Rodney Lister, Composition Department Chair

The composition department offers students a variety of ways to explore their interests in music composition. For students who think of themselves primarily as performers, but would like a taste of what writing music is like, we offer a Composition for Performers class. The seminar for young composers is for young students (6 and older) who would like to learn both about making pieces and how to write them down. For older students as well as younger students with more experience or a more pronounced serious interest, there is the composition seminar, which includes students over a large age range, and, following a older sibling/younger sibling model, develops the student's ability to think about composition in cooperation with their peers in a very serious ways. None of these classes have a theory prerequisite; all of them aim to meet the student at the student's level of interest and expertise and move from there. We seek to develop a community of composers. Private instruction is also available for students who desire more individual attention.

Private Lessons

Private lessons of 30, 45, and 60 minutes are offered for Composition. Prospective composition students must set up an audition or placement interview with Rodney Lister, Department Chair, who will advise each student personally regarding an appropriate studio teacher placement. For more information on the benefits of taking private lessons here at NEC, please see our private instruction page

For information on teacher placement interviews and scheduling, click here.

Young Composer's Seminar

Ginny Latts, Instructor

Music theory comes to life in this class as students develop creativity, explore repertoire, and create their own pieces through improvisational and compositional techniques.

Eligibility: Students should be studying an instrument, which they should be able to perform with basic skill and note-reading, and have completed the equivalent of the Musicianship Class or Theory I-1. This class is intended for ages 8 - 14.

Level I section, 1-2pm
Level II section, 2-3pm

Student placement is based on a combination of age, ability, theory background and experience. For questions about placement, please contact the instructor.

Composition Seminar

Rodney Lister, Instructor

This class gives students the opportunity to develop technique in original composition. Compositions are performed and discussed in class. Performances are arranged at workshops and student composition recitals.

Saturday, 10-11am

Composition for Performers

Larry Bell, Instructor

A course designed to introduce the basic techniques of composition to performing musicians. Composition will be directed and motivated by a series of highly focused exercises. Each exercise grows out of the nature of the materials of music in relation to instrumental or vocal idioms. Students will perform their works in class four times each semester. A prerequisite for the class is the successful completion of Theory Level II or the permission of the instructor.

Saturdays, 9-10am

Text: Bell, Larry; A Workbook for Composition.

Special Performance Opportunities

Today’s Youth Perform Today’s Music

Annual Festival of Contemporary Music

Faculty members Rodney Lister and John Ziarko founded the annual Preparatory School Contemporary Festival in 1991, to give students and faculty the opportunity to study the performance skills needed for contemporary music. Featured composers work closely with students in workshops, seminars, and coachings. In the recent past, there has been a surge of interest among Preparatory School students to study composition, and perform their own pieces and the pieces of their friends. This has become an integral part of the festival.

Artists in Residence have included Rolfe Schulte, Robert Helps, Milton Babbitt, Joel Smirnoff, Michael Finnissy, Judith Weir, Alvin Singleton, Donald Martino, Martin Bresnick, Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, Yehudi Wyner, Chen Yi, Ethel String Quartet, Michael Gandolfi, Lee Hyla, Malcolm Peyton, Nico Muhly, Sebastian Currier, and William Bolcom.

Composer-Performer-Repertory Ensemble

Howie Frazin, Instructor

All CPR performers are also composers, and they come together as an ensemble to write music for each other, work-shopped and developed weekly throughout the year, and to study and play chamber music from the repertoire. In its inaugural year (2011-12) CPR presented concerts, workshops and moderated audience discussions at numerous festivals and venues, including the Rockport Music Festival, the Rivers School Conservatory Seminar on Contemporary Music, the Roxbury Latin School, Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center Arts Festival, and NEC Prep’s New Music Festival. CPR, with its actively engaged creative process involving composer-performers working together to develop their individual voices, seeks to put the heart back into classical music.

Time: TBA