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Theory & Composition Resources

Career Paths

  • Our doctoral programs have had outstanding placement success at leading universities across North America. We have also placed multiple doctoral alumni from our program at several universities, including East Carolina University, Ithaca College, James Madison University, Oklahoma City University, Texas Christian University, and the University of Miami.
  • Our undergraduate and masters alumni have pursued graduate studies at many leading institutions (some choosing to stay at FSU) and have gained professional recognition. A former undergraduate theory major recently won the Society for Music Theory “Student Presentation Award” for a paper authored while at FSU. One former undergraduate composition major won an Emmy in 2006; another won a Fromm Foundation Commission in 2015.
  • Masters alumni (who are not our doctoral alumni) hold faculty positions at Christopher Newport University, George Mason University, Oklahoma City University, Texas A&M University Kingsville, and the University of Kansas.

Engaged Learning Opportunities

  • A huge range of graduate and upper-level undergraduate coursework taught by area faculty.
  • Enthusiastic encouragement of students’ individual interests as composers and/or theorists.
  • Frequent visits by renowned guest composers and guest theorists.
  • Close and committed supervision by faculty working with graduate assistants teaching various courses and/or composition lessons; opportunities to gain several different teaching experiences through your degree.
  • Supportive mentorship by faculty in such areas as degree-specific advising, participation in festivals and scholarly conferences, and advice and advocacy for students and graduates on the job market.
  • Professional preparation for theorists organizing scholarly conferences and for composers programming concerts of new music.
  • Opportunities to perform with and compose for Polymorphia (our new music ensemble), EChO (our Electric Chamber Orchestra) and other ensembles.

Knowledge In Practice & How We Serve

  • Festival of New Music.
  • FSU Society of Composers.
  • FSU Music Theory Society.
  • FSU Music Theory Forum.
  • Theory students attend and participate in regional, national and international conferences.
  • Composers collaborate with other students across campus (creative writing, dance, film).
  • Graduate assistants in theory and composition gain experience teaching undergraduate music majors in fall and spring semesters (as well as non-majors in a course entitled “The Art of Songwriting”). Graduate assistants in composition may also be assigned to assist with Polymorphia, EChO, the Festival of New Music, and/or our electronic music facilities. Select graduate assistants are invited to teach summertime coursework.
  • Students often perform in non-academic contexts and/or hold external music-director positions or teaching positions in the community.

Assistantships in Theory & Composition

Applying for Music Theory & Composition Assistantships

If you are interested in a music theory or composition assistantship or in Graduate School Fellowships and Grants, you should submit all your application materials by December 1, the priority application deadline for merit-based financial assistance. Admissions decisions are generally made in mid-January, with assistantship interviews and decisions to follow. For information on applying, click on “Admissions” in the “Quicklinks” at the top of this page.


Additional Information

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Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistantships in music theory are available to qualified graduate theory or composition majors, and in some instances to students in the theory pedagogy certificate program.

Teaching assignments are drawn from required core theory and aural skills courses for undergraduate music majors, as well as music theory courses for non-music majors. The majority of assistantships in our area involve teaching music theory and/or aural skills; graduate students in composition may also be assigned to teach composition lessons or an introductory composition course. Teaching duties are determined based on the needs of the area, which may sometimes change from semester to semester, and may even need to be adjusted on short notice.

Most teaching assignments during a given semester correspond to either a “0.25-time” or “0.50-time” level.

  • Quarter-time assistantshipsExamples of 0.25-time duties include teaching two sections of aural skills (50-minute classes meeting twice a week; same curriculum in both sections) or one section of theory (a 50-minute class meeting three times a week). Most assistantships for master’s-degree students will involve teaching two sections of aural skills.
  • Half-time assistantshipsExamples of 0.50-time duties include teaching two sections of theory (same curriculum in both sections) or one section of theory and one section of aural skills.

Selected students may be offered a 0.33-time assistantship, associated with teaching duties exceeding a 0.25-time assignment but less intensive than a 0.50-time assignment.

Selected doctoral students may be offered a summertime teaching assistantship in music theory and/or aural skills, usually involving a 0.25-time teaching assignment.

Selected doctoral students in composition may be assigned to teach individual composition lessons and/or to assist with the Festival of New Music. Either assisting with the Festival or teaching six individual students would be counted as a 0.25-time teaching load.

All sections of a given course use the same syllabus, texts, and exams, which are provided by the supervising faculty member. Instructors are responsible for all teaching and grading of classes they are assigned to teach.

Research Assistantships

0.25-time research assistantships are also available to incoming graduate students. Typical research assistantship duties include assisting faculty in research and instruction, working in the computer-assisted instruction lab, assisting with the New Music Ensemble and the New Music Festival, and tutoring undergraduate theory students.

General Information about all Assistantships

2020-21 assistantship stipends amount to $14,800 (0.50-time), $9,856 (0.33-time), or $7,400 (0.25-time) for two academic semesters, fall and spring. Select applicants will be offered stipend enhancement funding, which comes with no additional duties and is renewable for each year of assistantship support. Summertime assistantships are available for a small number of doctoral students who are selected to teach classes. Graduate assistants receive a tuition waiver for up to twelve (12) credits per semester as well as a health insurance subsidy. Assistants from states other than Florida receive out-of-state tuition waivers during the first year in residence only; assistants will establish Florida residency after twelve months, prior to their second year of study. Please consult the Graduate Office for further details. Recipients of stipends (fellowships or assistantships) from the University must be full-time students during the entire appointment period. Tuition waivers are entered into the student’s financial account at the beginning of the term by the Graduate Music Office after the student is completely registered for all of their credit hours.

Other Funding Opportunities

While most funding for graduate students in music theory and composition comes in the form of area assistantships, the Office of Graduate Studies at Florida State University offers prestigious named fellowships that carry stipends ranging from $18,000 to $23,000. For more information on these awards, please see Graduate School Fellowships and Grants.


Guest Composers & Music Theorists

Each year we invite distinguished music theorists and composers to enrich our curriculum. Our visitors give public presentations and masterclasses, visit a variety of class meetings, and meet with students individually. In almost every case, students are afforded the opportunity to interact with these scholars both formally and informally. The Housewright Scholars program allows us to fund a small number of week-long residencies; other Guests typically visit for 1–3 days.

2020–21         Guests via Zoom included Krists Auznieks, Hong-Da Chin, Christopher Dietz, Philip Ewell (MTS Forum keynote), Julianne Grasso, Ellie Hisama, Michael R. Jackson, Ed Klorman, Anabel Maler, Horace Maxile, Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Jon Nelson, Mitchell Ohriner, Richard Plotkin, Mark Richards, Chris Segall, Michael Timpson, and Maury Yeston.
2019–20Guest composers Anthony Iannaccone and Uzong Choe (Housewright); Guest theorists Nicole Biamonte (MTS Forum keynote), David Huron, and Christopher White.
2018–19Guest composers Daniel Asia, Georg Friedrich Haas (Housewright, Festival of New Music), Jake Heggie, and Andrew Sigler; Guest theorists Matthew BaileyShea, Joel Lester (Housewright), Ian Quinn, and Stephen Rodgers (MTS Forum keynote).
2017–18Guest composers Libby Larsen (Housewright), Matthew Moldover, and Caroline Shaw; Guest theorists William Caplin (Housewright), Benjamin Levy, Seth Monahan (MTS Forum keynote), Mark Spicer (Housewright), and Christopher Stover.
2016–17Guest composers Louis Andriessen (Housewright, Festival of New Music), Stephen Montague, and Amy Williams; Guest theorists Fernando Benadon, Michael Callahan, Thomas Christensen (Housewright), Robert Gjerdingen (MTS Forum keynote), Ellie Hisama, Janna Saslaw, and Joseph Straus.
2015–16Guest composers Evan Chambers, James Primosch, and Christopher Theofanidis; Guest theorists John Covach (Housewright), Michael Cuthbert, Daniel Jenkins, Michael Klein (MTS Forum keynote), Jocelyn Neal, Janet Schmalfeldt (Housewright), and David Temperley.
2014–15Guest composers Amy Beth Kirsten and David Lang (Housewright, Festival of New Music); Guest theorists Byron Almén (MTS Forum keynote), Nicole Biamonte, Nicholas Cook (Housewright), and Robert Hatten (Housewright).
2013–14Guest composers Ricky Ian Gordon, Libby Larsen, Denis Levaillant, Lukas Ligeti, John Mackey, and Dan Welcher; Guest theorists Elizabeth Margulis, Elizabeth Marvin, David Neumeyer (MTS Forum keynote), Shaugn O’Donnell, and Ciro Scotto.
2012–13Guest composers Nomi Epstein, David Gompper, Zhou Long (Housewright, Festival of New Music), and Carter Pann; Guest theorists Norman Carey, James Hepokoski (MTS Forum keynote), Robert Morris, Scott Murphy, and John Roeder.
2011–12Guest composers Daniel Asia, Lansing McLoskey, Stephen Montague; Guest theorists Steven Rings, Joseph Straus (Housewright), Lawrence Zbikowski (MTS Forum keynote).
2010–11Guest composers Edward Knight and Paul Moravec (Housewright, Festival of New Music); Guest theorists Jonathan Dunsby, Dora Hanninen, Julian Hook, and Ian Quinn (MTS Forum keynote).
2009–10Guest composer Libby Larsen; Guest theorists Christopher Hasty, Frank Samarotto (MTS Forum keynote), and Ciro Scotto.
2008–09Guest composers Lukas Ligeti and Christopher Theofanidis (Housewright, Festival of New Music); Guest theorists Kofi Agawu (MTS Forum keynote) and Adrian Childs.
2007–08Guest composers Paul Richards and Andrew Rindfleisch; Guest theorists Michael Klein, Judith Lochhead (MTS Forum keynote), and Robert Morris (Housewright).
2006–07Guest composer Chen Yi (Housewright, Festival of New Music); Guest theorists Poundie Burstein, Justin London, and Jocelyn Neal.
2005–06Guests included Richard Cohn, Yayoi Uno Everett, and Bengt-Olov Palmqvist.
2004–05Guests included Martin Bresnick (Housewright, Festival of New Music), Gary Karpinski, Harald and Sharon Krebs, Patrick McCreless (Housewright), Krzystof Penderecki, Paul Richards, Vaclav Riedlbauch, Michael Torke, and Tadeusz Wielecki.
2003–04Guests included Daniel Harrison, Gretchen Horlacher, David Huron, and John Anthony Lennon.
2002–03Guests included Jonathan Bernard, James Buhler, Robert Hatten, Shulamit Ran (Housewright, Festival of New Music), and John Snyder.