|From a production of Gregg Martin's thesis opera Life in Death (2008), in CUA's Callan Theatre.|
Prospective graduate students: the December 3rd, 2016 deadline to apply for the MM Composition Stage Music degree program has now passed. If you missed the deadline, we encourage you to apply next year for Fall 2018 admission. Our other graduate programs (MM Composition Concert Music, and DMA Composition) are open for application through the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, as is our undergraduate BM program.
A program focused on theatrical music
Founded in 2005, this 2-year program unique in its scope, provides training and development for students in writing for a variety of genres, including opera, musical theatre, dance, and incidental music for drama. Through private lessons, group workshops, coursework and performance of a culminating thesis project, students develop the special skills required for writing in theatrical or collaborative contexts, and apply them through practical work. This program was developed both in response to a perceived lack of formal training for composers who are interested in writing in non-concert genres, and to the availability of a large community of musical theater, opera, dance, film, and other artists working both at Catholic University and in the Washington, DC.
The MM in Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program opened in fall 2005: students in the program since then have collaborated with student playwrights and directors in the CUA Department of Drama to compose incidental music and sound design for theatrical productions, have worked with choreographers and dancers, and have been involved in musical preparation for musical theater and operatic productions at the School of Music, as well. Graduates of the program have gone on to professional positions as university faculty positions and in professional theater. Here are sites of two representative alumni:
Roc Lee (Assistant Sound Designer, Shakespeare Theater Company, Washington, DC)
Kyle Gullings (Assistant Professor of Music, University of Texas-Tyler)
Since the program's opening, Stage Music composers have heard their music performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Capital Fringe Festival, Opera North (Philadelphia), the Virginia Arts Festival, the ATLAS Performing Arts Center, and many other theaters and performing venues in the DC metro area and beyond.
Performance and reading opportunities
Students in the MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program enjoy ample opportunities to have their theatrical works workshopped, read, and performed by School of Music and CUA students, faculty, and affiliated artists. Students' stage works have been read or performed at the Kennedy Center's annual Page to Stage Festival, the Source Theatre (part of the Capital Fringe Festival), ATLAS Center for the Performing Arts, Joy of Motion Dance Center, the Arts Club of Washington, as well as at CUA's Hartke and Callan Theatres and Ward Recital Hall.
In June 2014, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves appeared as a special guest in a performance of 2009 alumnus Steven M. Allen's opera "The Poet," based on the life of American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. PBS shot footage of the opera in fall 2015 as part of an upcoming documentary about Dunbar. Stage Music graduates regularly have works produced at the annual Capital Fringe Festival, and most students' thesis projects-in-progress or their completed thesis pieces have been performed at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival, held every Labor Day weekend, which remains an important venue for CUA composers. Most recently, 2nd-year MM student Joseph Kaz' thesis opera-in-progress Alice Flagg was presented at the Page to Stage Festival in September 2015.
The School of Music's thriving Opera and Musical Theater divisions are able to support the creation and performance of student composers' works, and are interested in pursuing collaborative projects with composers in the program. The CUA Department of Drama enjoys a close relationship with the School of Music, and student composers have been composing incidental music/sound design for Drama Department productions on a regular basis, as well as collaborating independently with MFA Directing and Acting students on original projects both on and off campus.
Beginning in spring 2007, MM Stage Music and other composition students paired up with colleagues in music and drama to present the first 24-hour new musical festival, in which teams conceived, wrote, and presented new musicals, created and performed in a 24-hour time span. The 24-hour musicals have become an annual tradition, with a number of these collaborations later developing into longer pieces. Additionally, student composers have been actively engaged in composing new music for CUA Department of Drama productions: November 2006 witnessed the premiere of MM Stage Music composer Gregg Martin's music for Aristophanes' Lysistrata (directed by MFA Directing student Matt Ripa), and Martin's electronic score for Tempest4, an MFA Directing project (buy MFA Directing student Carrie Klewin), based on Shakespeare's Tempest, premiered in April 2007. Kyle Gullings' score and sound design for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was featured on the Hartke Theater mainstage in April 2007, another CUA Department of Drama production. Scores by John Maggi and Kyle Gullings were also featured in productions at CUA's Callan Theater of Richard III and Doctor Faustus, respectively, in spring 2008, and a new theatrical work on the epic of Gilgamesh, directed by CUA MFA Directing student Ryan Whinnem, premiered as part of the Capital Fringe Festival in July 2008.
Special collaborative projects
Students in the MM Stage Music program are also able to participate in special collaborative events sponsored by the School of Music. One such project, presented at the spring 2009 CUA President's Festival of the Arts, combined music, dance, and silent film: Silent Explosions, Invisible Jumps: Music, Dance, and Film Create a Ruckus. For the 2008 President's Festival, Stage Music students partnered with CUA Drama students to present new miniature operas and plays of Thornton Wilder: Playing, Singing, Talking Wilder.
Watch selected thesis productions
A unique thesis project
Students in the MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program create a culminating thesis work of at least 30 minutes, which is to be performed in its theatrical context (i.e., staged). Composers not only write the music for their thesis projects, they gain an invaluable wealth of practical experience by overseeing the production of their project. They often are the lyricists and librettists, producers, fund-raisers, music directors, rehearsal pianists, publicists, and media representatives. They receive support and advice from faculty and staff, but the projects are the students' own responsibilities. In general, the production of the thesis is the most valuable single experience available to students in the MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program. And, it is a truly unique experience: no other graduate program offers composers this golden opportunity to have their work performed in a theatrical context. A list of thesis projects completed since 2007 demonstrates the variety of work already produced by our student composers.
|Rehearsing student composer Kyle Gullings' thesis opera, The Eden Diaries (2007), at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage as part of its annual Page to Stage Festival.|
Stage Music Practicum and Topics in Stage Music
Stage Music Practicum (MUS 617, 3 cr.) is designed specifically for students in the MM Stage Music program. Students in this course collaborate with colleagues in each of the program's four core genres (opera, musical theater, dance, and drama) to create and present new work. Each course unit concludes with a special presentation session at which the collaborators present their work for the course instructor and a small panel of affiliated professional faculty and artists, who give commentary, feedback, and suggestions. Typically, these performance sessions are recorded for the benefit of the participants.
Here are two examples of performance sessions from past versions of Stage Music Practicum (streaming video):
Topics in Stage Music (MUS 555, 3 cr. in 1-cr. sections) is an innovative course model which consists of three 5-week "mini-courses" which focus on specialized topics which are too large for a single lecture but too small for an entire semester. Each section is 1 credit, and students may register for 1, 2, or 3 credits. Topics offered in past years have included Text-Setting for Composers, Scoring for Pit Band (most recently offered spring 2015), Opera Production for Composers, and Composing for Dance (most recently offered fall 2015).
Other coursework opportunities allow for student works to be workshopped and read. In spring 2007, for example, student composers had theatrical works workshopped by students in the Musical Theater Workshop course, taught by Mr. Tom Pedersen and Ms. Jane Pesci-Townsend (Musical Theater faculty). In spring 2008, CUA's Opera Workshop, directed by Dr. Elaine Walter, presented scenes from MM Stage Music student John Diomede's thesis opera, Esther and Michael Oberhauser's opera, Magnum Opus.
Optional externship program
Master of Music in Composition, Stage Music Emphasis Curriculum
note: the MM Composition Stage Music program falls under the direction of its founder, Dr. Andrew Simpson. All prospective applicants should be in direct contact with Dr. Simpson via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Total: 34 credit hours
Required for all MM students entering as of fall 2010 is the successful completion of comprehensive examinations (COMP 598-01 w/classes; COMP 599-02 w/o classes) in the areas of theory and analysis, and repertoire and compositional practice post-1900. The student may schedule the comprehensive examinations following the adviser's written approval.
Thesis production (MUS 940, 0 cr.)