Creativity and Composition in Music at MSU

Creativity empowers success and all musicians can learn to compose.  Mississippi State University’s Department of Music cultivates creativity and nurtures composition to develop complete musicians who are ready for ever-evolving careers. 

Fast Facts about Creativity and Composition in the MSU Department of Music:

  • Music Theory I–IV courses (MU 1213, 1413, 2613, 2813) offer opportunities for developing different components of musical creativity.
  • Applied Composition courses (MUA 1810, 2810, 3810) afford frameworks of increasing freedom for developing creative potential.
  • Band Arranging (MU 4322), Form and Analysis (MU 4313) and Orchestration (MU 3333), provide opportunities to develop practical creativity.
  • Directed Individualized Study (MU 4000) projects in counterpoint, keyboard harmony, and other topics may be pursued.
  • Music notation skills are acquired and developed in the Music Theory I, Technology for Music Education, Composition, and Band Arranging courses, among many others, where Finale, Sibelius, and MuseScore are typical tools.
  • Keyboard classes, like Functional Piano Skills, teach practical harmonization and stylistic accompaniment as well as melodic improvisation.
  • Jazz ensembles and applied study offer opportunities to develop soloing skills.
  • Performance opportunities include our Wed@2 recital hour, composition competitions, studio classes, music theory classes, and other events.
  • Original compositions may be featured on senior recital programs with applied professor and recital committee approval.
  • The MSU Department of Music has many faculty members who compose, including Dr. Jason Baker, Dr. Matthew Haislip, Dr. Richard Human, Dr. James Sobaskie, and Dr. Clifton Taylor.

Quick quotes on creativity and composition from MSU students and graduates:

Eli Denson (BME, Mississippi State University, in progress): “Composition is the ability to tell a story or convey an emotion through music.  Creativity is thinking outside of the box and using unconventional methods to tell that story or exhibit that emotion.  My love for composition grew when I realized it allowed me to express myself in ways that I could not with just using words.”

John-Peter Ford (BME, Mississippi State University): “Whether it be through composing or performing, I am constantly looking for ways to exercise my creativity and the creativity of the students I teach.  In my IB Music classes, composition and creativity take a spotlight role. Students are encouraged to apply concepts learned in theory and orchestration units to complete class assignments and the composition/arranging portion of the IB curriculum. If it was not for the knowledge accumulated at Mississippi State, my students would not be able to take part in this wonderful experience of creativity garnered through music composition.”

Rebekah Moore (BA, Mississippi State University; MM, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; PhD, University of Mississippi, in progress): “Taking composition lessons at MSU has helped me in both my personal and professional life.  During some of life's most challenging times I have been able to sit down at the piano and write, what a relief that was in those times.  In teaching, I have been able to help my students be more creative in improvising and playing from chord charts.”

Tracie Grace Riesgo (BFA, Mississippi State University): “Creativity can be expressed in many different ways.  Learning to express it with your hands is valuable. Learning to express it with your heart is priceless!”

Daniel Rorabaugh (BME, Mississippi State University, in progress): “Creative opportunities like composition lessons and piano classes help me understand music more deeply. They help me perform, analyze, and discuss other music I encounter more intimately.”

For more information about creativity and composition in the Department of Music, contact Dr. James Sobaskie via email at