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Graduate Studies in Composition

The graduate program in Composition at UC Berkeley strives to give space to the cultural leaders of the future – composers, composer-performers, improvisers, sound artists, and composers with special emphasis in technology. We prepare students for professional lives as practicing artists and as academics. Every student in the program receives a full fellowship that includes a stipend with no teaching responsibilities in the first year, a teaching fellowship (Graduate Students Instructor) until they dissertate, and a one-year dissertation completion fellowship (if qualification exams are passed in normative time). Other funding opportunities include possible summer funding, competitive composition awards (e.g. the Ladd Prize for a composer to spend a year in Paris), and Graduate Student Researcher positions.

The works of the composition faculty (Franck Bedrossian, Edmund Campion, Carmine-Emanuele Cella, Cindy Cox, Myra Melford, and Ken Ueno) are heard regularly around the world, and their presence is deeply embedded into the cultural life of the San Francisco Bay area. Our graduate composers have regular opportunities to hear their music performed by the professional Eco Ensemble through the Berkeley New Music Project (BNMP), conducted by David Milnes. In partnership with the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) directed by Edmund Campion, students may work with innovative and unique technologies for human/computer interaction, assisted composition and orchestration, advanced real time sound transformations, instrument augmentation and much more.

The department sponsors residencies, workshops and readings with world-class ensembles such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Arditti Quartet, Sound Icon, Quatuor Tana, and Quince. Through the Bloch Lecture Series and our weekly composer colloquium, students interact with luminaries such as Kaija Saariaho, George Lewis, Du Yun, Steve Reich, Anna Clyne, Philippe Leroux, Magnus Lindberg, Steve Mackey, and Beat Furrer. Many students develop strong ties to professional new music groups and go on to have works programmed by ensembles such as the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Oakland Symphony, the Earplay Ensemble, and the Empyrean Ensemble. The composition faculty mentor and support students with the goal of guiding the development of their professional careers. Faculty help arrange professional performance and educational opportunities, attend performances and readings of students works, and enable specialized technologies for innovative projects.

In their first year of graduate study the students participate in a two-semester composition seminar where their writing is evaluated and critiqued in a supportive environment. Beyond the first year, the students are required to enroll every semester in private lessons. Faculty frequently offer special seminars on topics of interest.

The program (from MA through the completion of the PhD) normally requires a minimum of five years to complete.

We encourage our students to seek interaction and collaboration at all levels in the university. Students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary studies both inside and outside the department. Many of our distinguished recent graduates have defined themselves by working closely with the ethnomusicology and music history sectors of the department or through significant contact with other departments on campus. Composers have collaborated successfully with the Arts Research Center, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), and Cal Performances (ECO Ensemble, Tempo Festival and Edge Festival). Through CNMAT the graduate composers regularly interact and collaborate with students and faculty from the Department of Psychology, Computer Science and Engineering as well as the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.