Derek Hurst

Associate Professor
617 747-8733
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"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."

"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 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."

"I like to look at the 'how' and then the 'why,' and have students try to emulate. It places strictures on students instead of letting them rely solely on what is already known to them. It focuses learning towards a specific goal, which is ultimately liberating. Actually, what they perceive to be a set of rules aren't actually rules; they're just 'codified observations' native to a common practice. Using them as guidelines actually improves students' hearing and their musicality-something that's not easy to appreciate until later."

"In my electro-acoustic and computer music courses, I find ways to emulate historical techniques (which were quite crude in the beginning) and have students write simple pieces using these techniques. Ideally this forces them to think about sound, since they have to design everything from the ground up and piece things together. Rather than having 'happy accidents,' I would like them at least to make educated guesses. We like those accidents, but if you have to rely on them, you get very little done."

"The contemplation and appreciation of the behavior of voices and notes in a given context leads to understanding, and understanding leads to appreciation. Both (hopefully) lead to a love and appreciation of all great music, no matter what branch of music my students go into. Ideally I want them to love the music we teach, which is (and I'm biased here) truly art. I want them to understand why it is art. Is Bach 'great' just because people say so? An educated musician should be able to listen to and appreciate music in its context."


Career Highlights
  • M.F.A., Ph.D., Brandeis University
  • Original acoustic and electro-acoustic concert music performed internationally by Ian Pace, Lydian String Quartet, Left Coast Ensemble, Interensemble, Brave New Works, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Duo Diorama, among others
  • Recipient of Fromm Music Foundation Commission, Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist's Grant, Aaron Copland Award and Copland House Residency, Wayne Peterson Prize in Composition,  Irvine Fine Fellowship for Music Composition, Sachar Grant for Study Abroad, and Wellesley Composers’ Conference Fellowship
  • Bacchanalia Skiapodorum, for alto sax and electronic sound, commercially released on American Voices (Brian Sacawa, saxophones), Innova Records
  • The Classical Tradition and Schoenberg's Piano Concerto published by Verlag, D.M.
  • Previous teaching posts at Brown University, Brandeis University, Wheaton College, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Central Connecticut State College, and Northeastern University