Theory & Composition

The composition area at California State University, Fullerton’s School of Music is guided by a faculty with diverse and extensive artistic and pedagogical experience. Two years of private, one-on-one, studio instruction by our composition faculty and a recital project distinguishes our program. Classes focus on traditional and contemporary aspects of the technique and craft of composition. Strong instrumental studios ensure support for a wide range of performance opportunities available to composers in the program, including a "Composers Forum" concert series, which focuses exclusively on works by student composers. In addition, a wide range of visiting composers and performers help foster a lively and serious discourse, complementing the curricular offerings of the area.

An experienced faculty offering various, unique perspectives in the disciplines of music theory and composition guides the music theory area. The curriculum focuses on the comprehensive development of strong skills in music theory and musicianship, counterpoint, techniques of contemporary music, and form and analysis. Advanced courses are offered in special music theory topics, advanced form and analysis, and advanced techniques of contemporary music. Independent study projects offered in such diverse areas as advanced orchestration, film music, text and music, women in music, and advanced music technology help foster an environment of active research and inquiry.

The Bachelor of Music in Composition and the Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory-History and Master of Music in Music Theory-Composition provide excellent preparation for advanced degrees in composition, theory, literature or musicology.

Our program has been very successful in the placement of our graduates in high-quality graduate and doctoral programs on a national level.

Pamela Madsen , composition, theory
Ken Walicki , composition, area coordinator  
Eric Dries , theory
Füreya Ünal , theory

Coordinator of Graduate Studies
Dr. John Koegel • (657) 278-7685

All music majors, regardless of their intended degree, will receive four semesters of applied music (private) lessons.   To gain entrance to the School of Music, you must show basic proficiency as either a singer or instrumentalist in an audition.   Please visit one of the pages below for more information.




Jazz / Commercial Music

Master of Music in Theory-Composition
Entrance Requirements and Other Essentials

The Master of Music in Theory-Composition is an applied and academically-based degree requiring 30 units of study in private composition lessons, theory, conducting, history and literature. The Cal State Fullerton School of Music faculty include award winning composers. Students thrive in an environment large enough to engage in challenging, vital composition, but intimate enough for specialized individual attention. For those who intend to pursue doctoral studies, the Master of Music degree normally leads to the Ph.D. or DMA degree.

The Master of Music, Theory-Composition provides an avenue of graduate study for the highly creative composer. Programs are tailored to each student’s demonstrated talent and needs for professional development. Applicants must, without exception, have completed either a BM degree in Composition or show evidence of equivalent rigorous training.

Each applicant shall present a portfolio of original compositions equivalent in number, length, and variety of instrumentation to those required for the Bachelor of Music (Composition) degree. The portfolio should include at least three works demonstrating the applicant’s artistry and craft in composing for a variety and scope of media such as voice or voices, woodwinds, brass, strings, keyboard, percussion, and/or electronic media in any combination including chamber and large ensemble settings. Applicants should submit scores and, whenever possible, tapes of those scores (MIDI realizations are acceptable).

If the compositions do not fulfill all requirements, a special recital may be required before admission to the Master of Music in Theory-Composition. An interview with the faculty might also be requested.  All applicants must be able to demonstrate musicianship by performing a selection of their choice on their primary instrument or voice if requested.

A three-page essay to include a discussion of the following: 1) the goal(s) you wish to attain through your studies for the Master of Music, Composition, 2) your reason(s) for choosing Composition as an area of creative and academic concentration, and 3) specifically, your relation to the progression of musical thought through history. For example, with which composers do you feel a special affinity and why? With which compositional trends and techniques do you feel a special affinity and why? Are there any other significant influences on your compositional outlook.

Letters of Recommendation
Arrange to have letters of recommendation from three music professionals familiar with your preparation for graduate study sent to the School of Music graduate program adviser.

Submission Dates
For full consideration, audition and essay materials should be submitted by February 1 for Fall semester and by December 1 for Spring semester.

Entrance Exams
After being admitted, all entering graduate students take entrance exams in music history and music theory. The exams cover undergraduate level material and are given Thursday before the first week of classes.

More Information 
Audition Dates
Submission of Supporting Materials

Contact Information 
School of Music Graduate Program Advisor Dr. John Koegel (657) 278-7685
Composition-Theory Area Coordinator Dr. Ken Walicki  (657) 278- 2060




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Last Published 4/18/22

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