Composition & Electronic Music Studio

Composition Curriculum

        USF offers a unique composition curriculum that balances the practice of compositional skill, entrepreneurship, historical perspectives, and artistic risk taking. The essence of this approach is one that focuses equally on tradition and innovation while expanding a composer’s creative outlook and providing the additional skills a student needs to disseminate his/her compositions to the world.  The curriculum follows a fluid trajectory of projects, teamwork, interdisciplinary collaborations, and career-building activities. Students of this program are equally involved in performances and activities related to their works on and off campus, nationally and internationally. While the development of compositional skill and musicianship is the primary focus, the extra-compositional activities are distinctive to our program and account for the high rate of student success achieved by USF composition students. The outline below describes some key components of the USF composition program, divided into categories that are overlapping in the curriculum.


The primary components are as follows (expanded below)


· Service Learning – Students work in teams to carry out tasks related to professional concert production.

· Career Building – Students generate a collection of documents and knowledge that assist them in their pursuit of professional opportunities.

· Entrepreneurship – Students carry out “real world” projects that result in income generation, special events, and long-term business foundations.

· Interdisciplinary Collaborations – Students collaborate with scholars from multiple academic disciplines, cross boundaries, and explore unique and new forms of expression.

· Assessment – Learning outcomes are assessed regularly through one-on-one juries with faculty, classroom assessments, and by measuring and tracking programmatic/professional success.


Detailed Description of each:


Class Projects: Service Learning

Beginning with the freshman year and progressing through the undergraduate curriculum, composition students carry out a variety of service-learning projects. These projects require the students to work in teams, to carry out tasks related to producing, documenting, promoting, and assessing the many activities of our program. The goal of these activities is that each student will have the skills needed to produce concerts in a entrepreneurial or established setting upon graduation. Below are the tasks each class works on as a team.


· Freshman - Stage Management Team: design and handle all stage changes during USF composition concerts.


· Sophomore – Public Relations Team: develop programs, posters, social media, and press releases for all composition events.


· Junior - Video and Audio Archiving: record audio and video of all events for documentation and produce the SYCOM DVD used for electronic music concerts.


· Senior - Concert Producers & Assessment of Freshman-Junior Tasks: Oversee all aspects related to carrying out successful concerts while guiding the underclassmen and providing an assessment of each team for each event.


Career Building Materials

As students move through the composition curriculum, they are steadily creating a collection of documents and knowledge that assist them in their pursuit of professional opportunities. The projects build professional and entrepreneurial skills, and provide the students with tools needed for everything from self-promotion to grant applications.


· Freshman: Begin list of performances database, Begin list of works database, Biography Presentations, Write 200-Word Biography.

· Sophomore: Update list of works, list of performances, and bio, Writing Program Notes, One-Page Resume, Curriculum Vitae

· Junior: Performance Rights Organization Research Paper, Updated CV, Bio., List of Works, and List of Performances, Sheet Music Pricing, Commissioning Music Guidelines

· Senior: Full-Length Bio., Update CV and all databases, Consortium Commission Projects, Mock Interviews, Online Presence, Networking Database, Royalty Collection, Copyright Law, Self-Publishing Practices, Licensing, Off-Campus Concert Production



Individual career building projects culminates in a variety of entrepreneurial activities that are executed during the senior year of undergraduate studies and throughout graduate studies. Below are some examples of entrepreneurship projects USF students are guided through that result in income generation, special events, and long-term business foundations.


· Consortium Commission

After three years of developing a portfolio, promotional materials, and networking with performers. USF students carry out their first consortium commissioning projects. This includes teaming up with a commissioning project leader, drafting letters to potential consortium members, creating a website with the proposed work description and sample works, possibly teaming up with a publisher or other organization to handle the finances, and setting up a project timeline. At the end of this project, the student writes up a report that includes the materials they used, how many performers joined, their process for carrying it out, and the resulting financial benefit. Such a report is included here.


· Concert Production

In addition to the on-campus composers’ concerts, the seniors and graduate students collectively produce an off-campus concert. This concert typically includes the “best” works they have produced during their studies. This project requires them to develop a budget for the production, book a venue, contract performers, write and disseminate a press release, invite (recruit) audience members, and publicize their event. The idea behind this project is to get the students involved in the activities and finances related to freelance production and new-music events.


· Publication and Sheet Music Sales

Seniors and graduate students research available performing rights organizations (ASCAP & BMI), choose the organization best suited to their needs, and register as both a writer and publisher member of the organization. In addition, they learn to price and promote sheet music and setup an online “store” that their best and future works will be sold from.


· Royalty Collection

After setting up their publishing companies with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), the students learn how to report performances of their music and collect royalties. Typically, for graduate students, they begin receiving their first royalty payments during their second year of studies. Often, the seniors receive their first payments during the summer after graduating. Royalty payments often make up a significant income for freelance composers and it is important for students to develop the “habit” of reporting performances and collecting royalties, once their portfolio of works begin to receive encore performances.


Interdisciplinary Engagement

USF Composition students frequently collaborate with other areas of research and practice throughout the university and in the greater Tampa community. These collaborations combine multiple academic disciplines, cross boundaries, and result in unique forms of expression.


· Health

In 2013 the USF composition program began collaborating with USF Health. This relationship is centered on sound awareness and art. The first event was a concert of electronic music that was created using the sounds of the human body called The Sound of Medicine. The students sampled sounds of the human body and sounds of hospital environments that the medical students are learning about and familiar with. In the months following the opening concert, the composition program held a series of listening workshops for the USF Health medical students that included learning about the components of sound, listening techniques, and sound walks.


· Visual Art

USF composition students regularly collaborate with visual artists and museums to create new-music events centered on a particular artist’s work or entire exhibitions. The USF Composition Program has been involved in an annual collaboration, since 2009, where all of the students compose works as reactions to a specific exhibit at the USF Contemporary Art Museum (on campus), which culminates in an evening of performances, at the museum. In addition to this on-campus event, similar events have been carried out as a collaboration between the USF student composers and local museums within the community and region.


· Dance

USF students are encouraged to develop a strong connection with students of the USF Dance Department. The USF student composer concerts and recitals often include dancers, showcasing the results of close collaborations between the USF composers and USF dancers.


Learning Outcomes and Assessment

The USF Composition Program stresses the acquisition of relevant creative, technological, historical and theoretical competencies as being necessary for a robust artistic education. A common trajectory of learning outcomes over the four years of undergraduate and two years of graduate composition programing is meant to establish a high standard of achievement that will benefit the composer moving on to a graduate program or professional career.


Learning outcomes are assessed in the following ways:

  • Classroom assessments - based on testing of curricular skills
  • Programmatic success - achieving outcomes in programming, publicity, programmatic participation, public service, etc.
  • Personal juries - twice each semester composition students perform a “jury” with the compositional faculty to demonstrate programmatic skills (each second jury of the semester is a mock audition/interview)