Skip to main content

Graduate Studies in Music Composition

Our broad program offers depth in developing the creative musician of the future as composers, composer-performers, improvisers, and composers with special emphasis in technology. Our program aims to prepare students for professional lives as professional practicing artists and as academics.

The works of the composition faculty (Franck Bedrossian, Edmund Campion, 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 computer technologies.

The department sponsors residencies, workshops and readings with world-class ensembles such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Arditti Quartet. Through the Regent’s Lecture series and the Bloch Lecture series, we invite prominent composers for extended visits. Recent years have seen our students interacting and learning from Pulitzer Prize winning composers such as William Bolcom and Steven Stuckey, as well as international luminaries like Steve Reich, Jonathan Harvey, Philippe Leroux, Magnus Lindberg, Steve Mackey, and John Adams. Our composition faculty produces a weekly colloquium series which further exposes our students to prominent composers visiting the Bay Area. 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 through help arranging these opportunities, and attend their performances and readings with the goal of guiding the development of their professional careers. The composition faculty also assists graduate composers in fundraising for their creative projects, and graduate students are represented by the student-led Berkeley New Music Project (BNMP).

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. After the first year, the students are required to enroll every semester in private lessons. We frequently offer special seminars on topics of interest to particular faculty. The program (from MA through the completion of the PhD) usually requires about five years to complete.

We encourage our students to seek interaction and collaboration on all levels in the university. Students are encouraged to pursue inter-disciplinary studies both inside and outside the department. Many of our distinguished recent graduates have defined themselves by working closely with the ethnomusicology and history sectors of the department or through significant contact with other departments on campus. Composers have collaborated successfully with the Consortium for the Arts, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Pacific Film Archive, the Berkeley Art Museum and Cal Performances (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 and Dance.