There are many paths a young composer can take that may or may not lead to a successful career in film scoring, but there is one thing that is certain across all areas of the music industry and that is that professionals expect you to know what you're doing and deliver the highest quality performance that you're capable of. Everyone makes mistakes, that's how we learn to improve, but there will be times in every musician's career where they are thrown into a situation with insane deadlines and zero prior experience - it's part of the initiation process.
With film scoring becoming more and more popular as a career path, colleges and higher education programs are jumping at the opportunity to fill the need. I, myself, graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Film Scoring, so I may be a little biased, but I'll try to give my honest opinion of various programs based on what I know and what I have heard. Keep in mind, these are only my opinions - links are there for your own research.
As far as I know, Berklee College of Music offers the only true Bachelor of Music with a Film Scoring degree. This is the program that I graduated from, as have many others such as Joey Newman and Howard Shore. This is a great program because it allows a young student right out of high school to begin training for their career in fIlm scoring. They have an enormous amount courses to choose from, ranging from orchestration styles to video game scoring, and in 2014 they opened an incredible new facility.
Prerequisites: Application and audition
Who is it for: Any musician who is serious about taking their craft to the next level and begin studying Film Scoring.
Musicians Institute offers a Bachelor of Music in Composition (Scoring for Visual Media Program). The program offers a variety of excellent courses that prepare the student for a career as a composer, orchestrator, arranger, copyist, editor and more. Though the courses offered are not quite as diverse as those at Berklee, they do give you most of what you'll need in the field.
Prerequisites: Application, tests and audition
Who is it for: Any musician who is serious about receiving a Bachelors degree specializing in music for visual media, and would prefer to be in Los Angeles.
The Royal College of Music in London offers a Master of Music Degree (2 years, or 3 years part-time) and a Master of Composition Degree (2 years, or 3 years part-time).
In the USA, a High School Graduation Diploma
For composition, you must submit a portfolio with 2-5 contrasting examples of your compositions
Composition for screen applicants should be able to demonstrate
-Instrumentation and orchestral skills
-Proficiency in sequencing
-Experience with a DAW
-An awareness of the music’s narrative and dramatic functions in and beyond film and multimedia
Who is it for:
50% of RCM’s students come from 64 different countries around the globe. Their students include those transferring from other universities and those beginning an undergraduate program.
The National Film and Television School, based in the UK, offers a two-year MA validated by the Royal College of Art as well as various diploma, certificate and short courses. “The NFTS runs more behind the camera courses than any other film school in the world.”
Prerequisites: Most applicants have a degree from a university, but the school will consider applicants with no degree who have an impressive portfolio.
Who is it for: People with at least some experience, most applicants are in their early-twenties to mid-thirties
NYU offers a Scoring for Film and Multimedia program that can be taken through a Master of Music in Music Composition or Master of Music in Music Technology path. The composition path emphasizes composing for film, interactive and web-based media, whereas the technology path emphasizes music editing, sound design and recording.
Prerequisites: Portfolio and letters of recommendation.
Who is it for: New York is a great city for music and music for visual media. I would say this would be a great school for students who would like to earn a Masters degree, are serious about learning about film scoring and would like to live in a big city that is not Los Angeles.
UCLA offers a Master of Arts in Composition for Visual Media degree that incorporates digital composition and live orchestral readings and recordings, as well as seminars and guest lectures by both concert and film composers.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate Degree, Portfolio and References
Who is it for: This program seems like a good "middle of the road" graduate path for composers who want serious training in film scoring in Los Angeles, but are also looking to receive a full Masters degree.
The Seattle Film Institute offers a one year Master of Music in Film Scoring program, lead and created by TV composer Hummie Mann. The program allows students to learn about industry standard software, integrating electronic elements with live musicians, and recording techniques for as much as a 50 piece orchestra.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate Degree and Advanced Training in Music
Who is it for: Because the school is in Seattle and not run by Los Angeles professionals, this program may be best for composers who simply wish to broaden their understanding, are looking to teach in the future, or are planning to live and work in Seattle.
Columbia College Chicago offers a two year MFA Music Composition for the Screen that focuses on film, television, video games and jingle writing. The program is designed to prepare students for entering the industry - notice I stress "entering". Every program on this list will teach you how to do the job, many will give you opportunities for networking and getting started; this program offers opportunities and support for its alumni to give the student the best chance to enter the industry - the program even ends in L.A.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate Degree in related field and cumulative GPA of 3.0 and above.
Who is it for: Musicians with advanced musical training who are seeking specialized training in Film Scoring, especially those interested in working in Los Angeles.
Pulse College in Dublin, Ireland, in association with the DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama, offers a one-year Masters in Scoring for Film & Visual Media. The program offers a well rounded curriculum that encompasses orchestration, composition, business, technology, analysis and just about everything you need to know to get started in the film scoring industry.
Prerequisites: Visit the website for more details.
Who is it for: Trained musicians who are interested in a quick, year long, education in the film scoring world. Musicians living outside of the USA may benefit from the school more than American students, simply due to convenience of location.
USC's Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television (SMPTV) program is probably the best option for composers who are seriously looking at a career in Hollywood. It is not a degree, but the professors are highly qualified, working professionals such as Chris Young, Dennis Sands, and my mentor (or one of many) J. Eric Schmidt.
Prerequisites: Contact admissions.
Who is it for: Composers serious about having a career in Hollywood, who are looking for training AND connections, and not necessarily the degree.
UCLA offers a Film Scoring Extension Program for just about anyone who is interested. I'll be honest, I don't know much about this one, but I'll try to outline it the best I can.
Prerequisites: Access to, and basic knowledge and understanding of MIDI sequencers; basic understanding of music.
Who is it for: Pretty much anyone who is interested in learning about film scoring.
Berkleemusic is the online branch of Berklee College of Music, and offer an introductory course on Film Scoring. The class touches on a lot of important aspects of film scoring and can be a great stepping stone for someone interested with little experience.
Prerequisites: Understanding of writing music and using MIDI sequencers.
Who is it for: This is a flexible and cost effective way for someone to spend 3 months getting to know the film scoring world, and is done completely online.
Film | Music
About the Author