Music MA or PhD (Composition)

Application Requirements

The Department of Music accepts applications to the MA and PhD programs for the Fall quarter only. Admission to the department is based on acceptance by the UCLA Graduate Division and departmental faculty review. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited US institution or comparable international institution, with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. An undergraduate major in music is not required as long as the applicant has the necessary musical knowledge and background to pursue graduate study in music composition. While the portfolio and interview carry the most weight, the entire application is evaluated in making admission decisions.

Within the MA and PhD programs, the department offers two specializations: one in the field of composition and one in the field of composition for visual media. In consultation with their faculty advisor, students will select their area of specialization in the second or third quarter of their first year of study. Applicants interested in either specialization apply to the MA or PhD in Composition, as the specialization is declared after beginning the program.


The graduate application opens for submission every September. Applicants must submit the UCLA Graduate Division Application for Graduate Admission by December 1, 2024 at 11:59 PM PST.

All required components must be submitted by the deadline, including letters of recommendation. Applications submitted after this deadline are not guaranteed to be reviewed. We do not accept applications off-cycle.

The application includes the following components:

  • Unofficial Transcript(s): Upload unofficial copies of transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended. The institution logo and your name must be present on the copies.
  • Statement of Purpose: Your statement can be up to 500 words in length (approximately 1-page, single spaced, using 1-inch margins and 12-point font). Respond to the following prompt: Please discuss your academic and musical goals and your reasons for applying to UCLA’s graduate music program.
  • Letters of Recommendation: 3 letters of recommendation are required. Applicants must enter the names and contact information of the 3 recommenders within the application. An electronic recommendation request will be sent to recommenders, and recommendation letters must be submitted via this request. It is strongly advised that letters of recommendation are completed before the December deadline. Recommendations submitted after this date are not guaranteed to be reviewed.
  • Writing sample (PhD applicants only): Provide a scholarly/research paper on a subject in the field of music of a level of intellectual and critical engagement appropriate to graduate level work.
  • Personal History Statement: Your statement can be up to 500 words in length (approximately 1-page, single spaced, using 1-inch margins and 12-point font). To be considered for a Cota-Robles or Graduate Opportunity fellowship, be sure to describe your contributions to diversity. The University of California Diversity Statement can be found online.
  • Composition Portfolio: Portfolios must consist of three to five scores utilizing different instrumentation (not just piano) that demonstrate breadth of experience, technical mastery, awareness of 20th/21st century styles, and a range of genres and instrumental forces.  For MA applicants, at least three scores are required; for PhD applicants, five scores are required. Please include a recording of a live performance for at least one of the pieces. Additional recordings, preferably of live performances, may be submitted in addition to scores, but not in lieu of them.  Acoustic audio recordings are preferred; MIDI recordings are accepted only if absolutely necessary. Applicants may substitute video for the audio recordings.  All applicants must submit at least one concert work for acoustic instruments, but those interested in composition for visual media may also submit music for visual media (in which case video submission is preferred over audio). For electronic music that does not have a notated score, applicants may upload a detailed explanation in place of the PDF score to correspond to the audio file.

Interview and Assessment Exam

After your portfolio is reviewed, you will be notified if you have been selected for an interview. Finalists will also be required to take a composition assessment exam.

International Applicants

  • Academic Records: Please see the Graduate Division website for information about the academic records international applicants are required to submit with the application.
  • English Language Requirements: All applicants are required to demonstrate English language proficiency in order to be eligible for admission. Proficiency can be demonstrated in two ways: 1) Holding a bachelor’s or higher degree from a university located in the United States or in another country in which English is the primary spoken language of daily life (e.g., Australia, Barbados, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, United Kingdom) and the medium of instruction; or 2) Submitting scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL; minimum score of 87 on the TOEFL iBT required) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS; minimum overall band score of 7.0 required).

Scholarships & Teaching Assistantships

At the campus level, UCLA offers the Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship. We strongly encourage applicants to apply. Please see here for a guide to Graduate Division fellowships and how to apply.

At the school level, students are automatically considered for scholarships if they proceed past the prescreening round. Scholarships from The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music are offered on the basis of merit after the final audition round. Although not all students receive scholarships, our goal is to provide competitive financial aid packages for as many accepted students as possible. Complete information about fees and tuition for graduate students can be found here.

Many composition MA and PhD students are assigned teaching assistantships after admission in the undergraduate music theory curriculum, although they are not guaranteed. TAships are an excellent source of financial support, as they usually include a waiver of in-state tuition and fees, along with a salary. Once enrolled, graduate students may also access UCLA’s TA Marketplace, which advertises open assistantships in other schools.

Composition Faculty

Richard Danielpour
Distinguished Professor - Co-Area Head, Composition
Dante De Silva
Lecturer - Composition and Music Theory
Peter Golub
Lecturer - Composition, Music and Film
Ian Krouse
Distinguished Professor - Co-Area Head, Composition
David Lefkowitz
Professor - Composition, Vice Chair of the Department of Music
Noah Meites
Lecturer - Music Theory
Dwayne Milburn
Lecturer - Conducting and Composition
Hitomi Oba
Lecturer and Director of Contemporary Jazz Ensemble
Shahāb Pāranj
Lecturer and Postdoctoral Scholar - Composition, contemporary concert music
Kay Rhie
Assistant Professor - Composition