Hear your work in regularly scheduled concerts and recitals as a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition student at the UBC School of Music.

The UBC Symphony performs or reads our DMA in Composition students’ orchestra pieces, and the choirs are all active in presenting our students’ work.

Our DMA in Composition students have access to the computer music studio, which is of considerable scope and is open on a 24-hour basis.


  • Outstanding ability in composition
  • Master of Music degree in composition, or an acceptable equivalent


You must complete a total of 30 credits in

  • 508C Composition - 6 credits (Ref. 1)
  • 512E Directed Individual Studies - 3 credits (Ref. 2)
  • 607C Composition - 6 credits (Ref. 1)
  • 649 Thesis (Ref. 2)
  • Graduate Seminars 12 credits (Ref. 3)
  • Music Electives - 3 credits (Ref. 4)
  • Division Comprehensive Examination to follow coursework other than Music 649.


  1. Music 508 and 607 include tutorial composition lessons and the directed study of electronic music.
  2. Students shall register in Music 512E during their first term of study and remain registered in this course until they advance to doctoral candidacy. Once candidacy has been approved, students shall register in Music 649 and remain registered in this course until they complete their program.
  3. Course must be 500-level and taught by faculty in the School of Music.
  4. Electives must be approved in formal adoption of the individual program and must be at the 300 level or higher. Music 520A (Introduction to Music Research) must be taken as a prerequisite (not counting for program credit) if its equivalent has not been completed elsewhere. Students who have completed its equivalent previously must replace this course with a 3-credit elective course at the 300-level or above.

Portfolio requirement

The composition division will review a portfolio of works composed while enrolled in Music 508 and 607 before the composition’s comprehensive examinations. The portfolio will typically consist of at least four substantial works for various media, of which the student must perform two pieces.

Comprehensive examinations

  • Orchestration (8 hours): You will orchestrate a short piano composition or an excerpt of a longer piano work for a full orchestra.
  • Composition (24 hours) The composition division will select one of the three works from the oral exam, and you will write an original composition based on this composition. The composed work must be at least two minutes in duration. They should be considered a response to the aesthetic, harmonic, melodic and/or formal structures of the original composition. The instrumentation and any other guidelines for the composition will be given to you.

  • An oral examination will be given on three compositions to be chosen from a list of 10 works submitted by you in consultation with your research supervisor. Of the ten compositions, five must have been written between 1930 and 1989 and five written since 1990; at least one work must be by a Canadian composer.
  • The compositions should cover a range of aesthetic styles, genres and instrumentation. The list should not have more than two works by the same composer. For multi-movement compositions, you can identify single movements for the exam. The composition division will select all three compositions. An additional part of the oral exam includes questions about general knowledge of repertoire, composers, issues and trends in music since 1900.


You will take Music 512E (Directed Individual Studies) to formulate a proposal for the thesis. The thesis proposal, which is the culmination of Music 512E, is usually completed by April of the second year and is to be approved by the composition division. It will include both prose and music (suggested length: 10 pages).

The proposal must include references to medium, formal principles (length, number of sections, relationships), pitch structure, influences, style, orchestration, rhythmic organization, setting of text and senses in which the work is an original contribution. In addition, the proposal should include portions of the composition in progress in the proposal. These portions may be samples of ideas and/or essential passages.

The thesis is a substantial musical composition (the thesis composition), supported by a written discussion of the work. The thesis composition is to be for large or chamber ensemble(s) (minimum of 6 performers) and should have a minimum duration of approximately 15 minutes. The thesis composition should demonstrate originality, clarity of musical expression and presentation, and mastery of compositional technique.

The supporting thesis document should clearly and intelligently communicate the technical and aesthetic basis of the work, and should situate it in the context of relevant compositional traditions and discourses. The written document should be at least 20 pages and should critically engage relevant artistic and/or scholarly literature. The document should also include a programme note for the work's premiere.

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