Performer Composer
Neelamjit Dhillion Quartet & Isaura String Quartet

CalArts’ unique Performer-Composer studies reflects the increasing demand for flexible musicians who are able to integrate composition with performance practice.

The BFA is designed as pre-professional training, emphasizing rigorous practice and sustained performance, serving as a catalyst for further musical exploration.

The MFA is for more mature creative musicians looking to expand and refine their original artistic voices.

The DMA Program is for highly developed practitioners who have already exhibited unique profiles and are ready to continue integrating their composing and performing practices, undertake rigorous research and creative projects to develop their work further and become highly skilled as both innovative professionals able to disseminate their work and potentially future contributors to higher education in music.

Examples of study concentrations include mastering original systems of improvisation, special methods for notation, nontraditional performance techniques, innovative approaches to interpretation of musical literature, incorporating new music and interactive media technologies, applied inter-cultural experimentation in music, interdisciplinary performance design and more. Students give recitals and other performances centered on original music and develop professional portfolios to highlight their creative accomplishments. In addition to solo performances, they often organize ensembles, sometimes with faculty participation, that are dedicated to exploring emerging musical languages. In keeping with the value CalArts places on interdisciplinary art, Performer-Composer studies also strongly supports students who wish to explore—and link their work with—disciplines beyond music.


Student Story

Andreas Levisianos
Andreas Levisianos Performer-Composer DMA 16

As far as I know this is the only composer-performer doctorate program that exists. It’s not a typical dual degree; instead it combines the two notions. As a composer, pianist and a conductor, I was presented with the opportunity to exercise all, merging the ideas of analysis, synthesis and performance.

The faculty is invested in the students’ ideas; they influence them while not trying to impose their own. There is not one school of thought. They want us to evolve our own thinking and write the music that we want to write. Surrounded by these amazing composers and performers—both students and faculty—you find the motivation to think, exercise your craft, compose and perform.

Stimulation does not come only from my discipline. Being part of one of the best art schools in the country offers you the opportunity to get in touch with artists that exercise different crafts, are from different ethnicities, backgrounds and ideologies; to exchange ideas with people doing things entirely different than you are, but who share your will to collaborate and communicate.

As a doctoral candidate at CalArts, my responsibilities also include teaching undergrads, so I understand that very “productive confusion” that some can have in the beginning, and that I, too, had in my early 20s. You look at the course offerings and you want to take everything. It’s the candy shop. Everything is appealing. Everything can be stimulating. So, your guard is down and your eyes and ears are open to everything. You want to take advantage of what people offer you and what you offer them. This truly is a community.

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