Composition - University of Houston
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Rob Smith
Professor of Composition
Coordinator of Composition
Director of AURA Contemporary Ensemble
phone: 713 - 743-3163
office: MSM 327

Welcome to the Moores School of Music Composition Division! Under the guidance of our award-winning faculty, composition majors develop a diverse portfolio of original concert music, gain fluency in contemporary repertoire and techniques and engage with the diverse and vibrant Houston arts community. Our graduates have consistently garnered admission to high-level graduate programs, careers in academia and national and international awards and commissions. As Texas’s most vibrant city for contemporary music, esteemed composers are frequent visitors to our campus and our students frequently collaborate with professional ensembles such as the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera and Da Camera. Our aim is to maximize our resources to produce alumni who are at the forefront of the ever-changing contemporary music scene. If you have specific questions about our program or would like to be connected to current students to ask questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail or call! #GoCoogs   

Academic Programs

  • Bachelor of Music

    The Bachelor of Music in Composition is for students who are seeking a career involving the composition of contemporary concert music. Upon completion of the degree, students will have a broad knowledge of contemporary musical repertoire, composers and techniques; be able to apply a broader knowledge base to the creation of personal compositions; and demonstrate growth as a composer through the creation of a substantial portfolio of work. 

  • Master of Music

    The Master of Music in Composition is for students who are seeking to have a career with a prominent focus on the composition of contemporary concert music. Applicants should have prior experience studying composition and an existing portfolio of original works. Upon completion of the degree, students will have substantially broadened their knowledge of contemporary music and expanded their portfolio, with an emphasis on longer durations and for larger ensembles. Graduates of this program are well prepared for seeking admission to doctoral composition programs.

  • Doctor of Musical Arts

    The Doctoral of Musical Arts in Composition is a highly selective degree program for advanced composers interested in pursuing a career in higher education in tandem with professional composing activities. The vibrant and extremely active Houston music community is an ideal location for students to foster relationships and develop their professional careers. Our music theory teaching assistantship positions offer the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience in higher education. 


Scholarships are available for students at all levels of study who demonstrate outstanding accomplishment and promise. For nonresident students, merit-based scholarships may make a student eligible to receive a tuition waiver resulting in Texas resident tuition rate. Graduate students are encouraged to seek a teaching assistantship in music theory to gain valuable professional experience teaching classes in the core undergraduate music theory program under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

  • Teaching Assistantships

    Numerous teaching assistantships in music theory, musicology and with the AURA Contemporary Ensemble are available to qualified graduate students. Teaching assistants receive a stipend and scholarship. For nonresident students, teaching assistantships may make a student eligible to receive a tuition waiver resulting in Texas resident tuition rate.

    Teaching assistants in music theory gain valuable professional experience teaching classes in the core undergraduate music theory program under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Teaching assistants in music history support musicology faculty in undergraduate history courses. The AURA teaching assistant serves as the ensemble’s assistant director, learning critical professional skills for managing and directing a chamber ensemble. 

Select Composition Courses

  • Contemporary Concert Music

    Focusing on the personalities and events that define concert music in the past 50 years, this course sets the stage for music students to understand, create and perform in the current musical, social and political climate.

  • Orchestration

    Students learn the fundamentals of writing effectively for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and full orchestra. This course culminates in a reading session of students' orchestration projects with the Moores School Symphony Orchestra.

  • Music Theory and Musicology Electives

    Numerous elective courses that directly benefit composition students are frequently offered by our highly regarded and award-winning faculty. This includes seminars in the music of Barber, Bartok, Copland, Ives, Stravinsky and others, as well as courses in counterpoint, rhythm and meter, semiotics, analysis of post tonal music and Schenkerian analysis. 

Composition Events

  • Facebook

    Link to the Facebook page for SIREN, the composer’s organization at the University of Houston, which includes listings for upcoming composition area events and videos and information for past events. 

  • Guest Composers & Master Classes

    As Texas’ most vibrant city for contemporary music, esteemed composers and ensembles are frequent visitors to our campus. In recent years, we have welcomed composers such as Kaija Saariaho , Joan Tower, John Adams and John Corigliano and ensembles such as the Ethel String Quartet, Soli Chamber Ensemble and the Iridium Saxophone Quartet for lectures, presentations reading sessions and masterclasses.  

  • Sarofim Student Composition Awards

    Courtesy of a generous gift from Louisa Sarofim, the composition department awards annual  composition prizes for the best undergraduate and graduate student works. A panel of  professional composers outside the school of music is selected each year to adjudicate the  competition. Winners receive a cash prize and are commissioned to compose a new work for AURA.  

Faculty Recordings


AURA Contemporary Ensemble

Dedicated to the performance of chamber music composed in the last two decades AURA offers a training ground for performers interested in careers performing contemporary music. The ensemble serves to present students, faculty and the community with innovative programs that represent the latest classical music trends and styles. D edicated to collaborations with other disciplines, AURA has presented numerous concerts with actors, authors, choreographers and dancers.  

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"I'm very thankful for my time in the UH composition program. The practicality of the offerings ensured I received academic, pedagogical and administrative experience. Through the program’s thorough immersion in Houston's thriving music community, I established partnerships with world-class organizations. I cannot overstate the importance of a program which helps its students become better musicians and guides them to a greater love of music itself." - Mark Buller (DMA, '15)