Composition

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Princeton Sound Kitchen

Long at the vanguard of the art of music composition, Princeton’s Graduate Program in Composition considers it essential for composers to build their own vision based on their strengths and passions, while remaining actively open to new musical experiences shared by the community. The program embraces many kinds of musics, engaging with diverse musical languages and creative practices. At the heart of our creative endeavor is the public concert series Princeton Sound Kitchen, in which both faculty and graduate students have their new works workshopped and premiered by some of the world’s finest professional musicians and ensembles, including the Cone Artist Ensemble in Residence, Sō Percussion. The program also provides cutting edge resources for computer/electronic music research, facilitates interaction with visiting composers through the colloquium series, and supports collaborations involving dance, theater, and film through the Lewis Center for the Arts. Princeton also offers an Interdisciplinary PhD in the Humanities (IHUM), which allows for an extra year of funding and research support to explore fields beyond the boundaries of a student’s home discipline.

All composition students spend their first two years taking seminars from Music Department faculty, participating in the Princeton Sound Kitchen and Composition Colloquium Series, and preparing for their General Exam (given in May of their second year) while they pursue their creative work. After successful completion of the General Exam, students begin concentrated work on the PhD thesis, completing a dissertation proposal by the second semester of their third year. The PhD thesis comprises an original composition, developed in consultation with two advisors, as well as an essay. Entering students are expected to spend at least two (2) years in full-time residence, regardless of prior graduate work.

The Composition Program balances freedom and independent work with lively interaction as a group, maintaining a creative and academic community characterized by diverse, inventive composition and spirited discussion about related issues—an academic and creative collaboration where listening to others’ voices is as important as developing one’s own. Graduate students are expected to participate fully in departmental activities, including seminars, concerts, and colloquia. Students are encouraged to find their own rhythm for the independent portion of their work and to take initiative in seeking faculty input as desired.

At the core of the Composition Program is the student’s own creative work. There are no weekly composition lessons or assignments to “studios”; instead, each student solicits feedback from faculty members on compositional work at any stage.

Individual meetings and independent creative work are complemented by seminars. Up to four (4) seminars are offered each semester; topics vary according to student and faculty interests and needs. All students are expected to participate in a variety of seminars during the first two years.

Number of Courses: Pre-Generals students who wish to take fewer than two (2) seminars in a semester should discuss this choice with the Director of Graduate Studies (“DGS”). Students can occasionally substitute a 300-level undergraduate class for a graduate seminar if they wish, with approval from the DGS.  Post-Generals students who are receiving funding are expected either to take one seminar, or to teach.

Required Courses: All enrolled students should register each semester for Composition: MUS 531 in the fall and MUS 532 in the spring. Whenever MUS 542 (Princeton Sound Kitchen, or “PSK”) is offered—usually every spring semester—enrolled students should register for it as well. Neither of these meets at a regular time like other seminars; rather, these refer to private composition lessons (531 and 532) and the varied activities of the Princeton Sound Kitchen.

Occasionally students have organized informal peer-led seminars in an area of widespread interest: Supercollider, Max/MSP, video editing, basic audio engineering, etc. Contact the Director of Graduate Studies if there is a quorum of students with a particular interest.

The Composition Colloquium Series is organized by second-year students, hosting visiting composers or creative artists throughout each semester for a public talk followed by a private dinner with graduate students of any year.

The colloquia are considered part of the academic program, and enrolled graduate students are expected to attend. Students are also welcome to attend the Musicology Colloquia, and vice versa.

Graduate students are eligible for free private lessons on any instrument during their first five years.  This includes conducting, folk instruments, singing, and various “electronic” instruments including Ableton, Max, etc. 

Each student is required to demonstrate a mastery of a substantial non-musical discipline, which could be a natural language, a computer programming language, Ableton, Max, video recording and production techniques, or some other important ancillary skill at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies

Students are urged to satisfy this requirement during the first year of graduate study. The requirement can be satisfied by passing a reading exam administered by the relevant language department or by passing one of the University’s summer reading courses. For languages for which there is no formal exam, the Music Department will help assist you in arranging the test with a qualified faculty member. It is the student’s responsibility to confer with the Director of Graduate Studies about the status of their language exams, and to make the necessary arrangements to satisfy this requirement.

The Department of Music provides support for language study, covering the full costs of the reading courses offered through the annual Summer Language Program at Princeton, which typically includes French, German, and Latin. For support for the study of other languages or skills necessary for your study, immersion and intensive summer language programs, please confer with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Teaching is an essential part of the graduate program; the Graduate School requires all students to teach at some point during their period of enrollment.

Preceptors teach several weekly sections (the minimum appointment is for two Assistants in Instruction “AI” hours), depending upon the class enrollment and course material. Preceptors are also expected to attend all the regular lectures and help with grading or make-up classes as requested by the instructor. First-time preceptors must attend a mandatory training session before they begin teaching. Training sessions are offered by the McGraw Center at the beginning of each semester at the Frist Campus Center. Students should be aware that they may be called upon to teach at any point during their enrollment, though most assignments occur after passing the Generals Exam.

Students who have excelled as preceptors may also be able to participate in the Collaborative Teaching Initiative, which provides the opportunity for students to co-design and co-teach a Princeton undergraduate course with a current full-time faculty member. The course proposals, prepared by both the student and the sponsoring faculty, are subject to rigorous review, first by our own curriculum committee (both Directors of Graduate Study, Chair, and Director of Undergraduate Study) and then representatives of the Deans’ Offices. Students who have an idea for an innovative course should begin by discussing it with the faculty member in question no later than February of the preceding academic year. Please keep in mind that in a department our size these opportunities are relatively rare—typically no more than one a year for the entire department—and depend on curricular needs and faculty commitments. We may not be able to put through even the most exciting proposals. As with precepting, priority may be given to DCE students.


First-Year Requirements

Students are responsible for scheduling composition lessons at any stage of the composition process—discussing older pieces, beginning new works, when feeling stuck, etc. Faculty are available and eager to meet at any frequency. It is a good goal to meet with every faculty member in your first semester, and to try to develop the habit of regular lessons at whatever pace feels best.

Choose one of the music department seminars you take during your first year and write a 5-10 page paper (double-spaced) on a related topic. Discuss the topic ahead of time with the course instructor; students are encouraged to work with the course instructor throughout the writing process. The paper should be submitted by the last day of classes in the spring semester to the course instructor and Director of Graduate Studies, although it should ideally be submitted at the end of the semester in which the seminar takes place. Any incorporation of pre-existing scholarship or other materials must be cited appropriately, as per the university’s academic integrity policy.

The language requirement (which may include ancillary skills such as computer programming or audio engineering) is usually satisfied by an exam administered by the appropriate campus department in the fall of the first year. If such an exam is not available—for example, if Princeton does not offer the language in question, or in the case of a computer language—the student should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies to identify an examiner. At the latest, the language requirement should be satisfied before taking the General Exam.

The language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of one or more Princeton University language courses, either during the regular school year (two courses) or during the summer (one intensive summer course). The Department of Music provides support for language study, covering the full costs of the reading courses offered through the annual Summer Language Program at Princeton, which typically includes French, German, and Latin. Students interested in studying languages not provided by the Graduate School (including computer skills such as Ableton or Max) should contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

In May, each first-year student will meet with the entire composition faculty for approximately one hour to discuss the student’s creative work, the first-year paper, and a composition for close study chosen by the faculty one week in advance.

The description of a previous year’s conference for reference:

The main portion of the hour will comprise your presentation on the Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet, Mvt. 1. In preparing your presentation, do not consult secondary sources (or other individuals); just jump right in and study the piece. Think of the meeting as a mini-lecture or precept, develop an approach to the piece and present it to the faculty (we are your students for that hour). We do not have any particular expectations as to approach or methodology (e.g. Schenkerian analysis); find an approach to the music that you believe in.  We’ll also spend some time discussing your creative work, your first-year papers, and your plans for next year.

Sometime during the year: Contact a professor who taught a graduate seminar and settle on a paper topic.

End of spring semester (though hopefully earlier): Submit the finished 5-10 page first-year paper to the seminar professor.

Early May (date TBA): First-year conference.  A piece for discussion will be chosen one week in advance.

Second-Year Requirements

Students are responsible for scheduling composition lessons at any stage of the composition process—discussing older pieces, beginning new works, when feeling stuck, etc. Faculty are available and eager to meet at any frequency. It is a good goal to meet with every faculty member in your first semester, and to try to develop the habit of regular lessons at whatever pace feels best.

Choose one of the music department seminars you take during your second year and write a 10-20 page paper (double-spaced) on a related topic. Discuss the topic ahead of time with the course instructor; students are encouraged to work with the course instructor throughout the writing process. The paper should be submitted by the last day of classes in the spring semester to the course instructor and Director of Graduate Studies, although it should ideally be submitted at the end of the semester in which the seminar takes place. Any incorporation of pre-existing scholarship or other materials must be cited appropriately, as per the university’s academic integrity policy.

Second-year students are in charge of the Composition Colloquium Series—a chance to meet, learn from, and hang out with interesting visiting musicians.  Students organizing Colloquia must adhere to University and Department protocols, and should meet to decide how to distribute this responsibility which includes:

  1. Compile (with faculty and graduate student input) a list of proposed speakers.
  2. Meet with composition faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies to periodically screen names of proposed speakers. Although the choice of speakers is primarily yours, faculty input can be helpful in avoiding repeat visits or other complications. In addition, on occasion the faculty may arrange a colloquium in addition to your choices. In this event, the faculty will provide funding from outside your budget but will ask you to manage the other details (reception, publicity, etc.).
  3. Contact speakers and make arrangements for them. Schedule the date and hour of the colloquia for the fall and spring semesters, and circulate this information to faculty, staff, and graduate students. The dates must be cleared with Department staff prior to confirmation in order to avoid conflicts with the Department’s calendar, and to be included in Department communications channels.
  4. Arrange for the graduate student/speaker dinner in conference with the Department’s Business Manager.
  5. Publicity: prepare, distribute and post flyers in conference with the Department’s Communications team.
  6. Refreshments: confer with the Department’s Business Manager to manage this expense and have access to the kitchen.
  7. Technical details: reserve and set up, as needed, slide projector, overhead projector, VCR, etc with the Technical Support Manager.
  8. Budget: Confer with the Department’s Business Manager for information about speaker payments and other budget items.
  9. With advance notice, the Mendel Music Library may make relevant scores and recordings available. See the library staff for details.

The Language Requirement should be satisfied before undertaking the General Exam. (See above, under First-Year Requirements).

A significant milestone in the program is the General Exam, which, when successfully completed, advances students to candidacy for the PhD. The exam includes two parts: a concert produced collaboratively by second-year students as part of the Princeton Sound Kitchen, and the oral exam held in May. The oral exam comprises several different sections: a large piece or body of pre-twentieth-century music; a second body of more recent music; and the design of a graduate composition course. In addition to the assigned areas of inquiry, Generals topics include the student’s compositional work, the second-year paper, and ideas for the dissertation.

The General Exam guidelines are distributed during the summer following the first year of study. Topics change every year.

For reference, below is the information for last year’s (2021-22 academic year) General Exam:

  1. Generals Concert: Pick a composer about whose work you are curious. This should not be your favorite composer or the composer whom you feel has the most in common with you, but rather a composer whose music challenges or provokes you in some way.  In the work of this composer, identify a technique, sensibility, or propensity which you are interested in trying on for size, at least once. The goal is not imitation so much as dialogue: one composer responding to, or adopting, or adapting another’s ideas. Select a representative work by the chosen composer to be performed on the Generals Concert, along with your compositional response. You may need to excerpt a movement from a larger work, arrange the work for more practical performing forces or otherwise adapt the work to meet the practical requirements of the Generals Concert and/or to highlight the feature(s) of the work that you are attempting to engage. Ideally there will be a palpable, audible, difference between your Generals piece and your work up to this point. It might not be a better piece, but consider, in this case, ‘success’ to be gauged in terms of the depth of engagement with the work of another composer and the degree of personal risk taking.

As a group, second-year students are responsible for producing the concert in all its aspects.  This means managing the budget, arranging the program (75 minutes is a good maximum duration of musical content), scheduling and rehearsing the performers, etc.  Besides the Director of Graduate Studies and Princeton Sound Kitchen director, you will want to be in touch with the business manager about the budget, the concert office about publicity, and the engineer about tech.  They can provide you with deadlines.

  1. General Exam Meeting: The exam consists in two 90-minute presentations on two separate days in May.  Think of the composition faculty as your students; plan to teach us something.  Each presentation is divided into two roughly equal parts which you can order somewhat freely. However, past experience has taught that the analysis presentations tend to run a little long; a good plan is therefore, on the first day, one hourlong analysis followed by 30 minutes on the syllabus and, on the second, one hourlong analysis followed by 30 minutes on your paper, your music, and your generals piece.  We would like to end with the general discussion of you and your music.
    • Part 1: Ravel’s orchestral music – Get to know Ravel’s orchestra music.  Become an expert on one piece and prepare to lead the faculty in a discussion. You are encouraged to consider any related pieces (e.g. piano versions of the same music).  
    • Part 2: Film music – Consider the relationship between music and film.  Choose one or more aspects of this relationship to focus on, as exemplified in one or more films, and lead the faculty in a discussion. Make sure that the films are readily available ahead of time. If you can’t get scores, you may consider transcribing relevant excerpts as you see fit, though transcriptions are not required.  You can also concentrate on nonmusical elements such as sound design if you like.  You may also choose to show brief excerpts in the exam; if so, make sure not to overwhelm the verbal part of your presentation.
    • Part 3: Graduate Seminar – You are teaching a graduate music composition seminar on a topic of your choice.  Write a detailed 12-week syllabus for the course, including assignments, reading and listening lists, and prepare an opening lecture of about 30 minutes.  Expect that we will ask questions both about the lecture and the syllabus. 
    • Part 4: Your Music, Your Future, and You – We’ll also spend some time talking about your past work (composition, classwork, written papers) and your plans for the future.  There’s no need to prepare for this part, but you should know that it is on the agenda.
    • Materials: Scores for the Ravel should be available on IMSLP and there are cheap Dover editions available.  Let the head music librarian at the Mendel Music Library know if you need help finding recordings, films, or any other materials.

December 6: Proposal for Generals Concert.  Let the Director of Graduate Studies and the director of the Princeton Sound Kitchen know what your plans for the concert will be and be sure to talk with them about performers, feasibility, date, costs, etc.  You should also consult with your colleagues and the production staff, as described above.

January 24: We will notify you of precise May dates for the exam.

January 24: Generals Concert Terms of Engagement. Submit to all composition faculty not on leave a paragraph or two explaining your terms of engagement with the chosen work/repertoire for the concert. This is not a program note for the general audience but rather a specific outline for the faculty of your compositional project.  It doesn’t have to be too long, just let us know your goals.

March 14: Choices of “focus pieces” for Ravel and film music and course syllabus.  Provide let us know by email which pieces pieces you will focus on and send us your one-to-five page (maximum) syllabus by email

Sometime during the year: Contact a professor who taught a graduate seminar and settle on a paper topic.

End of spring semester (though hopefully earlier). Submit the finished 10-20 page second-year paper to the seminar professor.

April TBA. Generals Concert.

May TBA. General Exam.


After the Generals exam in the third, fourth, and fifth years, students are expected to make steady progress on both their compositions and the essay portion of their dissertation. All students must continue to attend the start-of-year meeting, attend all Princeton Sound Kitchen meetings and concerts, attend all Composition Colloquia, and to either take one seminar, or teach as a preceptor.

Third-Year Requirements

A Princeton composition dissertation has two parts: a substantial composition or portfolio of compositions; and a written essay about some topic relevant to contemporary music.  The balance between these two components varies from student to student.  Some write prose very easily, and consider it part of their compositional process.  Others do their best thinking in music, and are not particularly drawn to writing.  As a result, the written portion of the dissertation varies widely in length and scope, from 40 – 60 pages at the lower end, to more than 200 pages at the upper end.  

Your proposal should describe both the essay and the composition.  In describing the essay, include the question or problem your research will address, the state of research on that question, a chapter outline, and bibliography. Most often, the specific details (such as the ordering or content of chapters, or the precise nature of the composition) will change during the process of completing the dissertation. While you should present a thoughtful and substantial document, it is helpful to remember that the document is not a final statement but rather a stage in the process. Also include a brief account of plans for your composition piece or, if you prefer, portfolio. A paragraph or two will usually suffice, though you can write more if you like.  

The dissertation proposal is due on the first day of the second semester, submitted by email to the Director of Graduate Studies, your advisor, and the Academic Programs Administrator. While the length of the proposal will vary, ten pages is a good ballpark.  The student is encouraged to consult with faculty as needed; the selection of an appropriate faculty adviser should take place while writing the proposal (a second reader can be selected at a later date).

Students should submit an initial chapter by the last day of classes in the spring semester of their third year (typically around May 1). This may be any chapter, not necessarily the one that will ultimately open the dissertation; or, depending on the nature of the dissertation, something that reflects a comparable level of progress, as discussed with your advisor. This can be submitted directly to your dissertation advisor.

Years 3–5 are a good time to gain experience as a teacher; this can be particularly important on the job market.  There are two primary teaching tracks for composers: theory (including harmony and counterpoint, taught in MUS105, 106, 205, 206) and electronic music (314, 316).  If you are interested in teaching, contact the relevant professors well in advance—usually the January before the year in question. 

Preceptors teach several weekly sections (the minimum appointment is for two Assistants in Instruction “AI” hours), depending upon the class enrollment and course material. Preceptors are also expected to attend all the regular lectures and help with grading or make-up classes as requested by the instructor. First-time preceptors must attend a mandatory training session before they begin teaching. Training sessions are offered by the McGraw Center at the beginning of each semester at the Frist Campus Center.

Students who have excelled as preceptors may also be able to participate in the Collaborative Teaching Initiative, which provides the opportunity for students to co-design and co-teach a Princeton undergraduate course with a current full-time faculty member. The course proposals, prepared by both the student and the sponsoring faculty, are subject to rigorous review, first by our own curriculum committee (both Directors of Graduate Study, Chair, and Director of Undergraduate Study) and then representatives of the Deans’ Offices. Students who have an idea for an innovative course should begin by discussing it with the faculty member in question no later than February of the preceding academic year. Please keep in mind that in a department our size these opportunities are relatively rare—typically no more than one a year for the entire department—and depend on curricular needs and faculty commitments. We may not be able to put through even the most exciting proposals. As with precepting, priority may be given to DCE students.

Post-Generals students can also explore opportunities to gain teaching experience outside the University either in area colleges or the Community College Teaching Fellowship. Students who are in their regular period of enrollment and still receiving full stipends should get permission from their advisors before accepting an outside teaching position.

Fall semester: Choose an advisor and write a dissertation proposal.

First day of spring semester: Submit dissertation proposal.

Final day of spring semester: Submit a chapter or equivalent.

Fourth- and Fifth-Year Requirements

Students should consult with their advisor regarding the completion of both portions of the dissertation (essay and composition) and scheduling a Final Public Oral Exam (FPO, or ‘defense’).

The department holds the final public oral examination after the Graduate School reviews and accepts the reader reports and is satisfied that all other requirements have been met. As you begin the final stages of your dissertation, you should carefully consider the scheduling of your FPO, allowing at least six (6) weeks from the time of completing your dissertation until the FPO. In order for the FPO to be scheduled:

  1. The Academic Administrator and Director of Graduate Study must receive written approval from the two readers and a third current faculty member.
  2. Two reader reports and a PDF version of the dissertation must be submitted to the Academic Administrator at least 30 days before the FPO.

At least a semester before the planned FPO, it is essential to establish a timeline for final revisions of your dissertation with your first and second (principal) readers, Director of Graduate Study, and Academic Administrator. In general, defenses are not scheduled during summer months or other holidays, though we can make exceptions to this rule when appropriate (e.g. needing to defend the dissertation before starting a job).

For more information on your status after the FPO please visit this page.

The candidate is expected to prepare a presentation for the defense. The defense—celebratory and collaborative event in which a student’s work is presented publicly—lasts up to 90 minutes, including questions from the attendees. During this time, both the essay and the composition should be addressed; the candidate should also leave time for questions and discussion. While some attendees will of course have read the dissertation, most will not have done so. The presentation should not attempt to cover the complete argument of the dissertation but instead should focus on selected aspects and issues.

Sixth Year+

DCE Status: For the sixth year, enrolled PhD students who have not completed their degree within their department’s normal program period (five years for Composition students) may apply to the Department for DCE (Dissertation Completion Enrollment) status, in which students are responsible for a reduced tuition and health-care fee in exchange for library privileges, health insurance, continued access to student housing, and other benefits. The student may be enrolled for up to two additional years in DCE status.

Eligible students apply for this status during the annual reenrollment process in the last year of their program of study (year 5 for composition students), and must be approved for DCE status by their department and the Graduate School based on criteria for satisfactory academic progress. Students in DCE status are fully and formally enrolled graduate students, working full-time to complete degree requirements. DCE students may be enrolled as regular (in residence) or In Absentia students (pursuing their work away from Princeton). For information on tuition and fees support for graduate students who are enrolled in DCE status, please see Financial Support for Students in DCE status.

DCE Tuition Support: Students who would like to apply for financial assistance for DCE status from the Department for their sixth year of study should submit an application to the Director of Graduate Studies by April in the spring semester. Applications should include:

  1. Summary of progress on dissertation and timetable for completion.
  2. Budget, demonstrating financial need and listing any other grant applications pending.
  3. A letter of approval from your advisor (can be via email).

Depending upon budget and enrollment, students enrolled in DCE status may be appointed as assistants in instruction (preceptors), which also allows for a partial payment of DCE expenses plus stipend, depending upon the number of teaching hours. This funding is not available after the sixth year of study.

The application to be considered for DCE status is due on the first day after spring break.  You may not want or need DCE status, in which case you may opt for Enrollment Terminated Degree Candidacy Continued (ET/DCC) status. For example, if you plan to live away from Princeton and do not need housing or library privileges, or if you have another way of procuring health insurance, you may prefer to opt for ET/DCC.

ET/DCC Status: If students beyond their department’s regular program length are not in DCE status and have not graduated, they will be given Enrollment Terminated Degree Candidacy Continued (ET/DCC) status. ET/DCC is an unenrolled status in which students are ineligible for the student benefits that come with formal enrollment. For ET/DCC students, library access and student borrowing privileges (for those in Princeton or the vicinity), and e-mail and computer account access will continue for a period of five years beyond the date of the General Exam. Students who choose ET/DCC status may be appointed as part-time Lecturers through the Dean of the Faculty’s Office.

After DCE: After two years of DCE, students automatically move to ET/DCC status.  There is no specific limit on how long students can hold this status, but it does not last forever: the university asks that we remove students from our books who are not “actively pursuing” their dissertations.  If you are removed, the composition faculty can vote to reinstate your status when you are ready to resume your dissertation.

Tuition: The Graduate School waives tuition for students who precept for at least two hours a week. In addition, students in good standing may apply to the Music Department for DCE tuition subsidies in semesters in which they are not teaching or if they are funded by outside grants that do not include tuition.

Funding: Most students enter DCE status having exhausted their regular funding. The exceptions are students with outside fellowship who have been able to bank a year of regular funding and those who have parental/childbirth leaves. Many students in DCE status supplement their income with precepting; students who anticipate needed precepting hours should indicate their need and availability on their DCE application. While we do preliminary precepting assignments in the preceding semester, the exact number of hours for appointments may not be finalized until the end of the drop-add period.

There are several opportunities to receive internal funding during the DCE period. The Music Department will typically nominate one composition student for Honorific Fellowships, which is voted upon by the composition faculty. The faculty puts forward these nominations only when there are qualified applicants. In addition, we may nominate one composer for the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program, which pays the DCE tuition and a full stipend for one semester during their sixth year. Students who successfully defend the dissertations by the end of that semester have to opportunity to be appointed as Post Graduate Research Assistants for the spring semester, with full stipends.

All graduate students who are eligible will be considered for these fellowships; we ask that students not lobby their advisors or the DGS on their behalf.

For further funding sources, please visit the Graduate School’s funding page.


The Graduate Program in Composition includes varied performance opportunities for students. Students are invited to perform as part of the ensembles listed below, as well as in any university ensemble.

The Princeton Sound Kitchen (“PSK”) is a vital forum for the creation of new music. Serving the graduate student and faculty composers of the renowned composition program at Princeton University, PSK presents a wide variety of concerts and events. Some concerts are eclectic, and feature numerous soloists or groups and a mix of instrumentation, while others focus on a particular outstanding chamber ensemble. All demonstrate the extraordinary range of interests and abilities of the Princeton composers, many of whom take the stage themselves as performers of their own and others’ music. Difficult to pigeon-hole, these composers might work with complex notation, improvisation, electronics, or vernacular music. One might encounter any of these approaches, and many others, at a PSK concert.

Ensembles that have been featured at PSK include the Brentano String Quartet, the New Millennium Ensemble, So Percussion, the Now Ensemble, Newspeak, the Crash Ensemble, the Janus Trio, Roomful of Teeth, and many others.

Princeton Sound Kitchen is directed by a member of the composition faculty in collaboration with staff, faculty colleagues, and graduate student composers.

The Princeton University Orchestra (“PUO”) makes several hours of rehearsal time available to graduate orchestration class members for readings of students’ orchestrations as needed; it also performs student compositions. The selection of a student work for performance by the orchestra is determined by the conductor of the Princeton University Orchestra and the composition faculty. Students are encouraged to present additional concerts on their own and to participate in University and music department performing ensembles. Coaching in conducting is available.

The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) was founded In the fall of 2005. Graduate students are encouraged to become involved as performers and/or to write new works for the ensemble, regardless of previous electronic facility.

Students are encouraged to present additional concerts on their own. A faculty advisor must be identified and consulted concerning the project. (Please keep in touch with the Department Staff as needed to avoid scheduling conflicts.) Recent events of this nature include Listening in the Sound Kitchen, the House of Sound, and Not Operas festivals. Graduate students have also organized symposia involving both composition and discussion: Sounded Text, and Sonic Fragments. A student-initiated series, the Livestock Exchange is an ongoing performance series that focuses on improvised music, sound art, noise, electronica, and other genre-defying music. Livestock Exchange is both a forum for graduate students to present work outside of the traditional concert hall, and for guest artists whose work falls outside of the established tradition.


Printing: Graduate students have access to the photocopy machine located in the administrative offices on the 3rd floor of the Woolworth Music Building.  The machine is available for student’s professional use between the hours of 2:00 – 4:45 p.m. Room 212 also has a 11×17 printer.

Equipment in the department is constantly evolving, and there are many different composer workspaces available including the Effron Music Building and 262 Alexander Street with Mac computers.  If there is something you need, do not hesitate to ask the Director of Graduate Studies.

Workspaces:

  • Studio A is the main recording studio, with extensive music software, outboard gear, and storage.
  • Studio B has a Disklavier.
  • Studio C is a storage and hardware-hacking room.  It has soldering irons etc.
  • Studio D is a smaller and more private composer workspace, with a modest amount of outboard gear.
  • Room 212 has a Mac and an 11-by-17 printer.  
  • Room 219 is a jointly used composer/musicologist area.
  • Room 310 has a Xerox machine/scanner, which can also be used as a printer, and a binding machine.

Equipment that can be checked out:

  • Still/video cameras
  • portable flash recorders
  • microphones
  • audio interfaces
  • electromagnetic pickups
  • USB-MIDI controllers
  • joysticks and game controllers
  • portable hemispherical speakers (‘hemis’)

This equipment is also used for some classes and for the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, so availability will vary.  Contact the studio manager or Electronic Music Director for more information.

TigerHub is a secure website where students sign-in for the academic year, maintain their personal information, enroll in courses, and sign-up for direct deposit.

The sign-in process begins on August 1. To see this year’s Sign-In period, visit the University’s Academic Calendar. It is essential that you complete this process to receive your paychecks and be able to register for your classes.

All students undergo a re-enrollment process every year in which their progress in the program is evaluated by the DGS in consultation with the faculty (first and second years) and their advisors (after year three). Readmission to the program is not automatic. During the first two years students are expected to perform satisfactorily in their seminars and participate in the musicological community at large. Students working on their dissertation need to demonstrate adequate progress and should be maintaining close contact with their advisors.

The Bryan Fund offers funding for travel and equipment needs of graduate students during their period of enrollment (Years 1-5 for Composition and Years 1-6 for Musicology). The Dean’s Fund for Scholarly Travel provides support (up to $600/year) to enrolled graduate students (Years 3 – DCE1) invited to present a scholarly research paper at a conference or meeting. A list of other available funding is available through the Graduate School.

Graduate students receive their stipend checks monthly on the last working day of the month, though December pay is typically distributed before Christmas. Students are encouraged to sign up for Direct Deposit through TigerHub.

In accordance with Chapter VII in the University’s Rights, Rules and Regulationswe establish each year a committee of graduate students to act as liaisons between students and faculty. The committee typically includes no more than 6 members. Each class selects its own representative, with one student representative from among the students in DCE status. To make sure that as many voices as possible are heard, we ask that students serve on the committee for only one academic year. The committee serves in an advisory capacity, providing feedback on curriculum, policies, and climate, facilitating communication between graduate students and faculty about areas of mutual concern. Committee members are encouraged to listen attentively to their colleagues’ different perspectives so that all viewpoints can be aired.

The committee meets with the DGS at least twice a semester. It is the responsibility of the committee to arrange meetings with DGS, formulate the agenda, and follow up with DGS with meetings of the minute and action plans as relevant. Names of committee members should be submitted to the Academic Administrator and the DGS no later than October 1 of every year.

Letters of recommendation are an essential part of academic life; the faculty have had vast experience both writing letters of recommendation and requesting them from other scholars throughout their careers. It is a privilege to be able to write strong letters of recommendation for our students that help them get funding, fellowships, post-docs, and jobs. Given the highly competitive nature of our business, only the most positive, detailed, and substantive letters are likely to help our students succeed. It can also be harmful to one’s prospects to apply for certain fellowships or jobs prematurely; it can also be a waste of time and exact a psychological toll. We therefore ask that you follow the following guidelines in requesting recommendation letters:

  1. Discuss each application with your advisor(s) in advance to make sure that the opportunity is appropriate for you at this stage in your career.
  2. There are always unexpected opportunities that will arise, but under most circumstances you should give each faculty member a minimum of two weeks to write a letter of recommendation, ideally four.
  3. Make the job easier for your recommender by providing them with a description of the fellowship or grant, a draft of your proposal, your CV, and a list of bullet points that they might want to emphasize in their letter. For recommenders who are not your primary advisor, make sure they have a clear idea of how your work has progressed since the last time they wrote for you.
  4. It is not unusual for an advisor to strongly advise that a student wait before applying for certain grants or jobs or that a proposal be revised multiple times before it is strong enough to be competitive. While we recognize that this can be disappointing and frustrating it is not a reflection on your abilities or potential; rather, this advice is based on decades of experience reading similar applications and submitting them and should be taken seriously.

Class of 2022

Viet Cuong, Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Alyssa Weinberg, Composition Faculty at Montclair State University and Juilliard Pre-college

Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade,

Noah Kaplan, Visiting Professor and Adjunct Professor at NYU’s Gallatin School

Class of 2021

Molly Herron, Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at Vanderbilt University

Lawrence Wilde

Class of 2020

Anna Pidgorna

Cenk Ergun

Jascha Narveson

Annika Socolofsky, Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Colorado Boulder

Class of 2019

Amanda Feery, Lecturer in Composition at National University of Ireland, Galway

Chris Rogerson, Musical Studies Faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music

Emma O’Halloran

Class of 2018

Christopher Tignor

Jonathan Russell

Sean Friar ’17

Assistant Prof. of Practice in Composition, University of Southern California

David Molk ’16

Assistant Prof. Composition and Theory, Georgetown University

Andrew McKenna Lee ’13

Faculty, Music Industry, College of St. Rose, Albany, NY

Julia Wolfe ’12 

Assoc. Prof., New York University, Recent McArthur Fellowship Winner

David Little ’11

Guest Composer & Senior Lecturer, Shenandoah Conservatory

Lisa Coons ’11 

Assistant Professor of Music, Western Michigan University

John Supko ’09 

Assoc. Prof. of Music, Duke University

Betsey Biggs ’09

Assistant Prof. Critical Media Practices, Univ Colorado, Boulder

Oscar Bettison ’09

Prof. of Composition, Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University

Paul Botelho ’08

Assistant Prof. of Music, Bucknell University

Gregory Spears ’07

Freelance Composer, New York City

Randall Bauer ’05

Assoc. Prof. of Theory and Composition, Macalester College

Daniel Biro ’04 

Assoc. Prof. of Composition & Music Theory, University of Victoria

Tae Hung Park ’04

Associate Professor, New York University  

Van Stiefel ’02 

Assoc. Prof. of Music Theory, West Chester University

Daniel Trueman ’00

Prof. of Music, Princeton University

David Sanford ’98

Professor of Music,  Mount Holyoke