Knowing the Compositional Landscape

In order to forge your own path in the musical world, you first need to explore as much of that world as possible.

We train our students in the craft and techniques of classical composition: counterpoint, orchestration, motivic and thematic development.

The foundation of our education is to train students in the rich tradition of western classical music, a central point of reference for professional classical composers. We expose our students to a literature which is more than a thousand years old. Chant, polyphony, motets, madrigals, operas, concerti, symphonies, tone poems, chamber music, conceptual pieces and electronic music all participate in this great tradition. Our students learn this music through listening, score study, analysis, research, rehearsal and performance in performing ensembles, attending recitals, concerts, and productions.

A thorough knowledge of the "canon" of western classical music is a fundamental goal of professional compositional education. We are heirs to a great, continuing tradition; knowing that tradition well is integral to making an original creative contribution.

Building on that classical foundation, we encourage our students to explore the breadth and variety of music of all styles, cultures, and times. The distinctions between "classical" and "popular" music, between "high" and "low" music, have always been artificial, and we encourage our students to draw on their own backgrounds and predilections as they discover their own voices. The goal of creative artists is to discover themselves through learning the work of others.

We ensure the depth and breadth of our training through capstone projects at the end of our students' time in the program. Composers in all degree programs, undergraduate and graduate, present a recital of original compositions. Comprehensive examinations for masters and doctoral students serve as an opportunity for students to consolidate and reinforce the knowledge of music literature, history, and theoretical and analytical techniques which they have gained at CUA. Doctoral students, in addition to their dissertation composition, write a scholarly paper on a topic in consultation with their advisor.