7. Columbia College – Chicago, IL
The Music Composition for the Screen MFA at Columbia College in Chicago is among the most prestigious in the world. Some of their students have gone on to extraordinary careers in the film industry, with one alum producing music to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films.
The program is a four semester Master’s degree program, and is widely considered an excellent starting point into the ferociously competitive field of film scoring.
The faculty for film composition at Columbia College is outstanding – one of the faculty members, Gary Chang, has composed music in feature films for a number of top directors, including Jonathan Demme, John Hughes, and John Frankenheimer.
Outside of the film scoring department, the college also boasts one of the premiere visual media departments in the country, known as the Cinema Art + Science program. This program has produced winners of Oscar, Emmy, and Spirit awards. One of the best benefits about this school having this prestigious department is the unparalleled opportunity for collaboration among some of the most diversely talented aspiring filmmakers and composers in the country.
6. University of California – Los Angeles, CA
At UCLA, the Film Scoring certificate, offered through UCLA’s Extension program, is widely considered a top program for visual media composition. This program actually does not require an admissions decision – it is available to students via open enrollment. That said, college-level experience in music or composition is highly, highly recommended.
The faculty for UCLA’s Extension program is very strong. Charles Bernstein, an Emmy-award winning composer who has scored legendary blockbusters such as Nightmare on Elm Street, After Innocence, and the television adaptation of Sea Wolf, teaches scores of students that later find employment in the film industry.
Located in the premiere epicenter for film production in the US, Los Angeles is home to a number top film composers, producers, editors, and studios in the entire world.
5. Pulse College – Dublin, Ireland
The lists I make on this website typically deal with only U.S. based programs, however this particular list branches out into international programs. Pulse College, an exceptional one-year intensive Master’s film program based in Dublin, Ireland, boasts some of the most extraordinarily accomplished faculty in the world in any music department focusing on commercial music.
Faculty members include Andy Hill, who was the former Vice President of Music for Walt Disney Pictures, Daniel Carlin, an Emmy-award winning music editor who has worked on over 100 film and television productions, and Conrad Pope, who helped orchestrate the music to the newer Star Wars trilogy. Other faculty members have been nominated for the Golden Globe award, written music for high-profile video games including Bioshock, and scored movies for blockbuster films.
The school also, to my knowledge, has Christopher Young on the faculty, who is a prominent faculty member at USC Thornton’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program (USC is also on this list).
The college’s one-year intensive curriculum, running from September to August, prepares students to work in the professional field as composers, music editors, orchestrators, music supervisors, and music producers. The curriculum offers classes in overall musical artistry, current technology used by industry professionals, and music business.
One of the best colleges in the world for film scoring, Pulse College should be a serious choice for any musician looking into colleges for film scoring.
4. Seattle Film Institute’s Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program – Seattle, WA
The Seattle Film Institute is the largest filmmaking school in the Northwest region of the US; as one of the most well-known filmmaking schools in the world, the institute hosts an excellent one-year Master’s degree in film scoring. An intensive curriculum, this is a premiere school that teaches students the most important parts of being a film composer in 2015, which is film history, artistry, and current technology.
What many prospective and budding young film composers may not realize is that most film scores produced today are actually created with digital libraries of acoustic instrument samples as well as synthesizers. Although not every modern film score is like that, the majority produced today are made almost completely digitally.
Some key software products the students learn at this institute include Finale, Logic, Pro-Tools, Sibelius, and Digital Performer, all modern programs that are regularly used in the music production and commercial music industries.
Additionally, students are given nine opportunities to record their music with live session musicians in a professional studio setting.
I am especially fond of this program because their goal is so clearly laid out – in just one year, the school places students into a pressure cooker of intense learning resulting in a professional demo reel that can be used to obtain future paid commercial opportunities.
The principal instructor of this program is Hummie Mann, an Emmy-award film music composer who was named by Variety Magazine in 2010 as one of the 10 Leaders in Learning. Hummie has an extraordinary track record as a teacher, frequently producing students who ascend the ranks of the film music industry.
Schools that focus on the value and future of their music students are compelling options, and this program most certainly does exactly that.