Composition & Theory

Composition and Music Theory

The Department of Composition and Music Theory at the Shepherd School of Music offers Bachelor’s, Masters, and DMA degree programs. Composers take a balanced mixture of analysis and craft courses in addition to their private lessons. A wide range of electives in musicology, performance, and ensembles are available, and students are encouraged to take courses in areas that interest them outside the music school. A complete list of courses and degree requirements is accessible from the Shepherd School of Music home page.

The Shepherd School is considered to be one of the finest music schools in the United States. As such, it attracts many of the brightest and most talented young performers from all over the world.The seven members of the faculty of the Department of Composition and Music Theory are all active, accomplished, and distinguished composers, and have received national and international recognition as such. Each is a dedicated teacher, and students usually study with several, changing studios annually. This gives every student exposure to diverse teaching styles, focuses, and aesthetics. The number of students is intentionally kept small, so each receives a great deal of attention from the faculty, and each has many opportunities to both participate in and contribute to the musical life of the school, the university, and Houston. Our composition graduates are among the most respected young composers in the country, and are employed at some of its finest educational institutions as well as an array of other positions within the music community.

The Shepherd School is considered to be one of the finest music schools in the United States. As such, it attracts many of the brightest and most talented young performers from all over the world. The members of our superb performance faculty encourage their students to play student compositions, which they do often on various recitals, concerts, and departmental forums. Many performers ask our composers to write pieces for their degree recitals as well as for other kinds of concerts both on campus and elsewhere. The Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra or Chamber Orchestra, which are among the finest orchestras anywhere, performs graduate thesis and dissertation works for orchestra.

The school’s award-winning recording staff professionally records almost all performances of student work in our acoustically unmatched performance venues. Beyond the Shepherd School, our students regularly compose music for local theater, dance, orchestra, vocal, and chamber groups, and enjoy frequent collaborations with local filmmakers and videographers.

The Department hosts two residencies each year, one with an eminent composer and the other with one of the country’s leading contemporary music ensembles. The composers give private lessons, master classes, and seminars. Among them have been Samuel Adler, William Bolcom, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, Krzysztof Penderecki, Shulamit Ran, Bernard Rands, George Rochberg, Augusta Read Thomas, Joan Tower, Chen Yi, and Yehudi Wyner. Steven Stucky will be in residence in November 2011. The ensemble presents a concert of music from its repertory and then reads and records student music written especially for them. The groups have included Speculum Musicae, the New York New Music Ensemble, the California EAR Unit, Relâche, and the Enso and Flux String Quartets. In March 2012, Zeitgeist will be in residence. Acclaimed instrumentalists are also frequent guests to the school and many, such as the Chiara Quartet, Daniel Druckman, Curtis Macomber, Ursula Oppens, and David Starobin, present master classes and seminars of direct interest to composers. Another important feature of the Department is Syzygy, the faculty contemporary music ensemble. It presents numerous concerts throughout the year, is dedicated to championing new and cutting-edge music, and has given well over one hundred world, U.S., and regional premieres to date. The Shepherd School also has one of the nation’s top electronic and computer music facilities, REMLabs, under the direction of Kurt Stallmann. It regularly engages in concert production, the sponsoring of colloquia, and the hosting of visiting composers and technicians. Graduate students in music theory and composition are offered tuition abatements, scholarships, and teaching assistantships as part of their financial aid packages. In particular, stipends for teaching at the doctoral level are extremely competitive nationally. For more details about the Shepherd School’s unique doctoral program, visit its website. Our graduates are not just well trained, but well rounded; not just artists but practitioners of the art and craft of music. If this is a career objective for you, then we hope you consider becoming a part of our department.