MFA in Music Composition
Our program—the first of its kind—lets you find your own creative voice, pursue your professional interests, build a body of work, and join a global community of musicians and composers.
About the Program
- Summer: July 21–29, 2023
Admissions Info »
Who is it for?
This program is ideal for self-motivated students with a background in music and demonstrated compositional skills. Our students work in jazz, songwriting, electronic music, contemporary composition, scoring (film, TV, game), and more. If you thrive on inquiry, experimentation, and the creative process and want the freedom to explore a diversity of genres, VCFA is the place for you.
How will your practice develop?
You’ll emerge with an established composition practice, a portfolio of your music recorded by professional musicians and ensembles, and a degree that furthers your own compositional goals. You’ll be immersed in new music and musical ideas and forge authentic connections with leading professionals.
Experience VCFA’s low-residency model
VCFA’s academic calendar is divided into two semesters per year: a summer and winter semester respectively. Each semester begins with a 9-day residency that provides an intensive infusion of musical opportunities to inspire and invigorate each semester of individualized study. The professional and personal community that is created during residencies extends beyond campus, between residencies, and even after graduation.
Each residency, students attend workshops, lectures, master classes, rehearsals, and performances. Every residency hosts world-class musicians who rehearse and perform student music written during the previous semester. Students choose their faculty advisors, develop individualized study plans for the coming semester, and gain both direction and inspiration for the work ahead. Our 5:1 student-faculty ratio guarantees a high level of individual attention and fosters close relationships between students and faculty mentors.
In addition to their Music Composition community, students are on campus with our five other MFA programs during residency: Film, Graphic Design, Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and Visual Art. Composers will have the opportunity during residency for interdisciplinary study, work, and networking.
Upon completion of the two-year program, students will have attended four unique and invigorating residencies that guide their creative work while offering minimal disruption to their professional life and personal schedule.
Mentorship & Individualized Study
Over the semester, each student works from home on an individualized course of study designed to broaden and deepen compositional practices and skills. Faculty mentors provide continual feedback on students’ compositions and related work. The core of each student’s semester is writing music, supported by relevant research and analysis–developing a body of professional, creative work that reflects their unique compositional artistry.
Through the MFA in Music Composition program, students create lifelong practices in an engaged and dynamic musical community, building strong networks and enabling them to keep growing as artists.
Visit the MFA in Music Composition YouTube channel to hear the full range of genres and approaches to new music students explore through our highly individualized program.
John Paul Labno, 2022 MFA in Music Composition
Kei Slaughter, 2013 MFA in Music Composition
Check out Everything Is Music, the MFA in Music Composition program’s blog, to get a student’s eye view of a composer’s life in low-residency.
By the Numbers
Frequently Asked Questions
What is "student-directed" or "self-guided" learning?
Student-directed learning gives students greater control and ownership over their education. At VCFA, we don’t dictate the content or direction of students’ work. The faculty advisor’s role is to guide and support an individual course of study that considers the student’s previous experience, current goals, and specific needs as a composer.
Learn more about our low-residency model.
Are the contemporary, electronic, jazz, songwriting, and scoring-for-media students on separate academic tracks?
Students may select one area of focus or engage in cross-genre composition. We encourage exploration and the development of an individualized course of study that is specific to your needs as a composer. Students are not required to declare a specific musical track.
Schedule a meeting with admissions counselor Annie Sklar to learn more about the process.
Are there opportunities for students to have music played?
Each residency, our ensembles-in-residence rehearse, perform, and record student compositions written during the previous semester. Ensembles feature professional musicians who are unrivaled performers and generous collaborators. Students are required to write for one of the ensembles-in-residence at least two different semesters, but most choose to do so every semester. It’s an exceptional opportunity to receive high-level performances and recordings of your own compositions and create vital working relationships with some of the best musicians in the field.
In addition, each residency also features multiple opportunities for students to showcase their work: a Film Music Festival with screenings of music written for various media (film, documentary, television, commercials, video games, etc.); an Electronic Music Showcase for live electronic sound and multimedia; a Songwriting Showcase with performances by students, faculty, and staff; a Choral Workshop for student composers and singers; and a Composer/Performer Showcase.
Watch performances of student work on our YouTube channel!
How can I find out more about how this program would work for me?
The first step is to contact Annie Sklar, Associate Director of Admissions. In addition to talking with you about your specific interests and goals and answering your questions about the program, Annie can put you in touch with students, faculty, or alums and help you plan a visit. She would love to hear from you!