Rodney Lister, Composition Department Chair

Faculty Directory: Composition

Composition classes do not have a music theory prerequisite; all of them aim to meet the student at their level of interest and expertise and move from there. Private instruction is also available for students looking for more individual attention, and student composers interested in an organized, developed curriculum can participate in the Certificate Program.

Private Lessons

Private lessons of 30, 45, and 60 minutes are offered for composition. Prospective composition students should set up a placement with Rodney Lister, Department Chair, who will advise each student regarding an appropriate studio teacher placement and path of study. Private lessons can begin at any time during the school year.  Please email for more information.


Composition Seminar

Rodney Lister, Instructor

This class gives students the opportunity to develop technique in original composition. Compositions are performed and discussed in class. Performances of student compositions are arranged at workshops and student composition recitals.

Intro to Making Music with Computers

Aaron Smith, Instructor

This class will give students an introduction to making music with computers. They will learn the basics of working with a DAW (digital audio workstation) so that they can begin creating their own music digitally. The class will also include basic instruction in using recording equipment such as audio interfaces, microphones and speakers. Additionally, students will be introduced to the basic theory, technical components, and physics of electronic music and sound, which will help to begin creating a solid foundation for further exploration of other audio tools and coding languages in the future.

Students will be exposed to music ranging from experimental, contemporary classical, dance, hip-hop, techno, pop, ambient, musique concrète, and noise. Musical examples will span the early 20th century to today. The students will spend time creating both music of a more experimental and free-flowing variety and also music that is beat-based and in a more popular idiom as well in various assignments. By the end of the class students are welcome to make music in whatever style they are inspired by or drawn to for their final project.

Contemporary Music Festival

Faculty members Rodney Lister and John Ziarko founded the annual Preparatory School Contemporary Festival in 1991, to give students and faculty the opportunity to study the performance skills needed for contemporary music. Featured guest composers work closely with students in workshops, seminars, and coachings. An integral part of the festival are the students who study composition and perform their own pieces and the pieces of their friends.

Artists in Residence have included Judd Greenstein, Philip Grange, Rolfe Schulte, Robert Helps, Milton Babbitt, Joel Smirnoff, Michael Finnissy, Judith Weir, Alvin Singleton, Donald Martino, Martin Bresnick, Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, Yehudi Wyner, Chen Yi, Ethel String Quartet, Michael Gandolfi, Lee Hyla, Malcolm Peyton, Nico Muhly, Sebastian Currier, William Bolcom, Missy Mazzoli and Ralph Farris.