Theory and Composition

The Meadows Advantage

With numerous opportunities at professional performing arts organizations in Dallas, frequent award-winning resident ensembles and guest artists, and outstanding student ensembles, students in the Music Composition program benefit from professional-grade performances, readings and recordings of their works as they study individually with our nationally-renowned faculty. Our students graduate with a competitive edge as they compile professional portfolios of works in collaboration with SMU’s outstanding Guildhall (game music) and Divisions of Film, Dance and Theater, all while rounding out their education at a top-ranked liberal arts university.

Theory and Composition Faculty

Lane Harder Lane Harder

Lane Harder

Senior Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition, Co-Chair of Music Theory and Composition, Director of SYGYZY

Robert Frank Robert J. Frank

Robert Frank

Associate Professor of Composition and Theory and Director of Electronic Music

Xi Wang WangXi

Xi Wang

Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory

THE THEORY PEDAGOGY PROGRAM

The Theory Pedagogy Program, one of only a very few in the nation, continues the strong tradition and long history of teacher training established by the SMU programs in Music Education and Piano Performance and Pedagogy. Within the Theory Pedagogy Program, students have the opportunity to take courses not only in Music Theory and Composition, but in other areas such as Music Education, Music Psychology, Music Pedagogy, and Piano Pedagogy. In addition, students can also take courses offered by the Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Throughout their course of study, theory pedagogy students gain theoretical knowledge and practical experience under the guidance and supervision of a dedicated faculty with many years of experience teaching music theory at the secondary and college levels. Students have the opportunity to work with small undergraduate classes in music theory and musicianship as individual and small-group tutors, classroom assistants, and instructors. All student teaching is carefully supervised, observed, and evaluated by experienced faculty.

Admission is very selective for the theory pedagogy degree program, and students are offered considerable individual attention, direct access to facilities, and the camaraderie that only an exceptional program of small size can offer. Students wishing to look into the distinctive opportunities for study at Southern Methodist University are encouraged to apply early.

Applicants for the Master of Music in Theory Pedagogy must apply to the Meadows School of the Arts and submit samples of their writing (essays or term papers). A personal interview with department faculty is strongly recommended.

Complete the graduate application online

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

Graduate financial assistance is available through merit scholarships, graduate assistantships, and work-study positions. The FAFSA is required for work-study and graduate assistantships.

THE COMPOSITION PROGRAM

The Composition program offers many unique opportunities. With approximately 300 music majors within the Division of Music, composers can hear the music they write for solo instruments, voice and ensembles. Being at the Meadows School of the Arts, student composers frequently collaborate with students in dance, theater, video, and film, creating and performing their music in a wide variety of venues both on and off campus. Composers will benefit from the Division of Music's active commitment to new music performance and state-of-the-art electronic and computer music. The program of study is flexible and designed to encourage independent stylistic development, technical skill, and artistic excellence.

The Electronic Music Studio at SMU is well equipped for creation, production, and instruction of electronic music in a comfortable, elegant environment. The studio is equipped with up-to-date Macintosh-based hardware and software with 5.1 surround sound playback and two large-screen monitors; in addition to a full array of software, there are also effects processors, MIDI equipment, and digital sampling hardware to help realize students' visions. Recording and mixing equipment includes analog and digital methods and an isolated recording booth. Limited class size allows greater studio access than in many larger schools.

Our faculty consists of active, internationally known composers, including Robert J. Frank, Kevin Hanlon, Lane Harder, and Xi Wang. All of our composition majors study with faculty from the first lesson—not with graduate students. Frequent guest composers are a regular part of studies in the Meadows School of the Arts, and students have the opportunities to make personal connections with composers when they are in Dallas to premiere works with the Dallas Symphony, Voices of Change, and our other professional ensembles.

Admission is very selective for the composition degree program and students are offered considerable individual attention, direct access to facilities, guests and collaborators, and the camaraderie that only an exceptional program of small size can offer. Students wishing to look into the distinctive opportunities for study at Southern Methodist University are encouraged to apply early.

Composition Portfolio Submission

The Composition Portfolio should include at least 2 or 3 works that best demonstrate the diversity and strength of your compositional skills. Variety will strengthen your portfolio. Length is not important – a short (2-3 minute) work that is highly professional would be far better than a 20-minute, 3-movement average work. All scores should be copies (no originals) and look as professional as you can make them. You do not need to submit parts. Recordings of live musicians for all works submitted are not required, but very strongly advised if available (we all understand "rough" performances/demos – it's the music that we are listening to, not the performance). Also provide a complete list of works written to date, with performance dates if available, and a short written statement of your compositional goals – both for study at the university level and for your long-term career.

Applicants for the Bachelor of Music in Composition must also apply for admission to SMU, complete a music theory diagnostic exam, and audition on their principal instrument. Graduate students, in addition to submitting a composition portfolio, must apply to the Meadows School of the Arts, and submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a one-page goals statement describing your professional goals and compositional approach.

Complete the graduate application online

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

If undergraduate need-based financial aid is desired, the FAFSA and CSS Profile must be completed. All applicants are considered for academic and music scholarships. We will do our best to provide a financial aid package that makes an education in the Meadows School of the Arts affordable.

Graduate financial assistance is available through merit scholarships, graduate assistantships, and work-study positions. The FAFSA is required for work-study and graduate assistantships.

Admissions

Applicants will interview with faculty via Zoom and will receive information on how to register for the interview. Applicants will submit an audition video without meeting faculty or participating in music audition days. Music Education, Music Therapy, or Music Composition applicants submitting a recorded audition will be emailed information about registering for an interview with faculty.

Start Your Meadows Application

Alumni Spotlight

Emily Townsend

Emily Townsend is a viola teacher and freelance musician in Dallas, Texas.

UriahRinzel

Uriah Rinzel, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, Composition and Songwriting, Dallas Baptist University

Nathan Courtright

Nathan Courtright, Adjunct Assistant Professor, SMU

Derrick Horne with guitar

Derrick Horne, Professor of Practice, SMU

Berklee College of Music Valencia alumnus
2 Intel Game Awards
First prize for best film music: California Independent Film Festival and Indie Gathering International Film Festival
Telly Award for best commercial music

Guido Arcella '14

Chicago Opera Theater's Vanguard Emerging Composer-in-Residence
Composition fellow with LA Philharmonic Orchestra
Winner - Tennessee Valley Music Festival Young Composers Competition
Music performed by: Mostly Modern Orchestra, Euclid Quartet, Aperture Duo, and members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Gillian Rae Perry ’17

Winner of The American Prize for her SMU Masters thesis Submerged Worlds (Pierrot ensemble)
First prize in the 2013 Japan Guitar Ensemble Composition Competition
First prize winner of the Austin Classical Guitar Society Composition Competition

Olga Amelkina-Vera ’17

Performance at the 2021 International Horn Symposium by members of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
ASCAP Morton Gould Award finalist
International Trombone Festival Composers Workshop

Ethan Gurwitz ’22