Composition & Electronic Music Studio

FAQ for Undergraduate Composition Applicants
For questions about how to prepare your composition portfolio materials, please visit THIS PAGE.


Can students start as composition majors their first year, or do they need to take core classes first?
YES! A unique aspect of our program is that freshman composers will be expected to immediately enroll in composition courses and begin receiving live performances of their works during the first semester.

What classes will I be taking in my four-year program at USF?
Please review the program degree requirements HERE and read about our composition curriculum HERE. Essentially, you will take composition and electronic music courses every semester, in addition to music theory, music history, applied lessons, and additional electives.

Can I apply to the USF Composition Program as a transfer student?
Yes, students who demonstrate outstanding merit may be admitted to the sophomore year of composition. Transfer applicants will take the Composition Transfer Exam during their interview/audition day. The results of this written exam, combined with the applicant's portfolio and interview, will determine if the student has reached the requirements for the sophomore level of the USF Composition Program. Please remember that our program includes a rigorous and comprehensive eight-semester sequence of courses that we view as necessary for the most successful composition career. It is in the student's best interest to complete the entire curriculum. Transfer admission beyond the freshman year is granted in only the most exceptional cases.

What sorts of instruments/ensembles will I be learning to write for?

Students in our program will write for all brass, woodwind, string, percussion, and electronic instruments. After four years, you will have a strong knowledge of instrumentation and orchestration and your portfolio will contain dozens of solo/chamber ensemble works, electronic works, and works for wind ensemble, orchestra, choir, and percussion ensemble. More importantly, it is our goal that you will hear live performances and/or readings of these works, interact with the musicians, and obtain recordings of everything you compose during your time at USF.

I am not interested in electronic music - Is this the right program for me?
No. While your electronic music skills and experience do not have to be strong to enter our program, we do expect you to be interested, excited, and open to exploring all forms of electronic music making. Many alumni entered our program with little to no electronic music experience and left our program with an offer to be an electronic music Teaching Assistant at a top conservatory. Electronic music plays a significant role in our curriculum and you will be required to take five electronic music courses during your time at USF.

Do I need a strong background in music technology to enter the USF composition program?

No. If you are interested in electronic music but have not had the opportunity to explore or learn about this genre, that is fine. Our electronic music courses start from the very beginning and gradually lead you to advanced programming.

What opportunities will there be for performances of my music?

Our goal is for you to hear each work you perform in a live concert or reading session, and for you to have a recording of each work you compose. In addition to a variety of unique opportunities (e.g. festival performances, off-campus performances, etc.), our regular schedule of student composer concerts includes four acoustic concerts per year, five electronic music concerts per year,  orchestra readings, wind ensemble reading, choral readings, percussion ensemble readings, and several student composer recitals. In addition, USF performance majors frequently program student works on their degree recitals.

I want to compose music for film and video games - Is this the right program for me?
Our program focuses on balancing compositional skills, creative risk taking, electronic music techniques, and music business. The majority of the works you will complete in our program will be intended for live performance. We do not have a program or class dedicated to composing for film and multimedia; however, many of our students are involved in these activities and we do encourage it. Our program will prepare you with the essential skills you need to compose successfully for electronic media and acoustic instruments, and these skills are necessary in the film composing industry. Our program can prepare you for a graduate application at a school with a multimedia component but you should not expect to score many films during the course of our program.

I write and record a lot of pop music - should I submit my songs in my application portfolio?
No. While we value the study and creation of popular music, and include some of this in our curriculum, your application portfolio should consist of scores of your original compositions for concert music genres (solo acoustic instruments, chamber music, orchestra, wind ensemble, choir, etc.). If you create electronic sequences of any kind, then it would be useful to include one of these in your portfolio. However, we will not review recordings or lead sheets for pop music you have written. If you have a heavy interest in pop music then please explain that in your personal statement.

Do I need to take an instrumental audition to be admitted as a composition student?
Yes. All undergraduate composition majors must be accepted into an instrumental studio before being admitted as a composition major. In addition, composition majors are required to take lessons and perform in ensembles on their primary instrument.

Are scholarships available for music majors?
Yes. There are a number of scholarships available for music study at USF. Based on your instrumental audition and composition interview, you could be offered a merit based scholarship for music. In addition, University of South Florida offers a variety of scholarship opportunities for in-state and out-of-state students. Please visit THIS PAGE for more information on USF scholarships. In addition, you are urged to explore outside scholarship sources and apply for any you might be eligible for.