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College of Music / Areas of Study / Music Theory & Composition

Music Theory & Composition

The Florida State University College of Music features one of the largest and most distinguished theory and composition faculties in the United States. Our students gain valuable experience in teaching and research, working with faculty members who care deeply about both pursuits.

We are beginning another great school year. In fall 2013, we hosted an international conference and festival dedicated to the music of György Ligeti. In spring 2014, we were be visited by quite a number of special guests. 

Our record for job placement continues to be outstanding. You can see a complete list of where our graduates teach here. Our recent job placements include:

Crystal Peebles (Ph.D. music theory, 2011) joined the faculty of Ithaca College as Assistant Professor in fall 2014. She previously served on the faculty of Northern Arizona University.

Sean Atkinson (Ph.D. music theory, 2009) joined the faculty of Texas Christian University as Assistant Professor in fall 2014. For the past five years, he was Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Christopher Endrinal (Ph.D. music theory, 2008) is now Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Florida Gulf Coast University as Assistant Professor. He previously taught at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Jennifer Smith (Ph.D music theory, 2012) joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in fall 2014. She had previously been on the faculty of the University of Florida.

Andrew Gades (Ph.D. music theory, 2013) joined the faculty of The College of Idaho in fall 2014 as Assistant Professor.

Joshua Keeling (D.M. composition, 2013) joined the faculty of Illinois State University as Assistant Professor.

Joshua Burel (D.M. composition, 2014) began teaching at Webster University in fall 2014 in a sabbatical replacement position.

John Peterson (A.B.D. music theory) accepted an adjunct position at James Madison University in fall 2014.

Kimberly Loeffert (ABD, music theory) joined the faculty of Oklahoma State University in 2013.

J. Judith Ofcarcik (Ph.D. music theory, 2013) joined the faculty of Fort Hays State University (Kansas) in 2013 as Assistant Professor of Music.

Emily Swift Gertsch (Ph.D music theory, 2013) joined the faculty of the University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson School of Music in 2012 as (full-time) Lecturer in Music Theory.

Bryn Hughes (Ph.D music theory, 2011) joined the faculty of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music in 2012. He was previously Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Ithaca College.


  • Four of our doctoral students (John Peterson, Gillian Robertson, Joshua Mills, and Micah Lomax) and two faculty members (Matthew Shaftel and Michael Buchler) will be presenting their work at the Society for Music Theory meeting in Milwaukee, WI this fall. Still other faculty members will be participating in panel discussions, chairing sessions, and leading standing committees. 
  • Neil Anderson-Himmelspach (DM 2009) was awarded the 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award by the faculty of the FSU College of Music.
  • Composition doctoral student, Jon Overholt won the Florida MTNA Composition Competition's Young Artist Category. 
  • Theory graduate students, Cara Stroud and Daniel Tompkins both presented their work at the GAMuT conference (Sept. 26-27, 2014) in Denton, TX. Daniel was awarded the best student paper award.
  • Seven members of the FSU theory/composition community presented their work at this year’s Music Theory Southeast Conference in Tampa, Florida: graduate students Joshua Mills, John Peterson, Gillian Robertson, Micah Lomax, and Kaleb Delk; recent Ph.D. graduate Andrew Gades; and faculty member Michael Buchler. Joshua Mills received the best student paper prize for his wonderfully creative and beautifully presented talk “Partimenti, Imitatio, and Exempla: Exploring (and Applying) the Pedagogical Parallels between Rhetoric and Composition.”
  •  Joshua Burel (DM 2014) and Jamie Whitmarsh (MM 2014) performed together as part of the ensemble What is Noise in Carnegie Hall on May 5, 2014. Their program included "Roanoke" by Joshua Burel.
  • Marshall Jones's Peregrination was selected for performance at the third annual National Student Electronic Music Event (NSEME 2014) at Georgia Southern University, February 21-22, 2014 and the 14th Biennial Arts and Technology Symposium, the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College, February 27 – March 1, 2014. Marhsall was also awarded the BMO merit award in the art song division for Boston Metro Opera's 2014 International Contempo Festival.
  • DM student Szu-Yu Chen's "Variations on a Taiwanese Folk Song" for organ was performed in July 2014 at the Seventh Annual Festival of New Organ Music in London.
  • DM student Daniel Thompson was a finalist for the BMI Prize in 2014 with his "Concert Etude" for piano.
  • Jamie Whitmarsh and DM student Jon Overholt won the 2013–14 FSU Student Orchestral Competition; their winning compositions ("For Many Chairs" and "Processional", respectively) were performed by FSU's two orchestras. Jamie is the national winner of the MTNA Senior Division Composition Contest. On March 24, 2014 his "Animal Songs" was performed on a concert featuring all the senior-level winners. He is currently a finalist for The American Prize in Composition for both "For Many Chairs" and "Animal Songs".
  • Neil Anderson-Himmelspach (DM 2009) serves as arranger for NBC's hit show The Sing-Off. He arranges many of the A Cappella charts you hear on the show.
  • Prof. Michael Buchler was elected Vice President of the Society for Music Theory in 2013. He was previously Chair of the (2013) SMT Program Committee. He joins Prof. Joseph Kraus on SMT's Executive Board. Prof. Evan Jones just completed his three-year term on the Executive Board. Prof. Matthew Shaftel is the new Chair of SMT's Publications Committee. Prof. Nancy Rogers is Chair of SMT's Professional Development Committee. (Yes, you could say that we're active in our professional society!)
  • Brad Osborn (MM 2006) won the inaugural Adam Krims Memorial Prize, awarded by the SMT Popular Music Analysis Interest Group, for his Spectrum article on "terminally climactic form." 
  • Three of our music theory faculty members won University Teaching Awards last year: Matthew Shaftel was awarded the Distinguished Teacher Award (FSU's highest prize for teaching), Michael Buchler was awarded a Graduate Teaching Award, and Nancy Rogers was awarded an Undergraduate Teaching Award.
  • Joshua Burel (DM student in composition) and Jamie Whitmarsh (MM student in composition) perform in the ensemble What is Noise, which was selected to perform at Carnegie Hall on May 5, 2014. 
  • Jamie Whitmarsh (MM student in composition) won the 2013–14 MTNA Southern Division Composition competition (Young Artist Category) and was the second-place winner in the 2013 Percussive Arts Society's Composition Contest for Snare Drum for his piece "Bartok Variations."
  • Joshua Keeling (DM 2013) won first place in the Emil and Ruth Beyer Composition Awards (sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs) with his piece "Flying Machines".
  • Judith Ofcarcik was awarded the best student paper prize at last year's Music Theory Southeast meeting in Boone, NC. She also won the Colvin Award for the outstanding student paper at the 2013 Texas Society for Music Theory conference! This is the fourth year in a row that an FSU student has won that prize (2010: Sarah Sarver; 2011: Greg Decker; 2012: Emily Gertsch)!
  • Rafael Almario (MM, 2013) presented a paper at the First Russian Congress of the Society for Theory of Music in St. Petersburg, Russia this October.
  • Joshua Mills (DM composition student) won the inaugural FSU Student Orchestral Composition Prize for his work “…durch den Tod zu Gott gekommen....” The University Philharmonia premiered this wondeful composition on its April 12, 2013, concert in Ruby Diamond Concert Hall.
  • Joshua Mills has also been active on the music theory front! He presented his paper "Latent Tonalities in Michael Hersch's Two Lullabies, no. 1" at the Rocky Mountain Society for Music Theory on April 6, 2013. One of our recent graduates, Crystal Peebles (Ph.D. music theory), was also on that program.
  • FSU composers were well-represented at this year's Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), October 31 through November 3 in Austin, Texas. 
    • Masters student and SCI president Jamie Whitmarsh participated in a panel discussion "Current Trends in Percussion Composition" and the Tennessee Tech University Percussion Ensemble will perform his recent prizewinning work, Concerto for Drumset and Percussion Ensemble.
    • Austin-based percussion trio "line upon line" performed doctoral student Joshua William Mills's work Prism of the Plural.
  • As part of the h2 Saxophone Quartet, music theory Ph.D. candidate Kim Loeffert was a finalist in the 2012 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition in New York City. As finalists, her ensemble performed in Merkin Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 17th.
  • Prof. Michael Buchler was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Oklahoma Music Theory Roundtable in October. Recent FSU graduates (and current Oklahoma City University professors) Dave Easley and Sarah Sarver also presented at that conference.
  • Joshua Keeling's (D.M. 2013) piece "Draconids" (for soprano saxophone, bassoon, and interactive electroacoustics) was selected for performance at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium in August 2012. "Draconids" was also performed at the 2012 national meeting of SEAMUS and the 2012 CMS Southern-Region conference.
  • MM student Jamie Whitmarsh's “Concerto for Drumset and Percussion Ensemble” was selected as the first place winner in the 2012 Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest, Drumset Soloist with Percussion Ensemble Category.
  • Profs. Nancy Rogers and Michael Buchler and recent Ph.D. graduates Crystal Peebles and Bryn Hughes had papers on the 2012 International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition in Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • Prof. Jane Piper Clendinning presented at the Steve Larson Memorial Conference (WCCMTA) in March.
  • Emily Swift Gerstch (Ph.D. 2013) and Jennifer Smith (Ph.D. 2012) and theory professor Michael Buchler presented at the 2012 Music Theory Southeast meeting. Prof. Nancy Rogers led the graduate student workshop at the conference.
  • Doctoral theory student Andrew Gades presented a paper at the Redlands American Music Symposium in March, 2012.
  • Composition doctoral student Sotiris Melissis's composition Arrival was selected by the Dallas Wind Symphony in their 2011 Call for Fanfares.
  • Composition doctoral student Michael Broder's piece That's Entertainment was selected as a winner of the 2011 Duo Fujin One-Day Composition Competition.
  • Music theory doctoral student Andrew Gades's article "What's in a Title? Setting, Narrator, and Mimesis in Del Tredici's 'A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight'" appears in the journal Mosaic: Journal of Music Research.
  • Prof. Clifton Callender was awarded the Journal of Music Theory's inaugural David Kraehenbuehl Prize. Prof. Callender won for his article "Continuous Harmonic Spaces" that was published in volume 51 of JMT.
  • Prof. Evan Jones was awarded the Society for Music Theory's Citation of Special Merit for his two-volume book Intimate Voices.
  • Prof. Ladislav Kubik was named a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow.

Last year's highlights included:

  • Composer and pianist David Gompper (University of Iowa), discussed his music with our composers and, with violinist Wolfgang David, performed a recital on Monday, October 8, 2012.  (Details on the Guest Theorists and Composers page)
  • Music theorist Scott Murphy (University of Kansas) was in residence from October 8-10, 2012. He provided two public lectures, taught classes, and met individually with students. (Details on the Guest Theorists and Composers page)
  • Music theorist and pianist Norman Carey (City University of New York) was in residence during the week of October 22, 2012. (Details on the Guest Theorists and Composers page)
  • Guest composer Nomi Epstein and the Charleston New Music Collective led a Composition Forum on October 26. 
  • Our 30th annual FSU Music Theory Forum took place on January 19, 2013; James Hepokoski (Yale University) delivered a spectacular keynote address.
  • Our sixteenth biennial Festival of New Music took place from January 31-February 2, 2013. Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Zhou Long (University of Missouri at Kansas City) was our special guest.
  • During the Festival of New Music, Composer and music theorist Robert D. Morris (Eastman School of Music) presented a lecture "Analysis without Theory?" on Friday, February 1 at 3:45 in Longmire Recital Hall. 
  • Music theorist John Roeder (University of British Columbia) visited on February 18-19, 2013, presenting public lectures and working with this year's doctoral seminar members.
  • Composer Carter Pann (University of Colorado, Boulder) was in residence on February 25. He offered a lecture on/demonstration of his music at 4:00 in Dohnanyi Recital Hall and that evening at 8:00 Prof. Joel Hastings performed a recital of Pann's music at 8:00 in Longmire Recital Hall.
  • Naturally, our faculty and students continue to be active in our national and regional societies. Profs. Clifton Callender, Prof. Nancy Rogers, and Emily Swift Gertsch (Ph.D. 2013) each presented their research at the 2012 annual Society for Music Theory meeting in New Orleans, and Profs. Evan Jones and Joe Kraus serve on the SMT executive board. Prof. Matthew Shaftel was recently elected president of Music Theory Southeast and we will surely have another great showing of students and faculty at the spring meeting of that society. 

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