Composition, Music Theory and Musicology

The division of Composition, Music Theory and Musicology includes three interconnected yet distinctive areas within the Conservatory whose faculty and students excel in scholarship, awards, publications, and performances.


The Composition program is one of the leading programs in North America. We accept about 10 students each year who are creating the music of a new century. Our four full-time faculty members have distinguished careers as composers and teachers. Highlights include: Guggenheim Fellowship winners (all four faculty); Fromm Foundation and Koussevitzky Commissions (Chen Yi, Mobberley, Zhou Long); Charles Ives Living Award; member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chen Yi); Rome Prize Fellowship (Mobberley and Rudy); Bourges Prize and ems Prize (Rudy); BBC Masterprize and 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music (Zhou Long).

The four faculty members have worked together for more than ten years, and have developed distinct elements for the program. These include: faculty and students work together in a supportive atmosphere; students study with faculty members via a per semester rotation system; faculty provide a combination of group classes and private lessons; mentorship program (graduate students assist undergraduate students); Composers in the Schools; state-of-the-art computer music facilities that are continuously accessible to composers; extensive performance opportunities for students' music; annual reading opportunities for orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, and other groups; minimum of four visits annually by guest composers and new music performers; competitive scholarships and financial assistance; support for summer workshop attendance; and excellent placement record for graduates in employment and top-level graduate programs. Composition students regularly win national and international awards and have their music performed across the globe.
Composition Faculty: Chen Yi, James Mobberley, Paul Rudy, Zhou Long
Mara Gibson, Timothy Place, Reynold Simpson


The Patricia and Howard Barr Institute for American Composition Studies at UMKC


Composition Workshop

Music Theory

As part of an “educational community that advances creativity, performance, scholarship, and learning in the arts,” the music theory area at UMKC serves the Conservatory in two important ways:

  • Through an innovative four-semester integrated musicianship sequence that fuses harmony, voice leading, and aural skills taken by almost all undergraduate music majors.
  • By offering degrees in Music Theory at the BM and MM levels.  Recent and future graduate courses include Time in Music, Harmony and Form in the Long Nineteenth Century and The Music of Charles Ives.

The Bachelor of Music in Music Theory allows students to explore studies of musical structure in combination with substantial instruction and experiences in applied music, ensembles, and music history.  After completing the musicianship sequence, students may select upper-level courses in analysis, counterpoint, contemporary techniques, and special topics.  As a capstone experience, students research and complete a senior thesis while working with a tenure-track member of the music theory faculty.

The Master of Music in Music Theory is ideal as a second degree for performers, conductors, and composers in MM and DMA programs because of its emphasis upon practical music making, and it also lays important groundwork for students wishing to prepare for Ph.D. work in music theory. In addition to selecting a variety of courses in music theory, students complete a supervised thesis on a music-theoretic topic of interest that will be invaluable for employment or for future study.

Students have the opportunity to work with research faculty (Hali Fieldman, Reynold Simpson, and David Thurmaier) who hold vibrant interests in such areas as Schenkerian analysis, temporality in music, nineteenth-century analysis, post-tonal analysis and composition, pedagogy, Ives, and popular music.  Our faculty has published in such noted journals as Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online, Indiana Theory Review, American Music, College Music Symposium, and Current Musicology.

Music Theory Faculty
Beth Elswick, Hali Fieldman, Kenneth Lidge, Laura New, Ryan Oldham, David Thurmaier


Musicology students at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance pursue in-depth studies in the history of music in a performance-focused environment. They are able to study the history of music through a wide range of courses, including survey classes in individual musical eras and seminars on topics such as Music in Asia, Film Music, Musical Theatre, Music in Latin America, Gender and Music, Operatic Performance, and Minimalism, taught by some of the leading scholars in the field including William Everett, Andrew Granade, Alison DeSimone, and Sarah Tyrrell.

Students also engage in research that regularly makes use of the rich variety of archival resources in the Kansas City area.  In the past, students and faculty have partnered with and made use of the collections in the LaBudde Special Collections and the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC; the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, and Technology; the American Jazz Museum; the National World War I Museum and Archives at Liberty Memorial; Conception Abbey; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  Graduate students have presented the results of their research in many professional forums, including on the programs of the Society for American Music, Renaissance Society of America, College Music Society, Society for Minimalist Music, and American Conference for Irish Studies, among others.

The musicology program at the UMKC Conservatory also focuses on pedagogical training.  Students work with recognized scholars in the area of music history pedagogy through dedicated coursework, independent studies, individual research topics, and teaching opportunities.

Our faculty members have published articles in American MusicChoral JournalThe Opera Journal, The HymnJournal of the Society for American MusicMusic and the Moving ImageMusical QuarterlyOpera Quarterly, and other prestigious journals. They have authored books with Cambridge University Press, Yale University Press, Routledge, Harmonie Park Press, the University of Illinois Press, and the University of Rochester Press and have held offices in the College Music Society, the Society for Minimalist Music, and the Society for American Music.

Musicology Faculty

Alison DeSimone, William Everett, Andrew Granade (Chair of Composition, Music Theory and Musicology), Sarah Tyrrell