Composition at Arts Academy

Why Study Composition

If you love composing for your instrument or for your friends, come work with Interlochen faculty to develop your skills and nurture your talent. We provide superior instruction with opportunities to collaborate with performers and other artists. You'll emerge from our program a technically proficient, well-versed composer who can participate in any number of artistic projects.

What You'll Learn

In our Composition major, you'll take a combination of private composition lessons, studio classes with other composers, music theory, and performance classes. You'll study the craft of composition with a focus on learning today's techniques and trends. You'll also continue to progress in your primary instrument through lessons and performing in ensembles.

Your accomplished instructors will help you with counterpoint, form, proportion, orchestration, notation, and other concepts to meet your individual aspirations. Your works will be performed by our outstanding Interlochen student musicians throughout the year. In addition, you'll be encouraged to collaborate with students in other artistic disciplines such as: composing scores for film, dance, and art song. Our instructors serve as professional role models, while providing mentorship, constructive criticism, and individual attention to help you express your unique artistic vision. They will also assist you in planning for the future, pointing you towards conservatory or college programs that will take your talent to the next level.

As a student at our boarding school for music composition, you will:

  • Compose original music for a variety of instruments and voices
  • Establish a unique style for your work that expresses your artistic vision
  • Prepare scores and parts for rehearsals
  • Organize rehearsals with the help of composition faculty
  • Participate in concerts which feature your music and provide a recording of the performance for your portfolio
  • Study and analyze musical scores in a variety of styles
  • Orchestrate music in various styles for ensembles of varying sizes and instrumentation
  • Evaluate the historical, social, and cultural context of musical compositions that inspire your own writing
  • Collaborate within the music department and with peers in other arts areas

How to Apply

Core Curriculum

Audition Requirements

For more information on graduation requirements and academic curriculum, please visit Academy Academics.

Explore Ensembles


A recipient of the American Prize, the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra performs an advanced repertoire that includes symphonies, concerti, contemporary works, and original compositions.


Wind Symphony

The American Prize-winning Interlochen Arts Academy Wind Symphony presents a diverse and challenging repertoire in regular live, prerecorded, and public radio performances.



The Choir welcomes students of all majors who are passionate about singing—presenting works from a variety of genres, musical eras, and geographic origins and performing regularly at events both on and off campus.


Meet the Faculty

Cynthia Van Maanen, D.M.A.

Instructor of Music Composition and Theory

All Faculty

Guest Artists

At Interlochen, we have hosted many guest composers. These composers share their own work, review student pieces, and share ideas with our studio. Some of our guest composers include:

  • MaryClare Brzytwa, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Kenji Bunch, composer
  • Matthew Burtner, composer
  • Jennifer Higdon, composer
  • Jonathan Bailey Holland, composer
  • Clint Needham, composer
  • Jamie Leigh Sampson, composer
  • Jim Stevenson, composer
  • Steven Stucky, composer

Program Highlights

Composers Forum

As a Composition major, you'll have the opportunity to present your work 4-5 times during the school year in Composers' Forums. These concerts are set aside for the composers to showcase their new pieces. These pieces might be instrumental/vocal only or they might include collaborations with dancers, filmmakers, and other artists. Composers and Composition Faculty work with student performers to rehearse the new works and have them ready for performance. 

Composition Lab

Composition students have access to the Composition Lab—a workspace dedicated for composers to focus on their own pieces, along with access to a piano, superior speakers for playback, and computers equipped with the latest technology and programs.

The Music Center

Our state-of-the-art 60,000 square-foot music facility has two 3,500 square-foot rehearsal halls, two recording studios which allow for rehearsal and performance recordings in multiple venues on campus with multiple ensemble and practice rooms, and individual faculty teaching studios. Learn more about The Music Center.

A boy playing contrabass clarinet

My time at the Academy has been exceptional. I have grown so much both academically and artistically. I have found a taste for sound that I never imagined I would enjoy: dissonance. I love contemporary music: I love writing it, and I love the mathematical ways we are allowed to create music. Within a year of being here, my sound as a composer has changed and become more… me.

Grant, Composition

Feeling grounded

Paola Prestini (IAC/NMC 90, IAC 91, IAA 91-93) is a sought-after composer and cofounder of National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York. She discusses how Interlochen Arts Academy helped her discover who she was and what she values.

A woman with green hair

Composing for the greater good

Emerging composer TJ Cole (IAC 03, 06, 08-09, IAA 10-12) has an astonishing list of accolades. But one of her greatest achievements may be collaborating with Project HOME, an organization that helps homeless adults and families find permanent housing.

Read the Story

College Matriculation

Composition students regularly enroll in top music programs and conservatories including:

  • Baylor University
  • Berklee College of Music
  • Boston Conservatory at Berklee
  • Brown University
  • Cleveland Institute of Music
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Indiana University
  • Ithaca College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • The Juilliard School
  • Lawrence University
  • New York University
  • Oberlin College and Conservatory
  • Rice University
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • State University of New York at Fredonia
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Southern California
  • Vanderbilt University

See what you can experience at Interlochen.

Come to a high school where young creatives thrive—and see how your unique journey unfolds. Plan your visit, request more information, or apply to Interlochen Arts Academy today.