The Bachelor of Music in Composition curriculum is designed for the student who wishes to pursue a career as a professional composer or as a professor of composition.
The student’s creative skills are guided and developed through intense study in, and the practical application of, 20th and 21st century art music, as well as practical skills in career management and concert production. The curriculum does not include significant study of, or work in popular idioms or jazz.
Prospective students must be aware of the rigorous competition in the field, and should realize that continued study at the graduate level constitutes the minimum standard of professional success. The undergraduate curriculum is constructed around the development of core foundation skills that most students will further develop at the graduate level.
Students work with professionally active faculty in an innovative, inspiring and invigorating environment, participating in weekly, hour-long private lessons and studio classes. Shenandoah New Music, an initiative to bring world-class composers and performers specializing in contemporary music to campus, provides students with unique opportunities to interact with professional composers and ensembles in masterclasses, private lessons and clinics.
Shenandoah New Music
Shenandoah New Music brings the best artists from the world of contemporary art music to Winchester, expanding the Capital Region’s already-vibrant new music scene throughout northern Virginia. A short drive from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah New Music features performances in multiple venues, featuring guest artists ranging from new music legends to up-and-coming talent, along with regular performances by our in-house new music specialists, EDGE Ensemble. Shenandoah New Music offers students in both composition and performance exposure and opportunities in the best of today’s contemporary concert music.
EDGE Ensemble is Shenandoah’s in-house new music ensemble. EDGE Ensemble presents a full season of concerts each year, and provides an opportunity for faculty to perform and coach alongside their students on cutting edge repertoire and world premieres. Directed by Jonathan Newman and conducted by Timothy J. Robblee, the ensemble is featured in the bi-annual Pulitzer Prize Composer Festival concert series.
Pulitzer Prize Composer Festival
Shenandoah’s Pulitzer Prize Composer Festival brings a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer to the Shenandoah campus every other year, to celebrate his or her work and interact with the student composers and performers. This series is a centerpiece of Shenandoah New Music, and previous guest composers have included William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, David Lang, and Kevin Puts.
Phil Kline's "Unsilent Night"
Phil Kline’s "Unsilent Night" is a new music sound installation and now a Shenandoah holiday tradition. The Shenandoah University community annually performs the work as a parade through Old Town Winchester, carrying mobile devices and boom boxes as new-music carolers broadcasting Phil Kline's ambient score around downtown.
New Music in New York
New Music in New York is a special credit-earning course offered during spring break every other year. Led by Distinguished Guest Composer and Senior Lecturer of New Music David T. Little, New Music in New York offers Shenandoah Conservatory students the rare opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and experience some of new music’s most innovative performances and boundary-pushing leaders. Previous highlights include trips to some of New York City's major cultural sites; tours of Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and Park Avenue Armory; performances with International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at The Stone; and opportunities to meet representatives from Boosey & Hawkes, ASCAP, BMI and more.
Upon successful completion of this program of study, students will be able to:
- Compose original instrumental and vocal music with a high level of technique;
- Demonstrate knowledge and skills related to music theory, analysis, history, and technology;
- Coordinate, rehearse and produce their own music in live performance and readings; and
- Demonstrate artistic growth and artistic self-possession.
Learning support services are available to all students in every course at Shenandoah. Free peer tutoring with a student who has previously succeeded in the course is available for any course across the university. The Writing Center is available for every stage of the writing process from thesis development to proofreading and bibliography assistance. The Math Enrichment Center is available for math and science assistance. Professors and Academic Advisors across the university also have office hours and open door policies to ensure Shenandoah students succeed academically.
- Readings and masterclasses with Shenandoah New Music guest artists and ensembles. Past Shenandoah New Music guests have included Matt Albert, American Modern Ensemble, Louis Andriessen, Oscar Bettison, William Bolcom, James Bonney, Julian Crowhurst, Jeremy Denk, Eighth Blackbird, Gaudete Brass, Philip Glass, Jennifer Higdon, Hudson Piano Trio, Adolphus Hailstork, Eric Huebner, Mellissa Hughes, Impatience Machine, Phil Kline, Kristin Kuster, Wynton Marsalis, Lars Mlekusch, Newspeak, Missy Mazzoli, Ursula Oppens, Carter Pann, Patchwork, Joel Puckett, Kevin Puts, Todd Reynolds, Rhymes With Opera, Erik Spangler, Alex Temple, Third Coast Percussion, Ken Thompson’s Slow/Fast, Stefan Weisman, Eric Whitacre, Dana Wilson, Daniel Wohl and ZOFO Duet.
- Student composer readings with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Conservatory Choir
- Department showings and recitals
- William Averitt Prize for Excellence in Composition
- Shenandoah New Music Collective
Experience the world-renowned Shenandoah Conservatory. Study with master teachers – more than 100 professionals in music, theatre, dance and arts management.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s prestigious faculty is dynamic, creative, and passionately committed to the highest levels of artistic excellence. A deeply caring community, they mentor students with a wealth of professional expertise, balancing rigorous expectations with compassion and wisdom. At Shenandoah, you will study with, and perform for, award-winning composers, Metropolitan Opera singers, Grammy Award winning conductors and international competition winners. You will learn from leading scholars in music and premiere works created by accomplished dance artists and cutting-edge directors. Shenandoah Conservatory’s faculty embodies the highest levels of professional accomplishment and the deepest commitment to furthering the artistic growth and creative aspirations of students in every discipline.
Director of Composition; Coordinator of New MusicFull Biography
David T. Little
Distinguished Guest Composer; Senior Lecturer, New MusicFull Biography
Adjunct Assistant Professor, CompositionFull Biography
Students interested in this program should also look into these other majors, graduate degrees, minors and certificates.
Most students in this program choose to continue their education by earning a graduate degree:
Application and Audition Information
Shenandoah University works on rolling admissions. Applications are reviewed individually and holistically.
Submit your application, review required admissions materials, and find our admissions standards.
Admission to Shenandoah Conservatory is highly competitive. Not only must students be academically admissible, they must also complete and pass the mandatory audition/portfolio review and interview process. Audition dates are limited and may fill and close well in advance of the audition date.
Acceptable Instruments for This Program
Not all majors are suitable to fit every instrument. Below are the acceptable instruments for this program.
- Double Bass (classical)
- Euphonium/ Baritone
- Guitar (classical)
- Percussion (classical)
- Piano (classical)
- Saxophone (classical)
- Trombone (classical)
- Trumpet (classical)
Make studying abroad the highlight of your college experience! Whether you go for a year, a semester, or just a few weeks, you will never forget learning in another culture! The Center for International Programs is here to help you plan your study abroad experience. Start your planning early to ensure the courses you complete abroad count toward your degree and you graduate on time.
Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program
The Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program offers Shenandoah students a short-term, faculty-led, study-abroad experience for academic credit. These short-term, credit-bearing, faculty-led programs are offered winter break, spring break, and during the summer. If a course is not within your major, it might be used as an elective.
Shenandoah University is a member of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), a global network of 300 universities. This partnership allows students to study for a full semester or year at other member campuses abroad. By working closely with their academic advisors and the study abroad advisor, students can take classes taught in English abroad while receiving Shenandoah credit.
Shenandoah University also maintains direct partnerships with several universities around the world. These relationships allow students from SU to study abroad as exchange students and students from these universities to study at SU. All partner universities offer courses taught in English.
Fast-Track to Arts Management
Accelerated PALM Program
The Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is designed to provide future performing arts executives and artistic leaders with the industry skills required in the 21st century. The accelerated program in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is available for current Shenandoah Conservatory undergraduates who, upon completion of their undergraduate degree, wish to obtain a Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management in just one year. Students who are accepted into the accelerated program will begin to take arts leadership and management courses during their undergraduate studies and register for internship during the summer between senior year and their final year of graduate study.
William Averitt Prize for Excellence in Composition
The William Averitt Prize for Excellence in Composition is awarded each year to an outstanding undergraduate student in the composition program at Shenandoah Conservatory. Named in honor of Professor Emeritus William Averitt, one of the founders of the program in composition at Shenandoah, this award recognizes outstanding talent in composition at Shenandoah Conservatory. All works submitted for composition juries throughout each academic year are eligible, and will be judged based on
- Excellence of compositional craft;
- Artistry and creativeness of ideas; and
- Clarity of execution in score preparation
Winner: Grayson Jarvis, Coax
Winner: Andrew Herring, In/Out
Winner: Jeremy Parel, Letter
Winner: Matthew Triplett, Mourning Diary
Winner: Julian Crowhurst, Six Significant Landscapes
Honorable Mention: Gregory C. Brown, this moment
Honorable Mention: Steven Sanford, Twenty-Eight
About William Averitt
William Averitt is the composer of more than seventy works that have received performances throughout the United States and in Europe, Russia, China and Korea. Upon the completion of the Jury process, faculty will review all jury scores and submitted works. They will select single composer/work, by consensus, to be awarded the prize. The award will be officially announced at the opening night of the annual Pulitzer Prize Composer Festival, currently scheduled to take place November of each year. Winners will receive a certificate of achievement and a performance of the winning work by a Shenandoah Conservatory ensemble, and the addition of the winning to the list of winners on the composition program’s website and to a commemorative plaque in the conservatory.