Lewis & Clark strongly believes that there is no better place for young composers than in a liberal arts setting. Composers are individuals with hungry minds, who live for the collection and synthesis of knowledge, and for insight into the humanity of the audience and art they serve. Studies in the classics, the social sciences, the physical sciences, mathematics, the contemporary humanities, and the allied arts contribute to individuals of real distinction: not mere musicians, but great and deep human beings.

Your First Year

Your first year is a time of adjustment to college social life, to new and higher expectations for intellectual achievement, and to the rigors of a major that requires a base level of facility in the areas of Music Theory, Aural Skills, Performance, and Music History before Composition Lessons is taken. Thus, we may not recommend that you begin the composing sequence until your sophomore year, even if you have satisfied the necessary prerequisites. Students with significant experience and ability in composing intent on the composition major will be given the opportunity to enroll in Composition Lessons.

Study Abroad

Study overseas usually takes place in the spring of the junior year. Composers are strongly advised to travel on the London program, since this will best serve to enrich their musical education while overseas. The London Program will generally necessitate missing a course from the core sequence in composing, so special arrangements must be made to acquire necessary skills, whether through correspondence or on-site in London.

Independent Study

Composers are strongly encouraged to pursue their own musical interests in fields not necessarily covered by the electives or core sequence. They may avail themselves of the music faculty and their individual strengths for independent study, keeping in mind that professors’ schedules may not allow them to take on independent study in a given semester. All such study is at the discretion of the faculty member in question.

The Senior Project

The senior project is a full-length recital of original music produced, directed, advertised, and rehearsed by the composer. The recital takes place in the spring of the senior year, and contains no less than 35-40 minutes of music, over half of which must involve acoustic instruments. The core sequence requires approximately 12 minutes of music per semester, so all senior composers will have written at least the minimum required by the time of the recital. Every composer prepares their recital under the supervision of a director and two faculty advisors.

The Composer’s Voice

Lewis & Clark does not subscribe to any school, style, or process of composing. Works created by student composers reflect a wide diversity of aesthetics and approaches. We believe firmly that the discipline of careful compositional thought benefits all composers, regardless of their eventual voice and affinities. Composers must be a part of their own culture, and learn to respond to and shape the musical life of those around them. In order to do this, they must also have rigorous training.


A small number of scholarships may be available for qualified composers. Please include a representative portfolio of your scores and recordings with your application. Contact the Department of Music for audition dates.

Performance Opportunities

Performance Opportunities for student composers abound at Lewis & Clark College.  In addition to regularly Composition Program Recitals, students have the opportunity to have their works performed on department colloquia.  Students may also schedule sophomore, junior, and non-degree recitals. Our faculty ensemble directors are very receptive to considering the possibility of reading and performing works by student composers. The Lewis & Clark College Symphony Orchestra schedules reading sessions of works by all students enrolled in Orchestration.

New Music in the Portland area

Portland is well known for being a city that values culture and the arts.  There is a vibrant “New Music scene,” which includes many fine ensembles and organizations.

For a list of musical ensembles in the Portland area, see


Michael Johanson
Associate Professor of Music
Composition core sequence, Theory I, 20th Century Theory
Artistic Director, Friends of Rain faculty new music ensemble

Jeff Leonard
Instructor of Electroacoustic music
Electronic Music elective sequence


The Theory and Composition Curriculum

All composers are expected to take Music Theory 4: Contemporary (MUS 300), Orchestration (MUS 341), and Counterpoint (MUS 342). Composers are also strongly encouraged to enroll in at least one course in Electronic Music.