Bachelor of Music in Composition


The program in composition is designed to expose students to a rich variety of multicultural influences while developing compositional technique. All composition students are strongly encouraged to study with each of the faculty composers, thus receiving a variety of perspectives and feedback on their music. This approach enables students to glean from each faculty member what is most useful in developing a unique compositional voice. Composers Workshops provide a forum for interaction and the study of new music and relevant issues.

Student composers have access to a new music technology lab with computer notation, multi-media and MIDI features. UH-Manoa does not specialize in electronic or computer music, but we do encourage students to take advantage of technological tools which may help develop their compositional skills.

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The Setting

Hawai`i consists of a rich mix of people representing cultures from all parts of the world. One of the department's strengths is its Ethnomusicology program, which is renowned for its focus on musics of Asia and the Pacific. There are regular ensemble offerings in Gagaku, Gamelan (Java and Bali), Chinese Instrumental Ensemble, Hawaiian Chorus, Hawaiian Ensemble, Hula & Chant, Koto, Okinawan Jamisen & singing, Samoan Ensemble, Slack Key Guitar and Tahitian Ensemble. In addition to composing for traditional Western instruments, students have composed for various instruments from Polynesia and Asia including the Koto, Shakuhachi, Pipa, Taiko and Komungo. Additionally, jazz has been a strong preoccupation of students in the program.

The new music scene in Honolulu revolves primarily around the UH composition program, and the department regularly works with ensembles, organizations, and individuals in the community, the U.S. and the world to present concerts and other events. Frequent performances of UH faculty works also enable composition students to witness the professional collaboration between composer and performer.

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Performance Opportunities

Invaluable opportunities for students to hear their works come in the form of reading sessions with professional ensembles. The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra has annually scheduled a reading session for UH student works, enabling students to hear their music played by and receive feedback from a professional orchestra. In addition, a close collaboration with the Honolulu Chamber Music Series has resulted in numerous readings of student works by world-renowned ensembles such as the Eroica Trio, American String Quartet, Ying String Quartet, Dunsmuir Piano Quartet, Debussy Trio, and Sirius. The opportunity to work closely with ensembles of such high stature has proved to be one of the most important experiences for UH composition students. Each semester, the works of composition students are publicly presented in the Young Composers Symposium (for undergraduate students) and the Graduate Composers Symposium.

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Activities in Support of Composition

The composition program has undertaken initiatives in support of new music and has received funding from the Orvis Foundation, the Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI), the College of Arts and Humanities, the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Hawai`i Cultural Foundation and the Music Department.

The 1999 Orvis competition received entries from composers representing 17 countries and 24 U.S. states. The winning work, "Four Ambitions" by Beth Wiemann, was premiered at the Music21C Festival hosted by UH in March 2000. Several new-music events in recent years, including the 1999 Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) Region VII Conference, have brought approximately 100 composers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, China, and Korea to Honolulu for workshops, presentations, and concerts featuring their works.

In recent years the department has also hosted short-term residencies featuring such distinguished composers as Tan Dun, Zhou Long, Pulitzer-Prize winner George Walker, Minoru Miki (Japan), Donald Erb, JeeYoung Kim (Korea), Vincent Plush (Australia), David Stock (Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Duquesne University), Judith Shatin (University of Virginia), Paul Rudy (Kansas City Conservatory of Music), Elena Ruehr (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Dan Coleman (Tucson Symphony composer-in-residence), Dennis Kam (University of Miami), Eric Ewazen (Juilliard School), Robert Moran and Billy Childs (Grammy-nominated jazz composer and performer). Professional performers who have worked with composers in recent lecture and masterclass settings include Yang Jing (Pipa), Reiko Kimura (Koto), Seizan Sakata (Shakuhachi), Kenny Endo (taiko and ko-tsuzumi) and the Yukimi Kambe Viol Consort.

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Faculty Interests

The three fulltime composers bring a rich diversity to the premise of wider influences enriching the conventional bases of composition.

Donald Reid Womack's music brings together a diverse range of ideas, reflecting various influences: his background as a native of the Southern Appalachians, his longtime home in Hawaii, and his time spent in East Asia. In addition to a large body of works for Western orchestra, instruments and ensembles, he has composed nearly 30 works for Japanese, Korean and Chinese instruments, often in combination with Western instruments. Of particular interest is the compositional exploration of musical material that can transcend its traditional cultural boundaries, as well as how instruments — East Asian instruments in particular — can be used in ways that place their idiomatic sounds into new stylistic contexts. [more about Donald Reid Womack]

Thomas Osborne's music draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources, places and eras. As a composer interested in the possibilities of both Western and non-Western music, he has written works inspired by African polyphony, Indonesian gamelan, Japanese court music, ancient Persian music and Kentucky country fiddle playing. Active as a conductor, he directs of the UH Contemporary Music Ensemble. He is spending the 2012-13 academic year living in Seoul, South Korea, writing for Korean traditional instruments in combination with Western classical instruments. [more about Thomas Osborne]

Takuma Itoh spent his early childhood in Japan before moving to Northern California where he grew up. Described as “brashly youthful and fresh,” (New York Times), his music has been performed by groups such as the Albany Symphony, the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra (Poland), the New York Youth Symphony, Symphony in C, the Shanghai Quartet, the St. Lawrence Quartet, Syzygy Ensemble (Australia), the Momenta Quartet, the H2 Quartet, and the violinist Joseph Lin of the Juilliard Quartet. His current interests include spatialization and fixed-register pitch fields. [more about Takuma Itoh]

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The UH-Manoa composition program offers students rich exposure to a variety of opportunities in a culturally unique, vibrant, and beautiful setting. The multicultural population of this state is comprised of an ethnic mix not found anywhere else in the U.S., thus providing students with unique experiences as they acquire musical craft.

Samples of UH composition faculty works can be heard on East Meets West (Albany), dragoneyes (Tokyo CMC Entertainment), Blue: New Music from Hawaii (Equilibrium), on Music for Wind Ensemble Choirs Orchestra, and on Trio Manoa. East Meets West, dragoneyes, and Blue are available in record stores, online, or directly from their respective labels. The latter two CDs are available directly from the UH Music Department.

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Program Requirements

Recital Requirement: A 30-45 minute recital of original works composed during undergraduate studies here.

Portfolio Requirement: At least 7 original works demonstrating the student's ability to work in various genres, composed during undergraduate studies here.

The student must submit a letter to the composition faculty formally requesting acceptance into the Bachelor of Music in Composition program. This is usually done at the end of the sophomore year as a music major.

Music Requirements

The degree requirements posted here are effective Fall 2013. Students who declared the major before this date may have slightly different requirements. Students are advised to meet with a major advisor regarding the specific requirements that apply to them.

Please consult the degree checklist for the most current information regarding required courses for this degree. Semester advising with a faculty member will decide the proper choice of classes for each semester based on those checklists.

Course Credits
Theory and Aural Training 12
  • 281-2, 283-4, 285-6, 287-8
Music History 6
  • 265, 266
Applied Music 6
  • 232 [4 times]
  • 331 [2 times]
Secondary Piano* 4
  • 125-126, 225-226
Ensembles 9
  • 410E Composer/performer collaboration (1 cr)
  • from 114, 410_, 414, 415, 416_, & 419_ (5 cr)
  • from 311_, 411_, & 417 (3 cr)
Performance Techniques 6
  • from 155, 156, 157, 158**
Composition Seminar 2
  • 289 [2 times]
Ethnomusicology 3
  • 407 or 472
Advanced Music Courses 30
  • Conducting: 325-326 (3 credits)
  • Advanced Theory: 381, 382, 383, and 488 (11 credits)
  • Advanced Literature: from 46_ (6 credits)
  • Composition: 485 [2 times], 487 [2 times] (10 credits)
Music Electives 2
Recital Attendance 0
  • 199 [6 times]
Total in Music 80

*If piano is the student's primary instrument, two of these credits will be added to the Performance Techniques requirements, and the other two credits should be taken as electives in music.

**The performance techniques requirement should be fulfilled by courses focused on instruments other than the student’s primary instrument (e.g. string players would take winds, brass, and percussion.) Students whose primary instrument is piano will take 8 credits of Performance Techniques courses.

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