Learning to Compose Music at UPC

At the Utah Piano Conservatory, we don’t just teach students how to play their favorite songs at the piano. We also teach them to compose music! We do this because it’s important to understand how our favorite composers, from Mozart and Beethoven to Chopin and Debussy, wrote the music that we teach our students to play.

Some of the works that we teach our students are difficult to learn, let alone play. But this is a testament to the amount of discipline that it took to produce such powerful and beautiful pieces of music! This is why it’s important to build up a basic vocabulary of musical composition, even if the student is focusing on piano performance. For example, one great place to start is learning all of the major and minor scales. Another helpful skill is learning to recognize and name chords. In doing this, we help students gain an appreciation for the intricate, demanding craft of music composition.

For students learning music composition, we provide a progressive curriculum that helps them to build up their “composer’s toolkit.” For starters, we teach them how to construct a motif (a short, recurring musical idea) and how to develop it into a complete statement. We then teach them how to build harmony around their melody. Next, students learn how to resolve their musical statements. From there, we teach them how to repeat this process over and over again until they have a complete piece.

Several of our students are working on their own compositions little by little in the theory lab! Joshie adds a little bit to his piece every week with the help of Mr. Cucuk.

Joshie Mikhail composing Joshie Mikhail composing 2

Here are some past compositions completed by our students, several of which were entered into competitions!

Halloween Boogie



The Wings of a Butterfly

Every composer is unique, just like our students. It’s always fun to watch how students spontaneously create little musical ideas! As piano teachers, we can help guide them in turning those ideas into a structured and playable piece of music. We encourage and facilitate every opportunity for students to compose music of their own at UPC, not just learn to play other composers’ music. We love our budding composers!