Composition major

Composition Home Page


Composition, like performance, is fundamental to music. The School of Music’s vibrant Composition programme offers a unique and holistic overview of the skills required to create music in today's world, by including the study of both instrumental and vocal composition, and sonic arts (studio-based composition and music technology). Technique in writing for solo instrument, ensemble, voice, choir and orchestra is studied, along with modules such as composing for film and video gaming, composition for acoustic instruments with live electronics, and multi speaker acousmatic works.

Performance and recording of student compositions is encouraged, and opportunities for this range from the weekly composition workshops and annual composition prize concerts through to exciting collaborative projects with professional or community based ensembles, which may include the NZTrio and the Auckland Philharmonia Inspire Partnership programme. International and local composers and musicians are frequent visitors to the workshops.


You will learn from a team of highly skilled practising and researching composers who specialise in contemporary composition. 

Dr Eve de Castro-Robinson

Programme Coordinator (Composition)

Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of New Zealand's foremost composers, whose work from solo and instrumental to vocal and large-scale forces is performed widely both here and internationally. Eve teaches and supervises Composition from undergraduate to doctoral level and is Co-ordinator of the Composition Workshops.

Dr Leonie Holmes

Senior Lecturer

Well known New Zealand composer Leonie Holmes receives frequent commissions from both professional and community groups, in the fields of orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal and solo instrumental music. Leonie teaches composition, orchestration, New Zealand music and Materials of Music. 

Dr John Coulter

Programme Coordinator (Sonic Arts)

John is focused on facilitating the needs of the '21st-century musician' – supporting men and women who compose, perform, fabricate, innovate, and make use of technology.

Student profile

Profile image of Josiah Carr.
Josiah Carr.

"I spent a lot of time reading about instruments in high school; understanding their ranges, the sounds they made and their extended techniques. I played percussion, bass, drums, guitar and dabbled in keyboard and piano, so knowing what other instruments could do have me an advantage when composing for orchestral instruments.

"I've recently been named the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s (APO) Rising Star Young Composer-in-Residence, for which I have to produce three scores to a specific brief. One is for students working with the APO, the other two will be performed by the APO players themselves. Through seeing them perform, and the Our Voice ensemble workshops at the School of Music, I am quite familiar with the APO and know a little bit about what to expect from the orchestral world."

Josiah has just completed his Bachelor of Music (Honours) in Composition. You can find out more about Josiah and his work via his Facebook page

Degree structure

What you'll be studying

In the undergraduate degree you will progress through a series of core Composition courses that focus on the development of technique, creativity and craftmanship in the areas of instrumental and vocal composition and sound based/computer aided composition. In addition to this you will take courses in orchestration and/or electronic music studies. This allows you to begin to take a more specialised interest in one or other of these areas. Elective studies are available in areas such as music technology/sound recording and production, conducting, music education and others.

You will also take two General Education courses offered by other faculties from across the University to acquire a broader range of skills and understanding, and be exposed to cross-disciplinary research.

You can download a degree planner below, which outlines your course content and programme structure in more detail. You can also find course prescriptions in the University Calendar

If you are planning to undertake a conjoint programme, these course planners below outline the structure of each degree:

Further study

The BMus, and associated conjoint programmes, lead into further study options at the School of Music. Our postgraduate degree programmes encourage initiative, critical analysis and independent thought about music in social, cultural and academic contexts as well as creative excellence. 

Research programmes
Master of Music (MMus)
Doctor of Music (DMus)
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Taught programmes

Bachelor of Music (Honours) (BMus(Hons))
Postgraduate Diploma in Music (PGDipMus)
Graduate Diploma in Music (GradDipMus)

How to apply

For rank score and grade point requirements for the BMus and associated conjoints, please refer to the entry requirements tab on the following programme page Bachelor of Music

All applicants are required to submit a composition portfolio via the online portal system SlideRoom. Selection will be based on the strength of your composition portfolio. This should consist of a statement of musical background, a referee contact email address and two recent compositions. Your referee should be someone who can comment on your musical work and your suitability for study, such as your studio music teacher or principal. 

Your recordings must be submitted as individual PDF or .sib file types. You may also include audio recordings of the works as individual files (.m4v, .mov, .mp4, .wmv, .flv, .asf, .mpeg, .mpg, .mkv) or as YouTube/Vimeo links (these must be set to public and you must not delete these files). 

(If you are successful and offered a place, then a musicianship test will be required prior to enrolment.  This will determine if you are ready to begin study with MUS 100 – Basic Musical Techniques or MUS 101 – Materials of Music 1).

Get in touch

Creative Arts and Industries Student Centre

Level 2, Building 421
(Architecture and Planning Building)
26 Symonds St
Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm