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 freshman to doctoral students.
Individual composition tutorials (one hour per week) provide the core of the program. In addition, faculty and students interact continuously in other settings, including master classes, discussions, and presentations in the weekly Composition Symposium, the Composers Forum concerts, and collaborative projects such as the Benson Forum for Creativity. The faculty is thus able to constantly analyze and evaluate each student’s creative development as she or he negotiates the program.
A crucial component in the education of a composer is to hear his/her work performed. Composition students at Eastman have many opportunities to hear their works presented in a variety of performance settings. There are many built-in opportunities in the program, such as the Composers Forum, Composers Sinfonietta, Orchestral, Wind Ensemble, and choral readings, as well as vast possibilities afforded by the intense concert life of the school, including concerts sponsored by the student-run new-music organization Ossia, student recitals, school ensemble concerts, and much more. Thanks to this wealth of performance resources, students are able to pursue those compositional projects that best meet their individual developmental needs, and thus take control of their artistic path and growth.
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 Center (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.
Ancillary to writing music and arranging for the performance of compositions, the program places emphasis on the ability of a composer to communicate effectively in speech and writing to his or her audience on both professional and academic occasions. Students are therefore encouraged to take a variety of courses in music theory, history and criticism.
The Department is also dedicated to teaching non-majors to compose contemporary concert music. Eastman and the University of Rochester students who take the course Composition for Non-Majors are assigned to a private teacher for a half-hour tutorial every week. A variety of departmental courses are also available to non-majors. For information about departmental course offerings, visit: https://www.esm.rochester.edu/registrar/courses/