The School of Music, Theatre, and Dance offers a wide range of coursework, opportunities, and facilities for the study of music composition. Applied lessons in composition are available to undergraduate and graduate music majors as well as additional course offerings in arranging, orchestration, electronic music, and music analysis.

Study With

James David

Associate Professor of Music; Composition, Music Theory

(970) 491-4154

Degree Programs

Currently, the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance offers a professional undergraduate degree program. A new master’s degree is tentatively set to begin in Fall 2018.

Bachelor of Music, Composition Concentration

The Composition Concentration is designed to prepare the student to compose original music for a wide variety of genres, including symphonic works, chamber music, electronic music, and music for media. Course work emphasizes comprehensive musicianship throughout the curriculum with particular emphasis on individualized study in music composition. Students receive six semesters of applied composition lessons, as well as specialized training in arranging, orchestration, electronic music production, and music analysis. The degree culminates with a  student composition recital and the completion of a senior thesis in the form of a major work for orchestra or other large ensemble.

Master of Music, Music Education - Composition Emphasis

This new hybrid program is open to students with bachelor’s degrees in either music education or composition and equips students to pursue a career in the field of educational composition. Students take advanced coursework in scoring and arranging for educational ensembles, curriculum development for composition in K-12 classrooms, music theory and history, and applied composition lessons. The degree culminates with a semester-long collaboration with local public schools in which students will complete an original work for chorus, orchestra, or band, develop an accompanying curriculum document, and assist in rehearsals and performances of their works by student ensembles.

Admissions Process


All students wishing to enroll in this degree program must first be accepted to the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance by completing an audition on their primary instrument/voice. Prospective composition students should meet the Bachelor of Arts level requirement for their instrument. After completion of the audition, students will be enrolled as general music majors during their freshman year.

During the spring semester of their freshman year, prospective composition majors will complete an entrance interview with the composition faculty. Students will provide at least two scores (original compositions only) composed in the past five years as part of the interview process. Successful completion of the interview will be based on the quality of the scores submitted and the student’s general knowledge of music and background in composition.


In addition to the admissions processes for the Graduate School and the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, applicants will submit a portfolio of three original compositions with recordings, at least one of which is composed for an educational ensemble (choral, orchestral, or wind band work at an appropriate difficulty for secondary schools).  Select applicants will complete an on-campus or video interview with the composition and music education faculty.


The Music Composition Laboratory (inside the University Center for the Arts) boasts state-of-the-art hardware and software for both composition and audio production.  This lab is specifically dedicated for use by composition students only who have 24-hour secure access to the space.  It also provides students with access to high-quality laser printers and binding machines for the creation of professional quality scores. The following software programs are currently available:

Notation Software:

  • Finale
  • Sibelius

Digital Audio:

  • Ableton Live Suite
  • Max/MSP
  • Pro Tools HD
  • Logic Pro X
  • MOTU Digital Performer
  • Reason
  • East-West Symphonic Libraries
  • Tapspace Percussion Library

Aries Composers Festival

New Music at Colorado State

The Aries Composers Festival is a three-day event that welcomes renowned composers from throughout the United States and abroad to the campus of Colorado State University.  Originally known as the Rocky Mountain Contemporary Music Festival, many world famous composers have visited and worked with CSU students in rehearsals, concerts, lectures, and masterclasses including most recently Michael Colgrass, Michael Daugherty, and Libby Larsen.

The festival brings multiple guest composers, as well as music theorists, musicologists, and other researchers interested in new music, to CSU. Festival events include concerts - with forces ranging from a full symphony orchestra to electroacoustic media - along with lectures, paper presentations, receptions, and panel discussions.

The next festival is planned for Spring 2020. Details coming: 

Student Achievement

Student composers at CSU have been accepted to numerous prestigious graduate music programs throughout the nation and abroad. Some of the more notable programs are listed below:

  • Brandeis University
  • Royal Northern College of Music (UK)
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City
  • University of Missouri – Columbia
  • University of Massachusetts – Amherst
  • University of Southern California
  • Arizona State University
  • Florida State University
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Northern Colorado

Additionally, student composers have participated in prominent new music festivals and composition workshops including the following:

  • Cortona New Music Sessions (Italy)
  • Valencia International Performance Academy & Festival (Spain)
  • University of Cincinnati Film Scoring Workshop
  • University of Missouri Summer Composers Workshop
  • College Music Society Regional Conferences

New Music Ensemble

It Could Be Anything

Founded in 2014, CSU’s new music ensemble It Could Be Anything is dedicated to the advancement of 20th and 21st century music.  Each of their concerts has featured student compositions several of which have been specifically commissioned for the ensemble.

For more information, contact Professor Andrew Jacobson.

Composition Events

Composition News

Harmony Outreach Competition and Concert

March 26, 2020 at 7:30 PM
CSU’s Harmony Outreach Competition is a new way for music students to work together to create innovative programs aimed towards specific audiences in the community. This year, CSU students will play concerts in elementary schools or preschools. At the competition, groups of CSU student musicians will audition for a panel of judges in front of [...]

April 2016 Faculty Notes


Last fall, Assistant Professor of Music History K. Dawn Grapes had her annotated bibliography/research guide to “John Dowland” recently published online by Oxford University Press in Oxford Bibliographies. In her introduction, Dr. Grapes describes Dowland (b. 1563–d. 1623) as an internationally known English musician of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. As the most […]

February 2016 Faculty Notes


Last fall, Music Education Professor Dr. Bonnie Jacobi, had her research published The Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. Her article titled “In Burst of Fresh Song” – William Churchill Hammond and His Christmas Caroling Choir at Mount Holyoke College explains how he not only helped to reinstate the musical celebration of Christmas after […]