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Applying for composition BM programs, any advice?


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Like Rabbival said, it's hard to say what's required "skill-wise" because programs vary so much. Some excellent composition programs require a performance audition and weigh it heavily; other equally-excellent ones don't. Some care a great deal about your high school grades, and others really don't. For any of the "top" programs, your portfolio of compositions is obviously very important, but I don't know that they look for any specific "skills" so much as your general sense of craft (and maybe highly subjective, mysterious things like creativity.)

What I CAN say as far as general advice goes: who your composition teacher is going to be, and how well you work with them, might be just as important as the school itself. If possible, try to have a lesson with your potential teacher(s). Some composition teachers will give you feedback on your portfolio during your interview--this can be a great opportunity to get a sense of their teaching style. Remember this can be a chance to interview them, too: what do they look for in a piece of music? What does a typical lesson with them look like? Listen to the music they've written--if you like it and relate to it, that's probably a good sign (but if you don't, it's not necessarily a red flag--just make sure you have at least some sense of what they're like as a person and a teacher before you commit to working with them for a year, or 4!)

Good luck... if you have more specific questions, just ask.

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It certainly can't hurt to ask.  The professors have their current students to worry about, so don't be pushy about taking up their time, but on the other hand, getting in touch, politely introducing yourself, and asking a quick question or two 1. gives you a sense of what the professors are like and 2. makes you look like the serious applicant that you are.  So many people apply to college who are good students, but don't really know what they want to do yet.  They just apply some places that their grades are good enough for and hope for the best.  You have an idea of what you want to do, and are taking the time to find the right program to do that thing.  Teachers are delighted by this sort of student.  It bodes well for your active interest in their lessons.

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