The Music Department at Rutgers offers BM, MA, and PhD degrees in composition. These programs enable students to take advantage of both the professional conservatory setting within the Mason Gross School of the Arts and the broad, humanistic environment of a major research university, all within the radius of New York City’s bustling new-music scene. Performance opportunities abound, as composers are able to recruit undergraduate and graduate students in the school’s large performance program, as well as receive readings from the excellent Rutgers Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, student composers regularly receive performances from the resident new-music ensemble HELIX!, The Rutgers Percussion Ensemble, and from outside professional ensembles selected and hired by the graduate composer forum. The Rutgers composition program prepares students to become active members of the professional academic community as well as independent artists who will find and follow their own creative voices.


At the undergraduate level, private instruction in composition is supplemented by a rigorous aural skills and music theory sequence, orchestration and conducting classes, recording and computer music courses, music history surveys and seminars, private instruction as an instrumentalist or vocalist, and performance with large and small ensembles. At the graduate level, private instruction in composition is supplemented by musicology, theory, and performance-practice seminars; graduate students will benefit from a particularly rich array of post-1900 topics, as the theory faculty’s research interests encompass atonal music, popular music, ultra-modern music, contemporary Chinese composers, cultural synthesis in music, and women and gender studies. Graduate students may also take courses in other departments throughout the university as appropriate to their research interests; PhD students may enroll in classes at Princeton, Columbia, CUNY, NYU, the New School, Stony Brook, and Fordham through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium. Undergraduate and graduate composers are required to participate in the composer’s practicum, in which students share their in-progress pieces, collaborate with members of the art & design, dance, film, and theater programs, and attend lectures by visiting composers. The practicum also covers issues of notation, score preparation, compositional form, parameters and concepts in musical language, pre-compositional models and structures, professional development and affiliations, compositional collegiality, rehearsal techniques, and other practical issues for the contemporary composer.


Head of the Composition: Robert Aldridge

Scott Ordway

See also: Music Theory Faculty


Graduate students are encouraged to pursue professional opportunities during their tenure at Rutgers. Our proximity to New York City allows students to immerse themselves fully in one of the most active new-music communities in the world. Students with academic aspirations may present their papers-in-progress at meetings of the Rutgers University Musicological Society (RUMS), which also provides opportunities for leadership. Teaching and assistant teaching positions offer valuable classroom experience under the guidance of experienced faculty. The faculty guide students through the process of submitting appropriate work to conferences, festivals, and journals, and students may apply for funds for professional travel.  Rutgers students enjoy access to a number of consortium libraries and research facilities. The Performing Arts Library is an outstanding research facility and supports many online music and scholarly resources. 

The Mason Gross School of the Arts offers a vast array of concerts, theater productions, dance recitals, and art exhibits. Musical performances each year include a full-scale opera production plus opera workshops, performances by the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, major choral works by the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir and other choral groups, concerts by the Wind Ensemble, Jazz bands and combos, and chamber ensembles.


Current composition fellows in our program are very active, collaborating and presenting their work at different venues.  We are pleased to feature some of them here.


Christian Carey (Rider University); David Ernest (CUNY, York College); Brendan McConville (The University of Tennessee-Knoxville); Nkeiru Okoye (State University of New York at New Paltz); Bruce Craig Roter (The College of Saint Rose); James Romig (Western Illinois University); Edward Taylor (Baylor University); David Weisberg (William Paterson University).


The musicology, music theory, composition and music technology programs of the Mason Gross School of the Arts cultivate the study and creation of music through engagement with current methodologies in—and innovative approaches to—research and composition. We seek to foster a vibrant environment of intellectual curiosity, creativity and collaboration, in which faculty and students of varied backgrounds may explore together the theory and practice of music throughout history and within contemporary culture. Our classes, concerts, lectures, conferences and workshops build upon our position both within a professional conservatory setting and as part of the broad, humanistic environment of a major research university. We encourage the development of ideas about music through the application of traditional and non-traditional methods, interdisciplinary approaches, emerging technologies and especially critical thinking and writing. Serving a community of performers, composers and scholars, we promote inquiry into music of the past and the present, and the development of a vision for music in the future.