Collaboration, entrepreneurship and exceptional artistry are highlights of these programs with a stylistically diverse faculty, a collegial environment and myriad performance opportunities.

As D.M.A. student Dillon Henry notes, “To work with a faculty with such diverse backgrounds and writing styles, who have earned so many accolades in the field, who still care so deeply about their students... that's really special, and you don't get that everywhere.” Sophomore Aaron Hill agrees, adding, “The composition program at UMKC has opened many doors for me and exposed me to techniques and ideas I never even dreamed were possible. The professors act as guides for the student and I feel that allows me to be truly myself."

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Number of degrees offered by the Composition, Music Theory and Musicology programs

Explore concentrations

See more details about the various compositional programs, faculty and curricula highlights.

Composition programs

UMKC’s Composition program is one of the leading programs in North America, with 50-60 majors (freshman through doctoral). Our faculty have received Fromm Foundation and Koussevitzky Commissions (Chen Yi, Zhou Long, Yotam Haber); a Charles Ives Living Award (Chen Yi); membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chen Yi); Rome Prize Fellowship (Paul Rudy, Haber); Guggenheim (Haber); Bourges Prize and ems Prize (Rudy); BBC Masterprize and 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music (Zhou Long).  Our students and graduates have also won teaching positions, awards and commissions, including:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • Barlow Prize
  • Fulbright Fellowships (Sweden, New Zealand)
  • ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composers Awards
  • American Composers Orchestra Underwood Readings/EarShot Readings
  • Young Composers Project China International Composition Competition
  • Dozens of residencies and workshops, including the Wellesley College Composers Conference, Aspen Music Festival, June-in-Buffalo, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Fontainebleau, the Cortona Sessions (Italy) and many others
  • Positions at several institutions including Louisiana State; Western Michigan; Central Michigan; Mahidol University (Thailand); Southern Methodist University; Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing, China); Kansas City, Kansas Community College; Arkansas State University; Xinghai Conservatory; Guangzhou, China; The HK Academy for Performing Arts; Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore; Tainan National University of the Arts, Taiwan; and Montana State.

They are very active in all areas of composition, including teaching, serving as composer-in-residence for orchestras, freelancing, film and other commercial work.

Performance, mentoring and other opportunities in our program

  • Three annual orchestra readings with the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra
  • Annual orchestral composition competition
  • Annual wind symphony composition competition
  • Annual chamber composition competition
  • Student Composers' Guild, four concerts each year for student works
  • Mentorship program (undergraduates paired with graduate mentors)
  • Annual wind ensemble readings upon request

Curricular highlights

  • B.M. degree with flexible applied/ensemble options and three undergraduate instrumental tracks: 1) standard instrumental/vocal; 2) secondary level study or methods classes; 3) electronic/computer as instrument and improvisation ensemble or ensembles for composers
  • M.M. and D.M.A. project-based comprehensive exams
  • Flexible D.M.A. degree with 11 hours of area of concentration, allowing for secondary emphasis
  • Students rotate among teachers in a mix of seminar style (small groups) and private lessons

Extracurricular

  • Composition Workshop (50% discount for current students)
  • Thailand International Contemporary Music Festival exchange
  • ArtSounds and collaborative and multi-disciplined opportunities
  • COMPlaborations: studio pairings for short compositions in collaboration with instrumentalists
  • Guest artist reading sessions (past/present residencies include eighth blackbird, PRISM Quartet, Carpe Diem String Quartet, Strike! Duo, Music From China Ensemble)
  • The Patricia and Howard Barr Institute for American Composition Studies at UMKC
  • Regular visits by distinguished composers have included Steven Stucky, John Corigliano, Yehudi Wyner, John Duffy, Ezra Laderman, Martin Bresnick, Bernard Rands, Christopher Rouse, Augusta Read Thomas, Stephen Hartke, Tania Leon, Zygmunt Krauze, Frederic Rzewski, Joan Tower, Robert Beaser, Jennifer Higdon, Sam Adler, Mario Davidovsky, Donald Crockett, Eric Moe, Alex Shapiro, and outstanding new music performers, eighth blackbird, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Music From China and pianist Gloria Cheng, to name a few.

Support

  • Composition GTA
  • Musical Bridges teaching
  • Summer travel support (amount varies from year to year)
  • Merit-based scholarships
  • Recording GTA
  • Women's Council scholarships

Faculty

Degree programs offered

Bachelor of Music: Music Composition

Master of Music: Music Composition

Doctor of Musical Arts: Music Composition

Music Theory programs

With a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory, you'll be able to explore the study of musical structures through experiences in applied music, ensembles and music history. After completing the four-semester musicianship sequence, you can then select upper-level courses in analysis, counterpoint, contemporary technique and special topics. For your capstone experience, you'll 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 due to its emphasis on practical music-making. It also lays the groundwork for students preparing for Ph.D. work in music theory. You'll also complete a supervised thesis on a music-theoretic topic of interest to prepare for future employment or further study.

You'll have the opportunity to work with research faculty 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 SpectrumMusic Theory OnlineIndiana Theory ReviewAmerican Music, College Music Symposium and Current Musicology.

Faculty

Degree programs offered

Bachelor of Music: Music Theory Option

Master of Music: Music Theory

Musicology program

Studying Musicology at the Conservatory will allow you to deep-dive into the history of music in a performance-centered environment. You'll 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. You'll be guided through these courses by leading scholars in the field.

You'll also engage in research that uses the rich variety of archival resources in Kansas City. In the past, students and faculty have partnered with 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 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. You'll work with recognized scholars 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.

Faculty

Degree program offered

Master of Music: Musicology