Marginalia, Graduate Blog

5 Frequently Asked Questions

Steven Spiel

This time of year is wonderful because, as a Graduate Student Ambassador, I get to hear from so many people interested in the Music Composition for the Screen program here at Columbia College Chicago. I get a lot of great questions, and I thought I’d do a post on some of the most common questions I receive. 

1. Can I get a basic overview of the program there?

The program is structured in 5 semesters: 4 in Chicago, 1 in LA.

The first year is focused on scoring with Logic Pro, history of film, and audio production.

The second year is scoring with Pro Tools, game scoring, and conducting. The second year also includes three recording sessions with union players in Chicago.

The semester in LA is focused on interning with leading composers, networking, music business, and conducting/recording your thesis with union players at Capitol Records.

2. What are the professors like?

The four professors are varied in their experience and teaching approaches.

David McHugh (head): Focus on lyrical writing, huge emphasis in awareness and reading the picture.

Gary Chang: One of the pioneers of electronic music. A wealth of knowledge in all things pertaining to music production.

Richard McHugh: working composer scoring a ton for TV and promos (American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Grimm)

Andrew Edwards: A working composer. Excellent orchestrator and tech guru. Very focused on quality compositions. Knows films like nobody’s business.

3. What are students expected to accomplish while in the program and after graduation?

Here are links to some current student works. This is the kind of production and compositional quality you will be expected to maintain:

To get an idea of what graduate students have been up to since graduation, check out some of these blogs I did spotlighting internships and work:

4. Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in composition to be considered?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: A degree in composition is extremely helpful and adds credibility to your application. However, the biggest thing about your application is your portfolio. They want to see that you can capture emotion in music, regardless of your bachelor’s degree. Write lots of programmatic pieces. Having scored to picture is not necessary, but it is a definitely a plus.

Here is a link to my full application material. I’m pretty open about posting it, just don’t abuse it.

Steven’s Dropbox

5. What are scholarship/internships like?

There is a major scholarship that is merit-based. It pays for 80% of your tuition and you don’t have to apply for it. If they like your material, they will give it to you. 4 out of the 12 accepted receive it and it’s called the Follett Scholarship. I was awarded it and it has been a huge help with tuition. Assistantships are also available for second-year graduate students. There are also a lot of on-campus jobs and Federal Work Study positions within the department.  You can take a look at all other available scholarships and financial aid here: Student Financial Services

5 Frequently Asked Questions

This time of year is wonderful because, as a Graduate Student Ambassador, I get to hear from so many people interested in the Music Composition for the Screen program here …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Steven Spiel, steven.spiel@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience