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Composition Studies

A Letter From The Area Director


The Theory and Composition area at California State University, Long Beach is a comprehensive and progressive program that prepares students for successful careers in concert, media (film, television, animation or video game), dance, theater and/or experimental music. The curriculum provides the necessary techniques, materials, practices and technological experiences for students to envision and pursue their own careers. Students demonstrate determination, curiosity, and a strong work ethic; while the area is guided by a faculty with diverse and extensive artistic and pedagogical experience.

Students performing a live film score.
A live film score performance in the Daniel Recital Hall.

Private, one-on-one, studio instruction by our composition faculty and a recital project distinguishes our program. Students have the opportunity to receive additional feedback in composition class and the Composition Colloquium, the weekly idea emporium required to all composition major students. In addition, students have an array of courses to choose from: media scoring to songwriting, interactive media to sound design, from arranging to jazz theory, and from business of music to conducting. The university environment provides the ideal platform for collaborations with other programs: animation, dance, art, theater, design, engineering, science, and math.

"One of our greatest strengths is that we offer many, many performance opportunities for students in the program."

Students hone their entrepreneurial skills producing their own concerts and related activities through the student organization, Composers Guild. The program offers ample opportunities to have their compositions performed by fine performers and singers, which distinguishes the Conservatory as a whole. Performances are recorded and/or videotaped for promotional and production use.

The program supports an amazing variety and number of music activities every term, from hands-on film score recording sessions, utilizing the same tools found in most professional composers’ studios, to composition degree recitals, from student composer recitals to faculty composer concerts, and from multimedia events to experimental Happenings. Students have the opportunity to belong to the New Music Ensemble or the Laptop Ensemble in concerts on and off campus. Recent repertoire includes works by renowned composers Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Fredric Rweski and Julius Eastman. Awards and assistantships are available.

Performers on stage at the Daniel.

The program sponsors guest composers, performers and speakers. Recent guests include the Hocket Duo, pianist Vicki Ray, Kronos Quartet, Trio Eclipse; composers Rolfe Kent, Michael Ables, Brian Krock, Robert Kohen and David Lefkowitz; songwriters Kathryn Bostic, Lili Haydn, Isaiah Gage and Andrew Balogh; conductors Anthony Parnther and Eckart Preu; film music producer Robert Townson; and music administrators Vanessa Rose (President and CEO of the American Composers Orchestra) and Vanessa Reed (President and CEO of the American Composers Forum).

Alumni include distinguished film, video game, television and concert composers, sound designers/editors, producers, engineers, orchestrators, arrangers, music copyists, music preparation specialists, conductors, music directors, performers, educators, and administrators.


Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos
Area Director, Composition Studies
Bob Cole Conservatory of Music

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Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Music

Bachelor of Music, Option in Composition

The composition program at CSULB provides students with advanced skills covering a wide range of compositional techniques and technologies in order that they become more informed, literate musicians, better prepared to develop their own unique creative compositional voice. The program provides a robust and cooperative musical environment where students have ample opportunities to have their work performed. Skills taught include: beginning and advanced film scoring, advanced theory, electronic and computer music, experimental music and digital media, sound design, advanced topics in listening and analysis, song writing, music theater, music and dance collaboration, sound engineering and recording.

This degree option prepares students to become professional composers in various contemporary styles and media including contemporary classical, film and electronic arts, theater, computer music and mixed media. It also prepares students for further study at the graduate level with goal of teaching at the college level.

Master of Music

The BCCM offers two master’s degree tracks in composition. Students in both tracks benefit from opportunities to work closely with the individual composition faculty, and from frequent opportunities for feedback from the composition faculty and from their fellow students—both advanced undergraduates and fellow graduate students. There are also many opportunities to participate in adventurous and unusual new music performances: in recent years, the department has hosted several Happenings, a full performance, day and night, of Erik Satie’s Vexations (with an expanded instrumentation including analog synthesizers, antiphonal sax choir, toy piano and tuba, multiple melodicas, electric guitar and bass, and more), performances of several different 60x60 mixes, thereby experiencing new one-minute works by literally hundreds of different living composers on campus, and many more. Through the Laptop Ensemble and the New Music Ensemble, the department has also seen several collaborations with video artists, and dozens of world premieres by composers in the department and others from afar, including the New Music Ensemble’s premiering Christian Wolff’s Robert and Pauline Oliveros’s Sound Listening, both works that the ensemble commissioned and prepared under each composer’s supervision.

Students go on from our master’s degree programs in composition to work in the film industry and in higher education, to found their own ensembles and concert series, and many other composition-related pursuits. Many of our students have also gone on to doctoral study in composition at excellent programs on the West Coast, throughout the U.S., and abroad.

Master of Music Degree in Composition

Students in this program write works for the full range of traditional acoustic instruments, from solo works to ones for large orchestra, as well as for various electronic resources, working constantly to refine their own compositional voice under the guidance of the composition faculty. The program offers many courses for advanced study, with recent offerings including seminars focused on computer notation, Max/MSP/Jitter, art song composition, Schenkerian theory, and composition informed by music outside of the classical tradition (including influences from rock, jazz, and non-Western traditions). Students in the program have written works for readings and workshops by the BCCM Symphony Orchestra, the BCCM Wind Symphony, Kronos Quartet, the Friction String Quartet, and many other resident and guest ensembles.

Master of Music Degree in Composition with Interactive Media

This degree track welcomes applications from composers who are working with live technologies (and perhaps mostly—or even exclusively—creating new works that exist without a traditional score), and we also welcome applicants who don’t necessarily define themselves as composers at all, but as sound artists and other creators working with sound in various ways in conjunction with other media. Students working in the Composition with Interactive Media track realize new works in conjunction with their work with the BCCM Laptop Ensemble and often collaborate with colleagues in other departments and programs on campus, including art, computer science, dance, design, and film & electronic arts.

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Composition Faculty

All Faculty/Staff
  • Bob Cole Conservatory of Music
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • 1250 N. Bellflower Blvd.
  • Long Beach, CA 90840-7101
  • 562-985-4781 phone
  • 562-985-2490 fax

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