What are the pros & woes of being a self-taught composer? Dennis Bathory-Kitsz

self-portrait I’m more independent than self-taught—30-some years ago, I did pay dues in theory, practice, and history. But I quickly (and mercifully) distanced myself from the classrooms of Robert Moevs, Martin Picker, F. Austin Walter, Edmond Strainchamps, and Scott Whitener in order to study scores and recordings independently, to explore diverse styles and techniques, to […]

What are the pros & woes of being a self-taught composer? Elizabeth Brown

I’m highly trained as a flutist, but had no composition training. Performing all kinds of music has been an ongoing compositional education. Performer friends played my pieces beautifully and enthusiastically from the very start of my composing life, which started belatedly in my late twenties. It hadn’t occurred to me, until a friend asked if […]

View from the West: Hey! Lighten Up!

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki Why is it that humor seems to be absent in the contemporary arts, including music? Art can be political, if not politically correct. It can wax philosophic. Art is used to make social commentary and advocate for social change. It is often self-important, if not self-inflated, whether introspective or bombastic. […]

View From the East: What Progress?

Greg Sandow Not long ago, I was writing about serialism and made an all too common mistake. I was trying to explain—to people who don’t know much about music—how serial writing got popular among composers in the ’50s. But which composers? “Advanced composers,” I wrote innocently enough, meaning only to say that not all composers […]

To What Degree: Teaching Musical Composition

Year after year and in ever-increasing numbers, eager young musicians seek admission to graduate and undergraduate composition programs. What attracts them to a pursuit that promises hard work, a decent amount of frustration, and limited financial rewards?

What is “like”?


I encourage all of you to check out the great crop of new releases featured this month, take a listen, and figure out which ones speak to you.

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

Frank J. OteriPhoto by Melissa Richard The first orchestral music recording I ever bought was a used flea market LP of the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, a great American classic by an émigré who believed that musical composition could not be taught. But I, like many others, have learned so much from that piece. I […]

What are the pros & woes of being a self-taught composer?

Kay Gardner“I created my first composition for piano at age four, and by eighteen I’d composed a full-length musical, but I never thought of myself as a composer, so I didn’t study composition when I went to music school…” Woody Woods“For me, writing music became a passion while I was still in junior high school. […]