The Master of Music degree program with a music composition specialization is an advanced course of study for musicians holding the Bachelor’s degree. The program
provides students the opportunity to study their art in a thriving professional music
school. The curriculum is grounded in studies of music theory and musicology while
the program facilitates collaborations with accomplished musicians and artists all
while allowing students to develop their portfolio in order to pursue a professional
position or continue into doctoral studies after graduation. A Graduate teaching assistantship
opportunity may be available to qualified students.
Tennessee native, composer models teaching style after MTSU professors
Growing up in a suburb just outside of Nashville, David Sartor was interested in music
at a young age. It was a performance by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
when he was in middle school that ultimately led him to pursue a career in music.
Since completing his master’s degree at MTSU, Sartor has worked on films and videos,
published nearly all of his compositions through his own publishing company, Metamorphic
Music, composed for several musicians, and taught at the college-level, including
at MTSU. “It’s a fantastic life and with all that variety, it’s always interesting!”
Sartor said he models his teaching style after that of some of the professors he had
at MTSU. “In my academic classes, I encountered professors who were extraordinary
teachers. I model much of my teaching on their excellent examples. I truly feel it
is the best music department in Tennessee. If composition is your passion, you could
choose no finer institution than MTSU.”
Award-winning international student says MTSU helped shape him
Daniel Bondaczuk came to the United States from São Paulo, Brazil, in 2014 to pursue
his master’s degree in composition at MTSU. “As a foreign student, MTSU shaped the
way I relate to people in probably more ways than I am aware,” he said. While attending
MTSU, Bondaczuk said not only did he have the opportunity to expand his palette of
tools to express his musical voice, but he was also allowed to put his skills into
practice. Six months into working on his degree, Bondaczuk won two composition awards.
“For students considering MTSU’s composition program, I only have words of encouragement:
you will be challenged, but you will also be supported. Always do your best and you
will have a great chance in succeeding in this very competitive world that is music.
Looking back at my years at MTSU, there’s no other way I would have done it." Bondaczuk
has worked with mainstream artists in Brazil. He is currently a music director at
a Nashville-area church and does freelance work for Christian artists and publishers.
MTSU College of Graduate Studies
MTSU | The University of Opportunities
Alumni from the School of Music teach thousands of students every day in private studios
and schools from kindergarten through university levels. MTSU graduates perform in
orchestras, military ensembles, and opera companies; appear in clubs and recording
studios with the famous and yet-to-be-known; compose music for Hollywood films and
commercial jingles; lead professional music organizations; work in the music industry;
serve as church musicians; and continually enrich the lives of others. Some continue
on to enter prestigious doctoral programs. A sample of potential professional pathways
for music master's students:
- Artistic director
- Band director/leader
- Choral/choir director
- Church musician/worship leader
- College professor/instructor
- Film music director/editor
- Film-TV composer
- Music critic/journalist
- Music publisher/editor
- Music software programmer
- Music theater director
- Musical director
- Orchestra librarian
- Recording technician/engineer/mixer
Employers of MTSU alumni include
- Bellevue Middle School
- Belmont University
- Cane Ridge High School
- Case Western Reserve University
- Chattanooga Symphony
- Cumberland University
- The Downtown Band
- Earl Klugh (Grammy winner)
- EMBRA Artists, LTD.
- Fairview Middle School
- Jeff Coffin (Grammy winner)
- Jonathan Fletcher Music
- Lipscomb University
- MEINL Percussion
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Murfreesboro City Schools
- Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra
- Nashville State Community College
- Northeast Mississippi Community College
- Old Center Elementary School, Nashville
- Onks Woodwind Specialist
- Siegel Middle School
- Trevecca Nazarene University
- University of Louisiana-Lafayette
- University of Northern Colorado
- Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville
The School of Music’s Masters of Music Degree is offered with seven graduate specializations:
A minor in Music is offered at the graduate level.
- hold (or be about to receive) an undergraduate degree in music;
- have an acceptable grade point average in all college work taken (at least 3.0);
- depending on specialization, either do an audition or submit an audition audio or
video-recording; submit scores and recordings of compositions; submit written samples
of scholarship; or submit a 30-minute video-recording demonstrating teaching ability;
- complete entrance examinations in music history and music theory to plan initial course
For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS tab above.
MTSU's School of Music offers an undergraduate major in Music leading to Bachelor
of Music (B.M.) degree in the following concentrations:
Undergraduate minors in Music, American Music Studies, and Music Industry are also
Students seeking a license to teach music in the public schools must complete
- a major in Music following the concentration in either Instrumental Music Education
or Vocal/General Music Education K–12,
- a minor in Secondary Education,
- the General Education Program, and
- additional teacher licensure requirements.
Music, Music Composition Specialization, M.M.
Chris Combest, Program Director
The School of Music offers a Master of Music degree with specializations in collaborative piano, conducting, jazz studies, music composition, music education, musicology, and performance.
Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.
Admission to the Master of Music degree program requires
- an earned bachelor's degree in music from an accredited university or college;
- an acceptable grade point average in all college work taken (at least 3.00).
All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.
- submit application with the appropriate application fee (online at www.mtsu.edu/graduate/apply.php). Once this initial application has been accepted, the applicant will receive directions on how to enter the graduate portal to be able to submit other materials.
- submit official transcripts of all previous college work;
- submit three letters of recommendation.
Additionally, those seeking a specialization in music composition must submit recordings and scores of three to five of their compositions.
The Master of Music degree in Music with a specialization in music composition requires completion of 33 semester hours.
- complete the curriculum with 70 percent of the total degree hours at the 6000 level (see Curriculum section below for specifics);
- successfully complete both written and oral comprehensive examinations no earlier than the student's last semester of study. Comprehensive examinations may be repeated once.
Additionally, those with a specialization in music composition must establish proficiencies in music history and music theory* and establish proficiency in a performance skill on an applied instrument or voice and in keyboard (may also fulfill performance-skill requirement).
*NOTE: Diagnostic examinations in music theory and music history will be scheduled during the first week of the first semester of study. Students who do not pass the diagnostic examinations should consult with the graduate coordinator to plan how to meet the requirements. Additional courses may be required to satisfy these proficiency requirements.
Curriculum: Music, Music Composition
The following illustrates the coursework requirements.
Core Courses (9 hours)
MUS 6620 - Bibliography and Research
Survey of bibliography and problems and methods of research. Analysis and evaluation of research in the arts.
MUTH 6050 - Analytical Techniques
Prerequisite: MUTH 5010 or permission of instructor. Skills and procedures of musical analysis as they apply to all periods through analysis of representative compositions. Evaluation of work from all standpoints: craftsmanship, expression, and stylistic correctness.
MUS 6630 - Music Seminar
Prerequisite: MUS 6620. Study and research of a topic in music determined by the instructor.
Specialization Courses (18 hours)
MUAP 6140 - Composition
Development of skills and ability in handling musical materials with goals of some individual style or expression within the framework of current practices. Taken in consecutive order with MUAP 6150 and MUAP 6160.
MUAP 6150 - Composition
Development of skills and ability in handling musical materials with goals of some individual style or expression within the framework of current practices. Taken in consecutive order with MUAP 6140 and MUAP 6160.
MUAP 6160 - Composition
Development of skills and ability in handling musical materials with goals of some individual style or expression within the framework of current practices. Taken in consecutive order with MUAP 6140 and MUAP 6150. MUAP 6160 may be repeated with no limit, but only three hours of credit may be applied toward the degree.
MUAP 6670 - Graduate Recital
Prerequisites: Completion of MUAP 6682 for the collaborative piano specializations; MUS 6030, MUS 6060, and MUAP 6709 for the conducting specialization; the appropriate courses from among MUAP 6681-MUAP 6688, MUAP 6691-MUAP 6698, and MUAP 6701-MUAP 6708 for the jazz studies and performance specializations; MUAP 6140, MUAP 6150, and MUAP 6160 for the music composition and music composition for contemporary media specializations; and permission of the appropriate music faculty in all specializations. One-hour private lesson per week in the selected performance field and recital preparation until recital completed. Those specializing in collaborative piano may take course three times.
MUHL 6040 - Twentieth Century Music
Styles and compositional techniques found in representative masterworks of the twentieth century from Debussy to present. Analysis, listening, and research.
MUTH 5190 - Principles and Practices of Electronic Music
Includes history and techniques, acoustics, electronic sound generation, recording, operation of audio equipment, basic principles of composition, and experience with tape recorders and a music synthesizer. Open to nonmusic majors with permission of instructor.
Electives (6 hours)
Proficiency Courses Determined by Placement Examination (0-6 hours)
Either or both of these courses may be required based on the results of the student's diagnostic examinations in music history and music theory:
Performance proficiencies are evaluated by the appropriate performance faculty. Keyboard proficiencies are evaluated by the student's primary composition professor.
Our adjunct faculty bring outstanding professional experience to our programs. Many are industry leaders with decorated careers and honors. Importantly, they are innovative educators who offer hands-on learning to our students to prepare them to enter and thrive in a dynamic, and oftentimes emerging, industry and professional world. They inspire, instruct, and challenge our students toward academic and professional success.
General Application Procedures
- Submit through the University’s Application tool (button below):
- Submit application with the appropriate fee
- Submit official transcripts of all previous college work
- Submit three letters of recommendation.
- Email directly to the program coordinator of interested area
- Additional Requirements (video links, papers, compositions, etc)
- By the February 1 deadline
- Complete a Student Application (if interested) for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship
Additional application requirements:
Master of Music – Composition – admissions portfolio
Please submit three to five works, either by hard copy through the mail or electronically through web links or a download
service (e.g., DropBox, GoogleDrive). The portfolio should demonstrate facility expected of an entering graduate student in music composition.
Scores are required for works involving acoustic instruments and/or voice. The scores should demonstrate
an understanding of proper notational practice (including handling of dynamics, articulations,
etc.) and facility with issues of form, orchestration, counterpoint, etc. The faculty look for mastery of skills that should be mastered
during a bachelors program in music composition and a good sense of musicality. Live recordings of these works are highly recommended.
A student’s application may also include fixed media (e.g., electronically generated
music, musique concrete). For those works, recordings and/or videos will suffice;
scores would not be required.
Please submit scores and recordings to Paul.Osterfield@mtsu.edu.
Proficiency Courses Determined by Placement Examination (0-14 hours)
Either or both of these courses may be required based on the results of the student's
diagnostic examinations in music history and music theory:
- MUTH 5010 - Theory Survey 3 credit hours
- MUHL 5070 - Music History Survey 1 to 3 credit hours
Students must also demonstrate performance skill on an applied instrument or voice.
- Keyboard (may also fulfill performance-skill requirement)
Online or Hybrid Programs at a Glance
This program is available .
For More Information or Explore Your Options
Contact your department / program coordinator or advisor for more details about the program OR work one-on-one with your advisor to explore your options.
The Online Advantage
With over 25 years of experience in online teaching and learning, MTSU Online offers students access to innovative, high-quality programs. Designed with students in mind, our courses allow maximum flexibility for those unable to participate in person.
Resources and services for online students are available from MTSU Online or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.