Music Composition

Our Master of Arts in Music Composition offers personalised instruction in composition that will enable you to write music in a wide variety of styles and for diverse contexts.

This study programme offers:

  • A choice of two specialisations: Creative Practice or Contemporary Jazz
  • The opportunity to lay a focus on Sound Arts
  • Active support of your personal progress – so you can develop your own artistic voice and find your place in the music field/business
  • A great deal of freedom and flexibility, allowing you to define an individual study programme
  • Interdisciplinary approaches in projects involving other divisions (e.g. Theater, Literature, Opera)
  • Courses tailored to your goals and needs taught by lecturers such as Simon Steen-Andersen, Cathy van Eck and Stefan Prins (see below for a complete list)
  • Intensive seminars to hone your creativity.


  • Title/Degree Master of Arts (MA)
  • Specialisations Creative Practice (for composers and performers), Contemporary Jazz
  • Mode of study Full time (4 semesters)
  • Start date 14 September 2020
  • Application deadline 16 March 2020
  • ECTS credits 120 ECTS credits
  • Study language German, French, English
  • Location Bern
  • Department Bern University of the Arts
  • Programme Handbook

Study programme guide Bachelor and Master Jazz

Structure + Content

Graduates with a Master of Arts in Composition have a wide range of professional prospects open to them, from strictly musical fields to composing for the stage and for the visual arts.


With two specialisations (Creative Practice and Contemporary Jazz), the programme offers a flexible and open concept for putting together an individual profile. Renowned composers, sound artists and stage directors enrich the training, which also encompasses studio recordings and the latest in musical theater.

Learning outcomes

Specialisation in “Creative Practice”

You are a composer or performer of contemporary music and want to expand your skills and stylistic repertoire. You are interested in doing projects based on your own interpretation of the respective author. The specialisation in “Creative Practice” offers you these possibilities. With our help, you will further hone your craft and learn tools for pursuing and perfecting your musical and artistic quest. After completing your studies at our university, you will have developed your own special artistic portfolio and will have gathered a wealth of project experience.

Specialisation in “Contemporary Jazz”

Your creative personality as a composer is the focus of this future-oriented programme. With a specialisation in “Contemporary Jazz” you can refine your artistic profile as you expand your practical knowledge of jazz and related styles. Our university offers you a wide range of options, enabling you for example to compose, orchestrate and arrange in different stylistic idioms and for different types of ensembles so you can quickly integrate yourself into the music scene.


The MA Music Composition offers the following two specialisations:

The degree programme offers:

  • Extremely personalised instruction with courses tailored to your needs given by lecturers such as Simon Steen-Andersen, Cathy van Eck, Stefan Prins and Stefan Wirth (see below for a complete list)
  • A selection of courses for perfecting your skills in various areas, from electronic music to curatorial practice to musical theater
  • A one-week intensive seminar per semester that brings all students in the programme together to deepen their creativity. This involves projects featured at festivals and on international tours. Students in the Master of Arts in Music Composition were invited for example to present the project “Das Haus zur Biennale” in Munich and at the Bern Opera in 2016, and in 2017 realised projects for the Acht Brücken (Eight Bridges) Festival in Cologne and the Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik in Basel.
  • A final project that serves as a gateway to the professional art scene. At the end of each year of the two-year master’s programme (which can also be extended to three years) students do a final project whose aesthetic orientation may be extremely original. Our aim is for this project to be featured at various festivals for contemporary creative work. It should become the student’s “calling card” for entering the professional music scene.

The degree programme:

  • Expands your practical skills in working with various types of ensembles and musical media (Big Band, string quartet, vocal ensembles, brass band, electronic music, film music, etc.)
  • Helps you to deepen your theoretical knowledge of musical forms, harmony techniques, composition/arrangement, musical aesthetics, etc.
  • Deals with the relationship between composition and improvisation as well as the collaboration between composer and performer
  • Provides mentors to support you in the planning, execution and implementation of personal projects
  • Gives you the know-how to carry out your engagements professionally, taking into account the respective situation, the required style and the target audience
  • Prepares you for the job market as you learn how to find the right balance between individualism and convention, art and commerce, authenticity and the requirements of the job
  • Gives you the opportunity to present yourself alongside well-known musicians and ensembles at national and international festivals
  • Allows you to study at a dynamic university with top facilities (recording studios, video labs, research pools, music mediation, etc.).

Mode of study + Duration

Our master's degree programme is offered on a full-time basis only and comprises 120 ECTS credits. It is typically completed in four semesters.

Curriculum + Modules

The two specialisations (Creative Practice and Contemporary Jazz) have a similar structure. The curriculum is divided into seven major modules, for a total of 120 ECTS credits.

1 Core subject

The core subject consists of individual courses that form the focus of the programme. You will attend one 80-minute course per week.

2 Perfecting your skills

The module plan offers numerous courses in the field of artistic practice, depending on which of the two specialisations you choose. For the field of musical theater, for example, this module involves a number of important projects for developing and studying the repertoire (Aperghis, Globokar, Kagel, Schnebel, etc.), while the curricula for composition in the fields of jazz, wind ensemble and classical music offer courses in ensemble conducting and studio work. Research questions and aspects are integrated throughout the studies. Every semester, the research division at HKB offers topic weeks, which are open to you. You can decide for yourself which week during your studies you want to devote to the intensive seminars.

3 Week-long intensive seminars for developing your personal musical creativity

This is where students come together to develop joint projects and collaborate in various ways.

4 Optional courses

A wide range of optional courses are available, from seminars on specific themes to courses in, for example, music informatics (MAX MSP etc.). The course programme is published in a brochure each semester.

5 Minor subject

This module is a second, quite complex specialisation, since it represents about a quarter of the degree programme (30 ECTS). In the minor subject (e.g. on your instrument) as well as in the optional courses, you can shape your own personal profile with the help of the head of studies.

6 Master’s thesis

The master’s thesis is your final project. All of your work culminates here in a concert / performance / installation or similar at the end of your second year. This is the most important moment of your studies. It also includes a written thesis and a colloquium.

Student mobility

Are you a Swiss student interested in living, working or studying in another country? Or do you want to spend a semester at another Swiss university? Or maybe you’re an overseas student who’d like to spend a semester at Bern University of Applied Sciences? Mobility opportunities offer unique and valuable experience. During your studies, you will have the opportunity to spend exchange semesters and experience work placements elsewhere in Switzerland or abroad.



Eligibility + Entry

A high degree of artistic autonomy is required for admission to the Master of Arts in Music Composition degree programme. You should be in a position to contribute to the interdisciplinary artistic context and collaborate on interdisciplinary projects.

Entry requirements

The number of places available on our programme is limited (‘numerus clausus’). We administer an entrance examination to review your aptitude for our programme. We look for motivation, stamina, resilience and independence in our students as well as a readiness to participate actively in university-level projects.

Academic requirements

A bachelor’s degree in music is required. Candidates with exceptional artistic talent may be eligible for ‘special admission’.

Knowledge + Abilities

If you choose to specialise in Creative Practice, you should be able to compose, perform, or improvise, or to curate music events, while taking into account the main trends in current composition and music creation. You are someone who relies on your own experiences to put your artistic ideas into practice.

Suitable for:

  • Composers
  • Vocal and instrumental musicians
  • Electronic music artists
  • Authors of sound installations
  • Improvisation artists
  • Persons from related fields (e.g. stage production, acting) who wish to educate themselves in the field of music creation

If you choose the core subject Contemporary Jazz, you must have solid knowledge of the use of the different instruments in jazz and related fields as well as good instrumental skills and the ability to develop a project. You should also be familiar with the musical techniques used in contemporary jazz, arrangement and sound technology.

Language skills

Instruction takes place in French, German and English. In principle, students should have basic knowledge of the other language spoken in the canton. However, this is not a fundamental requirement, as English can act as a bridge language. The lecturers are generally proficient in several languages and have good skills in the “partner languages”. Papers are generally written in German, French or English.

Applying from abroad

Foreign nationals require valid travel documents recognised by the Swiss government. A visa is often required. Exchange students must also apply for a residency permit and purchase health insurance before their studies begin. Please research your specific entry requirements carefully.

Places are awarded at the university on the basis of an artistic aptitude test. This test can be conducted in German, French or English.

Aptitude test for the specialisation in “Creative Practice”

For composers:

  • One- to two-page application letter
  • Submission of three works, if possible with documentation, on DVD/CD
  • A prepared work, the subject of which will be announced to the applicants at the latest two weeks before the interview
  • Personal interview lasting 30 minutes

For performers:

  • One- to two-page application letter
  • Performance of two or three works from the contemporary repertoire on the instrument of choice (approx. 20 minutes)
  • Personal interview (20 minutes)

Aptitude test for the specialisation in “Contemporary Jazz”

Submission of an application dossier with the following documents:

  • At least three personal compositions and/or arrangements (lead sheets/scores) for different formations as well as a recording of the pieces (on CD)
  • A list of the theory, arrangement and composition courses completed during the bachelor’s programme, including the corresponding course descriptions (descriptions only necessary for external applicants)
  • A short explanation (approx. one page) of the applicant’s professional goals and expectations (application letter)

Candidates will be invited to an interview (50 minutes) to discuss the following aspects:

  • The application dossier
  • The prepared work (composition or arrangement), the subject of which will be announced to the applicants at the latest two weeks before the interview
  • The works presented during the interview (score and recordings), on which the candidate is required to comment

Qualification + Career prospects

With a Master of Arts in Music Composition, you will be fully capable of pursuing a professional career as a musician and composer.

Title + Degree

After successfully completing your studies you will be awarded the title Master of Arts in Music Composition / Creative Practice or Master of Arts in Music Composition / Contemporary Jazz.

Career prospects

Depending on your chosen area of specialisation and personal profile, you will be able to work as a freelance composer, a performer specialising in composition and contemporary music, an arranger, or a festival curator.

Practicalities + Application

Please note the dates and deadlines below, plus the documentation and information required.

Start date: 14 September 2020
Application deadline: 16 March 2020
Dates for aptitude test: April 2019 (Creative Practice) / 13 April 2020 (Contemporary Jazz)

The following fees are charged for degree programmes and examinations at HKB:

Application (per application) and aptitude assessment*  

CHF 250


CHF 100

Tuition fees (per semester) 

CHF 750

Tuition fees for overseas students*** (per semester)

CHF 950

Examination fee (per semester)  

CHF 80

Fee for social, cultural and sport offerings (per semester)  

CHF 24

Membership fee for the Bern University of Applied Sciences Student Association (VSBFH) (per semester)

CHF 15

Leave of absence fee (per semester) 

CHF 100

* plus CHF 10 processing fee if paying by deposit slip / paper invoice
** If the application leads to matriculation, the matriculation fee is covered by the application fee.
*** ‘Overseas students’ refers to all citizens of foreign countries who were not official residents of Switzerland or Liechtenstein at the time they were admitted to the university programme.

There is also a fixed fee for materials whose amount depends on the degree programme as well as additional costs for teaching materials, specialist literature, supplies, etc.

The application fee can be paid by credit card during the online application process. Alternatively, applicants can pay the fee by deposit slip / paper invoice within 10 days. In this case, a processing fee of CHF 10 will be charged. There are no waivers or refunds for withdrawn or abandoned applications.

The application is processed after payment has been received.

Auditing a course

CHF 150 per course and semester, covering one weekly lecture hour. Only passive participation in classroom instruction is possible (selected lectures and seminars, no individual instruction).

Financial aid is available through grants and loans. Grants are one-off or ongoing payments that don’t usually have to be paid back provided you complete your course. Loans are one-off or ongoing payments that must be paid back after you finish your course.

Cantonal grants

Grants and loans for Swiss students and overseas students are generally paid out by the canton where the students’ parents are tax residents.

Students who have been tax residents in the Canton of Bern for at least two years are able to apply for cantonal grants and loans. Applications should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office at the Department of Education.

Further information (incl. financial aid calculator):

The websites ausbildungsbeiträ, and European Funding Guide cover all the key information about grants in Switzerland and overseas.

The City of Bern also offers students support under certain circumstances. For more information, see the City of Bern website.

Foundations and funds

There are also numerous private foundations and funds that offer financial support to students. The electronic foundation directory administered by the Federal Department of Home Affairs offers a comprehensive summary of these organisations and can be searched by keywords (e.g. student, research, financial aid, etc.). Other sources include the foundation directories for individual cantons and private foundations.

HKB-Fund for the Payment of the Tuition Fees

Many HKB students live in precarious financial circumstances. The opportunities to earn money while undertaking demanding and time-consuming studies are limited. And the cost of living in Switzerland is one of the highest in all of Europe. A doctor’s bill, a healthy diet, and paying the rent or semester and examination fees can become pressing problems. The HKB scholarship fund provides targeted support in such cases. If you are a student at HKB and require the assistance or advice of the scholarship fund, please complete the corresponding application form and submit it to the secretary’s office of your degree programme. The deadline for applications for a semester fee waiver is 15 May to 15 June (for the following autumn semester), or 15 November to 15 December (for the following spring semester).

The following foundations offer funding specifically to BFH students and students from other universities:


If you have any questions regarding scholarships and loans please contact Ramona Picenoni.

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we promote balance between study, work and family.

A limited number of nursery places are available to BFH staff and students. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, the relevant documents can be found on the BFH Intranet. The fees are based on your income and are in line with the cantonal rates described in the Verordnung über die Angebote der sozialen Integration (Decree on Social Integration Offer ASIV) issued by the Canton of Bern. You can apply for a nursery place using the online form on the BFH Intranet. If you’re a new student or member of staff and don’t have access to the Intranet, please contact Corinne Badertscher (Tel. +41 (0)31 848 33 01, There is no legal entitlement to a nursery place.

Swiss students have to complete compulsory service while studying too. Make sure you start planning and coordinating your studies and compulsory service early.

We strongly encourage you to complete basic military training and your first block of civilian service before starting your studies. If you complete these activities during your studies, you may miss classes. As a result, the duration of your programme may increase.

General information on recruitment and civil service


You can get help with coordinating your studies and your compulsory service from HKB's Student Administration (+41 31 848 49 49).

Would you like to take a course at Bern University of the Arts? Then apply now. By applying online, you’ll be kept up-to-date at every stage of the process.

Online Application

You should have the following documents available in electronic form (passport photo: JPG / remaining documents: PDF). No document should exceed 1 MB. 

  • ID card or passport
  • Passport photo
  • A diploma qualifying you for university studies (such as A-Levels, Matura from a Gymnasium, "Berufsmaturität", "Fachmaturität", Abitur)
  • A CV in tabular form
  • A personal statement about your motivation for these studies and for your professional aspirations

For foreigners, in addition:

  • Residence permit (if available)

If you were already matriculated at another university:

  • A confirmation of your exmatriculation
  • Transcript of records of current and/or terminated studies

If you do not yet have one or more of the required documents, please state why in the Comments section. 


Additional documents to be submitted:

  • All applicants must submit the additional documents listed under “Admission procedure”.
  • Students who did not do their bachelor’s degree at HKB or Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) are asked to submit a dossier of their previous work with their application. This additional dossier can be sent separately by email or post to the address below.

Submission deadline: 15 March 2019

Address for “Creative Practice”:

Hochschule der Künste Bern
Papiermühlestrasse 13a
CH-3000 Bern 22

Address for “Contemporary Jazz”:

Hochschule der Künste Bern
Studienbereich Jazz
Eigerplatz 5a
Postfach 379
CH-3000 Bern 14


At HKB, you can expect an open mindset and a friendly, informal atmosphere. Come and see us.

Student advisory service

If you have any questions regarding your studies, please contact the administration office for the degree programme or our Head of Studies Xavier Dayer.

Info events

No info events are scheduled at this time.

Locations + Facilities

The Music Division at HKB has cutting-edge facilities at its disposal at various locations, including 60 practice rooms, 80 teaching rooms, auditoria of various sizes, an outstanding music library, a recording studio, research facilities and instrument hire. Students can reserve many of the rooms online. We operate an open door policy.