Our composition program is part of a vibrant School of Music where performers are very interested in collaborating with composers in the creation and presentation of new music. Composers must be well-rounded musicians and have fluency in all areas of music. In addition to performing and composing, counterpoint, advanced music theory, computer music, orchestration, analysis and history are just some of the areas in which composers spend a lifetime of learning. As a result, composers develop an impressive array of skills that translate into a variety of opportunities to create and teach music.

Students who major in music composition are involved in a wide array of experiences at NIU: composing, collaborating, performing, arranging and creating. Our goal is to guide you through a multi-faceted exploration of music creation as you develop strong portfolios of work to take you to the next stages of your careers. In addition to the music core curriculum and studio area lessons, you’ll work with our world-renowned composition faculty in composition lessons.

We offer both the B.M. (emphasis three) and the M.M. (individualized specialization) degrees in music composition. Private composition lessons are available with multiple instructors in a variety of media. Other interested music majors also have the opportunity to participate in secondary lessons.

Performance Opportunities

Several performance opportunities for composers occur annually on campus such as the New Music Festival and NIU Composers' Recitals in addition to collaborations across campus and off campus. The NIU Student Composers Association organizes several events each semester and is a chapter of the national Society of Composers, Inc. organization.  In spring of 2019, NIU School of Music traveled to Spring Green, Wisconsin to collaborate with celebrated American visual artist, John Himmelfarb. As part of The Himmelfarb Project, NIU students majoring in music performance, composition and music education — along with NIU faculty — composed and performed original works for Himmelfarb's vehicular sculpture, KB-3. 

Electronic Music Studio

NIU's electronic music studio is equipped to handle projects in multiple media, whether you are scoring a film, making beats, or creating an interactive installation. Guest artists and composers interact with music students regularly and are sponsored by all areas in the School of Music, or through the NIU New Music Commissioning Fund.


After graduation, most of our composition students move on to graduate studies at notable national or international programs. Alumni of our program can be found throughout the United States and abroad holding university teaching positions, or working in film, television and media.

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