Graduate Film Music Composition

Graduate Film Music Composition

Music can influence our emotions in ways that other aspects of filmmaking cannot. Students of our graduate program in film music composition learn about stylistic trends and approaches to film scoring, as well as compositional techniques that evoke a desired emotional reaction.

UNCSA is unique in that our film music composition students are part of the School of Filmmaking. Because of this, our students have the ability to score more movies than any comparable program in the world thanks to the numerous ongoing student film projects. You may score up to 20 short films each year, covering narrative, fiction, animation and documentaries in every genre imaginable, leaving you with an impressive portfolio to launch your career as a composer of music for film, television and/or video games. This program will also prepare students for a potential career as a music editor, music supervisor, orchestrator, or score preparer/copyist.

UNCSA has been recognized by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top schools in the world that is training students to compose music for film and television.

Master of Fine Arts

First Year
In your first year of the graduate film music composition program, you will have weekly lessons with your faculty mentor, working on technical and compositional skills. In a film music composition seminar course, you will learn about the post-production process on a film, how to collaborate with a filmmaking crew, how to spot where music should be placed, including how it should function to serve the film’s story, and how to effectively use instrumentation, style, motives, and rhythm to score a film.

The seminar format will allow you to present your work weekly to all of the students within the film music composition program, allowing you to get regular feedback and critique from your peers. You will take an electronic technology course in which state-of-the-art composition and recording software will be introduced to you and explored in depth, including the most popular digital audio workstations, notation programs, samplers and synthesizers, as well as orchestral sampling libraries for realistic mock-up creation, all according to the current trends of the film industry.

In a film music analysis course, the styles and approaches of influential historical film composers will be introduced and explored. You will take two cinema studies courses, looking at the style and evolution of American and international films, and will take part in a series of screenings, workshops and seminars with prominent guest artists. An orchestration course will allow you to become familiar with each instrument of the orchestra, at the same time allowing you to hear your scores performed by live musicians from the School of Music. First year film music composition students will compose original scores for each of the third year Undergraduate film and animation productions, in close collaboration with each film’s director, producer, and editor.

Second Year
Concepts and assignments will become more advanced in your second year. In the Fall Semester of the graduate film music degree program, you will create numerous 90-second main-title cues for a broad range of genres as part of your second-year seminar. Other courses will emphasize the stylistic trends of contemporary film music composers, how sixteenth through twentieth century music theory concepts can be utilized to drive the narrative in a film, as well as how to set up and manage every aspect of a scoring session, including the basic techniques of conducting. In the Spring Semester, you will take a course on theory and arranging techniques related specifically to jazz, as well as a course to introduce the practical and business matters related to launching a career in the film industry. Second year students will compose original scores for fourth year Undergraduate film and animation productions. The program will culminate with a thesis project, in which you will work closely with a faculty mentor from initial preparation stages to completion.


Alumni of our graduate program in Film Music Composition have served as composers and assistant composers for television series like “Chicago Fire,” “Castle,” “Law & Order,” “Lie to Me,” “The Unit,” “Survivor,” “Nashville,” and “Under the Dome;” video games such as “Red Dead Redemption;” and major motion pictures such as “Man of Steel,” “Iron Man,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Vantage Point” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.”

Related Program

The School of Music also offers a graduate degree in Music Composition.


Film Music Composition Faculty
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