Composition Faculty

Rick Applin

Professor, Composition
rapplin@berklee.edu | 617 747-8103

"Love of music is our common bond in all my classrooms. With the education majors, it's love of teaching as well. In my tonal harmony course for education majors, we role play in our third hour: I become a high school student with the rest of the class, and one of the class members teaches. I show my students that you can maintain a certain degree of informality that is nevertheless infused with a sense of respect for the institution, for the teacher, and for the classroom."

Larry Bell

Associate Professor, Composition
lbell1@berklee.edu | 617 747-6023

"One of my teachers told me that you can always get more money, but you cannot always get more time, an idea that emphasizes the importance of time management, particularly for musicians. If 80 percent of life is showing up, the other 20 percent is being on time. It is no longer true that an artist is given much latitude because of his or her talent. The aspiring composer's capacity to deliver on deadline is part and parcel of that person's ambition to succeed."

Ramon Castillo

Assistant Professor, Composition
rpcastillo@berklee.edu | 617 747-6024

"These courses are really all about learning how to account for everything you write. I think it's important for students to take the strict rules we give them and refine their music in that way during class, so that when they approach the music they want to write outside of class, they're going to have just as much control over it. When I compose music, I don't think about all the rules I was taught in my classes, but with every single note I have some awareness of why I chose that particular pitch and that particular rhythm."

Tiffany Chang

Assistant Professor, Composition
tchang2@berklee.edu | 617 747-6439

"I tell my students not to be afraid to experiment with a project they’re not yet comfortable with. Every skill and concept in music is connected. When you absorb ideas like a sponge, that’s what makes that large web clearer and clearer."

Alla Elana Cohen

Associate Professor, Composition
aecohen@berklee.edu | 617 747-8370

"The main thing in teaching composition is to create an atmosphere in which the natural gifts of the students flourish. That atmosphere depends, I think, upon the ability to enter the world of students' compositions—to let go of your own style when you look at your students' compositions. Whenever any composer, no matter what the age, brings me a composition, as I start to play it, I forget about my own musical world and my own musical style. For that moment, I enter the mind of that person to such an extent as to be able to look at this composition as if it is mine."

Beth Denisch

Professor, Composition
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
bdenisch@berklee.edu | 617 747-2809

"My job as a faculty member is to teach students new skills and how to access resources that will help them find their own voices. Through exposure to new musics, and through modeling and experimentation, students experience which materials, styles, and techniques resonate within them and they then 'make it their own.' I think Berklee students have more of an opportunity to do that than students of other schools where they may be exposed to less varied styles of music."

Marti Epstein

Professor, Composition
mepstein@berklee.edu | 617 747-8167

"To graduate, students have to have a portfolio of pieces and-very important-they have to have a certain number of these pieces performed. Because one of the aspects of a composer's training is, how do you get people to play your music? So we try to get them to start doing that right away."

Ronny Feldman

Professor, Composition
rfeldman@berklee.edu | 617 747-8591
  • B.F.A., Boston University
  • Conductor and cellist, Berkshire Symphony Orchestra, Boston Conservatory Orchestra
  • Member, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra
  • Recipient of two ASCAP Awards for Adventuresome Programming
  • Conductor of performances with the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, St. Louis Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, and Quebec Symphony

Scott Fessler

Professor, Composition
sfessler@berklee.edu | 617 747-8170

"In the composition courses I teach, we're dealing with a body of knowledge that dates back a couple of centuries, so I try to show the connection to more recent compositions. 'Over the Rainbow,' for example, fits into an eighteeth-century European structure almost perfectly. After we analyze it in class, I make the point that it's one of the most commercially successful pieces of songcraft that has ever been created. We start talking about why that's true, and that its elements, in terms of organization and melody, are also true for a Beatles tune or a piece by Bach. Those all have universal elements of construction that are effective and timeless."

Arnold Friedman

afriedman@berklee.edu | 617 747-8185

"I want to open up more possibilities for my students, more doors for their creativity. The first few weeks of counterpoint seems totally the opposite of that. It's very typical to hear complaints about how there are too many rules. But the result of experiencing that kind of discipline while creating music—having to be creative within a very narrow set of parameters—is that later on when you're free to do whatever you want, you still have this very disciplined method to apply to it."

Gregory Fritze

Professor, Composition
Also affiliated with: Brass
gfritze@berklee.edu | 617 747-2452

"Students who get a composition degree learn how to write their music so that other people can perform it. Very often students have ideas and they don't know how to put them down. Sometimes they don't have the experience to connect their ideas. Or in many cases, they have too many topics. Most beginning students do overwrite. We teach the students how to develop an idea completely and how to trim away the excess. And the main thing is that the students do hear their work performed. Most of what they write can be performed right here at the college."

Yakov Gubanov

Professor, Composition
ygubanov@berklee.edu | 617 747-8121

"Because Berklee is a very international institution, about one half of my directed studies students are international ones, and I'm always trying to encourage a student to maintain his national tradition. It's a big temptation when a student comes to the United States to try to develop this kind of international idiom which will sound American. I never push, but if you have this feeling of your own tradition, I suggest, just stay with your own tradition. In my opinion the 21st century will be the time when the national tradition of art will be restored. It seems to me the future of music is in the return of each individual to his or her national roots."

Jonathan Bailey Holland

Associate Professor, Composition
jholland@berklee.edu | 617 747-2865

"I think a lot of times people think about theory as random rules on how notes have to go together. I'm trying to stress that nothing is random, that everything makes sense from point A to point Z, and that everything at point A is the same as everything at point Z, just on a smaller scale. If you look at one phrase of music, everything that happens in that phrase is similar to what happens over the course of the entire piece. And everything that goes into each chord within the phrase is related to the shape of the entire phrase. I think a lot of times, especially in theory classes, you just look at the details endlessly and you lose track of what the whole piece is about. I try to keep a balance as much as possible."

Derek Hurst

Associate Professor, Composition
dhurst@berklee.edu | 617 747-8733

"My experience as a self-taught rock guitarist has undoubtedly influenced my work as a composer. I came to music through popular and rock avenues, and sidled into formal classical studies after seeing a performance of a Bach Lute Suite on guitar. I'd never seen a guitar do that, and my fate was sealed."

Isaiah Jackson

Professor, Composition
ijackson@berklee.edu | 617 747-8841
  • B.A., Harvard University
  • M.S., D.M.A., the Juilliard School
  • President of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results, an educational rap music company
  • CEO and creative director of Belvedere Productions, a music production company specializing in educational materials
  • Guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic; the Cleveland Orchestra; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.); the symphonies of San Francisco, Toronto, Houston, and Dallas; and the Boston Pops

Alexandros Kalogeras

Professor, Composition
akalogeras@berklee.edu | 617 747-8160

"Nobody would have written so much music if they had waited for divine inspiration. It is technique. It is logic. Making music is the same as making spacecraft or a pair of shoes or a washing machine. The same human brain that creates music and art also makes all these diverse things. So in music it's not just about having an inspiration; it's coherence in how to put things together."

Vuk Kulenovic

Professor, Composition
  • M.A., Belgrade Music Academy
  • Former professor of composition and analysis, Belgrade Music Academy
  • Compositions include over 100 works for symphony orchestra, solo instruments, chamber ensembles, choral and vocal pieces, ballet, and scores for film and stage music

Dennis Leclaire

Professor, Composition
dleclaire@berklee.edu | 617 747-8254

"In my Western Music classes, I love to make students aware of music that they've never heard before; they're always surprised when they find out that there's very little new under the sun. When they listen to some of the music from the Middle Ages, they often say, 'Wow—these are the kinds of things we're doing now.'"

Allen LeVines

Professor, Composition
alevines@berklee.edu | 617 747-8256

"I try to help students become aware of how much there is out there in any given field. In the orchestration courses I teach, I have a listening list, and students take an exam based on that listening list at some point during the semester. The list is long; it might be a hundred pieces or more. . . . There is a sense in which it is asking too much—to be able to identify any of the pieces from 30-second excerpts. On the other hand, if students take the assignment seriously and listen to half a dozen to a dozen pieces a day—just getting to know some of the themes in the piece—perhaps they will realize what they may have thought was a lake of music is really an ocean, or several oceans."

 

Panagiotis Liaropoulos

Assistant Professor, Composition

"In my classes, the composer's view is there always. I insist that people think of even the most insignificant technicality in the creative sense. What is it that you can do with this specific sonority? Where can you go with that? I try to inspire in the minds of the students the creative approach, not just the approach of the performer who has to deal with a set of notes. How would they write things? What is their own interpretation of a given musical text?"

Andrew List

Professor, Composition
alist@berklee.edu | 617 747-8177

"I believe that the inner ear is just as much an instrument as the external ear. In a way, it's the stronger instrument, since the inner ear is connected with your intuition. And composing music is about being open to your own intuition. It's when you don't think 'complicated' that the purest ideas come through. When a student gets to that point, and comes up with something fresh and original, it's very exciting to see. It's very creative and very beautiful, and that makes it all worthwhile to me."

Margaret McAllister

Associate Professor, Composition
  • Undergraduate work in film scoring, Berklee College of Music
  • Graduate studies in classical composition and music theory, Boston University
  • Commissions and performances from many professional solo artists and performing ensembles, including the New Millennium Ensemble, Alea III, Boston Composers String Quartet, Tapestry, Krousis, Pandora's Vox, Ives Quartet, Seraphim Singers, as well as on National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Cofounder of Crosscurrents, a new music platform dedicated to performing the works of young and emerging composers
  • Copresident of Composers in Red Sneakers

Donald McDonnell

Professor, Composition
dmcdonnell@berklee.edu | 617 747-8277

"I tend to like to compose at the piano. The computer I use at the final stage for engraving, once I've made all the decisions. I encourage my students to do that, as well. Depending on the style of music that you do, the process is crucially important to producing a certain product. I know a lot of film music people who will compose at a MIDI keyboard and play right into the computer. But I think for the sort of music that I do, and that my students do [for class], it actually doesn't work out that well. It can be quite limiting. Sometimes students will play something on the computer and it'll go by so quickly that it won't register on their ear—they can't hear the wrong notes."

Thomas J. McGah

Professor, Composition
tmcgah@berklee.edu | 617 747-8278

"It's very easy sometimes in academic settings to begin to live in an unreal world, especially if you're talking to other composers all the time. It's the rockers, the jazzers, and the business majors who are going to keep us healthy and keep us in the real world. I firmly believe this: a composer is one who should have wide horizons. The great masters of the past were very involved in the popular music of the day. Beethoven didn't look down his nose at writing a good waltz. Even Schoenberg composed and arranged cabaret music in Berlin."

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