The Eastman Composition Department is devoted to teaching students who wish to pursue a professional and/or academic career in concert and computer music composition. We have no stylistic or sectarian agendas; our goal is to help students learn to write the music that inspires and interests them.
Our programs of study equip students with a thorough knowledge of all contemporary forms of musical expression and the ability to present their personal style in each of them. In order to enable the student to explore the wide range of today’s diverse compositional styles and media, it is the policy of the the Department to rotate the faculty and students so that no student ordinarily studies with the same teacher for more than one year during a period of three years. Accordingly, each member of the faculty teaches students at all levels of experience, from first year to doctoral students.
Teaching and Activities
As part of their professional training, all graduate students are expected to teach or assist in teaching, as well as participate in departmental activities such as producing concerts and symposia, or in the Eastman Audio Research Studio (EARS). The students will be required, during each year in which they receive a graduate stipend, to teach small classes or one-on-one lessons, assist with the Composers Concerts series and productions by EARS, and/or help to maintain and supervise the studio. The department views the service requirement as integral to the degree and critical career preparation, in that it provides experience working with other musicians, teaching and concert production experience, professional development, and faculty mentoring around teaching.
Composition students have a large array of performance venues for presenting their works to the musical public. Usually three composer forum concerts (each lasting one or one and a half hours) are presented each term devoted to the performance of student works. A number of readings and performances of new student works by the Eastman Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras, the Eastman Choral, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble are mounted each year. Special ad hoc concerts, some of which are funded internally, are presented from time to time initiated by proposals from student organizations and groups such as Ossia and the annual Composer’s Sinfonietta, both strongly supported by the School and managed by students. On occasion, ensembles such as Musica Nova also perform works by students. In addition, many performance majors and faculty “commission” composition students to write works for their instruments or ensembles. Finally, the Eastman Audio Research Studio [EARS] sponsors special concerts of student works, with or without performers, at Eastman or at other venues in the city.
From its inception in 1921, Eastman School of Music has been a center for music composition and for the performance of new and recent music. Eastman faculty members and students have been internationally recognized since Howard Hanson’s advocacy of American composition in the 1930s. The department often features distinguished guests, who lecture or present master classes in the Composition Symposium.
New music is heard frequently in concert halls and alternative performance spaces throughout Rochester. Eastman’s reputation for performance excellence combined with performer enthusiasm for new music offers a great benefit to composers.
Electroacoustic Music Studios @ Eastman (EMuSE), formerly known as EARS program, was launched in 2023 and is led by Director, and Professor of Composition Dr. Mikel Kuehn ’93E (MA), ’95E (PhD) .
EMuSE builds on the strong tradition of the studio as a creative space in which technology empowers new paths of expression for compositional and performative imagination. EMuSE concerts will feature new compositions by prominent guest artists and students alongside historical works.
The Eastman Composition Department is committed to fostering an open community in which each student can clarify their expressive needs, affirm their sense of purpose, and chart their individual creative path with the support of their peers and faculty. The faculty’s approach to teaching composition is rooted in our diverse experience as practicing artists. We strive to engage each of our students in a productive discussion that will help them cultivate the cultural knowledge, musical skill, capacity for self-reflection, and creative intelligence that will enable them to take charge of their own growth and life-long learning.