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Download the 2015-16 CCPA Music Peformance Season pdf

Music Composition


Comp Group Bow

Our Composition Program offers:

- Weekly, one-on-one composition lessons
- Four annual student composition recitals
- Biennial orchestra recording program
- Biennial electro-acoustic festival
- Annual CCPA-specific composition competitions and reading sessions
- Collaboration projects with CCPA student musicians

We strongly emphasize working with professional artists within the school environment to prepare students for a transition to the professional world upon graduation. To do this, we bring in Chicago ensembles and musicians to work with our composers. While many of our graduates choose to pursue higher degrees at academic institutions, an equally large number have started music organizations upon graduation.

Student Composition Recitals

We hold four student composition recitals a year, which feature works written by composition majors and minors. While all composition majors are required to program at least one piece per year on one of these concerts, students are encouraged to program as many pieces as they wish.

Composition Seminar

The Composition Seminar is held every Thursday evening (6:00 – 7:15 p.m.) throughout the academic year. The Seminar covers a wide variety of activities, including reading sessions with guest artists, presentations by guest composers, pre-concert talks for the student composition recitals, presentations of masters’ theses by graduate composition students, and discussions on topics relevant to the business of running a composing career.

Guest Composers

Each year, we bring in several distinguished and emerging composers who have teach composition lessons and/or give presentations on their music. Recent guests include Joseph Schwantner, Michael Colgrass, Michael Daugherty, John Harbison, Dan Welcher, Aaron Kernis, Augusta Read Thomas, David Rakowski, Chen Yi, Mason Bates, Anna Clyne, Gabriela Lena Frank, James Primosch, Lee Hyla, Joel Hoffman, Laura Schwendinger, Lowell Liebermann, Bernard Rands, Marta Ptaszynska, Claude Baker, James Mobberley, Susan Botti, Eric Chasalow, Frank Ferko, Mei-Fang Lin, Rob Deemer, Paul Rudy, Elainie Lillios, Zygmunt Krauze, Mark Applebaum, Mischa Zupko, Stephen Montague, Victoria Bond, Mike McFerron, Zach Browning, Marita Bolles, Rick Taube, Lou Mallozzi, and Hummie Mann.

Orchestra Recording Sessions

Pieces accepted for these biennual sessions are fully rehearsed and recorded by the CCPA Symphony Orchestra. Cliff Colnot, conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, works with student composers ahead of time on score preparation and conducts all recording sessions. Participating student composers receive a professionally edited CD of their orchestra piece to use for non-commercial purposes.

Wind Ensemble Competition

This is an annual competition in which the winning work is premiered by the CCPA Wind Ensemble on their spring semester concert. The student receives a CD of the concert performance to use for non-commercial purposes.

Other Competitions

We generally offer 1-2 additional competitions each year.

Reading Sessions

Each year, reading sessions are offered with professional performers and ensembles. Recent guests include the Biava Quartet, Gaudete Brass Quintet, Orion Ensemble, Accessible Contemporary Music, Eighth Blackbird’s flutist Timothy Munro, and the Creviston & Gruber Duo. We also hold an annual Wind Ensemble reading session.

Violin and Piano


The Composition Program biennially pairs up its student composers with student pianists enrolled at the CCPA. The composers write pieces over the course of the semester. The pianists play the pieces twice in master classes for composition and piano faculty members. The finished works are premiered by the student pianists on a concert at the end of the spring semester.

Electro-Acoustic Music Festival

The Composition Program holds a Biannual Chicago Electro-Acoustic Music Festival. This festival features a mixture of guest composers, Chicago-based composers, and CCPA student composers.


Please see full details on CCPA’s Music Facilities.

What have recent students gone on to do?

After graduation, several composition students have gone on to masters and doctoral degrees in universities around the country. Recent graduates have gone composition programs at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Our former students have also received recognition in the field, including awards such as the Guggenheim Fellowship, Aaron Copland Award, and Rockefeller Foundation Artist Fellowship. Former students have had their works performed by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, eighth blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, Turtle Island String Quartet, Cavatina Duo, Sequitur, Alarm Will Sound, Volti, Mizzou New Music Festival, Bang on a Can, Accessible Contemporary Music, Attacca Wind Ensemble, Assad Brothers, Philadelphia Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, and the Louisville, Austin, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras.

Additionally, several of our former composition students started musical organizations after graduation. In particular, they created Access Contemporary Music, Anaphora Ensemble, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Singers on New Ground, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Players. 

If you are looking for an intensive music conservatory experience paired with the rich musical and cultural experiences provided by living in a major city, then the CCPA Composition Program will prepare you for a career as a professional composer.

Degree Requirements:

BM Music Composition

MM Music Composition