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Theory and Compostion Program

Music Theory & Composition

For students interested in writing their own music, analyzing the music of others, or teaching music theory, the University of Tennessee School of Music offers both graduate and undergraduate programs in music theory, composition, and theory pedagogy.


The Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in Theory and Composition has two tracks – one in theory and one in composition. Both tracks provide students with experience in the analysis and composition of music.

BM in Music Theory/Composition - Composition track

Students in the composition track take specialized courses in sound synthesis, sound recording techniques, computer music transcription, counterpoint, and orchestration, and serve a practicum in music theory. Composition students have three years of weekly composition lessons with an active composer and, in their senior year, present a recital of their compositions.

BM in Music Theory/Composition - Theory track

Students in the theory track take from & analysis, orchestration, sound recording, computer music transcription, and one year of composition lessons. Theory students also take courses in choral arranging, instrumental arranging, theory pedagogy, and serve a practicum in music theory working with theory professors. Theory students also write a thesis on a topic of their choice in their last semester.


At the graduate level, separate Master's degree programs are offered with a specialty in composition or music theory. A Certificate Program in Music Theory Pedagogy is also available.

Music Theory & Composition students usually continue their studies through the doctoral level and seek jobs teaching theory or composition in higher education. Some graduates choose to seek careers composing or arranging music for films or TV.

MM in Composition

The Master of Music in Composition includes courses in analytical techniques, music theory pedagogy, and musicology as well as private composition lessons with the goal of writing a major work for the thesis.

MM in Theory

Students in the Master of Music in Theory program take courses in analysis, theory pedagogy, technology, musicology, musical styles and bibliography. The Masters of Music in Theory students an select from two specific tracks:

  1. Theory and analysis track
  2. Theory pedagogy track

The capstone project for the theory and analysis track includes a written thesis on an analytical topic, similar to a scholarly article suitable for a music theory related journal such as the Journal of Music Theory, Theory and Practice, or Music Theory Spectrum. The final thesis for the pedagogy track is a paper similar to one in a more pedagogical journal, such as the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy.

Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy

The Certificate Program in Music Theory Pedagogy is available to graduate students already in a Masters of Music program at the University of Tennessee. The program consists of 15 hours of coursework in analysis, music technology, music theory pedagogy, as well as a final teaching project. Once finished with the program, students will have the knowledge and practical experience needed to teach high school or undergraduate courses in music theory.

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