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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.

It's SMT Time!
The FSU Party at SMT St. Louis will be on Friday, 10/30 from 6:00-8:00 in Mills 6 (on the fourth floor of the Hyatt). Hope to see you there!

We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Richards (Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2011) as Assistant Professor of Music Theory, starting in the fall of 2015. Prof. Richards has been teaching at the University of Lethbridge since 2011 and specializes in the music of Beethoven, film music, and the analysis of form. He is the author of "Beethoven and the Obscured Medial Caesura: A Study in the Transformation of Style" in Music Theory Spectrum vol. 35 no. 2 (2013), and has also published in the Dutch Journal of Music Theory, Indiana Theory Review, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, Music Analysis, and Theory and Practice.

This year we will host an array of guest music theorists and composers. The whole schedule will be announced soon, but our schedule will include visits from Michael Cuthbert (MIT) from September 29-October 1; John Covach (University of Rochester/Eastman School of Music) from October 19-23, 2015; David Temperley (Eastman School of Music) on October 27-28; Janet Schmalfeldt (Tufts University) from April 4-8, 2016; and Michael Klein (Temple University), who will be the keynote speaker at our graduate Music Theory Society Forum on January 30, 2016.

2014-2015 was an exciting year! We welcomed the following guests:

  • October 24: guest composer Amy Beth Kirsten led a masterclass, gave a presentation, and introduced a screening of Columbine's Paradise Theatre
  • November 17-21: Housewright Scholar Nicholas Cook was in residence. He gave several public presentations, met with students, and guest taught classes.
  • January 17: FSU Music Theory Forum featured Byron Almén (University of Texas at Austin) as keynote speaker
  • January 29-31: Festival of New Music with Featured Composer David Lang and Featured Artist Ursula Oppens (Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center)
  • February 16-20: Housewright Scholar Robert Hatten (University of Texas at Austin)
  • April 15-17: Nicole Biamonte (McGill University)

In fall 2013, we hosted an international conference and festival dedicated to the music of György Ligeti. In spring 2014, we were visited by quite a number of special guests. 

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

Jobs beginning this year:

Neil Anderson-Himmelspach (DM composition, 2009) will be joining the faculty of Texas Christian University as Assistant Professor in Fall 2015.

Ya-Hui Cheng (PhD music theory, 2008) will be joining the faculty of University of South Florida as Assistant Professor.

Andrew Gades (PhD music theory, 2013) joined the faculty of The College of Idaho in fall 2014 as a Visiting Assistant Professor. Next year, he will begin his tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor.

Bryn Hughes (PhD music theory, 2011) will be leaving the faculty of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music to begin job as Assistant Professor at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada).

Greg McCandless (PhD music theory, 2010) will be joining the faculty of Appalachian State University (NC) as Assistant Professor.

John Peterson (PhD music theory, 2014) joined the faculty of James Madison University in fall 2014 as a Lecturer; Next year, he will begin his tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor.

Gillian Robertson (PhD music theory, 2015) be a Lecturer in music theory at Texas A&M University-Kingsville starting this fall.

Jennifer Smith (PhD music theory, 2012) will be joining the faculty of the DePauw University (IN). She has previously been on the faculties of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Florida.

Sarah Zipperer Gaskins (DM composition, 2011) will be Department Chair of the Professional Music Program at Portland (OR) Community College - Cascade Campus.

Jobs that began this year:
Sean Atkinson (PhD 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.

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

Christopher Endrinal (PhD 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.

Gabe Fankhauser (PhD music theory, 1999) joined the faculty of University of North Georgia. He had been Associate Professor at Appalachian State University. Dr. Fankhauser is also currently President of Music Theory Southeast. 

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

Crystal Peebles (PhD 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.

Jeff Yunek (MM music theory, 2009) joined the faculty of Kennesaw State University (GA). He is also currently President of South-Central Society for Music Theory.


  • Cara Stroud (ABD) won the best paper prize at the GAMuT conference in Denton, TX on September 26, 2015. Current FSU doctoral students, Lewis Jeter and Danielle Wulf also presented at that conference (FSU students presented three of the eight accepted papers!). 
  • FSU faculty and students played a huge role in this year's Music Theory Southeast Conference at East Carolina University (March 27-28, 2015). Brian Jarvis (PhD ABD) won the prize for Best Student Paper and other current students who presented were Gillian Robertson (PhD ABD), Daniel Tompkins (MM), and Micah Lomax (PhD student). Among our faculty, Michael Buchler led the Student Workshop, Nancy Rogers was a leader in the innovative discussion session on post-tonal music, and Andrew Aziz presented a paper. Also, FSU alumni presented their work were Bryn Hughes, Jay Smith, and Matthew Bell.
  • Cara Stroud (PhD student) presented at the 2015 Texas Society for Music Theory Conference.
  • Four of our doctoral students (John Peterson, Gillian Robertson, Joshua Mills, and Micah Lomax) and two faculty members (Matthew Shaftel and Michael Buchler) presented their work at the Society for Music Theory meeting in Milwaukee, WI this fall. Still other faculty members participated 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.
  • DM student Jon Overholt won the Florida MTNA Composition Competition's Young Artist Category. 
  • Cara Stroud (PhD student) and Daniel Tompkins (MM student in music theory) 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.
  • 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".
  • 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. Marshall 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.
  • 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.
  • Michael Buchler was elected Vice President of the Society for Music Theory in 2013. He was previously Chair of the (2013) SMT Program Committee. Joseph Kraus just completed his three-year term on the Society for Music Theory Executive Board. Matthew Shaftel is the Chair of SMT's Publications Committee. Nancy Rogers is Chair of SMT's Professional Development Committee. (Yes, you could say that our faculty is 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 in 2013: 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.

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