PhD in Composition

Associate Professor of Dance, Melanie Aceto, performs in "Liaison," a collaboration with UB PhD composition alumna Megan Beugger. Photo: Paul Hokanson

Course requirements

The following is the approved normal course of study for students pursuing a PhD in Composition. In all cases, a student's particular program should be determined in consultation with his/her academic advisor.  Customized tracks, involving substitutions for required and elective courses, are encouraged. These must be planned in advance with the advisor and will require the approval of the Music Department Graduate Committee.

Course Semesters Credits
MUS 627/628 Composition 6 24
MUS 627/628 Seminar* (4-6) (8-12)
Students may choose from the following courses for a total of 3 semesters and 12 credits: 3 12
MUS 515 Studies in Music History    
MUS 525-528 Survey of Music History    
MUS 529 Music Survey 1900-1945    
MUS 530 Music Since 1945    
MUS 625 Notation I    
Students may choose from the following courses for a total of 2 semesters and 8 credits: 2 8
MUS 621/622 Schenker Studies I/II    
MUS 554/555 Studies in Music Theory    
MUS 613/614 Doctoral Sem. in Music Theory    
MUS 629/630 Pitch Structures I/II    
Students may choose from the following courses for a total of 5 semesters and 20 credits: 5 20
MUS 511/512 Electronic Music    
MUS 607/608 Contemporary Music Materials    
MUS 611/612 Computer Music    
MUS 619/620 Advanced Orchestration    
MUS 700 Dissertation**   (1-12)
Total   72

* Recommended
** Variable credit as required by Major Professor


Comprehensive Examination (taken after completion of all course work and language requirement):

  1. A three- or four-hour written examination on the history of Western Music from the Middle Ages to 1950.
  2. A three- or four-hour written examination on contemporary (post-1950) music.
  3. A three- or four-hour examination on music theory.
  4. A portfolio of at least three representative works composed while in residence accompanied by a recording of each of the three pieces.
  5. An oral examination, the content of which will parallel that of the three written examinations, will be given 10-14 days after the completion of the written exam. Areas of weakness will be addressed by the committee


The dissertation will be a composition of substantial scope and complexity which demonstrates the candidate's ability to handle large musical forms.

foreign language requirement

One foreign language: French, German, or Italian. Another natural language may be substituted with approval of student's academic advisor and the Graduate Committee.

Retention standards

All degree coursework must be completed with grades of "A," B," or "S."