top_tabs University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences


The School of Music offers the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in composition. The composition program offers annual orchestra readings of student works, weekly composition seminars, numerous concerts featuring student works, and concerts of electro-acoustic music.

The electronic studios offer current and up-to-date technology for analog and digital synthesis, sampling, MIDI, and music printing.

For detailed information on programs in composition and theory, see the School of Music sections in The University of Alabama’s online catalogs (graduate and undergraduate).

Music Theory

Music Theory is an intellectually challenging and vibrant discipline, with close ties to history, philosophy, psychology, and other fields. The University of Alabama School of Music offers programs of study leading to the B.M. and M.M. degrees in Music Theory, with curricula designed to prepare the student for college teaching and to provide the background and skills necessary for active and productive scholarship in this increasingly diverse field. Combining the strengths and resources of a full-fledged school of music and a major research university, and offering a full range of relevant courses from Schenker to set theory, we provide an exciting and supportive environment in which to work.

For information on courses in music theory for undergraduates, please see the School of Music section of the University’s undergraduate catalog.

For information on courses in music theory for graduate students, please see the School of Music section of the University’s graduate catalog and the School of Music Graduate Handbook, which also contains specific course requirements for the M.M. in music theory.

Information is available on the graduate diagnostic examination in music theory, which is required of all incoming students in any graduate program in music. Comprehensive examinations, which include a music theory section, are required of all graduate students before they can be admitted to candidacy.

Contemporary Ensemble

The University of Alabama Contemporary Ensemble is overseen by the Department of Composition and Theory. For more information on this ensemble click here.

Composition and Theory Faculty

  • Craig First, D.M.A, Northwestern University, Professor of Composition and Theory
  • Joshua Mailman, Ph.D., Eastman School of Music, Instructor of Theory
  • Stephen Peles, Ph.D., Princeton University, Associate Professor of Composition and Theory
  • Thomas Robinson, Ph.D., The City University of New York, Associate Professor of Theory, Acting Area Coordinator of Composition & Theory
  • Amir Zaheri, D.M.A., University of Alabama, Assistant Professor of Composition, Director of Contemporary Ensemble



Undergraduate Courses

16th-Century Counterpoint

18th-Century Counterpoint

Advanced Counterpoint

Advanced Orchestration

Analysis of 20th-Century Music

Form and Analysis


Schenkerian Analysis

Special Topics in Composition

Theory I, II, III, and IV


Graduate Courses

Advanced Counterpoint

Advanced Orchestration

Advanced Schenkerian Analysis

Analysis of Tonal Music

Analysis of 20th-Century Music

Atonal Music

Graduate Theory Review

Problems in Music Theory

Schenkerian Analysis

Serial Music

Special Topics in Composition


Endowed Chair in Composition and Theory

Every third year our Endowed Chair in Composition & Theory brings to the School distinguished visiting faculty from around the world. In recent years visiting scholars and artists have included Joseph Auner, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Barry Brooke, Scott Burnham, Poundie Burstein, Michael Cherlin, Mario Davidovsky, Stephen Dembski, Ross Lee Finney, John Harbison, Hubert Howe, Jr., Andrew Imbrie, Andrew Mead, Tristan Murail, Wilfred Mellers, Robert Morgan, Bruno Nettl, William Rothstein, Carl Schachter, Joseph N. Straus, Gottfried Wagner, and Charles Wuorinen.

The 2012-2013 Endowed Chairs were held by Jonathan Dunsby, Severine Neff, Lynne Rogers, and Peter Westergaard.