VCSU Composition Courses


You’ve been directed here because of your interest in the VCSU composition curriculum. This page addresses some of the FAQs and lists other pertinent information in one place so I don’t forget to mention it.


Composition at VCSU consists of three courses:

MUS 120 is a 2-credit introductory composition course which takes the format of prerecorded online lectures and participation on Blackboard. Students normally take one semester of MUS 120, and receive a half-hour one-on-one lesson every five weeks.
MUS 120 requires MUS 109 (Music Theory I), except in certain circumstances.

MUS 220 is a 2-credit masterclass-based course where students submit weekly progress and the instructor creates feedback videos for all students every week. Students normally take two semesters of MUS 220, and receive an hour-long one-on-one lesson every four weeks or as needed.
MUS 220 requires MUS 120 (Composition), except when a submitted portfolio demonstrates mastery of the topics in MUS 120.

MUS 320 is a 1- or 2-credit individual lesson reserved for those students who will be pursuing the composition concentration of the BA/BS, with a focus on creating a body of work.
MUS 320 requires two semesters of MUS 220 (Composition) without exception.

In addition, I also teach MUS 302: Advanced Scoring and Arranging.


  • What equipment/resources do I need for Composition?
    • The composition sequence requires a scorewriting or notation program such as Sibelius, MuseScore, Finale, Dorico, Notion, NoteFlight, or something similar.
    • Many VCSU courses require Finale–I differ somewhat in that I allow you to use whatever notation program that you are most comfortable with.
    • The composition sequence also works from Alan Belkin’s book Musical Composition: Craft and Art.
  • What sort of music will I get to write?
    • This course sequence focuses on writing for standard orchestral or band instruments, voice, and piano, in styles chosen by the students. Courses are more focused on art music composition than singer/songwriter/rock styles.
  • What if I’ve never used a notation program before?
    • If you feel comfortable learning new software while learning how to compose, then go for it. MUS 120 does go through some exercises to help your familiarity with notation software, but starting with zero experience is not advised. Students that have completed MUS 109: Music Theory I generally have no issues.
  • What’s the fastest I can get through the composition sequence?
    • Generally, speeding through composition courses is not advised, and three full years of composition lessons provide a solid foundation. However, the curriculum is designed so that students could take one semester of 120, two semesters of 220, and at least one 16-week semester of 320 for a four-semester sequence (not including prerequisites).
  • What if I’ve never composed before? Is composition right for me?
    • MUS 120 is designed as an equalizer class: Students who have previous writing experience should find the information useful, and students who are new to composition will be walked through the creative process.
  • What if I’ve composed before? Can I skip the introductory classes?
    • In special cases, we’ve admitted students directly to the 220 level of composition based on a portfolio of recent works. However, the 120 level is designed to be flexible as a refresher course, even for those students who have substantial prior experience.
  • Can I skip directly to MUS 320?
    • No.

Course Permissions

Signing up for the composition courses requires a course permission number. These numbers are issued to individual students based on whether or not you need instructor permission OR instructor permission and prerequisites waived. Once you use a permission number, it cannot be reassigned to another student, so please use your best effort to take the class if you use a permission number.