Rodney Lister, Composition Department Chair

Faculty Directory: Composition

The Composition Department offers students a variety of ways to explore their interests in music composition. Elements of Composition and the Young Composers’ Seminar are classes for younger students who want to learn about making pieces and how to write them down. For older students, as well as younger students with more experience, there is the Composition Seminar, which includes students from a large age range, develops the student's ability to think about composition in cooperation with their peers in serious ways, and creates a community of composers.

Composition classes do not have a music theory prerequisite; all of them aim to meet the student at their level of interest and expertise and move from there. Private instruction is also available for students looking for more individual attention, and student composers interested in an organized, developed curriculum can participate in the Certificate Program.

Private Lessons

Private lessons of 30, 45, and 60 minutes are offered for composition. Prospective composition students should set up a placement with Rodney Lister, Department Chair, who will advise each student regarding an appropriate studio teacher placement and path of study. Private lessons can begin at any time during the school year.  Please email for more information.


Young Composers' Seminar

Ginny Latts, Instructor

Music theory comes to life as students explore and analyze varied musical repertoire and create their own pieces through compositional and improvisational techniques. Students will create solo and group pieces and explore and discuss ideas in class. Expect some listening and composition homework assignments. Composition performance opportunities are provided.

Eligibility: Students should be studying an instrument and be able to perform with basic technical and note-reading skill and have at least completed the equivalent of Eurhythmics or Music Theory I-1. This class is intended for students ages 9 and up. The course may be repeated. Instructor permission required for placement.

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 of student compositions are arranged at workshops and student composition recitals.

Intro to Composing with Electronics

Aaron Smith, Instructor

This class introduces students to relevant concepts of acoustic and electronic music processes, in order to build knowledge on the use of new technologies in music and enrich their compositional vocabulary and aesthetics. Students will use computers, recording equipment, digital editing software, and sound analysis software. We will develop basic skills in synthesis, sampling, digital recording and mastering. All the tools acquired through the course will be employed towards realizing individual creative work. The course will provide the student with salient compositional concepts applicable both to the acoustic and electronic medium. The student will be exposed to the relevant repertoire of compositions from the traditions of musique concrete, acousmatic, mixed and live-electronic music. We will work to develop vocabulary and strategies for discussing and analyzing these repertoires. Everyone will be encouraged to do both theoretical and creative work, and all students will gain hands-on experience working with the equipment.

Contemporary Music Festival

Today’s Youth Perform Today’s Music

February 2023 Dates TBD

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 guest composers work closely with students in workshops, seminars, and coachings. An integral part of the festival are the students who study composition and perform their own pieces and the pieces of their friends.

Artists in Residence have included Judd Greenstein, Philip Grange, 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, William Bolcom, Missy Mazzoli and Ralph Farris.