Composition @ NDSU

New Music and Entrepreneurial Training

North Dakota State University offers the first and only Bachelor of Music in Composition program in the Dakotas, and one of the few in the region. NDSU Music Composition combines the robust educational opportunities available at a large research university (13,000 students) with the personal attention available through the Challey School of Music.

NDSU's Music Composition curriculum focuses on the entire composition workflow. Students write music, seek commissions, produce professional scores, market their sheet music, and produce concerts. Composition majors have the opportunity to pursue additional topics, such as publishing, computer science, and entrepreneurship as part of their degree plan.

Some of our current and upcoming new music initiatives include:

  • A student-run music press, for real-world work in self-publishing music.
  • A student composer-in-residence program for NDSU ensembles.
  • Thundering Heard, a new music series.

The Program

The Music Composition Major

The BM Composition program is designed for self-starters who are looking to pursue professional careers as composers, arrangers, publishers, or music technologists. Our program is flexible yet thorough, and includes study in Music Theory, Music History, Instrumental or Vocal Performance, and Piano in addition to Composition.

In addition, students are required to pick courses and credentials that support their future career goals. Some examples include:

  • If business is your thing, you can get a minor or certificate in Entrepreneurship, or minors in Accounting, Business Administration, or Management Information Systems.
  • If you're interested in music and software design, you might consider minoring in Computer Science.
  • If you're interested in sheet music, you can pursue publishing work with the NDSU Press.
  • If graduate school is in your future, you might take additional music theory and history classes
  • If you're interested in writing music AND lyrics, or if you have your eye on Broadway, minoring in Creative Writing, English, or Theatre Arts might be for you.

If you're interested in the composition major at NDSU, let's talk.

Request a Lesson

Opportunities for all music majors

I'm interested in composition, but I'm also interested in [something else]. Can I do both?
While it's possible to double-major in Music Composition and another field, the BM in Composition is geared toward students pursuing one degree, and adding to that may take more than the 4-5 years needed for a bachelor's degree. However, NDSU also offers the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Music as well.

The BA requires two years of a foreign language, while the BS requires a minor or a second major. Students can minor in Entrepreneurship through NDSU’s College of Business (which accepts credit from MUSC 385: Music Entrepreneurship), or pick from NDSU's catalog of majors/minors.

But what if I'm not interested in majoring in music composition? Can I still take composition lessons?
We keep the composition program artificially small—around 10% of the population of the Challey School of Music. However, we do allow non-composition music majors to take composition lessons depending on how much room is available in the studio.

The Studio


Applying for any music degree at NDSU is a multiple-stage process. In composition, students must apply to the University, the School of Music, and to the Program.

Taking Composition Lessons

Music students who want to pursue composition lessons as enrichment may do so if allowed by the instructor and if they have completed the prerequsites.

Majoring in Composition

Students who want to pursue composition as a major must complete a performance audition (in voice or on a standard band/orchestral instrument) for acceptance into the Challey School of Music before their first semester as a music major. To be considered a composition major, prospective students must also submit a portfolio of works for evaluation.

Students may apply to the composition program at the same time they apply to the Challey School of Music, or students may apply to the composition program at any point after being admitted to the Challey School of Music.

Up-to-date information on applying to the Challey School of Music is available at


Thundering Heard

Thundering Heard Logo

2023 Thundering Heard Student Composers Recital: 2023-02-11 Program | Livestream
2023 Thundering Heard Pilafian Composition Competition Recital: 2022-05-02 Program | Livestream
2022 Thundering Heard Faculty Composer Recital: 2022-04-23 Program | Livestream
2022 Thundering Heard Student Composers Recital: 2022-04-23 Program | Livestream