One of the best opportunities students get in a music school is to study with a teacher who has been there, done that.
Meaning, a teacher who not only has classroom experience, but credentials in the “real world” of music.
Composition is no exception to this – it is ideal for a student to study with a teacher whose music has been performed internationally. Although most composition studies are about the craft of composition, there is benefit to studying with a real world practitioner.
Today, we’ll talk about 10 famous classical composers who are teaching today. This is by no means a ranking list, nor is this a list that says these are the definitive 10 best teachers in higher education.
These 10 teachers do standout for their accomplishments in music; one could say many of their works have entered the repertoire today as we know it.
Here are 10 great, famous classical composers teaching today.
Stephen Hartke – Oberlin College Conservatory
Professor Stephen Hartke spent much of his career at USC – nearly three decades, in fact. Now, he is a “Distinguished Professor Emeritus” at USC and full time at Oberlin.
Hartke has won several accolades, including the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
Hartke’s music has been championed by a number of ensembles, including Eighth Blackbird, a successful chamber group championing modern music.
Recommended Listening: His Grammy-winning work Meanwhile – Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays – as recorded by Eighth Blackbird – gives you a sense of his original, creative, post-tonal style.
Chen Yi – University of Missouri, Kansas City Conservatory of Music
Composer Chen Yi is a longtime professor of UMKC’s conservatory of music. She teaches at the school alongside her husband, prominent Chinese-American composer Zhou Long. Recently, she was elected into the Academy of Arts and Letters, one of the highest distinctions for a living composer.
Both Chen Yi and Zhou Long, as well as their contemporaries Bright Sheng and Tan Dun, represent a class of composers who have crossed over western classical music with eastern folk music genres.
Oddly enough, all four of them even went to the same school – Columbia University – around the same time for their Doctoral degrees.
Recommended Listening: Her work Chinese Ancient Dances: Ox Tail Dance exemplifies her “crossover” musical style.
David Lang – Yale School of Music
A master of the minimalist style, David Lang is one of America’s most successful living composers.
He is widely associated with his arts organization Bang On a Can, a New York City cultural staple presenting the works of living composers. He runs Bang On a Can in conjunction with composers Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, who are both on the faculty of NYU.
David Lang represents the zig to every composer’s zag; stylistically speaking, few other composers teaching at the college level today write music similar to artful minimalism.
The Yale School of Music is perhaps the most coveted composition program in the country. Accepted students don’t pay any tuition, however it is open only to graduate students (although there is now a very small joint Bachelor’s/Master’s program at Yale – however it is not available to undergraduate composers).
Recommended Listening: His 2009 Pulitzer Winning The Little Match Girl Passion.