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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 in the midst of another great school year. This past fall, we hosted an international conference and festival dedicated to the music of György Ligeti. This semester, we will be visited by quite a number of special guests. Mark your calendars for the following:

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) will be joining the faculty of Ithaca College in the fall of 2014 as Assistant Professor. She is currently on the faculty of Northern Arizona University.

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

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

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

J. Judith Ofcarcik (Ph.D. music theory, 2013) joined the faculty of Fort Hays State University (Kansas) this fall 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 this fall. He was previously Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Ithaca College.

Jennifer Smith (Ph.D music theory, 2012) joined the faculty of the University of Florida in 2012 as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Theory.


  • 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.”
  • Marshall Jones's Peregrination was selected for performance at the third annual National Student Electronic Music Event (NSEME 2014), Georgia Southern University, February 21-22, 2014 and the 14th Biennial Arts and Technology Symposium, the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, Connecticut College, February 27 – March 1, 2014.
  • Congratulations to Jamie Whitmarsh (MM Composition student), who is the national winner of the MTNA Senior Division Composition Contest. On March 24, 2014 his "Animal Songs" will be performed on a concert featuring all the senior-level winners.
  • 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."
  • 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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