Composition, Music Theory, and Musicology


Check out the Conservatory's news page here for all of the Composition news and general Conservatory news!

UMKC’s Composition program is one of the leading programs in North America with 50-60 majors (freshman through doctoral). Faculty include Chen Yi, Zhou Long, James Mobberley, Paul Rudy, and Reynold Simpson all of whom combine active careers as composers with their teaching

Our faculty have received Fromm Foundation and Koussevitzky Commissions (Mobberley, Chen Yi and Zhou Long); a Charles Ives Living Award (Chen Yi); membership in 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).  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
  • Residencies and Workshops, dozens, including the Wellesley College Composers Conference, Aspen Music Festival, June-in-Buffalo, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Fontainbleau, the Cortona Sessions (Italy), and many others
  • Positions at 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, Hong Kong Academy, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore, Tainan National University of the Arts, Taiwan, and Montana State to name a few.

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

Performance, mentoring, and other opportunities in our program

  • 3 annual orchestra readings with the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra
  • Annual orchestral composition competition
  • Annual wind symphony composition competition
  • Annual chamber composition competition
  • Student Composer’s Guild, 4 concerts each year for student works
  • Mentorship program (undergraduates paired with graduate mentors
  • Annual wind ensemble readings upon request

Curricular Highlights

  • BM degree with flexible applied/ensemble options: three undergraduate instrumental tracks: 1) standard instrumental/vocal; 2) secondary level study or methods classes; or 3) electronic/computer as instrument; and Improvisation ensemble or Ensembles for Composers
  • MM and DMA project-based comprehensive exams
  • Flexible DMA degree with 11 hrs. of area of concentration allowing for secondary emphasis
  • Students rotate among teachers in a mix of seminar style (small groups) and private lessons.


  • 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, and Mario Davidovsky, to name a few.


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

Collaboration, entrepreneurship and exceptional artistry are highlights of our program with a stylistically diverse faculty, a collegial environment, and myriad performance opportunities. As DMA 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 reports, “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."

Composition Faculty: Chen YiJames Mobberley, Paul Rudy, Zhou LongReynold Simpson

Read about one of our DMA Composition students here.  

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

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 SpectrumMusic Theory OnlineIndiana Theory ReviewAmerican Music,College Music Symposium, and Current Musicology.

Music Theory Faculty
 Beth ElswickHali FieldmanKenneth LidgeDavid 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

Andrew GranadeAlison DeSimoneWilliam Everett, Matteo MagarottoSarah Tyrrell