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Music Composition & Theory

SIU Student making notes on sheet music

A specialization in music composition and theory offers an intensive curriculum that focuses on compositional practices as well as the theory and history of music composition. Courses provide in-depth instruction in musical analysis, instrumental arranging, electronic composition, choral arranging and sound synthetics, just to name a few.

Our music composition and theory program offers a Bachelor of Music degree and a Master of Music degree which uniquely prepare graduates to find successful careers as musical theorists, composers, educators and academics. Both contemporary and historical musical styles are explored in this specialization.

Bachelor of Music (Music Theory and Composition)

The undergraduate major can be accomplished by fulfilling the requirements for the Bachelor of Music (B.M.) degree.

  • Total Degree Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • University Core Curriculum: 39 credit hours
  • Theory: 16 credit hours
  • History-Literature: (3) + 5 credit hours
  • Conducting: 1 credit hours
  • Partial Recital: 1 credit hours
  • Specialization Requirements: 49 credit hours

Compass IconCheck out the B.M. Curricular Guide, which helps you outline what courses you would want to take each semester for all four years. View all related undergraduate courses.

Master of Music (Music Theory and Composition)

  • Total Degree Requirements: 36 credit hours
  • Music Bibliography and Research: 3 credit hours
  • Analytic Techniques A and B: 4 credit hours
  • Advanced Composition (480): 1-3 credit hours
  • Graduate Composition (580): 6-9 credit hours
  • Pedagogy of Music Theory: 2 credit hours
  • Thesis: 5 credit hours
  • Research Paper: 1 credit hour
  • Ensemble: 4 credit hours
  • Modern Music: 3 credit hours
  • Electronic Composition and Sound Synthesis: 2 credit hours
  • Approved Graduate Music Electives: 6 credit hours

Compass IconThe graduate major can be accomplished by fulfilling the requirements for the Masterof Music (M.M.) degree. View all related graduate courses.


Individual training in music composition from our esteemed faculty members ensures proficiency to allow each student to flourish as a creative individual. By learning compositional approaches, you will obtain the conceptual ability to develop a composition from the initial idea to the finished piece and evolve your artistic identity.

SIU Music Composition student works on project


Theoretical coursework allows students to attain expertise in solving compositional problems. Students receive extensive training in the use of technological tools and research tactics to offer a comprehensive approach to addressing theoretical issues in music composition.


Music majors are required to participate in major musical ensembles throughout the academic year, such as SIU's Concert Choir, Marching Salukis, Southern Illinois Symphony or Wind Ensemble. Additionally, The Outside the Box music festival is produced each year, providing opportunities for composition students to attend master classes, seminars, workshops and to perform in the Emerging Composers recital during the event.

Visit the School of Music for a full list of participation opportunities.


The SIU School of Music has more than 30 scholarships available. A large variety of criteria exist for these awards and are listed below outlining the eligibility requirements.

Admissions and Auditions

To apply to the SIU music program, prospective students are required to submit both a University application as well as a School of Music application. In addition to these applications, you will be required to complete an in-person audition at Altgeld Hall on campus, or a live online audition if traveling is not possible. Our undergraduate and graduate Admissions and Auditions pages will give you all of the details necessary to begin early preparation for your applications and an audition for each specific instrument.


At SIU, rehearsals and performances take place in the oldest currently occupied building on campus, Altgeld Hall. With state of the art spaces for choral performers and musicians of every kind, this majestic building is a second home to many students of the music program and a place to enhance their experience as a burgeoning artist.

SIU Composition and Theory Students work in computer lab

Contact Information

Karen Wolf
Academic Advisor
Faner 1229
1100 Lincoln Dr.
Carbondale, IL 62901

Jessica Butler
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Altgeld 22
1000 S Normal Ave
Carbondale, IL 62901