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With an intense program in composition and a university environment enriched by computer technology, the School of Music places a strong emphasis on contemporary music. All members of the composition faculty are professional composers, who share the creative evolution of their own works with their students in a master/apprentice relationship. Students compose works for all types of instrumental and vocal groupings.

The School of Music’s Contemporary Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and the School’s resident string quartet provide performance and reading opportunities of new student works. Each spring, the quartet holds a string quartet competition of student works. All entries are presented in a public reading session; the winning composition is then performed and recorded by the quartet.

In their senior year, composition majors compose an orchestral piece to be performed and recorded by the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. Each year the renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra also presents a public reading of student orchestral pieces from Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University, and University of Pittsburgh.

 

Curriculum:

The foundation of the Undergraduate curriculum contains five elements:

  • Studio: weekly individualized instruction within a major area of study
  • Theory: to develop listening skills, to acquire theoretical knowledge, to recognize structural techniques, and to manipulate technological resources
  • History: in depth study of western music and survey of non-western styles and structures
  • Ensemble Work: student participation in some of the School of Music Ensembles
  • Academics: one General Studies course outside of the School of Music per semester and six semesters of Elective courses

Carnegie Mellon courses are measured in units rather than credits or credit hours, with three units equaling a standard credit. More information here

COURSE TYPE

SEMESTERS REQUIRED

Music Theory

10

Studio

8

Music History

8

Major Ensemble

6

General Studies Courses

6

Eurhythmics

4

Keyboard Studies

4

Solfege

4

Electives

4

Music Technology

2

Performance Electives

2

Conducting

2

 Theory Teaching

 1

For more specific information regarding curriculum for the undergraduate Composition program please refer to the Undergraduate Course Catalog.

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Leonardo Balada

University Professor of Composition

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A native of Spain, Leonardo Balada graduated from Barcelona's Conservatorio del Liceu and the Juilliard School. Balada's works have been performed by the world's leading orchestras, including the philharmonics of New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Philadelphia Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Detroit, Washington DC, Prague, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Jerusalem, the national orchestras of Ireland, Peru, Colombia, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the radio orchestras of Berne, Leipzig, Moscow, BBC, Luxembourg etc. conducted and performed by artists like Rostropovitch, Fruhbeck de Burgos, Mariss Jansons, Nevill Marriner, Lopez-Cobos, Lukas Foss, Alicia de Larrocha, Yepes, Segovia, American Brass Quintet etc. Balada has been a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon School of Music since 1970 where he is University Professor of Composition. 

He has been commissioned by the Aspen Festival, San Diego Opera, the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lausanne, National of Spain, Radio Berlin, and others, and has received several NEA awards. He has collaborated with Salvador Dali and Nobel Prize Laureate C.J. Cela. A large number of his compositions are recorded including Steel Symphony and Music for Oboe and Orchestra with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel. Naxos Records has released 16 CDs of his music including the operas “Christopher Columbus” and “The Death of Columbus”. “Christopher Columbus” was commissioned by the Spanish government for the 5th centennial of the Americas. It was premiered with Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe and received international acclaim. The Washington Times described the opera as “a masterpiece…a landmark score in the lyric theater of our time”. Balada has received several international awards, such as the B. Martinu, City of Zaragoza, and City of Barcelona. 

Recent world premieres of Balada's works includes: “A Little Night Music in Harlem” by the Hungarian Chamber Symphony Orchestra; “Concerto for Three Cellos and Orchestra” by the Berlin Radio Sym. Orch.; “Caprichos No.4-Quasi Jazz” by the Pittsburgh Symphony Cham. Orch.; the chamber operas “Hangman, Hangman!’ & “The Town of Greed” at Teatro de la Zarzuela-Madrid- and Teatre del Liceu-Barcelona; the grand opera “Faust-bal” at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

His principal publisher is G. Schirmer.
Click here, to visit his personal website.

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Nancy Galbraith

Professor of Composition

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Composer Nancy Galbraith is Professor and Chair of Composition at Carnegie Mellon University. In a career that spans three decades, her music has earned praise for its rich harmonic texture, rhythmic vitality, emotional and spiritual depth, and wide range of expression.

Galbraith's symphonic works have enjoyed regular performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, including premieres led by Gennady Rozhdetsvensky and Mariss Jansons. Her Piano Concerto No. 1 was recorded by Keith Lockhart and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Chamber Music Magazine hailed Galbraith's Rhythms and Rituals as "the kind of piece that should be the 'sound of classical music' on today's radio stations." Her chamber works have been performed by members of the New York Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and by Mexico's Sinfonietta Ventus and Cuarteto Latinoamericano. Galbraith's popular works for wind orchestras have become standard repertoire for concert bands around the world, and are recorded often by American college ensembles.

In recent years, Galbraith has produced a substantial body of major choral works, beginning with commissions from Robert Page and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh to compose Missa Mysteriorum and Requiem, a landmark achievement that was declared a 'masterpiece' by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. These successes have led to commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Providence Singers, Pittsburgh Camerata and many others.

Born into a musical family in Pittsburgh in 1951, Galbraith began piano studies at age 4. She later earned degrees in composition from Ohio University (BA) and West Virginia University (MA). Her works are published by Subito Music in Verona, New Jersey.

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Dr. Marilyn Taft Thomas

Professor of Music

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Marilyn Taft Thomas is Professor of Theory and Composition in the Carnegie Mellon School of Music. She is an active composer with works for orchestra, choir, piano, voice, brass band and chamber ensembles. She has won prizes from the National Federation of Music and the National Harvey Gaul Competition, the McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Mellon University, the American Music Center,the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the River City Brass Band, and the 2011 Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A two-CD collection of her works, "Seasons Within" is available through Amazon.com. 

Her diverse background includes 25 years as a pianist, church organist and director of music. Dr. Thomas was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pittsburgh, and the only woman to serve as President of the Pittsburgh Alliance of Composers. Her computer music research and development of music theory software is internationally known. As a teacher, her innovative teaching methods have been cited by Associated Press and honored by the university with its prestigious Henry Hornbostel Teaching Award.

Since joining the Carnegie Mellon faculty in 1981, Dr. Thomas has served as Head of the School of Music, 1988-1996, Director of Graduate Studies, 1997-2000, Executive Director of the River City Brass Band, 2000-2003, and Interim Head of the School of Music, 2006-2007. In addition to her work as a composer, she has published over 20 articles and papers on composition, technology, computer music, music education and women in music. She has also authored two books, several collections of essays, poetry, and travel journals. Leadership in the Arts: An Inside View was recently published by AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Indiana.

In 2004, Thomas was granted the Stolarevsky Lifetime Achievement Award by the McKeesport Symphony Society for distinguished service in the arts, and for excellence in and contributions to the cultural life of our communities.

Thomas served as President of the Executive Board of the Andrew Carnegie Society at Carnegie Mellon University from 2007-2009. She is the mother of three grown children and has six very active grandchildren.
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Dr. Reza Vali

Professor of Composition

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Reza Vali was born in Ghazvin, Persia (Iran) in 1952. He began his music studies at the Conservatory of Music in Tehran. In 1972 he went to Austria and studied music education and composition at the Academy of Music in Vienna. After graduating from the Academy of Music, he moved to the United States and continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving his Ph.D. in music theory and composition in 1985. Mr. Vali has been a faculty member of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University since 1988. He has received numerous honors and commissions, including the honor prize of the Austrian Ministry of Arts and Sciences, two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships, commissions from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players, and the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, as well as grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as the Outstanding Emerging Artist for which he received the Creative Achievement Award. Vali's orchestral compositions have been performed in the United States by the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Baltimore Symphony, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra 2001. His chamber works have received performances by Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players, and the Da Capo Chamber Players. His music has been performed in Europe, China, Chile, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Australia and is recorded on the Naxos, New Albion, MMC, Ambassador, Albany, and ABC Classics labels.