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The Composition Program is committed to nourishing the individual gifts and capacities of student composers in a diverse and active environment, with an emphasis on intensive personal interaction between faculty and student. The faculty mentor considers a student’s particular goals and then attempts to strengthen their technical capacity to meet them. The diversity and liveliness of our program itself often challenges students to reevaluate their goals.

An incoming student begins with a yearlong seminar (taught by a different faculty composer each quarter) and continues with individual studies thereafter. At the close of the first year fall quarter and again after the following spring quarter, the entire composition community gathers for a daylong “jury.” Each seminar member is allotted a block of time during which the composition that has just been completed is performed and recorded in a carefully rehearsed presentation. There is a detailed discussion of each work by the faculty composers, and the student has the opportunity to comment, explain, and pose questions. Following the performance and discussions of this day, the composition faculty meets to assess the students’ work collectively and to offer any guidance deemed necessary. This process is at the root of the uniqueness of the UC San Diego program, and manifests the range, seriousness, and vitality with which compositional issues are explored here.

After completing three quarters of seminar and two juries, students come to know something about the ideas and perspectives of each faculty composer; the faculty, in turn, is aware of each student’s objectives and needs. At this point, an individual mentor is agreed upon and this relationship becomes the center of the student’s continuing work as the degree is completed. A Third Year Forum presents, under departmental auspices, a work composed by each third-year composer in the four quarters since their second jury. As a part of preparation for this forum, each student composer is expected to have a faculty performer on their PhD committee (as a regular member, or as an additional sixth member). The faculty performer is the student’s performance mentor and guide in interfacing with the performance community. There is also a biweekly Focus on Composition Seminar at which faculty, students, and selected visitors present work of interest (compositional, analytical, technological, and even whimsical).

The seminars serve to foster mutual awareness within the student composer group. Collegial relationships develop and lead not only to friendships, but also to further creative outlets in cooperative projects, including the student-run Composers’ Forums, performance collectives, and recital projects. UC San Diego performers—faculty and student—are all committed to the playing of new music, and frequent composer/performer collaborations are a vital aspect of life in the Department of Music.