pablo furman in concert hall 

About the program

The Composition and Electro-Acoustic music program offers intensive studies in music composition at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The teaching and learning approach is straightforward: compose, perform the work, listen, learn, and compose again.

Undergraduate students are guided through a series of studies designed to develop skills in contemporary techniques and musical vocabulary. The objectives of lower-division courses are exploratory in nature, focusing on various methods and musical styles. In upper-division courses, developing an individual style in emphasized. Graduate students, in addition to the required courses, are assisted in the preparation of a thesis in the form of an original composition. The outlets for performance of compositions are numerous: from student performers interested in playing new works to formal ensembles that read student compositions. Under instructor supervision, advanced students create electro-acoustic compositions using the latest computer technology. In addition, through our collaboration with the TRFT Department (TV, Radio, Film, Theatre) and the Digital Arts area of the Art Department students are able to develop projects for visual and digital media.

Degrees offered

  • Bachelor of Music in Composition
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music, with emphasis in music technology (see below)
  • Masters of Arts in Composition
  • Minor in Music with emphasis in Music Technology 


  • Dr. Pablo Furman, coordinator
  • Dr. Brian Ciach (composition and theory)
  • Dr. Fred Cohen (composition)
  • Lucas Schwyter (recording and audio technology)

Audition information

For more information on auditions click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get accepted into the composition program?

  1. Audition (in composition, instrument of choice, and major ensemble).
  2. (Graduate level) Have two letters of recommendation sent to us from former composition teachers.

How do I audition for the composition program?

Bring or send a portfolio of compositions for varied instrumentation. For undergraduate studies: audition in your instrument of choice and in a major performing ensembles. You must be accepted into instrument applied lessons and into a major performing ensemble to be a composition major.

When can I audition?

Instrument and ensemble auditions are held at the beginning of each semester. For exact date, check the schedule of classes or call the Music office at 408-924-4673. For composition, you can send, at any time, a portfolio of scores and recordings (if available).

What should I include in my audition portfolio?

Scores and recordings if possible (two for undergraduates, three for graduates). Letters of recommendation (graduates only).


What level of skill is expected?

Undergraduates: lower division students should be able to demonstrate a basic skill level in structural and harmonic development. An example would be a simple work for solo instrument, duo, or a short piece for a small ensemble.


Do you teach pop music composition?

We offer studies in traditional and classical music composition. The rigorous and comprehensive composition training at SJSU enables students to write in any style. We have an excellent jazz studies program and students are encouraged to participate in it and compose jazz charts. However, this is not part of the requirements for the B.M. program in composition.

Do I need to know how to play an instrument?

All undergraduate B.M. students, including composition majors, must take applied instrument lessons and perform in a major ensemble each semester they are enrolled in composition applied lessons. Thus, they need to audition in their instrument of choice or voice (solo skill level) and be accepted by the performance area as well. A B.A. in music technology is not required to perform in an ensemble.

Is the Music Technology emphasis like a “recording engineering” degree?

Sound and music recording is one of the areas of specialty offered, and students in the program are trained in a range of sound and music creative skills. Examples are sound synthesis, computer interaction, live and studio recording of various types of ensembles and soloists (classical and jazz style recording techniques), creative sound/music editing, sound design, and script programming as related to sound synthesis and design.

How do I audition for the B.A. with focus in Music Technology?

The audition is an interview with the area faculty who will assess your readiness for the program. Since this is a music program, students must be functioning musicians (able to read music on an instrument). Also, you need to demonstrate facility with music technology (done during the interview). You must also be ready to take undergraduate theory courses. Remember, this is a music program and it is focused on the artistic and creative aspects of the craft. We place emphasis on listening skills and musical acuity - skills that characterize all good music technicians.

Do I need to audition for the Music Minor with emphasis in Music Technology?

No. The Music Minor is a great path for those who already have a Major and want to complement it with solid training in technology as it relates to sound and music, but without most of the theoretical and performance requirements of the Major. The Music Minor offers access to all our technology courses, as well as the ability to participate in collaborative sound and multimedia projects in the Music program and other departments. Students take a minimum of music specific courses. Contact the Music Minor Advisor for more details.

What kind of software do you utilize?

We use a variety of programs. Our methodology is to teach concepts and creative approaches to music and sound projects and develop skills independent of specific technology, which may soon become obsolete. We currently have four studios, two dedicated to music synthesis and sound design, and two for recording and digital audio editing. We use Apple computers with a variety professional audio interfaces. The synthesis studios are equipped with 8.1+ sound systems; Logic; Kyma; Max-MSP; ProTools; Bias Peak; Native Instruments software package that includes Reaktor, Digital Performer, and related programs; and hardware synthesizers. For live sound diffusion we use a 4,000+ Watt (continuous) sound system, including eight active 3-way speaker columns, large subwoofer, stage monitors, multiple digital consoles, plus dedicated outboard room EQ and related gear.