composition & theory

ISM offers group and individual classes in theory and composition. Group lessons are offered once per week for 45 minutes. ISM’s faculty gently guides students through the basic understanding and construction of music. Whether as a supplement to certificate programs or for personal growth, all individual lessons can be custom tailored to the specific desires and aspirations of students. Music theory directly furthers a student’s ability to understand and communicate the full meaning of music. ISM theory classes teach the “language of music”, enabling students to learn and memorize faster, improve sight reading, and render informed interpretations. These classes are a fantastic addition to regular individual lessons on a given instrument. Registered ISM students will receive a discount for these invaluable classes.

Music theory builds student musicianship, and directly furthers a student’s ability to understand and communicate full musical meaning. With sufficient theory background, students learn and memorize faster, and generally sight-read better than students without theory knowledge. To develop the ability to hear and manipulate sound mentally, vital for effective musical performance, ear training is strongly emphasized in class. Well developed theory skill also forms the basis for student composition, and/or any styles of improvisation. In theory classes, students learn basic knowledge of note reading in treble and bass clefs, rhythmic values, and simple terminology. As the students progress, they are able to recognize and analyze complex harmonic and rhythmic applications in music. These classes provide the means by which students can approach any musical score or performance with intelligence, creativity and insight. Upper levels cover formal analysis, harmonic procedures, ear-training, and “inner-hearing” as students’ knowledge of music history and literature continues to broaden.

ABRSM Theory:

Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) Theory Course
Students wishing to gain competency in music theory can work towards the completion of graded theory levels of the internationally recognized ABRSM Theory Course. Instruction in the form of tutorials is available in private sessions. Students will study the required material and prepare for evaluations administered for each grade level. Students should be 8 years of age with at least 2 years playing experience to begin the ABRSM program.

Music Composition:

The purpose of studying composition is to encourage and enhance creative thinking in music. Core compositional techniques (voice leading, counterpoint, harmony) and the study of conventional musical forms are essential to a composer’s development. In addition to creating original works, composition students are taught to analyze and compose in a variety of musical styles. Formal instruction in music composition is available at all ability levels. These courses include voice leading, harmony, standard chord progression, voicing procedures, forms, and counterpoint. Completion of Music Theory Fundamentals or an equivalent understanding of music reading is required. Students will be evaluated in a mandatory trial lesson.

Song Writing:

Song writing is composition made easy! Geared towards a more informal approach to composition, students of Song Writing will master harmonic progressions, simple rules of voice leading, song forms, and arrangement of texts. Basic proficiency in music reading is strongly recommended, as is experience on a harmonic instrument (guitar, piano, banjo, etc.).

Jazz Composition:

Studies in jazz composition include understanding chord notation, deciphering lead sheets, voicing of parts for diverse ensembles, and standard jazz forms. Familiarity with keyboard instruments is strongly recommended but not required. The ability to read music and fulfillment of Intermediate Theory (or an equivalent understanding of basic theory) is a pre-requisite.

To schedule a trial lesson call 301.365.5888


  • Engaging, creative & fun lessons
  • Over 100 nurturing, experienced world-class instructors
  • Choose from classical, jazz, pop, rock, folk, etc.
  • Lessons in all instruments & voice for all ages & levels
  • Customized lessons for your individual musical goals
  • Fun performance opportunities
  • Optional Certificate preparations
  • Charting students' progress through written evaluations
  • Convenient & flexible lesson times to fit your busy schedule
  • Ability to schedule family members simultaneously
  • Free professional concert series
  • Program Coordinators available to guide you & assist you
  • Ensembles & band opportunities
  • Professional accompanist provided for students