Concert by the lake

Major in Music Composition

Program Overview

Degree Type

Bachelor of Music – Composition

Department Name

Music

Department Chair Name

Randall Umstead

Department Assistant Name

Melissa Browning

What is a composition degree?

A music composition degree is a course of study that engages students in the creation, analysis, and teaching of music. The degree includes a series of courses designed to develop your overall musicianship and your understanding of the intricacies and beauty that comprise the language of music.

Historical Music manuscipts

Why study composition at Furman?

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music since 1938, the Furman University Department of Music is recognized as one of the highest-rated and most comprehensive among national liberal arts colleges, offering degree programs for passionate performers, composers, theorists and music educators. We attract ambitious musicians from across the globe – those who desire to major in music as well as those who wish to major in another discipline while continuing their music.

Accomplished faculty members fuel creativity among the energetic young composers in our major. Our students get involved as soon as they arrive on campus by enrolling in a composition seminar that challenges them to study works by contemporary composers, write composition exercises, compose original pieces and give concerts. The Department of Music also hosts a number of guest composers each year.

You’ll sharpen your analytical, listening, creative, improvisation, communication, problem-solving, team-building, time management, interpretation and other skills, boosting competencies that are readily transferable no matter the career path you take.

In Furman’s intentionally small studios, faculty are free to mentor, help you advance, assist you in exploring the right repertoire, and are integral to your overall growth as a musician. Plan a visit to Furman’s beautiful campus or start your application today. Learn more about the audition process.

How will you learn?

Furman’s Bachelor of Music in Composition begins with a foundation comprising a series of courses aimed at developing your overall musicianship and your understanding of the nuances of music and beauty that define the parlance of music. Basic musicianship, including written, aural and keyboard components, launches the course sequence in your freshman year. It is part of a series taken by all music majors.

Develop your technique through weekly, one-on-one lessons with master teachers and acclaimed performing artists. Learn a new instrument (or two). Get to know the members of your new Furman music family, who you’ll study with over the next four years.

Careers for composition majors

As a composition major, you’ll be primed for the workforce with finely tuned analytical, listening, creative, improvisation, communication, problem-solving, team-building, time management, interpretation and other skills, which set you up for virtually limitless career options. Many of our graduates seek advanced degrees and go on to faculty positions at the finest universities in the country. Our music majors have landed positions such as:

  • Business development and marketing manager
  • Chief executive
  • Composer
  • Computer support specialist
  • Entertainment and recreation manager
  • Financial manager
  • General and operations manager
  • Historian
  • Human resources specialist
  • Industrial production manager
  • Music, dance and extracurricular instructor
  • Music director
  • Music teacher, instructor or tutor
  • Musician
  • Network and computer systems manager
  • Operations research analyst
  • Producer or director
  • Product and marketing specialist
  • Public relations and fundraising manager
  • Recruiter
  • Research assistant
  • Sales manager
  • Social and human services specialist
  • Software developer and software quality assurance analyst
  • University music professor
  • Worship music assistant

Composition courses

Central to the curriculum across all music majors are weekly one-on-one applied lessons specific to your voice or instrument, a set of core courses and participation in a major ensemble such as the Symphony Orchestra, Furman Band, Furman Singers, Men’s Chorale, Women’s Chorale, or Guitar Ensemble for every semester you are on campus. Sample courses for the Bachelor of Music in composition include:

Composition

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Tonal Counterpoint

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100%
Music majors who participate in any engaged learning experience, from recitals to large ensembles, to study away, internships and research
53%
Music majors who complete at least one internship
28%
Music students who double major

What our students say

Campus beauty shot Johns Hall

“The Furman music program is a catalyst for exponential growth. Every faculty member ensures you have ample learning experiences, music opportunities and communal support to guarantee success inside and outside of Furman. You will leave Furman's music program a well-rounded musician with a new reverence for life!” – Willie Cornish Jr. ’22, B.M., composition

Our Faculty

Your academic advisor will help you explore your passions, define your interests and achieve your goals. You’ll tap into a widespread network of community and alumni mentors to help you on your individual educational path – and to the opportunities at the end of it. Furman’s music faculty represent decades of study and real-world expertise. Take your first steps by contacting admissions or reading more about how to apply.

  • Mark E. Britt
    Title:

    Professor of Low Brass

    Mark Britt

    Mark E. Britt
    Title:

    Professor of Low Brass

    Phone Number: 8642942116

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  • Omar Carmenates
    Title:

    Professor of Music, Percussion

    Omar Carmenates

    Omar Carmenates
    Title:

    Professor of Music, Percussion

    Phone Number: 8642942406

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  • Benjamin Dobbs
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music Theory

    Benjamin Dobbs

    Benjamin Dobbs
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music Theory

    Phone Number: 8642942262

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  • Anastasia Christofakis
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music, Clarinet

    Antastasia Christofakis

    Anastasia Christofakis
    Title:

    Assistant Professor of Music, Clarinet

    Phone Number: 8642942117

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  • Anna Barbrey Joiner
    Title:

    Visiting Associate Professor of Music, Viola

    Anna Joiner

    Anna Barbrey Joiner
    Title:

    Visiting Associate Professor of Music, Viola

    Phone Number: 8642943199

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  • Matt Olson
    Title:

    Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies

    Matt Olson

    Matt Olson
    Title:

    Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies

    Phone Number: 8642943284

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  • Derek Parsons
    Title:

    Professor of Piano; Director, Furman Summer Keyboard Institute

    Derek Parsons

    Derek Parsons
    Title:

    Professor of Piano; Director, Furman Summer Keyboard Institute

    Phone Number: 8642942099

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  • Sue Samuels
    Title:

    Director of Bands, Music Education Coordinator

    Sue Samuels

    Sue Samuels
    Title:

    Director of Bands, Music Education Coordinator

    Phone Number: 8642943193
    Email:

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  • FAQ

    What can you do with a composition degree?

    An array of skills such as analytical thinking, listening, improvisation, communication, problem-solving, and interpretation position you for diverse career options.

    Many of our graduates seek advanced degrees and go on to faculty positions at prestigious universities throughout the country. Outside of the music industry, music majors have entered fields from sales to human resources, and from marketing to fundraising. They pursue careers as business development and marketing managers, chief executives, composers, computer support specialists, entertainment and recreation managers, financial managers, software quality assurance analysts, university music professors and worship music assistants, among many others.

    Are there opportunities for study away as a music major?

    Train a global lens on your passion for music through “Music in Italy.” The semester-long, conservatory-style program began in 2006 with a partnership with the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo. Each fall, 10 to 14 students study Italian and music history amid the Tuscan landscape.

    On top of the Italian language component offered at the Accademia, you’ll study applied music (voice, instrumental or keyboard) in individual weekly lessons and coaching sessions with Italian music teachers. Furman faculty teach a music history course and an interdisciplinary, experiential course, “Italian Art and Culture,” featuring a series of excursions and lectures revealing the richness of Tuscany’s stunning visual art and architecture.

    You’ll collaborate in several “Movement for Musicians” sessions taught by Accademia dell’Arte faculty, which allow you to spend class time together with the Accademia’s theater students. You’ll take part in performances of chamber music and solo recitals both at the Accademia and in local venues. Regular concert attendance in Florence, overnight excursions, along with independent travel opportunities during a week-long fall break give you ample opportunity to experience the cultural life of Western Europe.

    If a shorter study away is more your style, sign up for courses such as May Experience (MayX) “Opera Overload.” Students split time between Greenville, South Carolina, and New York City, and explore opera, its history in the United States (with a focus on the Metropolitan Opera as an institution), and various topics related to opera, such as elitism, racism and issues of power and sexuality.

    What performance opportunities are available?

    Recitals, concerts, master classes, camps and conferences – with over 260 events typically offered year-round, Furman is a vibrant part of both the Furman and Greenville music scene. Abundant on-stage opportunities for displaying your talent await at Furman. And because we are an exclusively undergraduate program, you are front and center, and need not compete with master’s and doctoral candidates. It bears repeating – Furman is well positioned to expose undergraduate musicians to multiple performances and individualized instruction which prepare you for a life of consequence in the arts world.

    All students participate in a least one ensemble each semester during their Furman career. You’ll have the option to showcase your work in recitals and in Furman Engaged, a daylong annual celebration in which students come together to share their research, internships, performances, study away, visual art and more. Underscoring the close-knit relationships that emerge among professors and students, one of our jazz students has recently recorded an album with a faculty member, and has learned firsthand what it takes to perform on, co-produce and bring a project to market.

    What ensembles are offered?

    A large percentage of the Furman student body participates in music. Unique for a school of 2,600 undergraduates, we seat a full all-undergrad symphony orchestra, chamber strings, a jazz ensemble and multiple jazz combos, three choirs, a symphonic concert band, a marching band, a paid pep band, fully staged lyric theater with pit orchestra, and multiple pipe organs.

    What is the average salary for composition majors?

    The average base salary for graduates with a bachelor’s in music composition is $50,000 annually, according to Payscale.com.

    How long does it take to earn a composition degree?

    The Bachelor of Music in composition at Furman is a four-year program.

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