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Music Theory and Composition Major Guide for 2008-2009

What is Music Theory and Composition

Music Theory is the study of music: what is in a piece of music and how it is put together. Composition is the process of creating (composing) music for others to play.
The Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in Music Theory and Composition prepares students to become teachers, analysts and composers of music. Music Theorists and Composers are practitioners who exhibit not only technical competence, but also a broad knowledge of music, literature, musical style, and an insight into the role of music in the life of humankind.

Career Opportunities in Music Theory and Composition

This degree provides the musical background needed to pursue graduate studies in either theory or composition. Some students have also continued into graduate programs in areas such as film music or arts management.

Salary Trends in Music Theory and Composition

Graduates with a BM in Theory and Composition may become college teachers of theory and composition or work as composers/arrangers of music.  As with any degree, pre-professional experience (for example, internships and tutoring) increases your chances of obtaining the job you want and affects your potential salary. College/university instructors of music theory/composition will start with a salary around $45,000. Arrangers and composers of music will earn about $35,000 per year.

High School Preparation

To prepare for a degree in music, perform as much as possible. Take part in the chorus, the bands, and the orchestra in high school. Take private music lessons to help prepare for the audition. Take any music theory, ear training, music history, or appreciation courses offered by your school. Listen to as much music and as many varied types of music as you can. Attend concerts. Take piano lessons. Compose your own music. Study the pieces you play. And above all, practice!

How to Major in Music Theory and Composition

All new music students in music theory/composition (freshmen and transfer) must perform an audition on their major instrument, have an interview with a member of the music theory/composition faculty, and take a music theory examination.

The results of the theory exam will determine your placement in theory. The audition, interview, and theory exam should be completed on the day of your audition.
Applicants are strongly urged to register for an audition through the School of Music website as early as possible. No student progresses to a major in music theory/composition until the audition, interview, and entrance examination have been successfully completed.

Requirements for Music Theory and Composition

You should begin your courses in music as soon as you become a music major. You will take the music core curriculum, including music theory and ear training, form and analysis, music history, world music, piano, applied music, and ensembles. Courses specific to your major include composition lessons, sound recording and synthesis, computer music transcription, orchestration, counterpoint, and conducting.
In addition, you are required to present a recital of your own works in your senior year.

Highlights of Music Theory and Composition

Most students in the School of Music find their ensemble participation to be a highlight of their undergraduate experience. You can participate in many different ensembles including Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Ensembles, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Men’s and Women’s Chorale, Opera Theatre, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic and Concert Band, The Pride of the Southland Marching Band, the Big Band Jazz Ensemble and various small jazz ensembles. The School of Music presents over 160 concerts each year.

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Sample Curriculum

Sample Curriculum Bachelor of Music Degree, concentration in Music Theory/Composition
Freshman Year Credit Hours
English 101, 102 3,3
Music Theory 110, 120 3,3
Music Theory 130, 140 1,1
Musicology 110 3
Music Technology 340 3
Music Ensemble 1,1
Music General 200 0
Music Keyboard 110, 120 1,1
Music Technology 290 3
Quantitative Reasoning 3
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Music Theory 210, 220 3,3
Music Theory 230, 240 1,1
Music Performance 294 1,1
Music Technology 390 3
Musicology 210, 220 3,3
Music Ensemble 1,1
Music General 200 0
Music Keyboard 210, 220 1,1
Cultures and Civilizations 6
Junior Year Credit Hours
Music Theory 310 3
Music Theory 420 3
Musicology 380 3
Music Performance 1,1
Area Study 4
Music Ensemble 1,1
Music General 200 0
Electives 5
Natural Sciences 4,3
Communication Studies 210 3
Senior Year Credit Hours
Music Theory 430, 440 3,3
Music Performance 1,1
Area Study 4
Music Ensemble 1,1
Music Education 310 3
Music General 200 0
Social Sciences 6
Electives 6
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 120

For More Information

Associate Director for Undergraduate Studies
School of Music
1741 Volunteer Blvd.
211 Music Bldg
Knoxville, TN 37996-2600
(865) 974-3241



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.