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Discovering your compositional voice and presenting it with clarity in compelling, innovative music is a lifelong project. Our MA is designed to help you develop the skills to pursue this, whatever your career aspirations.

Our internationally-renowned composition staff work across a range of styles and media and our students are similarly diverse. Solo or orchestral music, electronic or acoustic, notated, improvised or devised – all of these are valued in York. You'll encounter a wide variety of approaches but no prescriptions.

You'll join a lively community of postgraduate composers and the rich creative environment of the Department of Music, recieving one-to-one tuition and studying the established and emerging techniques in this exciting and constantly developing field.

Contemporary music has been a cornerstone of the department since its foundation. From early visits from Cage, Feldman and Shostakovich and the creation of pioneering electroacoustic works by Trevor Wishart and Dennis Smalley to the Proms commissions, Glastonbury appearances and international tours of recent alumni such as Anna Meredith, Kerry Andrew and Christian Mason, York has a long history of nurturing extraordinary talent.

Course content

All pathways for the MA Music follow the same structure. Over the year, you’ll take four modules totalling 180 credits. We place an emphasis on independence and creativity - you will have the freedom to study the areas that interest you.

It is crucial for every composer’s development to hear their music performed, and our lively department offers plenty of opportunities for composition students. Find out what's on offer.

Weekly composition seminars bring together MA, PhD and staff composers, with a number of seminars each term delivered by distinguished visiting composers from the UK and other parts of the world, as they present their music and compositional priorities. There may also be sessions focussing on skills for professional compositional life, for example: (self-)publishing and promotion, editing and typesetting and royalties. In the Summer Term, you will be expected to give a short presentation in this seminar series.

In addition to these seminars, we strongly encourage you to participate in department ensembles and attend weekly research seminars and performance classes relevant to your studies. ‌

Teaching format

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching is delivered through a combination of individual lessons, group lessons, seminars, composition workshops and presentations from visiting performers and composers.

You will have regular meetings with your supervisor, who will advise you and help develop your ideas as you progress through your studies.

We encourage you to get involved with our lively departmental community, from our ensembles to our weekly seminars, performance classes and research seminars.


The Department is home to the Music Research Centre, one of the finest facilities for listening to and recording sound in the UK. There is a large-scale neutral listening and performing space built to extremely low noise specifications (PNC15), a linked studio suite containing a dedicated performance space with configurable acoustics and two mix down/control rooms (one with an SSL Duality console). These facilities include a wide range of microphones and recording hardware/software.

The Department houses two concert halls: The Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall and the Rymer Auditorium. Through involvement with composition workshops and departmental ensembles, composition students can expect to hear their work performed in these venues.

All students have free access to Sibelius.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Music on Campus West. Almost all of your teaching will take place within the department.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You’ll produce Guided Submissions for the first two terms and an Independent Submission during the summer term and summer vacation. These will take the form of substantial composition portfolios with commentaries and a presentation to fellow pathway students.

Careers and skills

The MA in Music (Composition pathway) is an ideal springboard for PhD study at York or elsewhere. Many of our students continue to PhD study and later find work in university teaching or freelance composition work, and our graduates are in positions of influence in many UK and overseas institutions.

Career opportunities

  • Teaching
  • Freelance composer
  • Residencies

Transferable skills

  • Time management
  • Critical analysis
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Self-evaluation

Visit the Music (Composition pathway) - MA page on the University of York website for more details!




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