Degrees Offered

  • Bachelor of Music (BM) Degree with a concentration in composition
    Note: BM students may opt to double-concentrate in composition and either music education or performance.
  • Master of Arts (MA) Degree in composition
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree in composition



Robert Aldridge (Head of Composition)
Melissa Dunphy
Amanda Harberg
Steven Kemper
Brian Landrus
Scott Ordway


The composition program at the Mason Gross School of the Arts prepares students for careers in a variety of musical fields including contemporary concert music, scoring for film and media, and the teaching profession. Our internationally renowned faculty members nurture students’ creative abilities and craft, which helps to develop their voices within the broader world of contemporary music.

Student composers regularly present their music in orchestra and band readings, opera scene workshops, composition department recitals, and multimedia concerts. Student composers also “learn by doing” through individual collaborations with performers, and through mentored, interdisciplinary projects with students in other degree programs and departments at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

This hands-on training in composition is supported by studies in music theory, musicology, music technology, ethnomusicology, and contemporary performance practice, as well as individualized mentorship in career development to prepare students to become professional composers.

Professional Opportunities

Each year, our composers take part in a variety of department-sponsored opportunities:

  • Reading sessions of student orchestral works by the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra
  • Concerts of student chamber music presented by the Rutgers University New Music Ensemble
  • Performances by HELIX, the graduate contemporary chamber orchestra
  • Annual concerts of electro-acoustic music through the New Jersey Digital Audio Concert (NJDAC) series
  • Performances of student works for laptop orchestra by the Rutgers Interactive Music Ensemble (RIME)
  • Composer-choreographer collaborations in partnership with the Dance Department
  • Composing for visiting professional soloists and ensembles
  • Reading sessions of student works by Rutgers Wind Bands

Undergraduate and graduate composers are required to participate in the composition practicum, where students share their in-progress pieces, collaborate with members of the Departments of Art & Design, Dance, Digital Filmmaking, and Theater, and attend lectures by visiting composers. The practicum also covers issues of notation, score preparation, compositional form, professional development and affiliations, rehearsal techniques, and other practical issues for the contemporary composer. Students are also encouraged to pursue off-campus professional opportunities while they are at Rutgers. 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. 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 may also present their academic work at meetings of the Rutgers University Musicological Society (RUMS). Part-Time Lecturer and Assistant Teaching positions offer valuable classroom experience under the guidance of experienced faculty.


At the undergraduate level, private instruction in composition is supplemented by courses in:

  • Music Theory
  • Orchestration
  • Conducting
  • Recording and computer music
  • Musicology and ethnomusicology
  • Private instruction as an instrumentalist or vocalist
  • Performance with large and small ensembles

At the graduate level, students work closely with our award-winning composition faculty whose expertise includes opera and vocal ensemble music, symphonic music, chamber music, site-specific works, and electroacoustic music as well as interactive music and instrument design. Weekly private instruction in composition for 12 weeks of the semester is supplemented by seminars in musicology, theory, and music technology. Graduate students may also take courses in other departments throughout the university as appropriate to their research interests.

At the PhD level, individualized qualifying exams prepare students for the dissertation, which consists of a major composition as well as a substantial essay on a subject related to the field of contemporary music. Through coursework, exams, and the written dissertation, doctoral students develop an area of secondary expertise and are prepared to teach both composition and cognate subjects at the university level. PhD students may also enroll in classes at Princeton, Columbia, CUNY, NYU, the New School, Stony Brook, and Fordham through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium. In all degree programs, students receive intensive career development mentorship to prepare them for graduate school or professional life. Learn more about degree requirements for our Composition program.

Our Students

Current graduate students in our composition program are active in the field of contemporary music, collaborating and presenting their work in a variety of professional venues. Read more about them here.

Our undergraduate and master’s students regularly continue their studies in leading composition programs throughout the United States. Recent graduates have attended a wide variety of prestigious institutions, including Northwestern University, UC San Diego, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Boston Conservatory, Michigan State University, and the University of North Texas.

Read our learning goals and statement of vision for the MA/PhD programs in Music.