Arts Academy Boarding School: Music Composition Major

Interlochen Arts Academy boarding high school offers student composers a program of pre-professional music training and college preparatory academics. Music composition students graduate well-prepared for the rigors of study at the university and conservatory level. The individualized program encourages students to cultivate their own unique and creative expression, while becoming familiar with important trends in 20th and 21st century music.

Composers have the opportunity to present their works 4-5 times during the school year in Composers' Forums.  Much emphasis in the composition program is also given to knowledge of proper notation, professional preparation of scores and parts for rehearsals and performances, and the assembling of a diverse portfolio for college auditions.

The music composition major requirements include:

  • Composition lesson (see below)
  • Composition seminar (see below)
  • Enrollment in a theory course each year (Theory and MusicianshipAdvanced Theory, Independent Study)
  • Piano proficiency (if lacking sufficient keyboard skills, students are required to take lessons or a piano class)
  • Presentation of works at composers forums (at least two each year)
  • It is recommended that students reserve a large block of time (three hours or more) several times each week for individual composition.
  • Piano or instrument lessons (by audition) or class piano
  • Appropriate ensembles
  • Academic requirements

Composition Lesson

The student and the instructor seek to develop short-term and long-term goals.  The focus in the course is on the student’s ability to combine the elements of music (melody, harmony, texture, etc.) into cohesive and performable works.  A student demonstrates his/her progress by completing pieces of high quality and by having those pieces performed.  Listening assignments, score study assignments, discussion of college choices, portfolio preparation and career goals, may augment the scope of the lesson.


  • Techniques of the Contemporary Composer David Cope
  • Although Interlochen has both Finale and Sibelius software, the student is encouraged to have his/her own copy.  On rare occasions, the student and the instructor may agree that the purchase of scores or recordings might be necessary/beneficial for further progress in the lessons. 

Composition Seminar

The composition faculty meet with all composition students to pursue studies of interest to the entire group.  This often includes guest composition faculty, master classes, group projects and collaborative topics with other disciplines.


Every effort will be made to use materials available through the campus libraries  or the personal collections of the Composition Faculty.  However, rare and extraordinary circumstances may require the purchase of a text, score or recording.

College Matriculation

An Academy education provides excellent preparation for continued studies at top universities and conservatories. Academy music composition students regularly enroll in top music programs including:

  • Bowling Green State University
  • Capital University
  • Carnegie-Melon University
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Eastman School of Music
  • Illinois Wesleyan
  • The Juilliard School
  • Manhattan School of Music
  • Mannes College of Music
  • The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music
  • New York University
  • Oberlin Conservatory
  • The Peabody Institute
  • Rice University
  • San Francisco Conservatory
  • Temple University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri - Kansas City
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Rochester
  • Yale University


Dr. Cynthia Van Maanen

Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory, Interlochen Arts Academy

D.M.A., Composition, Music Theory Minor, Moores School of Music, University of Houston; M.M., Composition, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University; B.M., Composition, Flute Performance, Baylor University; Performers Certificate, Scoring for Film and Television, University of Southern California