Composition Faculty

Larry Bell

Associate Professor, Composition | 617 747-6023

Ramon Castillo

Assistant Professor, Composition | 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 | 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 | 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 (available courses) | 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 | 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."

Peyman Farzinpour

Assistant Professor, Composition

"Having done postgraduate studies in Italy, my approach in teaching is in many ways coming from the European model where there's a strong emphasis on understanding standard/traditional repertoire, yet always pushing the envelope towards new directions with avant-garde music."

Ronny Feldman

Professor, Composition | 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 | 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 | 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."

Greg Glancey

Assistant Chair, Composition | 617 747-6492

"When we learn how to recognize and comprehend structural elements in music, we can then begin to understand from the inside out how and why a piece of music works, and by extension how it might have been composed, how it might be performed, heard, or even taught."

Jonathan Bailey Holland

Professor, Composition | 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 | 617 747-8733

"The majority of my composition courses often deal with the minutiae of how compositional elements define a style and common practice. Even though we're teaching most of our courses from an essentially historical context, composition is a living art, and the style of music we're studying is the kernel of a musical sensibility that ties into the lineage of Western music."

Isaiah Jackson

Professor, Composition | 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 | 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 | 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.'"

Rosey Lee

Professor, Composition | 617 747-2847

"I hope my students understand that music is like a spoken language, and musical events are just like daily life. For example, counterpoint. This term may be scary for a lot of people, so I tell my students, 'You're listening to me, and you're sitting there with your heart beating, and you're still breathing. You have at least three things going on together simultaneously, and they all cooperate by themselves naturally. That's three- or four-part counterpoint.' If Bach can do it without a laptop, you can as well."

Allen LeVines

Professor, Composition | 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 | 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 | 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."

Jeffrey Means

Assistant Professor, Composition | 617 747-6257

"The technical situation in the classrooms is pretty remarkable. There’s not a live ensemble in most of the beginning classes that I teach, but there is a computer software program. The students tap along with the computer in a way that simulates performing on instruments, but it’s realistic enough that the student who’s conducting gets an experience that is relatively close to actual conducting without having the pressure of having a real ensemble there. And they can go on to conduct a live orchestra every week, which is not the case in a number of major conducting programs across the country. It’s really special. And the faculty is very strong, and they’re all active professionals. Berklee is really a very cool place to learn how to conduct."