Your Future

The school of music’s highly competitive graduate-level composition program welcomes students who demonstrate extraordinary intellectual curiosity and whose primary goal is to communicate with others on a profoundly human level. Above all, our faculty of renowned composers seek students whose personal voice is clearly discernible.

Students in the M.A. and Ph.D programs can specialize in Composition or in Composition for Visual Media. The cross-pollination between the specializations distinguishes the program. All students are expected to acquire and master advanced skills, which involves continued intensive study of music theory, counterpoint, orchestration, analysis, technology, performance, the traditional Western canon and its history, in tandem with the study of popular, jazz, rock, folk, and non-Western traditions.

Both the M.A. and Ph.D programs emphasize the collaborative relationship between composers and performers in such a way that a simulated professional experience is achieved. Composition students have the opportunity to take film music courses and world music for film. Film music composers have the opportunity to broaden their horizons by being part of a true composition program, and this gives composers stylistic depth and breadth.

By the end of the M.A., students will be thoroughly prepared to enter the professional arena, graduating with the tools they need to compose music for multiple purposes, be it for a concert piece, a film, or an opera. The Ph.D. program is designed in a two-fold manner: graduate composers are trained to become both practicing artists in their field and to become mentors for the next generations of artist-scholars.

Featured Alumni

Jake Heggie ’84, M.A. ’05

B.A. Composition ’84, M.A. Composition ’05

Jake Heggie is an American composer of opera, vocal, orchestral and chamber music. He is best known for his operas and art songs, as well as for his collaborations with internationally-renowned performers and writers. Hailed by the Associated Press as “one of the pre-eminent contemporary opera composers,” Heggie is most known for his contributions to the American operatic repertoire, which includes “Dead Man Walking,” “Moby-Dick,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Three Decembers,” among others. His work has been produced on five continents at some of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls. In September 2021, “Dead Man Walking” received its 71st production at the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet in Oslo, Norway, making it the most widely performed American opera of the 21st century.

Read more to learn about his experiences at UCLA, the silver linings of challenges throughout his career and advice for young musical artists.

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Bruins Who Score- UCLA's film composition students
Anything but generic, UCLA’s Composing for Visual Media Program, which awarded its first degree in 2008, provides exposure to a broad range of musical styles, as well as what Lefkowitz calls a “focus on fundamentals” — long a hallmark of UCLA’s curriculum.
Marcus Norris awarded the prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles Composition Fellowship at UCLA
Recent Florida International University graduate Marcus Norris ’17 has been awarded the prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship at UCLA. He will receive a full scholarship and a $100,000 fellowship to pursue his doctorate in music composition. Read a full interview with Marcus at FIU News.
Richard Danielpour presents The Passion of Yeshua at the Oregon Bach Festival
“Yeshua,” co-commissioned by OBF, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, will receive another performance in December at UCLA.
UCLA to host first piano festival devoted to contemporary canonic works
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music presents the “Dialogues and Re-imaginings Piano Festival,” a three-day event that will feature the responses of contemporary composers to canonic works for the piano.
Composer Jon Jang will be artist-in-residence at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Ethnomusicology will welcome pianist and composer Jon Jang for a week-long artist residency, from Jan. 16-20. Jang’s music has been likened in the New York Times to the “… ‘Third Stream’ composers of the 50’s who married jazz and classical music. Jang honors his two idioms
‘Inside the (G)Earbox: John Adams @ 70’: an up-close look at America’s most innovative composer
Composer John Adams turns 70 this month, and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is joining the world-wide celebration with a daylong symposium, “Inside the (G)Earbox: John Adams @ 70,” that explores the more intimate side of this composer’s work and process. The program will be held March 4 at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. Curated
Jan 13 Sat
Schoenberg Sesquicentennial Celebration - "Through the Darkness" and "The Language of the New Music"
Join the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as we continue the celebration of Arnold Schoenberg’s 150th birth anniversary with the screening of two documentaries about the famed composer, his music, and his era.   About Through the Darkness : “Hilan Warshaw presents his powerful documentary Through the Darkness, the poignant story of a love triangle
Schoenberg Hall

Explore Other Degrees

Graduate study and training in choral, orchestral, or wind conducting
The study of global musical traditions through performance training, research, and field work
Global Jazz Studies
Jazz performance and musicianship courses are paired with African American Studies
Music Composition
Mentorship in the creation and realization of music for concerts, opera, and visual media
Music Education
Preparation for music educators leading to a B.A. and teaching credential in just four years
Music History & Industry
Combining Musicology and the Music Industry minor for practical hands-on training with the study of music within the context of different societies, cultures, and theories
Music Industry
Industry professionals and UCLA faculty prepare students for music-related careers
The scholarly study of the histories, cultures, and critical interpretations of music and music-making
Music Performance
Study and training towards professional performance careers in Western classical music