Composition

Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Music regrets to announce that we will not be accepting applications in fall 2020 for students hoping to begin studies at Penn in fall 2021. The School of Arts and Sciences has made this difficult decision in order to allow allocation of available support to current students who require extra time to complete their degrees as a result of the global pandemic. While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we also believe that this is the most responsible course of action in these unsettled times.  We anticipate that we will accept applications again in the fall of 2021 and welcome new students into our program in fall 2022.

We always love to hear from prospective students. Please feel free to reach out to our graduate chair, Dr. Jim Sykes (jimsykes@sas.upenn.edu) with any questions.

The Ph.D. program in composition stresses training in the craft of composition, contemporary repertory, and theory and analysis. Instruction in composition, in the form of private lessons and seminars, comprises much of the curriculum. Students are assigned to particular instructors for composition lessons on a rotating basis to assure all students exposure to a variety of approaches and access to composition teachers of their choice.   

A portfolio of original compositions is one of the central requirements of the Master's degree while a major composition serves as the dissertation at the doctoral level. In addition, Ph.D. candidates in composition must submit an article-length essay on an analytical, historical, or theoretical subject.  

A significant amount of contemporary music is performed under the auspices of the Department of Music. The concert series Wail of the Voice includes a varied repertory of music by composers both within and outside the department. The Penn Composer's Guild, dedicated to the performance of works by student composers, draws its musicians primarily from the Curtis Institute of Music and from the ranks of professional players in Philadelphia. All degree candidates in composition are assured of the public performance of at least one work in each academic year. Orchestral works by student composers are often given readings by the orchestra of the Curtis Institute. Students are encouraged to participate in the preparation of these performances.

Guest composers regularly offer colloquia at the Music Department. Recent speakers have included Daniel Asia, Robert Beaser, Daniel Coleman, Daniel Godfrey, Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Yinam Leef, Jonathan, Leshnhoff, Robert Maggio, Eric Moe, Thea Musgrave, Shulamit Ran, Christopher Rouse, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Chou Wen-Chung, and Richard Wernick.