload scores, audio files, and other relevant documents.
We prefer that scores be uploaded in pdf format.
We recommend mp3 format for audio files. If you do not have mp3 versions of your files and do not have access to conversion software, there are free programs which will accomplish this task. Audacity is an example of one such free downloadable program for converting audio file formats.
For consistency, please label every file submitted - regardless of format - in accordance with this formula:
- Composer’s last name_first name_title of piece_movement or part [If applicable].pdf (or .mp3)
If you are submitting a piece or recording broken into more than one part, please indicate this in the file name as well, e.g.:
- Last name_first name_title of piece_2of4.pdf (or .mp3)
- [This would indicate that this is the 2nd of 4 separate files]
So that we are able to locate every item in your portfolio, please include a master sheet (in pdf format) which lists each file submitted, along with your name and the degree program to which you are applying.
If you have video to include in your portfolio, please send us a link (include this link on the master sheet) rather than attempt to upload a video file. Please be sure that the link is operational and not password-protected (or, if protected, please be sure to include the password on the master sheet). Sites such as youtube.com or vimeo.com can be used to host both private and public videos.
Optional Documents: CV/resume, works list with performance history, composer biography
Our portfolio upload site has a separate section where applicants can choose to upload a CV/Resume, list of works with performance history, and composer biography. These materials are not required, but should be submitted if an applicant already has significant experience that would not be apparant via the other items in the portfolio.
More information on submitting a portfolio of your work
A strong portfolio should typically include:
- Scores of two-to-four compositions for varied performance forces. PDFs, via our application upload site, are the preferred method for submitting scores (please do not submit notation software files); any scores submitted should demonstrate a student's level of knowledge of musical notation. You should endeavor to make your scores look as close to commercially published materials as possible (in addition to the manuscript, try to include a cover/title page that gives the duration, instrumentation, any relevent performance directions, and a program note). Again, pdfs via our upload site are strongly preferred, but if you are sending hard copies of scores and you wish to have your materials returned, please provide a self-addressed, stamped padded mailing envelope.
- Recordings of your pieces, if available, should be uploaded along with your scores via our portfolio submission form. It is expected that applicants to our undergrad program will have fewer recordings than a graduate applicant; in addition, not every piece in the portfolio needs to be represented by a recording. Graduate applicants should note that the committee expects you to have had multiple experiences presenting your music in live performance at the time of application. Please note that MIDI or other electronic realizations of pieces should not be submitted in lieu of recordings of live performances unless the realization is of particularly high quality. A poor MIDI realization may create an inaccurately poor impression of your work: a good general rule in this regard is: if in doubt, don't send. The faculty are generally able to assess the quality of your music quite well by reviewing your scores.
- Electronic works or those involving digital media submitted as part of a portfolio are not required to be accompanied by scores. In lieu of a score, a student might upload a brief description of how the work was created, citing specific software used and/or techniques employed.
- Graduate students might find it useful to also submit excerpts of longer pieces: if you are submitting a recording and have editing software which allows you to provide short samples of the most interesting parts (i.e., the "highlights") of your music, you could choose to present your work in this way (choosing 1 or 2 excerpts at most). If including excerpts from longer pieces, make sure you also submit the entire performance recording as well, and be sure to tell the committee what pages in the corresponding score they should look at for the excerpts.
- Optional: Performance history. This would consist of a list of the pieces you have composed (title, instrumentation, and duration), if and when they were performed (date, venue, city), and by whom. It is usually organized chronologically, and if it includes many works, by genre/instrumentation.
- Optional: CV or resume. This can be a helpful supplement to your compositions and recordings, especially if it highlights additional areas of interest or accomplishment (your experiences as a ballet accompanist, perhaps, or your time spent in a rock band). Focus, if you do choose to provide a CV, on providing information not available elsewhere. CV's should be 2 pages maximum and should give a brief summary of your education and any additional musical activities to date (i.e., compositions premiered, any summer camps or institutes such as Interlochen, Aspen, Tanglewood, Brevard, etc., which you might have attended), and any competitions or prizes which you may have won.
- Optional: composer biography. A good bio gives details of your previous education and your experiences in composition (performances, etc.). If you are a newcomer to composition, more or less, chances are that your bio may not be particularly helpful just yet. If you have won a competition or have participated in summer institutes such as Tanglewood, Aspen, Interlochen, Brevard, etc., this would be important information to include, either in a bio or the CV (see above for CV or resume). The best bios are limited to around 200 words.
Upload Portfolio Materials
To upload your portfolio of materials click here. Portfolios should be uploaded at least one week in advance of any composer audition interview.