Composition Major Frequently Asked Questions
What does the Composition Department teach?
Berklee’s Composition Department teaches core courses, required of all majors, in tonal harmony, counterpoint, music history, and conducting. The department also teaches specialized courses in composition and conducting, including:
- composing for orchestra, mixed ensembles, and voice;
- conducting with live orchestra;
- contemporary techniques and forms;
- composing music for dance, with electronics, and with other multimedia;
- advanced conducting for the concert stage, musical theater, and recording studio;
- music of modern and contemporary composers; and
- private lessons (directed study) in composition and conducting.
What will I learn as a composition major?
Composition is a diverse and creative major at Berklee. You will learn the craft to create music for any combination of instruments and voices, from a soloist to a full symphony orchestra and choir, including using electronics. The faculty will nurture and help you to develop your creativity and create your own unique combination of sounds and musical meaning. You will also learn how to make a successful career out of your vocation, composing new music and using your orchestration and arranging skills in diverse career paths.
What will I learn as a conducting minor?
The conducting minor is a unique gem at Berklee. Our distinguished faculty members offer invaluable mentoring and teaching of the craft of orchestral conducting, alongside film and recording studio techniques. We offer different opportunities for podium time in front of live performers, the most valued experience a conductor can have. You will build the skills you need to successfully rehearse, conduct, and lead a performing ensemble in concert, including performing your own music. The conducting minor offers four tracks: contemporary (i.e., orchestra conducting), theatrical music direction, choral, and music education.
What kinds of careers are out there for composers?
Most composers make a living from a combination of activities. Composers work at all levels of the music industry, including in the following roles:
- Independent composer, writing on commission for ensembles and soloists
- Composer for and performer in touring new music ensembles
- Composer for film, dance, theater, television, bands, and choirs
- Conductor and music director for shows
- Professional arranger, orchestrator, and music editor
- Educator at the college or pre-college level
- Teaching artist for major orchestras and music institutions
Additional work is often found as a concert producer, performer and conductor, technology director, administrator or music director of festivals and music centers, and new music ensemble director and organizer.
Explore our composition career community.
What kinds of careers are out there for conductors?
- Conductor and music director on Broadway
- Assistant conductor with a professional or community orchestra
- Conductor in Hollywood
- Choir conductor
- New Music Ensemble conductor
- Assistant or rehearsal conductor on Broadway
- Copyist, arranger, and orchestrator
Who can I contact for more information?
Richard Carrick, Chair, Composition Department
Gabriele Vanoni, Assistant Chair, Composition Department