The composition and music technology program is among the most vibrant and progressive in the country, featuring internationally recognized faculty members who are regularly performed by top orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists throughout the world.

Because of the program’s emphasis on individuality, the student body is impressively diverse, representing a wide range of stylistic interests, techniques, notations, performance venues and audiences. Students draw upon the excellent resources of the Bienen School of Music, comprising premier researchers and performers, a music library that houses the largest collection of post-1945 music in the world, and the thriving cultural community in nearby Chicago.

The school’s Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition provides a special dimension to the program, as prizewinners – thus far John Adams, Oliver Knussen, Kaija Saariaho, John Luther Adams, Aaron Jay Kernis, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Steve Reich, and Jennifer Higdon – spend two to three weeks on campus, closely interacting with students and faculty.

All entering doctoral students receive a full tuition scholarship and a work stipend.

Composition & Music Technology Faculty

Christopher Alan Mercer

Lecturer, Composition and Music Technology

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Alex Mincek

Assistant Professor, Composition and Music Technology

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Hans Thomalla

Associate Professor, Composition and Music Technology

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Jay Alan Yim

Associate Professor, Composition and Music Technology

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About the Composition and Music Technology Program

Performance Opportunities

The performance of student compositions is a central focus of the program. Numerous opportunities exist for collaborative work with graduate and undergraduate performance majors, both in solo and ensemble settings, including:

  • three Student Composer Concerts per year

  • performances and readings by visiting artists, who in recent years have included Claire Chase, Ensemble Recherche, Eighth Blackbird, ICE, Ensemble Linea, Callithumpian Consort, JACK Quartet, Spektral Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, Lucas Fels, Fonema Consort, Third Coast Percussion, and loadbang

  • annual performances and reading sessions by large Bienen School ensembles, including the Contemporary Music Ensemble, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and Symphony Orchestra

  • 200+ solo and chamber ensemble recitals presented annually by performance students

Course Offerings

Undergraduate and doctoral student composers regularly take cutting-edge, upper-level courses in subjects such as:

  • Phenomenology of Sound

  • Sound Installation Art

  • Contemporary Opera

  • Materials of Music Since 1945

  • The Art of Noise

  • Technology-Based Performance

  • Aesthetics for Composers

  • Producing in the Virtual Studio

  • Current Compositional Praxis

Additionally, all students participate in the Composition Colloquium, a weekly forum where students and faculty present and discuss their current work. The Colloquium regularly hosts guest composers of international renown.

Institute for New Music

New music plays a vital role in Northwestern’s musical life. Student composers regularly work with guest performers under the aegis of the Institute for New Music, the nerve center of all contemporary music activities at the Bienen School.

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Undergraduate Program

The composition and music technology faculty believes that a successful composer is not merely a master of craft and technique, but rather someone with curiosity and a broad knowledge in diverse fields across the arts, sciences, and humanities. An intensive composition curriculum, therefore, is paired with the broad academic and cultural resources available at an elite research university.

Students construct a flexible course of study that best matches their musical and career goals. Most students pursue the Bachelor of Music, a professional degree, but the liberal arts-oriented Bachelor of Arts in Music and Bachelor of Science in Music degrees are also available. Many composition and music technology majors take advantage of the dual degree program; the ad hoc, or self-designed degree; or a double major within the Bienen School of Music, such as the pairing of a major in composition with one in performance. Another option that BM composition students have undertaken is combining their composition studies with a minor in music technology.

See Undergraduate Admission Requirements

Doctoral Program

Students in this program are strongly supported in their efforts to build not only technical proficiency but also a unique and original musical voice. As a result, they are surrounded and enriched by colleagues of a wide diversity of perspective. All students are actively assisted in developing relationships with professional soloists and ensembles outside of the University setting, both locally and internationally.

The composition program provides significant support to students for the purposes of travel and logistics for performances, research, and other professional development activities. Funding level is based on merit of the project, with 10-20 proposals funded each year.

Note: Graduate students interested in pursuing the PhD degree may enter either after the completion of a master's degree or, for especially gifted students, after earning an undergraduate degree.

See PhD Admission Requirements

Music Library

Among the largest music collections in the U.S., the Northwestern University Music Library has an unmatched strength in 20th century and contemporary classical music, and holds at least one copy of nearly every new score published since 1945. The library’s notable John Cage collection documents the life and work of one the 20th century’s most revolutionary composer.

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After Northwestern

Composition program alumni have gone on to establish notable careers as composers, performers, educators, and scholars. Their achievements include

  • performances at major international festivals including Gaudeamus, Huddersfield, ISCM World Music Days, Donaueschingen, SEAMUS, and Wien Modern

  • courses and residencies at Darmstadt, Royaumont, Acanthes, June in Buffalo, DAAD Künstlerprogramm, Tanglewood, and Aspen

  • performances by such ensembles as Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, ensemble recherche, Apartment House, Neue Vocalisten Stuttgart, Champ d’Action, ASKO Ensemble, Ensemble SurPlus, Ictus Ensemble, the Bozzini, Diotima, and Kairos String Quartets, and numerous soloists

  • teaching positions at colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

Current Composition Students

3rd year PhD

LFAmaya@u.northwestern.edu

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Luis Fernando Amaya

3rd year PhD

LFAmaya@u.northwestern.edu

Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Luis Fernando Amaya is a composer and percussionist. His music has been performed by artists such as the Arditti Quartet, Yuko Yoshikawa, Mauricio Náder, and Ensemble Dal Niente. As a performer, he is a member of the Latin American traditional music band Los Molotes and the improvisation quartet Barahúnda, Cuarteto; both based in Mexico City. Luis Fernando is currently a doctoral student in composition at Northwestern University studying with Hans Thomalla.

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2nd Year PhD

MathewArrellin2020@u.northwestern.edu

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Mathew Arrellin

2nd Year PhD

MathewArrellin2020@u.northwestern.edu

Mathew Arrellin’s music has been performed by chamber ensembles and soloists from across the US and Mexico, with premieres in the US, Mexico, and Spain. Additionally, he has collaborated with contemporary dancers and choreographers, and his pieces have been included in several choreography showcases. Arrellin holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory, composition, and cello performance from the University of New Mexico, where his primary composition teacher was José-Luis Hurtado. He is currently a doctoral student in composition at Northwestern University where he studies with Jay Alan Yim.

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2nd year PhD

NikiCharlafti2023@u.northwestern.edu

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Niki Charlafti

2nd year PhD

NikiCharlafti2023@u.northwestern.edu

Niki Charlafti is a Greek composer pursuing her PhD in Music Composition at the Bienen School of Music. She is currently in the studio of Alex Mincek and previously studied with Hans Thomalla. Ms. Charlafti holds a M.M. in Composition and Theory from New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), where she studied with Efstratios Minakakis and Anthony Coleman. Her works have been performed in Chicago, New York, Boston, Greece, the U.K., France, Germany and the Netherlands. Her upcoming collaborations include new works for Ensemble Dal Niente, guitarist Ruben Mattia Santorsa (Italy), ~Nois saxophone quartet (Chicago), as well as interdisciplinary projects with painters and choreographers in Germany (Berlin) and Mexico (Aguascalientes). Her recent collaborations and performances include ECCE (FR), CNMF and loadbang, June in Buffalo Festival and more. Musically, she is currently exploring the physicality of sound, the performing body and its musical dramaturgy, improvisation, extended vocal techniques and language, instrumental narrativity, as well as live electronics. Aesthetically, she is interested in contradiction. Her work balances between extreme sensitivity and violence, comedy and drama, sense and the nonsensical, reality, illusion and their common denominators.

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Luis Fernando Amaya

3rd year PhD

LFAmaya@u.northwestern.edu

Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Luis Fernando Amaya is a composer and percussionist. His music has been performed by artists such as the Arditti Quartet, Yuko Yoshikawa, Mauricio Náder, and Ensemble Dal Niente. As a performer, he is a member of the Latin American traditional music band Los Molotes and the improvisation quartet Barahúnda, Cuarteto; both based in Mexico City. Luis Fernando is currently a doctoral student in composition at Northwestern University studying with Hans Thomalla.

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Mathew Arrellin

2nd Year PhD

MathewArrellin2020@u.northwestern.edu

Mathew Arrellin’s music has been performed by chamber ensembles and soloists from across the US and Mexico, with premieres in the US, Mexico, and Spain. Additionally, he has collaborated with contemporary dancers and choreographers, and his pieces have been included in several choreography showcases. Arrellin holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory, composition, and cello performance from the University of New Mexico, where his primary composition teacher was José-Luis Hurtado. He is currently a doctoral student in composition at Northwestern University where he studies with Jay Alan Yim.

Website

Niki Charlafti

2nd year PhD

NikiCharlafti2023@u.northwestern.edu

Niki Charlafti is a Greek composer pursuing her PhD in Music Composition at the Bienen School of Music. She is currently in the studio of Alex Mincek and previously studied with Hans Thomalla. Ms. Charlafti holds a M.M. in Composition and Theory from New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), where she studied with Efstratios Minakakis and Anthony Coleman. Her works have been performed in Chicago, New York, Boston, Greece, the U.K., France, Germany and the Netherlands. Her upcoming collaborations include new works for Ensemble Dal Niente, guitarist Ruben Mattia Santorsa (Italy), ~Nois saxophone quartet (Chicago), as well as interdisciplinary projects with painters and choreographers in Germany (Berlin) and Mexico (Aguascalientes). Her recent collaborations and performances include ECCE (FR), CNMF and loadbang, June in Buffalo Festival and more. Musically, she is currently exploring the physicality of sound, the performing body and its musical dramaturgy, improvisation, extended vocal techniques and language, instrumental narrativity, as well as live electronics. Aesthetically, she is interested in contradiction. Her work balances between extreme sensitivity and violence, comedy and drama, sense and the nonsensical, reality, illusion and their common denominators.

Website

DMA candidate

ngcline@gmail.com

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Nicholas Cline

DMA candidate

ngcline@gmail.com

Nicholas Cline writes electro-acoustic music often drawing on sensuous as well as intellectual experiences of nature with the belief that music should reveal, challenge, and shape the listener’s understanding of the world. His music has been presented at festivals in the US and in Europe. He is featured on the SEAMUS electroacoustic miniatures recording series: Re-Caged and is a High Concept Labs sponsored artist. He holds degrees from Columbia College Chicago and Indiana University. He is completing a DMA at Northwestern University.

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DMA candidate

daniel.dehaan@northwestern.edu

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Daniel Dehaan

DMA candidate

daniel.dehaan@northwestern.edu

Daniel Dehaan is a composer, performer, and educator currently based in Chicago. He is a doctoral student at Northwestern University studying music composition with a focus on digital music creation and performance. His principal composition teachers have included Jay Alan Yim, Hans Thomalla, Chris Mercer, and Marcos Balter. Daniel regularly creates and performs music designed to be site and system specific, crafting unique experiences for each performance. His works emphasize the physical presence of the audience and utilize specially designed multi-channel speaker installations to envelop his audiences in the sonic experience. From the KROME Gallery in Berlin, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to the Centro Cultural de España in Costa Rica, Daniel’s music has been performed at a variety of venues all over of the world. He has had the privilege of collaborating with many talented musicians, ensembles, and artists such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Dal Niente, GPS-Trans, Fonema Consort, and The Industry of the Ordinary. His work has been discussed by many publications including TIME Magazine, New Music Box, the Chicago Reader, BuzzFeed, and Business Insider. Recordings of Daniel’s music have been released on Navona Records and Parlour Tapes+, with plans for a new full length release in 2016. Daniel is currently the Digital Music Lab Manager at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches classes and private lessons in digital music composition, production and performance.

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3rd year PhD

noahfjenkins@gmail.com

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Noah Jenkins

3rd year PhD

noahfjenkins@gmail.com

Noah Jenkins is a composer and violinist from Oregon now living in Chicago. Much of his recent music takes an experimental approach to the exploration of audible processes, acoustic phenomena, and thresholds of perception. Noah’s music has recently been performed by Ensemble Linea, ~Nois, Fonema Consort, and pianist Jonathan Hannau. He holds degrees in composition and violin performance from the University of Oregon and is currently a PhD student at Northwestern University studying composition with Alex Mincek, Jay Alan Yim, Hans Thomalla, and Chris Mercer.

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Nicholas Cline

DMA candidate

ngcline@gmail.com

Nicholas Cline writes electro-acoustic music often drawing on sensuous as well as intellectual experiences of nature with the belief that music should reveal, challenge, and shape the listener’s understanding of the world. His music has been presented at festivals in the US and in Europe. He is featured on the SEAMUS electroacoustic miniatures recording series: Re-Caged and is a High Concept Labs sponsored artist. He holds degrees from Columbia College Chicago and Indiana University. He is completing a DMA at Northwestern University.

Website

Daniel Dehaan

DMA candidate

daniel.dehaan@northwestern.edu

Daniel Dehaan is a composer, performer, and educator currently based in Chicago. He is a doctoral student at Northwestern University studying music composition with a focus on digital music creation and performance. His principal composition teachers have included Jay Alan Yim, Hans Thomalla, Chris Mercer, and Marcos Balter. Daniel regularly creates and performs music designed to be site and system specific, crafting unique experiences for each performance. His works emphasize the physical presence of the audience and utilize specially designed multi-channel speaker installations to envelop his audiences in the sonic experience. From the KROME Gallery in Berlin, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to the Centro Cultural de España in Costa Rica, Daniel’s music has been performed at a variety of venues all over of the world. He has had the privilege of collaborating with many talented musicians, ensembles, and artists such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Dal Niente, GPS-Trans, Fonema Consort, and The Industry of the Ordinary. His work has been discussed by many publications including TIME Magazine, New Music Box, the Chicago Reader, BuzzFeed, and Business Insider. Recordings of Daniel’s music have been released on Navona Records and Parlour Tapes+, with plans for a new full length release in 2016. Daniel is currently the Digital Music Lab Manager at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches classes and private lessons in digital music composition, production and performance.

Website

Noah Jenkins

3rd year PhD

noahfjenkins@gmail.com

Noah Jenkins is a composer and violinist from Oregon now living in Chicago. Much of his recent music takes an experimental approach to the exploration of audible processes, acoustic phenomena, and thresholds of perception. Noah’s music has recently been performed by Ensemble Linea, ~Nois, Fonema Consort, and pianist Jonathan Hannau. He holds degrees in composition and violin performance from the University of Oregon and is currently a PhD student at Northwestern University studying composition with Alex Mincek, Jay Alan Yim, Hans Thomalla, and Chris Mercer.

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DMA candidate

craigdavispinson2014@u.northwestern.edu

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Craig Davis Pinson

DMA candidate

craigdavispinson2014@u.northwestern.edu

Born and raised in Mexico City, Craig Davis Pinson is a composer interested in the relationship between abstract structural experimentation and intuitive musical impulse. Performance locations include London, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Maine, Mexico, and Italy, by ensembles such as International Contemporary Ensemble, Ludovico Ensemble, The Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble, Atlantic Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble, Quartetto Maurice. Readings have included artists such as Irvine Arditti and Parker Quartet. Davis Pinson was the winner of The Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble Composition Competition 2013-2014, his music has been featured in the online publication Boing Boing and in the Atlantic Music Festival, Fresh Inc, and highSCORE festivals. He has participated in masterclasses with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christopher Theofanidis, and Hilda Paredes. Davis Pinson holds a Bachelor of Music degree in composition from The Boston Conservatory.

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1st year PhD

NeilQuigley2022@u.northwestern.edu

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Neil Quigley

1st year PhD

NeilQuigley2022@u.northwestern.edu

Neil Quigley is a composer/sound artist based in Ireland and Chicago. He has recently worked with the London Contemporary Orchestra at their HUB sessions, Crash Ensemble during their Free State #9 concert, and has had electroacoustic pieces premiered in Buenos Aires and Udine, Italy. When writing electronic music, he tries to use open-source software. Quigley has studied in Ireland and the U.S. and earned an MA in composition from University College Cork.

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3rd year DMA

lizasobel2018@u.northwestern.edu

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Liza Sobel

3rd year DMA

lizasobel2018@u.northwestern.edu

Liza Sobel is a composer and singer whose work has been performed at Carnegie Hall; Le Poisson Rouge; Symphony Space; Aldeburgh Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme; Brevard Music Institute; Bowdoin’s International Music Festival; nief-norf Summer Festival; and Chamber Music Institute. Performers that have played her music include: Cygnus Ensemble; Third Coast Percussion; Creviston-Fader Duo; Nouveau Classical Project; Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble; West Point Woodwind Quintet; New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra; Skyros String Quartet; Helix; and Joseph Lin of the Juilliard String Quartet. Liza’s Requiem won the American Prize in the choral division and was a finalist in the BMI Young Composers Award. Her orchestra piece Tocsin was a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers’ Award. Other awards Liza has won include a Fulbright scholarship, and Cornell’s endorsed candidate and/or finalist for the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and Keasbey scholarships. She previously studied at Rutgers University’ Mason Gross Conservatory (MA); Cornell University (BA), and Manhattan School of Music (exchange student). She currently studies composition with Jay Alan Yim. As a singer, Liza regularly performs both new and standard repertoire, as well as her own music. Liza frequently performs music by living emerging composers, and many composers have written pieces specifically for her.

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Craig Davis Pinson

DMA candidate

craigdavispinson2014@u.northwestern.edu

Born and raised in Mexico City, Craig Davis Pinson is a composer interested in the relationship between abstract structural experimentation and intuitive musical impulse. Performance locations include London, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Maine, Mexico, and Italy, by ensembles such as International Contemporary Ensemble, Ludovico Ensemble, The Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble, Atlantic Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble, Quartetto Maurice. Readings have included artists such as Irvine Arditti and Parker Quartet. Davis Pinson was the winner of The Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble Composition Competition 2013-2014, his music has been featured in the online publication Boing Boing and in the Atlantic Music Festival, Fresh Inc, and highSCORE festivals. He has participated in masterclasses with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christopher Theofanidis, and Hilda Paredes. Davis Pinson holds a Bachelor of Music degree in composition from The Boston Conservatory.

Website

Neil Quigley

1st year PhD

NeilQuigley2022@u.northwestern.edu

Neil Quigley is a composer/sound artist based in Ireland and Chicago. He has recently worked with the London Contemporary Orchestra at their HUB sessions, Crash Ensemble during their Free State #9 concert, and has had electroacoustic pieces premiered in Buenos Aires and Udine, Italy. When writing electronic music, he tries to use open-source software. Quigley has studied in Ireland and the U.S. and earned an MA in composition from University College Cork.

Website

Liza Sobel

3rd year DMA

lizasobel2018@u.northwestern.edu

Liza Sobel is a composer and singer whose work has been performed at Carnegie Hall; Le Poisson Rouge; Symphony Space; Aldeburgh Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme; Brevard Music Institute; Bowdoin’s International Music Festival; nief-norf Summer Festival; and Chamber Music Institute. Performers that have played her music include: Cygnus Ensemble; Third Coast Percussion; Creviston-Fader Duo; Nouveau Classical Project; Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble; West Point Woodwind Quintet; New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra; Skyros String Quartet; Helix; and Joseph Lin of the Juilliard String Quartet. Liza’s Requiem won the American Prize in the choral division and was a finalist in the BMI Young Composers Award. Her orchestra piece Tocsin was a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers’ Award. Other awards Liza has won include a Fulbright scholarship, and Cornell’s endorsed candidate and/or finalist for the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and Keasbey scholarships. She previously studied at Rutgers University’ Mason Gross Conservatory (MA); Cornell University (BA), and Manhattan School of Music (exchange student). She currently studies composition with Jay Alan Yim. As a singer, Liza regularly performs both new and standard repertoire, as well as her own music. Liza frequently performs music by living emerging composers, and many composers have written pieces specifically for her.

Website

1st Year PhD

BenjaminZucker2022@u.northwestern.edu

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Ben Zucker

1st Year PhD

BenjaminZucker2022@u.northwestern.edu

Ben Zucker is a composer, improviser, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, using the voice, percussion, piano, brass instruments, synthesizers and programming, and movement and performance art to create constellations of conceptual and stylistic relations. His work crosses and intentionally plays with genre and discipline; it has been performed by artists including the Mivos Quartet, Apartment House, New York Virtuoso Singers, Distractfold Ensemble, and Rinde Eckert. He was recognized as a "New Composer Talent" by the International Audio Branding Academy, and his work has won awards from the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, C4 Collective, San Francisco Choral Artists, and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Additionally, he maintains an active career as a vocalist, trumpeter, pianist, and percussionist performing jazz, new music, and improvisations solo and with ensembles around the world, including performances with Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Notes Inegales, Luciano Chessa, as a founding member of The Improviser’s Choir, electro-salsa collective Arcadio, and the Apres-Garde Ensemble, and on solo records released on Not Art Records and Verz Imprint. Ben received a BA in music and critical theory at Wesleyan University, and recently completed postgraduate studies at Brunel University London with Jennifer Walshe and Christopher Fox.

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Ben Zucker

1st Year PhD

BenjaminZucker2022@u.northwestern.edu

Ben Zucker is a composer, improviser, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, using the voice, percussion, piano, brass instruments, synthesizers and programming, and movement and performance art to create constellations of conceptual and stylistic relations. His work crosses and intentionally plays with genre and discipline; it has been performed by artists including the Mivos Quartet, Apartment House, New York Virtuoso Singers, Distractfold Ensemble, and Rinde Eckert. He was recognized as a "New Composer Talent" by the International Audio Branding Academy, and his work has won awards from the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, C4 Collective, San Francisco Choral Artists, and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Additionally, he maintains an active career as a vocalist, trumpeter, pianist, and percussionist performing jazz, new music, and improvisations solo and with ensembles around the world, including performances with Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Notes Inegales, Luciano Chessa, as a founding member of The Improviser’s Choir, electro-salsa collective Arcadio, and the Apres-Garde Ensemble, and on solo records released on Not Art Records and Verz Imprint. Ben received a BA in music and critical theory at Wesleyan University, and recently completed postgraduate studies at Brunel University London with Jennifer Walshe and Christopher Fox.

Website