For six decades, the UB Department of Music has enjoyed a unique reputation for dedication to the highest level of contemporary musical creation. Home to the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st-Century Music – a UB 2020 designated Center of Excellence – Composition flourishes today by providing a wide range of world-class musical and intellectual experiences.
Graduate: MA in Composition, PhD in Composition, Combined MA/PhD in Composition.
Undergraduate students interested in Composition are encouraged to pursue a BA in Music and adopt Composition as their advisement track.
Our program offers students the space to mature and evolve. In an atmosphere that encourages musical and technological experimentation, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and the development of authentic creative character, graduate composers at UB take advantage of a wide range of resources and opportunities:
- A faculty of internationally-recognized composers, also featuring regularly scheduled guest composers and world-class performers and ensembles offering distinct and complementary approaches to composition study – works by UB students are regularly performed by world-class ensembles in residence.
- Diverse course offerings in music theory, musicology and twentieth-century music, as well as study in select areas of music performance; opportunity to create an individualized course of study through petition, focused upon a students’ unique interests
- A series of guest lectures and seminars by visiting composers, performers, ensembles and scholars; students’ works are discussed extensively in workshop and masterclass settings
- The Computer Music Studios are facilities which focus on the techniques and composition of pieces for musicians using interactive real-time digital signal processing systems
- A music library possessing an exceptionally fine collection of contemporary scores and recordings, including the Archive of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts
We showcase student compositions in a variety of venues, made possible through the Birge-Cary Chair in Music, the Center for 21st Century Music, and private donors:
- The June in Buffalo festival and conference, a leading international forum for the presentation and exchange of contemporary music and musical ideas directed by David Felder from 1985 through the present.
- Several special series of recitals and concerts spotlighting a range of visiting contemporary music soloists and ensembles, featuring works by UB graduate students
- The Music Department's wide gamut of in-house performance resources, including student and faculty performers, student ensembles, and faculty ensembles-in-residence
Our diverse and dynamic graduate student body features composers, theorists, musicologists and performers from six continents who boast an extensive list of awards and accomplishments. The students and recent alumni of the Composition department have had works performed by some of the most well-known contemporary music specialists in the US and abroad; to name but a few:
Our illustrious recent alumni include:
- Aaron Cassidy is an American composer and conductor based in England since 2007. His work has been programmed by leading international contemporary music specialists including ELISION, Ensemble SurPlus, EXAUDI, Musikfabrik, ensemble recherche, Talea Ensemble, the JACK quartet, and soloists including Garth Knox, Ian Pace, Carl Rosman, Peter Veale, Ryan Muncy, at major international festivals and venues including Donaueschingen, Huddersfield, Darmstadt, Gaudeamus, Bludenz, Bendigo (BIFEM), Tage für Neue Musik Zürich, June In Buffalo, and Monday Evening Concerts. Cassidy joined the staff of the University of Huddersfield in 2007 and currently serves as Professor of Composition and Director of the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM).
- Evan Johnson (b. 1980) is an American composer whose works are being commissioned and programmed with increasing frequency by prominent soloists and ensembles throughout the USA, Europe, and beyond, including at several prominent European festivals. The recipient of numerous prizes, awards and fellowships, Johnson received his doctorate at SUNY Buffalo under David Felder after undergraduate work at Yale University. His music emphasizes issues of temporal form, proportion and repetition, while also creating performative situations in which the physical, human aspects of musical performance are subtly paramount.
- Amy Williams was born in Buffalo, NY in 1969, the daughter of Diane, now retired violist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jan, percussionist and Professor Emeritus at the University at Buffalo. She started playing the piano at the age of four and took up the flute a few years later (her first teacher was the legendary Robert Dick, so she could soon play “Chopsticks” in multiphonics…). She grew up in the heyday of the Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, hearing all the latest contemporary music and meeting composers who would later become influential to her: John Cage, Morton Feldman, Lukas Foss, Elliott Carter and many others. She went to Bennington College and, while there, decided to devote her life to performing and composing contemporary music. After a fellowship year in Denmark, she returned to Buffalo to complete her Master’s degree in piano performance at the University at Buffalo with pianist-composer Yvar Mikhashoff and her Ph.D. in composition, working primarily with David Felder. She returned to Bennington in 1998 as a member of the music faculty and she then moved on to a faculty position at Northwestern University in 2000. Since 2005, she has been teaching composition and theory at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is an Associate Professor.
- Derek Charke is a JUNO and four-time ECMA award-winning composer and flutist. He has had various high profile commissions and performances, including several by Canada’s major symphony orchestras, Duo Turgeon, Cheng2 Duo, Land’s End Ensemble, WIRED!, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, the Kronos Quartet, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, as well as an impressive list of other performers and organizations. His music is eclectic, often defying categorization due to wide-ranging influences. Described as minimalist and post-minimal, modernist, inventive, rich textured, full of colour, and imbued with drama and rhythmic vitality, his compositions often incorporate tonality and/or modality, electronics and soundscapes, explorations of contemporary instrumental techniques, and improvisation.
- Rodney Sharman is Composer-in-Residence of Early Music Vancouver’s “New Music for Old Instruments”. He has been Composer-in-Residence of the Victoria Symphony, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as well as Composer-Host of the Calgary Philharmonic’s New Music Festival, "Hear and Now". In addition to concert music, Rodney Sharman writes music for cabaret, opera and dance. He works regularly with choreographer James Kudelka, for whom he has written scores for Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Coleman Lemieux Compagnie (Toronto). Sharman was awarded First Prize in the 1984 CBC Competition for Young Composers and the 1990 Kranichsteiner Prize in Music, Darmstadt, Germany. His score for the dance-opera From The House Of Mirth won the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding sound design/composition (choreography by James Kudelka, text by Alex Poch Goldin after Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth).
- Diana Soh, born in 1984, is a young Singaporean composer whose musical interest has always been directed at exploring performance interactivity. she is interested in writing music that includes the physical aspects of music making. her music tends to be characterised by interruptive oppositions between surface activities and passivity with a new passion for the use of electronics. her works have been performed in venues and festivals as varied as the Manifeste Festival, Acanthes Festival, Royaumont Voix Nouvelles, Musica Strasbourg, and the June in Buffalo Festival among many others. It has also been broadcasted on BBC Radio 3, Danmarks Radio, Österreichischer Rundfunk, Deutschlandfunk, and of course, France Musique.
- Robert Phillips (b. 1981) is an American chamber and electroacoustic music composer/performer whose music integrates a diverse vocabulary of sound samples, multimedia tools, and interrogative approaches to musical style. A range of microtonal and notational strategies are employed to inflect glissandi and vibrati variations within signature harmonic fields, and explore a broad, hyper-expressionist palette, across a diverse array of materials and samples from a variety of musical tropes and genres.
- Buffalo-based composer Nathan Heidelberger (b. 1987, Cortlandt Manor, NY) focuses on writing chamber and vocal music. His pieces range in character from the uncannily beautiful to the unrelentingly didactic. Recent musical preoccupations have included lists and repetition, text, distance and ephemerality, and the distortion of traditional musical objects. Nathan received his PhD, with distinction, from the University at Buffalo. He also holds undergraduate degrees in Composition and English from Oberlin College and Conservatory, where he was awarded the Walter E. Aschaffenburg Composition Prize. His primary teachers have included David Felder, Lewis Nielson, and Richard Carrick.
- Joseph Andrew Lake (b. 1979, San Francisco, California) received a B.A., Magna cum laude, in Music and Classics from Harvard University (2002), an M.F.A. in Experimental Sound Practices from the California Institute of the Arts (2004), and a PhD from the University at Buffalo in the composition studio of David Felder. In 2013 he completed a Meisterschüler in Composition with Mark Andre at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden with support of a Fulbright Scholarship (2011—2012) and DAAD Stipendium (2012—2013).
- Matt Sargent (b. 1984) is a composer, guitarist, and music technologist based in upstate New York. His work grows from interests in resonance and recursive systems, computer models of intelligence, and the making/breaking of long-form patterns. His music has been described as "a powerfully organic experience" (Paul Muller, Sequenza21) and "so simple and so natural, and yet sets up a complex set of interactions." (Jennie Gottschalk, SoundExpanse)
- Chinese composer Weijun Chen’s music has been played by renowned orchestras and chamber ensembles across the United States, including the Arditti Quartet, the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Linea, the Mivos Quartet, the Momenta Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Slee Sinfonietta, the Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, and The Rhythm Method. With a strong background in classical music and a great passion for storytelling, Weijun traverses between the worlds of concert music and media. He currently works and trains under many accomplished composers in Los Angeles, CA. Weijun received his BM in composition from the Eastman School of Music, and his PhD in composition from the University at Buffalo.
- Dr. Chikashi Miyama is a composer, video artist, interface designer, performer, and author. He received a MA (Sonology/2004) from Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo, Japan, a Nachdiplom (Komposition im Elektronischen Studio/2007) from Music academy of Basel, Switzerland, and a Ph.D (Composition/2011) from University at Buffalo, New york, USA. He has studied with Takayuki Rai, Georg Friedrich Haas, Jacob Ulmann, Erik Oña, and Cort Lippe. His compositions have received an ICMA award (2011/UK) from the International Computer Music Association, a second prize in SEAMUScommission competition (2010/St. Cloud, USA), a special prize in Destellos Competition (2009/Argentina), and a honorable mention in the Bourges Electroacoustic Music Competition (2002/France). His works and papers have been accepted by ICMC twelve times, by NIME four times, and selected by various international festivals in 18 countries, such as Mix, Re:New (Denmark), Musica Viva (Portugal), Espace sonore, dBâle, SHIFT (Switzerland), Next generation (Germany), Agora Resonance, Scrime (France), Lica-Mantis, BEAM (UK), June in Buffalo, NWEAMO, SPARK, NYCEMF, SEAMUS (USA), Sonoimágenes (Argentina), SuperCollider symposium, and Pdcon. Several works of him are included on the DVD of the Computer Music Journal Vol.28 by MIT press, and ICMC official CD/DVD(2005/2011). In 2011, he received a research grant from DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and worked as a visiting researcher at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany. He has taught computer music at University at Buffalo, USA, Music Academy Basel, and College of Arts Bern, Switzerland. Between 2015 and 2017, He worked as a research associate in the field of software development and developed Zirkonium Ver 3. He is currently teaching at College of Music and Dance, Cologne, and working as a software developer at ICST Zürich in addition to Dear Reality GmbHDüsseldorf.
- Matthew Chamberlain Matthew Chamberlain is a composer and conductor working in New Haven, Connecticut. His works have been performed by numerous ensembles in the USand Europe, including the JACK quartet, Ensemble Multilaterale, Quatuor Tana, Ensemble LINEA, and the Arditti Quartet. He has conducted numerous performances of contemporary music, including more than 50 world premieres with ensembles ranging from the Slee Sinfonietta (US) and THReNSeMBle (Hungary) to the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra. Recently, Matt attended the Fondation Royaumont’s Academie Voix Nouvelles 2017where his piece Office Park was premiered and where he was awarded a commission for a new piano solo. Matt earned a Bachelor’s degree in Composition and a Master’s in Conducting from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Josh Levine, Tim Weiss, and Raphael Jimenez. He his currently finishing a PhD in composition at SUNY Buffalo with David Felder.
- Nathan Kelly After interning at Walt Disney music studios in Florida after growing up in Texas, he became a pianist for over a dozen Broadway musicals in NYC. While playing rehearsals and performances, he studied orchestration with Jonathan Tunick (Sondheim), Danny Troob (Menken) and Bill Brohn (Kander/Ebb) and began working for music publishers and copyists. His first professional job was working for André Previn and later studied with Tobias Picker and Peter Schickele and began to arrange for singers and pops orchestras.
Current students continue to receive highly regarded national and international awards in composition ranging from the Druckman Prize at Aspen, through Tanglewood Fellowships, Fulbrights, residency awards at Schloss Solitude, and many others. The Composition department is regularly represented at such prestigious courses, residencies, and festivals as:
The composition faculty is comprised of internationally-recognized composers and musicians committed to preparing UB students for careers in music. The department's low student-teacher ratio ensures that students receive a high degree of individual instruction and supervision.
All visiting composers, performers, ensembles and lecturers are sponsored by the Birge-Cary Chair in Music, the Dean's Office, the UB College of Arts and Sciences, the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, the Music Department General Fund and Music Lecture Series.