Music Theory

Current Students

MA/PhD in Theory

Kiyomi Kimura Andoh

Michael BlankenshipMichael Blankenship is a Sproull Fellow in his ninth and final year as a Ph.D. student in Music Theory. Before coming to Rochester, he received his B.A. with honors in music from Grinnell College in 2010, and spent the remainder of the year in beautiful Grinnell, Iowa, studying the early music of Penderecki as Grinnell’s Ninth Semester Music Fellow. His dissertation “/Hɪp-Hop Hɛd/: How to Hear the Music of Emcees” extends and refines our understanding of the musical contributions of word sounds in American rap music through a musical theory of phonology, as well as studying various structural relationships, common practices, and intersections of music and meaning in that repertoire. His other research interests focus on form, song writing, and harmony in American pop/rock music since 1950, as well as art song and choral music since Beethoven. Beyond his academic interests, Michael is an avid culinarian and homebrewer, political junkie, and a rabid supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Christian Birkness is a third-year Ph.D. student in music theory. He holds a BM in music theory from Eastman (2018), where he graduated with highest distinction and was elected to the Pi Kappa Lambda musical honors society, and an MA in music theory, also from Eastman (2020). His current research focuses on adapting historical diminution and counterpoint practices to the contemporary classroom.

Christian was a tubist in the studio of Don Harry during his undergraduate studies, and remains a frequent collaborator with Tuba Mirum, Eastman’s Euphonium and Tuba ensemble. 

Christian is also an avid student of the humanities, especially the German language and German poetry. He is a recipient of the 2018 Anne T. Cummins Prize for distinguished work in the humanities during his time as an undergraduate at Eastman.

Matt Chiu

Matt Chiu (he/him) is a third-year Ph.D. Student in Music Theory. Prior to his enrollment at the Eastman School of Music, he earned a B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Connecticut (2016) and a M.M. in Music Theory from Boston University (2018). He has presented at national and international conferences concerning music from the 19th (Liszt and Brahms), 20th (Debussy, Duruflé, Prokofiev and Reich), and 21st (Math Rock bands and Saariaho) centuries. His research methods are primarily computational, but he has also presented on interpretation, semiotics, and psychoanalysis. His current recent interests concern natural language processing methods such as word2vec and LSTM models.

He currently serves as one of Intégral’s co-editors.

Outside of theory, Matt has enjoyed opportunities as a church organist, musical director, bar pianist, and circus accompanist/arranger. He lives happily with his (piano) four hands partner (and partner) Eron, and their 2 cats.

mchiu9 @

Richard DesinordRichard Desinord is a third-year PhD student from Washington, D.C. He earned a BM in music education from Howard University and an MA in music theory from Penn State University.  His research interests include harmony in neo-soul and contemporary gospel, the music of Robert Glasper, pedagogy, and the visualization of music theory. One of his personal and professional goals is to make music theory more accessible to and inclusive of people of color. Richard is a contributor to the upcoming Cambridge Stravinsky Encyclopedia. He enjoys smiling in his spare time.


Trevor Haughton 

DAVID HIERDAVID HIER (b. 1991) was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, where he studied piano with Bella Asmarian and composition with Larysa Kuzmenko. Hier attended McGill University and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition, studying under Jean Lesage and Christoph Neidhöfer. He is a PhD theory candidate at the Eastman School of Music, where he studies under Henry Klumpenhouwer and Zachary Bernstein, and will begin as an adjunct professor of theory at William Paterson University in the fall of 2020. His dissertation centers on harmony and phrase structure in the atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg.

Hier’s music has been played in Canada and the United States by ensembles including the Lincoln Trio, the Transmission Ensemble, and the Tetra String Quartet. His Song of the Night for piano trio (2012) placed second in the Sejong Composition Competition. A set of orchestral songs is set to be premiered under conductor Justin Pambianchi in the spring of 2021 in Montreal, Canada.

Hier has lectured on the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions, and Wolfgang Rihm at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute in Vienna, Austria, the European Music Analysis Conference in Strasbourg, France, and at various regional theory conferences in the US, including the Music Theory Society of New York State.

Lauren Irschick

Noah Kahrs

Noah Kahrs is a second-year Ph.D. student in Music Theory. His research focuses on tensions between compositional and perceptual approaches to music theory, particularly in post-1945 concert music. He has presented research on works by Abrahamsen, Gubaidulina, and Ligeti, as well as on chord spacing more generally, at conferences including SMT, MTSNYS, MTMW, and CogMIR. His paper “Consonance, Dissonance, and Formal Proportions in Two Works by Sofia Gubaidulina” was recently published in Music Theory Online.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Noah received his undergraduate degree from UChicago in Music and Mathematics. He received an MA in Music Composition from Eastman, and remains connected to new music as Treasurer for OSSIA New Music. He has visited every neighborhood of Chicago, and has ridden every line of the Chicago, Toronto, Portland, Pittsburgh, Paris, Berlin, and Singapore rapid transit systems.


Ethan Lustig

Ethan Lustig: Is there a science behind musical taste? Is there a model that can predict what songs a person will like or dislike? Is this possible using the tools of music theory and evidence from experiments in human perception and cognition?
I am doing my Ph.D. dissertation with David Temperley.
My research has been published in:
-Music Perception
-Psychology of Music
I have presented at:
-the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC)
-the International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC)
-the International Society for Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR)
-the Analytical Approaches to World Music (AAWM) & British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) joint meeting
I hold:
-a Doctoral Fellowship from the SSHRC of Canada
-a Sproull Fellowship from the University of Rochester
I have taught: 
-first-year written theory (TH101/102)
-sophomore written theory (TH201/202)
-first-year aural skills (TH161/162)
-sophomore aural skills (TH261/262)

Morgan MarkelMorgan Markel is a third-year Ph.D. student in music theory.  She holds a B.M. in music theory from Northwestern University (2015) and a M.M. in music theory from UMass Amherst (2017). Her research interests include Schenkerian analysis and form and meaning in popular music, particularly in the works of Golden Age musical theater composers. She has presented her research at the New England Conference of Music Theorists, Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, and Mannes Graduate Student Conference. In addition, she is the co-author of a report in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy. Currently, she is the organist and choir director at Pultneyville Reformed Church in Williamson, NY. Outside of the classroom, Morgan enjoys hiking, skiing, and watching football on the weekends. 

Braden MaxwellBraden Maxwell ( is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in music theory. He holds B.M. and M.A. degrees in music theory from the Eastman School of Music and  B.A. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester. Braden studied piano at Eastman with Tony Caramia, and previously with Lisa Simon. Braden’s current research projects include investigation of the role of the midbrain (inferior colliculus) in processing musical stimuli. He is also interested in various approaches to the music of Maurice Ravel. Braden has presented at meetings of the Music Theory Society of New York State (MTSNYS), the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC) and the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO). He currently works for the Carney Lab and as a teaching assistant for aural musicianship classes at Eastman, where he is particularly interested in helping students overcome individual cognitive obstacles to dictation and transcription.

Elaina McKie

Molly MurdockMolly Murdock is a second-year music theory Ph.D. student.  She holds degrees from Michigan State University, University of Virginia, University of Central Florida cum laude and a conducting diploma from the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy in Hungary.  In 2016, Molly received Eastman’s Annual Teaching Assistant Prize.

Molly’s primary research is 20th-century Hungarian composers, Erzsébet Syőnyi and Béla Bartók. She has presented her research for the International Kodály Society and is preparing an English edition of Bartók’s Twenty-Seven Choruses for Women and Children. 

Molly created and runs, a database of compositions by women. At Michigan State University, she created the Women in Music Lecture Series, an ongoing project to showcase extraordinary musical women.

She spent many years in the Washington, D.C. area as a choral director in Fairfax County Public Schools and is the Founding Music Director of Riverbend Opera.

Aside from music, Molly volunteers at the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, trains in jiu-jitsu, and is a part-time political activist.

Derek J. Myler

Derek J. Myler ( is a second-year Ph.D. student in Music Theory. He holds the B.M. in Vocal Performance from Weber State University (2015) and the M.M. in Music Theory from the University of Utah (2018). As a primary research area, Derek is interested in the music of Charles Ives, particularly in his polytonal and polymetric procedures, and the vantage points offered by cognitive science, phenomenology, and philosophy of time for understanding these techniques. Recently, Derek has also applied his familiarity with Polish-language scholarship and literature to questions of style and aesthetics in a corpus of works by Polish composers active in the first half of the nineteenth century. 

Before coming to Eastman, Derek taught music theory at the University of Utah as an associate instructor and served on the music theory faculty of the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City. Derek also enjoyed many years in Utah working as a music director for community theatres, as a collaborative pianist with area ensembles, and as a piano tuner and technician.

Outside of music, Derek enjoys kayaking, running, bread baking, and spending time with his wife Shelby and their unfailingly entertaining three-year-old Zoë.

LukasLukas is a first-year Ph.D. student in Music Theory. He earned an M.A. in Music Theory and M.M. in Choral Conducting from the University of Minnesota and a B.A./B.S. in Music and Mathematics from the University of Puget Sound. He has worked as a full-time church organist and choir director and served as the artistic director of the Minnesota Center Chorale. Prior to coming to Eastman, Lukas taught music theory as an adjunct at Minnesota.

His interests include tonality outside the Common Practice (from early music to the present), history of theory, the music of Maurice Duruflé, and music cognition and pedagogy. His master’s thesis studied polystylism in the choral music of Anton Bruckner which he presented at the 2017 South-Central SMT Conference.

In his spare time, Lukas enjoys being outdoors—skiing, hiking, biking, and camping. 

Alissandra (Lissa) ReedAlissandra (Lissa) Reed (she/her) is a PhD candidate and Provost’s Fellow in music theory (MA music theory, Ohio State University; BM music theory, Florida State University). A music cognition researcher, Lissa has presented studies at regional and national conferences on cognitive connections between music and language and on perception of emotion in instrumental music. She has been an invited speaker on antiracism and decolonization in music studies at regional, national, and international conferences and workshops. Her dissertation works toward an antiracist, feminist, and anticolonial music theory toolbox that employs psychoacoustic and perceptual principles to analyze music as sound, regardless of style or genre.

Lissa is dedicated to breaking down systems of racism, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism. She serves as co-chair of Project Spectrum (, a coalition dedicated to equity, inclusion, and justice for marginalized people in music academia. Lissa was also a co-founder of Eastman’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Student-Faculty Alliance (DEIASFA) in 2018, organized a panel on intersectionality at Eastman’s inaugural Gender Equity in Music conference in 2020, and sits on the Eastman Theory Committee on Equity and Inclusion. Lissa is a proud dog mom, human aunt, string player, singer, songwriter, and novice producer.

Sam Reenan

Sam Reenan was appointed Lecturer in Music at Hamilton College for the Fall 2020 semester. He is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory at the Eastman School of Music, and he holds the M.A. in music theory from Eastman and the B.M. in music theory and the B.S. in biological sciences from the University of Connecticut. A recipient of Eastman’s 2017–18 TA Prize for Excellence in Teaching, he has taught throughout the Eastman curriculum and served as supervisor for Sophomore Aural Musicianship. In summer 2020, he cofounded the Composers of Color Resource Project, which aims to crowdsource teaching materials to diversify the music we analyze in the theory classroom. Sam is co-author of articles in Music Theory Online (2016) and the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy (forthcoming). His dissertation focuses on issues of genre, large-scale form, and narrative in early modernist Germanic works described as “maximalist.” He has presented research on a range of topics including theoretical approaches to hybrid form in Mahler’s late symphonies, Theodor W. Adorno’s analytical aesthetics, television and radio commercial jingles, pitch structure in Henri Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit, and graduate instructor peer observation. His 2020 presentation at the Music Theory Southeast conference was awarded the Irna Priore Prize for Graduate Student Research. Please feel free to contact Sam at

Eron F. S.

Eron [iɹən] F. S. (she/her/hers) is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, a Sproull Fellow, and an enthusiast of music theory. Originally from Decatur, Georgia, she earned her B.A. in music from Pomona College (2016) and her M.A. in music theory from Eastman (2019). Her dissertation, currently under construction, is about form and tonal voice-leading in Classical concertos, using this genre to argue for softer formal and Schenkerian hierarchies (as a small step toward antiracism in these subfields). 

When not writing dissertations, Eron likes researching mainstream 21st-century pop music. In 2020, she presented on “Hot Flat 2” (MTSE, MTMW, MTSNYS), “prosodic dissonance,” or conflict between prosodic and metric/phenomenal accent structures (IU Grad Symposium, SCSMT), and musical transcription as a spectrum of translation (MTSMA, EuroMAC 2021). She is currently working on a scale degree system for labeling and teaching double-tonic pop songs. 

Eron believes in compassionately smashing the kyriarchy as an everyday pursuit. If you sneak up on her, you may catch her being a pianist or songwriter. Her new pandemic skills include crochet, fixing appliances, basic HTML, and very basic Russian. Her other loves include cruising in her ’05 Miata, international travel (), terrible dystopian fiction, her incredible friends and family, the best cats (Orizaba and Sierra), and her life partner (cf. Chiu, above). 

Contact info:

Ivan Tan 

Joseph VanderStelJoseph VanderStel, a PhD candidate in music theory, is writing a dissertation on syncopation in 20th-century American popular music.

Stephanie Venturino

Stephanie Venturino is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in music theory at the Eastman School of Music, where she also received an M.A. in music theory and a B.M. in music theory and saxophone performance. Her research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century French music, harmonic dualism, melodic arabesque, and online/hybrid aural skills and music theory instruction in K-12 and university contexts. She has presented her work at the annual meetings of the New England Conference of Music Theorists, Music Theory Southeast, the South-Central Society for Music Theory, the Music Theory Society of New York State, and the Society for Music Theory, as well as at Debussy Perspectives: 1918–2018 and Music and the Moving Image Conference XVI. Her single- and co-authored essays are forthcoming in Debussy Studies 2 (Cambridge University Press) and Arabesque without End: Across Music and the Arts (Routledge). A dynamic and innovative teacher, Stephanie has received the University of Rochester’s Educational IT Innovation Grant, Eastman’s TA Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and the Eastman Community Music School’s Jack L. Frank Award for Excellence in Teaching.

In addition to her academic work, Stephanie has extensive ensemble, chamber, and solo experience as a classical saxophonist. She has frequently played with the Eastman Saxophone Project, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Wind Orchestra, and Musica Nova; she has also garnered top prizes in numerous local, regional, and national solo and chamber music competitions. Stephanie made her solo debut at the age of 16 with the Penfield Symphony Orchestra, and she has played at prestigious venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.) and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing, China). Her primary teachers have included Douglas O’Connor and Chien-Kwan Lin. 

Feel free to email Stephanie at

Julianna WillsonJulianna Willson is a first year Ph.D. student in music theory. She holds a B.M. from the University of Memphis in piano performance. During her undergraduate, she was a finalist in the University of Memphis Soloists Competition in 2016 and also received the Dean’s Outstanding Academic Achievement Award at the end of her senior year. Her current research interests include intertextuality and meaning within 19th century music and particularly within the music of Felix Mendelssohn and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. Julianna has presented her research on Felix Mendelssohn’s allusions to Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata as a lightening talk at the South Central Society for Music Theory (2019). 


Contact info:

Lauren WilsonLauren Wilson ( is in her fourth year of the theory Ph.D. program at Eastman and currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a first-year J.D. student at the University of Michigan Law School. Lauren’s dissertation aims to analyze the current role of music theory in music copyright litigation and to develop a framework for using music theory in court that leads to just, consistent legal outcomes. She hopes to pursue a career in intellectual property defense. Previous research has focused on contemporary multimedia works, particularly sound installations and electroacoustic guitar music. Lauren has presented research on guitar music at the 21st Century Guitar conference in Ottawa, the CUNY Symposium in Music Research, and Music Theory Midwest. She holds an M.M. degree in music theory from Indiana University and a B.M. in guitar performance at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Lauren finds it particularly exciting to study music that she can also play, and has enjoyed remaining an active guitarist in the process.

In addition to music theory and the law, Lauren loves outdoor activities including
running, rock climbing, and traveling. She also enjoys reading poetry, listening to heavy
metal, petting her cat Florence, and taking up every opportunity to talk about the music
of Steven Wilson (no relation).

MA in the Pedagogy of Music Theory


BM in Theory

Nathan McKinstry is an undergraduate student in their third year studying trumpet performance and music theory. They originally come from Central Pennsylvania, where their interests in music and it’s theory began. 

Angeni Wang

Angeni Wang is in her senior year as an undergraduate music theory major and also a piano performance major in the studio of Alan Chow. She recently won First Prize in the Duo Piano division at the 2020 MTNA National Finals was also a finalist in the 2018 New York International Piano Competition. Angeni is currently writing her senior thesis under the supervision of Jonathan Dunsby.