Composition and Theory

sheet music

Department chair: Michael Slayton

The Composition/Theory program seeks to equip students with the creative, technical and critical mechanisms central to developing their artistic and intellectual lives as scholars.

Working closely with faculty, composition students at Blair enjoy a freedom of exploration in a variety of styles, working to create a diverse portfolio of compositions. Student composers have numerous opportunities to hear their music performed each year, culminating with a full-length portrait recital during the senior year.

Capitalizing on Blair's integral role in the cultural and intellectual life of one of America's premier universities, The Composition & Theory program also develops opportunities afforded by access to Vanderbilt's excellent musical and non-musical course offerings, encouraging students to understand how their own music relates to a host of other disciplines, such as art, history, literature, philosophy, and the sciences.

A guiding principle of Blair's program in Composition & Theory is that both the art and craft of composing are strengthened in developing a relationship between personal growth and the vast network of ideas and experiences available to students in the 21st century.

Aural Skills

Coordinator: Joshua McGuire

Increasingly, musicians are called upon to perform in diverse styles and genres, including music of the classic western tradition, jazz, popular and world music. To satisfy these demands, we at the Blair School are committed to providing students with the practical skills they will need to effectively perform in this eclectic environment.

Our musicianship program is designed to ensure that students systematically develop technical aural skills including pitch, interval and rhythm recognition, scale and mode identification, chord identification, et cetera. Additionally, students gain insight into how to augment musical communication and expression through the implementation of these skills.

Based upon teaching methods developed by Marianne Ploger since 1976, Blair musicianship courses focus on developing fluency in all of these areas.

Pre-screening & Audition Repertoire Requirements

All applicants must complete a pre-screening video according to their program (instrument, voice, composition or jazz.) Pre-screening requirements are the same regardless of your specific major of interest. For example: all voice applicants will follow the vocal requirements below no matter what they plan to major in (Performance, Integrated Studies, or along the Musical Arts degree.) Once the admissions process is complete, admitted students will notify us of their intended specific major. You can learn more about these majors hereJazz applicants should follow the specific Jazz requirements for pre-screening and audition on their primary instrument or voice.

All applicants should feel free to reach out to Blair Admissions with audition repertoire questions.

  • Composition Pre-Screening Requirements
    • A portfolio of three original scores and corresponding recordings. At least one live recording is preferred, but not mandated. (pre-screening only)
    • A pre-screening video showcasing proficiency on your primary instrument or voice. You may select any piece from your current repertoire. (pre-screening only)


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