Composition and Music Theory

You can study either composition or music theory as your main subject. After completing your education you can work as a music teacher or in other positions requiring creative artistic skills or special musical expertise.

In a nutshell

  • Target degree: bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, master’s degree in music
  • Scope of the degree: BA + MA 180 + 150 study credits (3 yrs. + 2.5 yrs.), master’s degree 150 study credits (2.5 yrs.)
  • Field of art: Music
  • Organiser: The Sibelius Academy
  • Next time to apply: January 2019
  • Studies begin: at the start of the academic year in August
  • Person responsible for the degree programme:  Department Head Minna Holkkola
  • Other responsible persons: Professor Veli-Matti Puumala (composition), professor Lauri Suurpää (music theory)


You can study either composition or music theory as your main subject. In composition studies you will focus on improving your personal compositional skills, which will be supported by harmony and music analysis courses and composition projects. You will develop control and awareness of your creative process.

As a music theory main subject student, you will acquaint yourself with tonal and post-tonal music analysis methods and deepen your understanding of music history by practising score writing based on historical knowledge. The studies focus on research. You can also focus on music editing or teaching and researching music theory and aural skills.

All students will complete the following studies:

  • Music theory, scoring and music analysis
  • Aural skills
  • Music history
  • Methodology and research
  • Instrument and vocal studies
  • Instrumentation
  • Pedagogy

The department also offers minor subject students versatile education in composition, music theory, music analysis, western music history, music philology, information search skills, and research.

The programme aims to give you such extensive knowledge of music, music theory and practical composition or research skills that you will be able to work in positions that demand creative artistic skills, particularly musical expertise and pedagogical skills, after you graduate. Many of the programme’s graduates work as composers or music history and theory teachers.

The Master of Music degree also qualifies you for doctoral study. At Sibelius Academy you can complete the licentiate of music (LMus) and Doctor of Music (DMus) degrees.


Department head
University lecturers
Timo Virtanen, music history
Marika Haapanen, Department Vice-head
Aarre Joutsenvirta
Lauri Kilpiö, composition
Juhani Nuorvala,  composition
Tapio Tuomela, composition
Part-time teachers
Fiona Chow
Sebastian Dumitrescu
Tiina Koivisto
Kai Lindberg
Veijo Murtomäki (professor emeritus), music history
Tapio Nevanlinna, composition
Johan Tallgren
Niilo Tarnanen
Matthew Whittallcomposition


More information about cmposition teachers also on the Music Finland website

How to apply

Composition and music theory main subject applicants are evaluated in different selection groups. You can apply for both main subjects during the same year. The programme will require you to have higher preparedness in music theory and aural skills and knowledge of western music in comparison to Sibelius Academy's other programmes. You will also be expected to have creative musical skills if you apply for composition as your main subject.

The University of the Arts Helsinki website includes earlier entrance examinations, which may give you an insight into the entry requirements.

Contact information

All University of the Arts Helsinki e-mail addresses are in the form firstname.lastname (at)

Head of Department Minna Holkkola

Vice-Head of Department Riitta Valkeila


siba.admissions (at)