Applying for the Composition Concentration

Students interested in the composition concentration must submit an application to the composition faculty before the beginning of the semester they wish to enter the composition concentration. Entering first-year students will be expected to submit an application portfolio at their audition and will be scheduled for an interview with the composition faculty on their audition day.

Your portfolio should consist of scores and recordings of two or three pieces representing your best work in composition to date. Students are encouraged to submit pieces that show the range of their work (ensembles, length, technique, etc). Portfolios may be submitted electronically or in person to Dr. Haney (haneyjx@jmu.edu) or Dr. Guinivan (guiniver@jmu.edu). Electronic submissions should be in PDF format for scores and MP3 format for recordings. Physical submissions should be scores only, with MP3 recordings emailed to Dr. Haney and Dr. Guinivan.

Please note that the JMU composition concentration is centered on contemporary concert music. Students interested primarily in studying popular music, jazz, or musical theatre are encouraged to pursue majors in music industry, jazz studies, or musical theatre.

The composition faculty will review submitted portfolios and notify applicants about their admittance to the concentration track. At this time, JMU composition courses are open only to students that pass the portfolio review.

Declaring the Composition Concentration

The composition concentration is formally declared after one year of study in composition seminar. Composition students are required to maintain grades of B- or better in all music theory and aural skills courses. At the end of the student’s second semester, the student will do a composition jury with the faculty at which they will show and discuss their work from the year. This jury will serve as the entrance requirement for formal declaration of the composition concertation. Following successful completion of the jury, students will be directed to officially declare the concentration.

If the student does not successfully complete the jury, the student may continue study in composition seminar and may schedule a second jury at the end of the following semester. Students who do not pass the second jury will not be eligible to declare the composition concentration or continue in the composition seminar and upper-level coursework.

Please direct any questions about the composition concentration and the declaration process to Dr. Haney and Dr. Guinivan.

Revised January 19, 2020

JMU Composition Showcase

View the JMU Student Composer Showcase, featuring solo, chamber, and large ensemble performances by current JMU composition students and alumni.

See the Showcase

Competition Information

The JMU Wind Symphony and Composition Department are pleased to announce the seventh annual “New Music for Wind Ensemble” Composition Competition, providing an opportunity for the performance of new works for wind ensemble composed by JMU students during the spring 2023 semester.

Eligibility: Current JMU students that are enrolled in composition lessons or have completed at least one semester of composition study at JMU. Preference will be given to works composed while studying composition at JMU.

Recommended Duration: 6 to 10 minutes.

Instrumentation: While students will have some flexibility regarding instrumentation, they are encouraged to consider adhering to relatively standard collegiate wind ensemble instrumentation. Composers are encouraged to discuss instrumentation in detail with their primary teacher while working on the piece and may consult with Dr. Bolstad about any extended or unusual instrumentation requests.

Deadline: Dr. Guinivan must receive all entries by 12:00pm on Monday, November 28, 2022. LATE ENTRIES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Entry Guidelines: On or before the day of the deadline, submit the following to Dr. Guinivan:

  • Delivered in person: One professionally produced physical copy of the score

  • Emailed: PDF file of the score and an MP3 of a high-quality midi realization of the piece 

ANONYMOUS ENTRY REQUIREMENT: Entries will be anonymous. Both the score and recording should be free of any markings that identify the composer. Please label both the PDF and MP3 files with the title of the piece only.

Adjudication and of Responsibilities of Winners:

  • The competition will be adjudicated by Dr. Bolstad, Dr. Haney, Dr. Guinivan, and possibly one or two other guest adjudicators from the School of Music Faculty.

  • The winning composer(s) will discuss and agree to a strict deadline for the creation and delivery of performance materials.

  • The winning composer(s) will be expected to provide sample parts and review them with Dr. Guinivan prior to the deadline. The final parts/performance materials will be held to the highest professional production standards.

  • The winning composer(s) must provide a biography and program note for their piece for the concert program.

  • Submitted compositions that are not selected are eligible to be resubmitted in subsequent years that the composer is in residence at JMU.

  • NOTE: The jury reserves the right to award no prize if all submitted scores are not of an appropriate standard of excellence.

Prize: The winning composition(s) will be rehearsed and performed by the JMU Wind Symphony or Symphonic Band under the direction of Dr. Bolstad on the April 2023 Wind Ensemble Composers Concert. Selected works will be programmed alongside music by Frank Ticheli, who will also be in residence for the concert. Selected composers will be offered a lesson on their piece with Frank Ticheli during his visit.


Previous Winners:

2021 - Jack Yagerline and Joe Jaxson

2019 - Michael Kahle

2018 - Mason Moy and Patrick Oswald

2017 - Brian Junttila

2016 - Lukas Garner and Douglas Byler

2015 - Chris Cerreto

The JMU Chamber Orchestra and Composition Department are pleased to announce the second “New Music for String Orchestra” Composition Competition, providing an opportunity for the performance of a new original work for string orchestra composed by a JMU student during the spring 2023 semester.

Eligibility: Current JMU students. Preference will be given to works composed while studying at JMU. Only original works for string orchestra will be accepted. Arrangements of existing works will not be accepted (except for arrangements of an original work by the applicant that was originally written for other instrumentation, which is acceptable).

Maximum Duration: 5 minutes

Instrumentation: Grade 3 or 4 String Orchestra: Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass

Difficulty: The work should be written at a grade 3 or grade 4 level. This site provides a general overview of some common limitations of each grade level. You might also peruse some grade 3 and grade 4 scores from Alfred (most have sample scores or pages available) to get a feel to the grade level.

Deadline: Dr. Guinivan must receive all entries by 12:00pm on Monday, November 28, 2022. LATE ENTRIES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Submission Guidelines: please submit the following to Dr. Guinivan by email prior to the deadline:

  • PDF of your score
  • MP3 of a high-quality midi realization of the piece

ANONYMOUS ENTRY REQUIREMENT: Entries will be anonymous. Both the score and recording should be free of any markings that identify the composer.

Adjudication and of Responsibilities of Winners:
The competition will be adjudicated externally by established conductors and composers with extensive experience with educational string orchestra music. JMU School of Music Faculty will not serve on the adjudication panel.

  • The selected composer will discuss and agree to a strict deadline for the creation and delivery of performance materials.
  • The selected composer will be expected to provide sample parts and review them with Dr. Guinivan prior to the deadline. The final parts/performance materials will be held to the highest professional production standards.
  • The selected composer must provide a biography and program note for their piece for the concert program.
  • Submitted compositions that are not selected are eligible to be resubmitted in subsequent competitions while the composer is in residence at JMU.
  • NOTE: The jury reserves the right to award no prize if all submitted scores are not of an appropriate standard of excellence.

Prize: The winning composition(s) will be rehearsed and performed by the JMU Chamber Orchestra during the Spring 2023 semester.
All competition entries will be offered a recorded reading session with the JMU Chamber Orchestra during the Spring 2023 semester.


Previous Winner:

  • 2021 - Joe Jaxson

The JMU Madison Singers and Composition Department are pleased to announce the third “New Music for Choir” Composition Competition, providing an opportunity for the performance of a new work for choir composed by a JMU student during the spring 2023 semester.

Eligibility: Current JMU students that are enrolled in composition lessons or have completed at least one semester of composition study at JMU. Preference will be given to works composed while studying composition at JMU.

Recommended Duration: 2.5 to 4 minutes

Scoring Requirements:

  • Submitted works must be written for SATB choir.
  • Works for SSA or TTB ensembles will not be eligible.
  • Composers are encouraged to use a text by a poet or writer from an underrepresented group, such as BIPOC/LGBTQ+.
  • Works using text under copyright MUST acquire permission to use the text from the copyright holder prior to public performance of the work.
  • Composers are encouraged to write for unaccompanied SATB choir or SATB choir accompanied by piano. Composers may include additional instruments, but if selected for programming, composers will be responsible for recruiting any instrumentalists exceeding one pianist.
  • Submitted works must include a rehearsal piano part.
  • Language: composers are encouraged to set texts in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Latin. Other languages may be considered in consultation with your composition instructor and Dr. van der Vat-Chromy.

Deadline: Dr. Guinivan must receive all entries by 12:00pm on Monday, November 28, 2022. LATE ENTRIES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Entry Guidelines: On or before the day of the deadline, please submit the following to Dr. Guinivan

  • Delivered in person: One professionally produced copy of the score. Must be be professionally bound (folded and stapled, coil bound, etc.). If stapled, it should be stapled like this, not like this. No loose leaf scores, accordion binding, or presentation books
  • Emailed: PDF of the score and an MP3 of a high-quality midi realization of the piece
ANONYMOUS ENTRY REQUIREMENT: Entries will be anonymous. Both the score and recording should be free of any markings that identify the composer. Please label both the PDF and MP3 files with the title of the piece only.
Adjudication and of Responsibilities of Winners:
  • The competition will be adjudicated by Dr. Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy, Dr. Guinivan, and Dr. Haney, possibly with other guest adjudicators from the School of Music Faculty.
  • The winning composer(s) will discuss and agree to a strict deadline for the creation and delivery of performance materials.
  • Submitted compositions that are not selected are eligible to be resubmitted in subsequent competitions while the composer is in residence at JMU.
  • NOTE: The jury reserves the right to award no prize if all submitted scores are not of an appropriate standard of excellence.

Prize: One winning composition will be rehearsed and performed by the Madison Singers during the Spring 2023 semester. 


Previous Winners:

  • 2021 - Nicolas Gomez-Colon
  • 2019 - Kt Allenbaugh and Josh Fisher

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