BM in Composition

APU’s composition major offers excellent preparation for graduate study or work as a professional composer, helping students discover a distinctive voice as they develop a portfolio of compositions.

88 units

The composition major is designed for students planning for graduate study in composition or work as a professional composer, helping them discover a distinctive voice and develop a portfolio of compositions. In addition to composition, courses in theory, music history, literature, conducting, and technology give the student thorough preparation in comprehensive musicianship.

Admission to the program is by audition and submission of previous compositions. Students with minimal compositional experience may be admitted at the discretion of the composition faculty, provided they show promise and strong general musicianship in other ways.

Applied composition students must submit their work to a jury at the end of each semester. Admission to upper-division status in the program is contingent upon:

  • Successful completion of the first two years of composition study as determined, in part, by the jury following the sophomore year, at which point significant compositional progress and output must be shown.
  • A grade-point average of at least 2.5 in the combination of courses in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship, Piano (class or applied), Introduction to Music Technology, and Applied Composition.
  • Adequate progress in acquiring specific keyboard skills suitable for composers.
  • Each student is required to have a composition performed in performance forum, studio recital, master class, reading session, or ensemble performance at least once per year. It is the student’s responsibility to recruit performers and schedule adequate rehearsal to produce an acceptable performance. The composition and performance context must be approved in advance by the composition instructor. The student and instructor should begin planning this early in each school year.

General Education Requirements for the Bachelor of Music in Composition

GE 100First-Year Seminar3
WRIT 110Writing 1: The Art and Craft of Writing3
Writing 23
Social Science3
Humanities: Literature3
Natural Science4
Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Formation
MIN 108Christian Life, Faith, and Ministry3
UBBL 100Introduction to Biblical Literature: Exodus/Deuteronomy3
UBBL 230Luke/Acts3
PHIL 100Introduction to Philosophy3
or HUM 224 Core Texts in Philosophy
or HUM 324 Core Texts in Philosophy
Upper-Division Bible Elective3
Personal and Social Responsibility
Intercultural Competence3
Total Units40

School of Music Core Requirements

Piano Proficiency4
Music Theory12
Music Theory I (F/S, Fr, So) 1
Music Theory II (F/S, Fr, So)
Music Theory III (F/S, So, Jr)
Music Theory IV (F/S, So, Jr)
Practical Musicianship4
Practical Musicianship I (F/S, Fr, So)
Practical Musicianship II (F/S, Fr, So)
Practical Musicianship III (F/S, So, Jr)
Practical Musicianship IV (F/S, So, Jr)
Introduction to Conducting (F, Jr)
Choral Conducting (S, Jr)
Instrumental Conducting
Music History9
Ancient, Renaissance, and World Music Literature (F, Jr)
Writing 3: Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic Music Literature (F/S, Jr) 2
Late Romantic and 20th-Century Music Literature (F/S, Sr) 3
Applied Music8
(Must be in one area; must be enrolled in applied lessons each semester until degree is complete, minimum of 8 units, F/S)
Ensemble Requirement 48
Other Requirements
MUS 296Introduction to Music Technology (F/S, Fr)2
MUS 441Music in Worship (F/S, Jr, Sr)3
MUS 210Performance Forum (F/S, 8 semesters)0
Total Units54

Meets the General Education Humanities: Fine Arts requirement


Meets the General Education Writing 3 requirement


Meets the General Education Humanities: History requirement


See details on the APU website.

Composition Requirements

Composition Core Requirements
MUS 321Counterpoint (S, Jr, Sr)3
MUS 423Orchestration I (F/S, Jr, Sr)3
Composition Courses
MUS 1C1Applied Composition Class (F/S - Total of 16 units)1-4
MUS 349Intermediate Logic Pro3
MUS 42220th Century Compositional Techniques (S, Jr, Sr)3
MUS 491Senior Recital (F/S, Sr) 10
MUS 473Composing for Film and Television3
Select one of the following:3
Arranging and Rehearsal Technique (F/S, Jr, Sr)
Form and Analysis (F, Jr, Sr)
Total Units34

Meets the General Education Integrative and Applied Learning requirement.

Course Requirement Availability: Recommended Year:
F = Offered every fall Fr = Freshman
S = Offered every spring So = Sophomore
E = Even year Jr = Junior
O = Odd year Sr = Senior

Music Theory Proficiency

The Music Theory Placement Examination is given to incoming students who are not transferring credit for Music Theory I from another college or university. This examination measures the student’s background in music theory and ensures placement at the appropriate level. The examination may be taken online. Students who are not ready for Music Theory I take MUS 120, and upon successful completion of MUS 120 , begin the music theory sequence in the next semester. Music theory is taken in sequential order (I, II, III, IV). Before advancing to the next level, a grade of C or better is required. If a C or better is not achieved at any level, the course must be repeated.

Practical Musicianship

Practical musicianship is taken in sequential order (I, II, III, IV). Before advancing to the next level, a grade of C or better is required. If a C or better is not achieved at any level, the course must be repeated.

Piano Proficiency

Each student must register for a piano class or Applied Piano until the Piano Proficiency Examination is passed. Examination fact sheets are available in the School of Music office. Students will not be cleared to graduate until they have passed the proficiency examination; students in the Bachelor of Music in Composition program have an extended Piano Proficiency Examination that is usually met at the conclusion of MUS 108.

Grade-Point Average

Music students must maintain a 2.5 GPA for all upper-division music classes (those classified as 300 and 400 level). Students with a cumulative GPA lower than 2.0 or who are on probation are not eligible to participate in a performing group other than Masterworks Chorale.

Performance Forum

MUS 210 meets every Monday at 4:20 p.m. and features a variety of presentations including student recitals, guest artists, and lecturers. Music students must be continuously enrolled in Performance Forum for eight semesters. This course is graded pass/fail based on attendance. Students who do not pass the course will be required to take MUS 353 Concert Music to make up the deficiency. Transfer students must enroll in MUS 210 and an approved ensemble every semester in attendance, up to eight semesters. Composition master classes that occur during Performance Forum are required for Bachelor of Music in Composition students, and suggested for all students taking applied composition lessons.

Recital Performance

Composition students must present a solo performance annually in either a studio recital (arranged by the applied teacher) or performance forum student recital. In the case of a student who is taking instruction in more than one applied area, recital performance is required only in the primary applied area.

Composition students giving senior recitals should follow the guidelines in the Azusa Pacific University School of Music Recital Confirmation Packet available through the School of Music office.

Applied Music

  1. Students are required to take at least 16 units in one applied area.
  2. Students must take at least 1 unit of applied lessons each semester, even if the minimum number of units for their emphasis has been met. Students must take 2 units of applied lessons the semester of their senior recital.
  3. Jury examinations are required each semester for all students taking private lessons. Presentation of a junior or senior recital fulfills this requirement.
  4. All students, in conjunction with the instructor, are responsible for selecting an accompanist for juries by the indicated deadlines. There are three ways to select an accompanist:
    1. Faculty may request an accompanist with the Accompanist Request Form available in the School of Music office by the indicated deadlines.
    2. Faculty may request a specific accompanist by submitting an Accompanist Request Form available in the School of Music office by the indicated deadlines.
    3. If no Accompanist Request Form is submitted, or is requested after the published deadlines, faculty members are responsible to make arrangements for their students.
  5. Private lessons:
    1. Grades for private lessons are issued based on a minimum of 12 lessons per semester. The grade will be lowered if the student attends fewer than the minimum of 12 lessons. Additionally, if the student does not meet the mandatory annual solo performance requirement, an F will be assigned for the spring semester applied grade.
    2. The area director will assign an instructor.
    3. When the student is ill and notifies the teacher in advance, a makeup lesson will be rescheduled if possible. “No-show” students do not receive makeup lessons.

Upper-Division Concentration

Bachelor of Music in Composition students must earn a grade of C or higher in all of their upper-division concentration classes. Otherwise, the course(s) must be repeated.

Ensemble Requirement

In each of eight semesters as music majors, students must participate in an appropriate performance ensemble. The information for the appropriate ensemble for each degree and concentration is clearly articulated in the Undergraduate Music Student Handbook and further communicated through the music student advisement process. Membership in multiple ensembles in a given semester counts as only one semester toward the ensemble requirement. Transfer students must participate in a performance ensemble each semester until they graduate or accumulate eight semesters.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this program shall be able to:
  1. Command of Skills: Demonstrate a command of skills required for comprehensive musicianship, including sight singing/ear training, functional keyboard, music technology, and analysis.
  2. Contextual Understanding: Demonstrate understanding of music in historical, cultural, and stylistic context.
  3. Creative or Interpretive Utilization: Demonstrate creative or interpretive utilization of skills and contextual understanding.
  4. Career-Oriented Application: Demonstrate career-oriented application of skills.
  5. Music and Faith: Demonstrate appropriate understanding of the intersection of music and faith.