Last updated January 01, 2015

It's easy to think of composers as dead European guys who wore frock coats and knickerbockers and wrote music for royalty. Yet music composition is alive and well. From Stephen Sondheim to Quincy Jones to Yoko Ono, composers today represent every segment of society -- including teens. And the music written is just as varied, reflecting the bounty of musical styles our world has to offer.

Composers write music -- from classical to show tunes to rock. They create written compositions, called scores, to be performed by musicians and singers. The term "composer" includes singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan.

Did You Know?

Composers used to write every note by hand, and some still do. But others use computer software designed especially for them.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Study voice or an instrument
  • Spend long hours working alone
  • Apply for funds from arts groups and other organizations to support your composing
  • Hold other jobs to support yourself
  • Work actively to get your pieces published and performed
  • Nurture relationships with others in the music world

It Helps To Be...

Eager to express your creativity through music. If you sing or play an instrument, you'll have a built-in way to test out your musical ideas. And you'll need to be resourceful and versatile in order to support yourself financially while you pursue your ultimate goal.

Make High School Count

  • Sign up for music theory and history classes.
  • Listen to lots of music -- and not just the kind you're already familiar with. Add new sounds -- from Argentine tango to Appalachian fiddling -- to your musical toolkit.
  • Read the biographies of composers.
  • Visit a website such as Young Composers where you can listen to recordings by peers, join a chat session, and submit your own compositions.
  • Take voice or instrument lessons.
  • Join a band. You can learn a great deal about composing by seeing how a group of musicians learns the score of an accomplished composer.

Did You Know?

Composers don't enter this line of work for the money, but for the love of creating music.