• Music Composition
    Music history plays an important role in creating new music
  • Music Composition
    Students at MTSU discover the language of music
  • Music Composition
    Talented and award-winning faculty guide and mentor their students
  • Music Composition
    Study partners can almost always be found in Wright Music Hall

Music Composition

MTSU's School of Music provides music majors with a thorough grounding in music theory and history, combined with instruction in conducting and solo, chamber, and ensemble performance. The concentration in Theory-Composition offers much more intensive training—examining the content and construction of music, learning the language of music and what makes it pleasing to the ear, and discovering what is involved in creating musical works. With award-winning and talented faculty members, MTSU’s School of Music offers aspiring students solid training and guidance that can lead to careers as composers, songwriters, music editors, or arrangers. 

MTSU composer's works featured on films, TV

MTSU composer's works featured on films, TV

Battery Lane Music owner/producer/writer/engineer Scott Gerow, an MTSU graduate who studied composition, has become a successful composer in film, TV, and ad jingles. Gerow has placed songs in and produced music for such television series as Army Wives, How I Met Your Mother, and Sons of Anarchy, plus movies such as People Like Us, The Slammin' Salmon, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. He also has worked for many artists, including Christina Aguilera and Crystal Gayle. Gerow owns and manages Battery Lane Music, which specializes in artist production and publishing, studio recording, mixing, and music for film and TV. He has studied at and holds degrees from MTSU as well as the University of Miami and the Vienna School of Music in Austria.

Grammy-winning producer nominated for professor's CD

Grammy-winning producer nominated for professor's CD

Osterfield: Rocky Streams, featuring faculty member and composer Paul Osterfield, was included in a catalog that earned a 2012 Grammy nomination for classical Producer of the Year for Blanton Alspaugh (the 2013 winner). The CD by Osterfield and fellow faculty Todd Waldecker had performances from 14 current and former MTSU School of Music professors including Don Aliquo, Michael Arndt, Sandra Arndt, Deanna R. Little, David Loucky, Tim Pearson, Dewayne Pigg, Stephen Smith, and William Yelverton. "This international recognition of the artistry of our MTSU professors as composer and performers is another milestone in the development of the School of Music as a national player," said Dr. George Riordan, former school director.

Music majors in the Theory-Composition concentration at MTSU set themselves up for professional music careers or to study for advanced degrees at premier schools of music. Some alumni have continued studies for vocations outside of music. Possible job paths to consider with the degree include

  • Band director/leader
  • Composer/arranger/orchestrator
  • Conductor
  • Copyright specialist
  • Film music director/editor 
  • Instrumental/vocal performer
  • Music critic/journalist
  • Music editor and publisher
  • Music educator
  • Music librarian
  • Music software programmer      
  • Music theater director
  • Musicologist
  • Orchestra librarian
  • Recording technician/engineer/mixer
  • Songwriter
  • Studio musician
  • Studio/private teacher
  • University professor


Employers hiring and graduate programs accepting MTSU alumni

  • Recent alumni have gone on to graduate degrees in composition from the Boston Conservatory, the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the University of South Florida, and the University of Texas. Others have attained graduate degrees in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and performance at the University of Louisville.
  • Graduates have taught music in private studios and freelanced as composers, arrangers, and performers.
  • Student and alumni composers have had their works performed at the Czech-American Summer Music Institute in Prague, at Society of Composers conferences, on WLPN's Live in Studio C, and at New York's Fringe Festival.
  • Alumni have been working in the publishing and recording industry, including as classical music editor for Hal Leonard Publishers and digital services manager for Naxos of America.
  • Several graduates have composed for independent local films.

Dr. Cedric Dent
Professor
cedric.dent@mtsu.edu

Hide

Dr. Spencer Lambright
Assistant Professor
spencer.lambright@mtsu.edu

Hide

Dr. Michael Linton
Professor
michael.linton@mtsu.edu

Hide

Dr. Paul Osterfield
Professor
paul.osterfield@mtsu.edu

Hide

MTSU’s School of Music offers an undergraduate major in Music leading to Bachelor of Music (B.M.) degree in the following concentrations:

  • Instrumental Music Education
  • Instrumental Performance (Brass, Orchestral Strings, Woodwinds, and Percussion; Guitar; Jazz Studies; Organ; or Piano)
  • Music Industry
  • Theory-Composition
  • Vocal/General Music Education
  • Voice Performance

Undergraduate minors in Music, American Music Studies, and Music Industry are also available.

Graduate programs offered by the School of Music include the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree with specializations in collaborative piano; conducting; jazz studies; music composition; music composition for contemporary media; music education; musicology; or performance.

There is a graduate minor in Music.

The sample schedule below is based on the current undergraduate catalog. It is not a substitute for academic advisement. Contact your advisor if you have any questions about scheduling or about your degree requirements or consult the undergraduate catalog (catalog.mtsu.edu) for a complete list of requirements and electives.

You may choose to attend a summer term to reduce your load during fall or spring terms but still stay on track to graduate in four years. (Refer to the scholarships website for information regarding use of the Lottery Scholarship for the summer term.)

NOTE: Learning Support courses will alter the sequences on this map. Missing milestones could delay your program.

Music–Theory-Composition Academic Map

School of Music
Middle Tennessee State University | Murfreesboro


Suggested Fall/Spring and Summer/Fall/Spring Four-Year Schedule

Click here for printer friendly academic map.

FRESHMAN FALL FRESHMAN SPRING
CourseHoursMilestones/Notes CourseHoursMilestones/Notes
MUTH 11104  MUTH 11204 
MUAP 2--11  MUHL 16102 
MUS 15301  MUAP 2--11
MUS 10100  MUS 15401 
MUEN 3---1  MUS 10100 
ENGL 1010 (Comm)3  MUEN 3---1 
MATH (Math)3  ENGL 1020 (Comm)3 
Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 1)3  Hum/FA (Rubric 1)3 
SUBTOTAL16  SUBTOTAL15 
SOPHOMORE FALL SOPHOMORE SPRING
MUTH 21103  MUTH 21203 
MUHL 30103  MUHL 30203 
MUAP 2--11  MUAP 2--11 
MUAP 23422  MUAP 23422 
MUS 25301  MUS 25401 
MUS 10100  MUS 10100 
MUEN 3---1  MUEN 3---1 
COMM 2200 (Comm)3  ENGL 2020, ENGL 2030, or HUM 2610 (Hum/FA) 3 
HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303  HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303 
SUBTOTAL17  SUBTOTAL17 
JUNIOR FALL JUNIOR SPRING
MUAP 4--11  MUAP 4--11 
MUAP 43422  MUAP 43422 
MUTH 41102  MUTH 31103 
MUS 31402  MUS 10100 
MUS 10100  MUEN 3---1 
MUEN 3---1  MUEN 3---1 
MUEN 3---1  MUHL 46303 
Nat Sci (Rubric 1)4  Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 2)3 
SUBTOTAL13  SUBTOTAL14 
SENIOR FALL SENIOR SPRING
MUAP 4--11  MUAP 4--11 
MUAP 43422  MUAP 43422 
MUTH 41903  MUAP 49002 
MUEN 3---1  MUEN 3---1 
MUHL 46403  MUHL 46503 
Nat Sci (Rubric 2)4  MUTH 41302 
    Hum/FA (Rubric 2)3 
SUBTOTAL14  SUBTOTAL14 

TOTAL HOURS IN PROGRAM: 120

FRESHMAN FALL FRESHMAN SPRING
CourseHoursMilestones/Notes CourseHoursMilestones/Notes
MUTH 11104  MUTH 11204 
MUAP 2--11  MUHL 16102 
MUS 15301  MUAP 2--11
MUS 10100  MUS 15401 
MUEN 3---1  MUS 10100 
ENGL 1010 (Comm)3  MUEN 3---1 
HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303  ENGL 1020 (Comm)3 
SUBTOTAL13  SUBTOTAL12 
SOPHOMORE SUMMER
MATH (Math)3  Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 1)3 
SUBTOTAL3  SUBTOTAL3 
SOPHOMORE FALL SOPHOMORE SPRING
MUTH 21103  MUTH 21203 
MUHL 30103  MUHL 30203 
MUAP 2--11  MUAP 2--11 
MUAP 23422  MUAP 23422 
MUS 25301  MUS 25401 
MUS 10100  MUS 10100 
MUEN 3---1  ENGL 2020, ENGL 2030, or HUM 2610 (Hum/FA)3 
COMM 2200 (Comm)3  MUEN 3---1
SUBTOTAL14  SUBTOTAL14 
JUNIOR SUMMER
Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 2)3  Hum/FA (Rubric 1)3 
SUBTOTAL3  SUBTOTAL3 
JUNIOR FALL JUNIOR SPRING
MUAP 4--11  MUAP 4--11 
MUAP 43422  MUAP 43422 
MUTH 41102  MUTH 31103 
MUS 31402  MUS 10100 
MUS 10100  MUEN 3---1 
MUEN 3---1  MUEN 3---1 
MUEN 3---1  MUHL 46303 
Nat Sci (Rubric 1)4  HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303 
SUBTOTAL13  SUBTOTAL14 
SENIOR FALL SENIOR SPRING
MUAP 4--11  MUAP 4--11 
MUAP 43422  MUAP 43422 
MUTH 41903  MUAP 49002 
MUEN 3---1  MUEN 3---1 
MUHL 46403  MUHL 46503 
Nat Sci (Rubric 2)4  MUTH 41302 
    Hum/FA (Rubric 2)3 
SUBTOTAL14  SUBTOTAL14 

TOTAL HOURS IN PROGRAM: 120

Graduation information may be accessed here.

Music

MUS 1010 - Recital Attendance
0 credit hours
Attendance at a minimum number of recitals and concerts given by students, faculty, and guest artists. Six semesters required for undergraduate music majors (see School of Music handbook for details). May be repeated multiple times. Pass/Fail.

MUS 1020 - Music Enrichment Instrumental
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Acceptance into Governor's School for the Arts. A component of the Governor's School for the Arts. Provides an opportunity for qualified high school students to get first-hand musical experience in an intense, academic, collegiate environment.

MUS 1021 - Music Enrichment Vocal
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Acceptance into Governor's School for the Arts. A component of the Governor's School for the Arts. Provides an opportunity for qualified high school students to get first-hand musical experience in an intense, academic, collegiate environment. Combines traditional large ensemble and opera workshop rehearsals and performances and voice master classes.

MUS 1022 - Music Enrichment Piano
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Acceptance into Governor's School for the Arts. A component of the Governor's School for the Arts. Provides an opportunity for qualified high school students to get first-hand experience in an intense, academic, collegiate environment. Combines traditional applied studio instruction, supervised practice sessions, chamber ensemble rehearsals and performances, master classes, and solo performances.

MUS 1030 - Introduction to Music
3 credit hours
Meets part of the General Education Humanities and/or Fine Arts requirement. Perceptive listening to music of various styles and cultures including popular and world musics and Western classical concert music.

MUS 1510 - Class Voice I
1 credit hour
Basic vocal techniques including posture, breath control, tone quality, and diction. Italian and English diction, Vaccai studies, and moderately easy song repertory.

MUS 1520 - Class Voice II
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: MUS 1510. A continuation of the vocal techniques in Class Voice I with addition of vocal flexibility, uniform tone quality in extending the voice range, interpretation of songs, and stage deportment in public performance. Further study of Vaccai, Italian art songs, and English songs.

MUS 1530 - Class Piano I
1 credit hour
Acquaints beginning piano students with the keyboard. Includes such skills as note reading, basic chords for harmonization of melodies, improvisation, basic exercises for development of coordination and technique, transposition, repertory, and sight reading.NOTE: All undergraduate music majors (except keyboard principals) must take class piano every semester as indicated on the advising check sheets until the required piano proficiency exam is successfully completed. Concurrent enrollment in Class Piano I and Theory and Aural Skills I is required with the following exceptions: (1) The student successfully passed either Class Piano I or Theory and Aural Skills I, but not both, or (2) the student successfully passed one or more levels of Class Piano by examination. Students should see their advisors for details.Students wishing to continue piano after successfully completing the required class piano sequence may audition for piano applied lessons. Keyboard principals must take MUS 2550 and MUS 2560 in lieu of class piano.

MUS 1540 - Class Piano II
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: MUS 1530. Continuation of skills and concepts taught in MUS 1530. Emphasis on standard piano repertory in addition to sight reading and functional piano skills.NOTE: All undergraduate music majors (except keyboard principals) must take class piano every semester as indicated on the advising check sheets until the required piano proficiency exam is successfully completed. Concurrent enrollment in Class Piano I and Theory and Aural Skills I is required with the following exceptions: (1) The student successfully passed either Class Piano I or Theory and Aural Skills I, but not both, or (2) the student successfully passed one or more levels of Class Piano by examination. Students should see their advisors for details.Students wishing to continue piano after successfully completing the required class piano sequence may audition for piano applied lessons. Keyboard principals must take MUS 2550 and MUS 2560 in lieu of class piano.

MUS 1550 - Class Guitar I
1 credit hour
Beginning guitar playing, teaching basic techniques through chording and melodic elements.

MUS 1560 - Class Guitar II
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: MUS 1550 . Continuation of skills and concepts sought in Class Guitar I with emphasis on more advanced playing and repertory study.

MUS 2530 - Class Piano III
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: MUS 1540. Continuation of skills and concepts taught in MUS 1540. Emphasis on standard piano repertory in addition to sight reading and functional piano skills.

MUS 2540 - Class Piano IV
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: MUS 2530. Continuation of skills and concepts taught in MUS 2530. Emphasis on standard piano repertory in addition to sight reading and functional piano skills.

MUS 2550 - Keyboard Skills for Pianists I
1 credit hour
Elementary-level sight-playing; three-voice, open-score reading; improvisation; harmonization using primary chords; transposition; and common patterns in two-octave range (scales, arpeggios, progressions).

MUS 2560 - Keyboard Skills for Pianists II
1 credit hour
Intermediate-level ensemble and solo sight-playing; harmonization using primary and secondary chords; improvisation; transposition; four-voice, open-score reading; and common patterns in four-octave range (scales, arpeggios, progressions).

MUS 2660 - Jazz Guitar Lab
1 credit hour
Prerequisites: MUTH 1110, basic proficiency in reading music, and consent of instructor. Recommended: Class Guitar I or one semester of private instruction. Provides minimum background in performing popular guitar styles in an ensemble or studio situation. Course may be taken more than one semester for credit.

MUS 2670 - Jazz Piano Lab
2 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUS 1540. For beginning jazz keyboard students. Study of the harmonic language of jazz, chord voicing, keyboard techniques, interpretation of melodies, and improvisation.

MUS 3140 - Basic Conducting
2 credit hours
Prerequisites: MUTH 2120. Interpretation of scores, fundamental diagrams with and without baton, terminology, and stage deportment.

MUS 3150 - Advanced Instrumental Conducting
2 credit hours
Prerequisites: Two semesters of MUED 2320; MUS 3140. Further development of techniques, especially those relevant to choral and instrumental conducting. Laboratory experiences with large musical groups; conducting with records to develop awareness of musical texture, form, and general musicianship in all areas as related to conducting.

MUS 3160 - Advanced Choral Conducting
2 credit hours
Prerequisite: Two semesters of MUED 2310; MUS 3140. Further development of conducting techniques relative to the choral area. Emphasis on choral style and literature, scope and sequence of the historical perspective, and major developments in the choral art.

MUS 3170 - Guitar Skills I
2 credit hours
Prerequisites: MUTH 1110, MUTH 1120, and two semesters of private study. A skills course for improving reading skills and applying music theory concepts to the guitar. Topics will include arranging, harmonization of melody, reading from lead sheet format, improvisation, and standard repertoire suitable for a variety of performance situations.  

MUS 4000 - Special Topics in Music
1 to 3 credit hours
Study of a topic in music. Topic and prerequisites to be announced.

MUS 4100 - Independent Study in Music
1 to 3 credit hours
Intensive study of a chosen subject. An indication of reasonable skill and knowledge of research techniques, writing, and creativity expected. Requires permission of the instructor and director of the music school.

MUS 4270 - Music Internship
3 to 6 credit hours
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Examination and experiences in music industry, music education, or instrumental or choral conducting. Music industry may include songwriting and the creative aspects of music, studio production, music publishing, and music merchandising. Music education may include public and private school settings, state board of education arts consulting, and music textbook consulting. Conducting may include school and church conducting, music publishing, and private or public orchestras and/or choirs. Pass/Fail.

MUS 4360 - The Music Industry Professional
3 credit hours
Creation, examination, and experience in developing and implementing a business plan in the selected areas of the music business. Areas include studio teaching, freelance musicianship, contracting, performing, producing, nonprofit organizations, and similar areas of music specialization.

MUS 4570 - The Body Intelligent: A Study of the Alexander Techniqu
3 credit hours
(Same as DANC 4570/THEA 4570.) For those interested in improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support, flexibility, and coordination in daily activities.

Music Theory

MUTH 1000 - Elements of Music
3 credit hours
For those needing remedial work before enrolling in Theory MUTH 1110. Topics covered include music reading in G and F clefs, intervals, major and minor scales; rhythm.

MUTH 1110 - Theory and Aural Skills I
4 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 1000 with grade of C- or higher or satisfactory score on theory diagnostic exam. Harmonic tonality and fixed-do solfège through chorale analysis and harmonizations of given bass lines. Major and minor scales and harmonizations through secondary function. Meets for five hours per week.

MUTH 1120 - Theory and Aural Skills II
4 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 1110. Harmonic tonality and fixed-do solfège through chorale analysis and harmonizations of given bass lines. Modal scales, harmonization, and analysis through the augmented sixth. Meets for five hours per week.

MUTH 2110 - Theory and Aural Skills III
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 1120. Harmonic tonality and twentieth-century vocabularies. Nineteenth-century chromaticism. Meets for four hours per week.

MUTH 2120 - Theory and Aural Skills IV
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 2110. Continued study of harmonic tonality and twentieth-century vocabularies. Twentieth-century practices. Meets for four hours per week.

MUTH 3020 - Commercial Songwriting
3 credit hours
(Same as RIM 3020.) Prerequisites: RI majors - admission to candidacy and RIM 1230 or MUTH 1110 or permission of instructor; others - permission of instructor. Organization of ideas, words, and music into the writing of popular songs. Analysis of songwriting trends. Students will be expected to play guitar or piano and sing.

MUTH 3110 - Counterpoint
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 2120 with C- or better. Review and continuation of contrapuntal techniques. Canon, imitation, various contrapuntal devices, inventions, and beginning fugue. Analysis and some degree of original work.

MUTH 3160 - Jazz Theory
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 1120. Exploration of the harmonic syntax, melodic construction, and song forms in jazz music. Analysis, listening, original composition, and practice hearing jazz chords and progressions.

MUTH 4110 - Form and Analysis
2 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 2120. Binary and tenary forms, simple rondos and sonatinas progressing to sonata form, large rondos, theme and variations, art song, and free forms. Stylistic analysis and study of devices and materials from early to contemporary periods.

MUTH 4130 - Orchestration and Arranging
2 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 2120. Compass and tonal qualities of band and orchestra instruments; transposition. Fundamentals of arranging for various instrumental groupings.

MUTH 4180 - Improvisation
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MUTH 1120 or permission of instructor. Basic tools of jazz improvisation including chord/scale relationships, melodic construction, and practice techniques. In-class playing over blues, rhythm changes, and other standard jazz progressions. Elements of the bebop style. Preparation of playing exercises and several solo transcriptions.

MUTH 4190 - Principles and Practices of Electronic Music
3 credit hours
(Same as RIM 4190.) Prerequisites: RI majors - admission to candidacy and RIM 1230 or MUTH 1110; others-RIM 3010, RIM 1230, or MUTH 1110 or permission of instructor. An introduction to synthesizer programming and the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) with emphasis on history, theory, and application. Hands-on activities include synthesizer programming with virtual instruments and MIDI sequencing using a digital audio workstation. Laboratory required.

MUTH 4270 - Choral Arranging
2 credit hours
The fundamentals of arranging musical works for vocal ensembles of various sizes, combinations, and skill levels.

MUTH 4290 - MIDI Sequencing and Virtual Instruments
3 credit hours
(Same as  RIM 4290). Prerequisites: RI majors - admission to candidacy and RIM 4910/MUTH 4910; others - RIM 4190/MUTH 4190 or permission of instructor. An advanced hands-on course with an emphasis on MIDI sequencing and virtual instruments within Pro Tools, Reason, and other music production software. Drum machines, synthesizers, samplers, and other electronic instruments used to create a commercial music track. Laboratory required.

MUTH 4590 - Computer Based Scoring for Visual Media
3 credit hours
(Same as RIM 4590.) Prerequisites: RI majors - admission to candidacy, RIM 4190/MUTH 4190 and either RIM 4200 or  RIM 4290/MUTH 4290; others - RIM 4190/MUTH 4190 and either RIM 4200 or  RIM 4290/MUTH 4290; or permission of instructor. Writing music for visual media using the capabilities of a computer workstation. Introduces compositional techniques utilizing Macintosh sequencing software and QuickTime video playback in combination with synthesizers and sample playback programs. Concepts include synchronization of music to picture, tempo selection, sound source selection/manipulation, and analysis of the dramatic content of a scene. Laboratory required.