Course Descriptions

Class Piano (levels 1-4) for majors and non-majors
Southeastern Louisiana University (2001-2003), Canisius College (Spring 2001), Buffalo State College (Fall 1999-Spring 2001), SUNY Buffalo (Fall 1998-Spring 2001). This is an introductory class for music majors who are beginners.  The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) requires all music majors to study piano at least as a minor instrument for several reasons including: to develop functional skills of sight-reading, harmonizing, accompanying and improvising, which are all essential to careers in music, to augment theory studies, as the piano is the most “graphic” of all instruments, therefore making more understandable concepts of interval, chord, and scale, among many others and finally, to broaden the student’s experience with music of differing styles and historic periods. Texts used: Carolynn A. Lindeman, Piano Lab: A Introduction to Class Piano (Levels I-II), Alfred’s Group Piano for Adults, Book I (Levels I-II), Book II (Levels III-IV), Bartok’s Mikrokosmos Books I-III (for sight-reading).

Louisiana State University (2017-present), Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (2005 – 2017), Loyola University of New Orleans (Fall 2002-Spring 2003), Canisius College (Fall 2000-Spring 2001). The primary goal of the composition lesson is to help music students discover, refine and understand their musical voices. Depending on experience level, I generally begin (undergraduate composition studies) by having students compose in smaller solo forms to gain the technique necessary to later compose more complex forms. Each lesson, listening and analysis assignments are given as they relate to the student’s interests and development. Students are expected to compose regularly, ask questions and discuss compositional techniques with other composers and composition students. It is highly recommended that composition lessons be accompanied by a regular composition seminar where all composition students can meet, discuss and listen to one another’s pieces. Composition seminar is also a great opportunity to bring in faculty ensembles and/or visiting performers and composers. Reading and listening materials individually determined.

Summer Composition Workshop

Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (2010-2017): Designed and Founded by Mara Gibson, the UMKC Summer Composition Workshop invites composers of all levels (advanced high school students through graduate level) to broaden horizons and hone their craft through this mix of classes and small group sessions with UMKC composition faculty. Participants in the standard track will have their compositions critiqued and discussed with distinguished faculty, allowing each composer to grow artistically while creating new music.  Focus on pedagogy and improvisation are available for advanced composers.  Innovative programming includes performances by resident performers and ensembles. In 2011, the Workshop began an exchange with the Thailand International Composition Festival (TICF) when two UMKC students attended TICF and two TICF students attended the UMKC Composition Workshop.  In 2012, four attended each program.  In 2013, the exchange continued with four students in exchange, and offered a new option for credit.  Workshop history here.

Contemporary Musical Materials

Louisiana State University (2019):  This class is a graduate seminar whose focus is the exposition of compositional techniques used by composers of the late 20th and early 21st century. In doing so, we will review a wide variety of works and compositional aesthetics, including but not limited to minimalism, total serialism, chance and aleatoric music, music from non-Western cultures and technology-enabled music.

Creative Strategies for Collaboration
Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (2009 – 2017). Traditionally, western music is a collaborative art that has divided the act of performance from the action of creativity and invention. Unsurprisingly, when you multiply the factors to include new genres in collaboration, roles shift and expand often bleeding into unconventional cross-overs. The complexity and definition of these factors becomes all the more important given these new developments. This class historically and practically investigates collaboration since the turn of the 20th-century, culminating with an informed and communicative class collaboration. Class visitors will include dancers, poets, visual artists, and filmmakers. Thinking outside the box is required. This class is both an upper level undergraduate and graduate class.  Class history here.

Ensemble for Composers 

Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (2014 – 2017).  As Ensemble for Composers stands as a replacement for non-large ensemble credits, the focus of the class is to enhance the student’s understanding of the workings of chamber ensembles and other small ensembles. Through observation, the student will learn how an ensemble rehearses and how a piece of music comes together with or without a conductor. The student will also learn methods of notation and score preparation that aid in the rehearsal and performance of his/her own work.

Graduate Theory Review
Southeastern Louisiana University (Fall 2002). Graduate Theory Review is designed to satisfy deficiencies indicated by the Graduate Music Theory Entering Proficiency Examination. Graduate students in music who do not pass this exam upon entry are required to take this class, a condensed review of undergraduate theory I-IV. Primary concepts include, two-part counterpoint, four-part writing from a figured bass, resolving chromatic harmonies, harmonic analysis and analysis of phrases and forms. Texts used: Robert Gauldin’s Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music (text and workbook); Joseph Straus’ Introduction to Post Tonal Theory.

History of Jazz: A Move from Dixieland to Bebop
Kansas City Art Institute (Spring 2005). This course investigates the history of jazz from 1900-1950. Specifically focusing on the developments from New Orleans to Kansas City, a move from Dixieland to Bebop, through Swing. Early jazz influences range tremendously: from ragtime to spirituals, from work songs to the blues, from minstrel shows to marching bands, from Mardi Gras celebrations to jazz funeral processions. In addition to studying these eclectic origins, we will listen and study musicians such as Jelly-Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, in addition to many more. Text: JAZZ: A History of America’s Music, Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns.

Introduction to Music (Music Appreciation)
Rockhurst University (Fall 2003), Southeastern Louisiana University (Fall 2001-Spring 2003), Buffalo State College (Fall 1999-Spring 2000). The goal of this course is to give the student the tools needed to enjoy music since the Middle Ages. By investigating music from the different historical periods, a basic vocabulary for discussing and analyzing music is obtained. Texts used: Joseph Machlis and Kristine Forney’s The Enjoyment of Music with 4 CD set OR Joseph Kerman and Gary Tomlinson’s Listen with 3 or 6 CD set.

Laptop Orchestra

Louisiana State University (fall 2017), co-taught with Stephen David Beck.  This is the performance course for the Laptop Orchestra of Louisiana (the LOLs). The focus of the class will be on rehearsal and performance of new and existing works for laptop and mobile ensembles composed by LSU composers as well as composers from other universities and ensembles.  Members of the LOLs are required to assemble and breakdown the ensemble’s tables, laptops, speakers and peripherals for each rehearsal. Students are responsible for making sure their assigned laptop is in working order, and must contact faculty or graduate assistants should there be any problems.

Musicianship IV

Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (spring 2017).  Continuation of CONS 241.  Study of late-nineteenth century chromaticism and analytical and compositional methods of twentieth and twenty-first century set theory and twelve-tone theory.  Particular attention is given to the development of critical writing skills and the creation of stylistic compositions.  Text: Steven Laitz’s The Complete Musician: An intergrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis and Listening.


Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (new curricula fall 2013-14 – 2016, co-taught with Sarah Tyrrell and Andrew Granade). This course merges a variety of academic platforms and student activities so that collaboration among disciplines becomes a natural, logical solution to academic, professional, and performing arts challenges. The course will maintain a flexible platform so that instructors may mold a sequence of activities that matches the particular incoming group of students and scheduled performing arts events.  A critical component of the course content is that in coming freshman Conservatory students are introduced to key personnel (at UMKC and beyond), local professionals (performers, writers, artists), and leaders within the Conservatory and within local institutions. Conservatory and other UMKC faculty will participate as guest lecturers, helping forge useful academic and administrative contacts for students; contact with music directors and participants of local companies or ensembles will encourage practical connections, resources, and potential mentorships.  Course subject matter is derived from music history as it relates to Kansas City in the 21st century through examining the ethics of creating the canon.  Activities are drawn directly from music history to achieve understanding in Human Values and Ethical Reasoning.  Assessment options include creative projects such as music composition, collaborative performances, and practical application assignments (i.e. presentations), and exams.

Music and the Avant-Garde
Kansas City Art Institute, (Summer 2005). This class explores various overlaps between music and the ideas behind visual artists’ artwork since the late 1940s. Specifically, the class investigated the musical inspirations and connections between visual artists and composers through listening, analyzing and reading about music and art trends of the 50s, 60s and 70s. We explored how specific pieces musical compositions are inspired, put together and presented to us grouped by philosophical ideas and aesthetics. Culminating with the convergence of many composers at Darmstadt in the late 40s, composers such as Cage, Messiaen and Boulez surface in the world of “avant-garde” music. We trace avant-garde composers throughout the 20th-century while investigating what it means to be an avant-garde composer. In decades to come, this led to many worldwide trends in music including, minimalism, electronic music, textural composition, a new “postmodern” approach to juxtaposition and pastiche and, the New York School of Music.

Music and Culture of New Orleans
Tulane University, part of TIDES program (Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience) (Fall 2002-Spring 2003). Music and Culture of New Orleans is a part of Tulane University’s TIDES program that is intended to offer incoming freshman a unique opportunity to get to know faculty and other fellow students, both as scholars and as friends. The TIDES program provides an environment for interdisciplinary learning that travels well beyond the lecture hall. “Music and Culture of New Orleans” is taught by professors in several disciplines, including music (both jazz and “classical”), literature and dance. During the course of the academic year, we explore the rich cultural diversity, musical styles, demographics, geography and the marketing of New Orleans culture. Texts used: various readings posted on Blackboard and a brief New Orleans Jazz History CD made by music faculty involved with course.

Orchestration (Instrumental Techniques) Louisiana State University (2018, 2020), Southeastern Louisiana University (Fall 2002-Spring 2003). At LSU, this course will explore orchestration for composers using Samuel Adler’s Study of Orchestration, alongside reading sessions by University ensembles and by applied faculty. In this course students learn the fundamentals of instrumentation and arranging for contemporary band and orchestral instruments. The acquisition of basic elements, such as the range, transposition and timbre of each instrument will be followed by examination and analysis of orchestration ‘problems’ and solutions from repertoire, and by your composition and/or arranging exercises for ensembles of various sizes. At the conclusion of this semester, students will have the primary tools needed for arranging/re-arranging music for a variety of instrumental ensembles.  During the second half of the semester, students will begin to explore larger orchestration issues such as scoring for orchestra, wind ensemble and preparation of score/parts.  At SLU, this class was taught in a two-semester sequence along with Instrumental and/or Vocal Techniques for music majors. The orchestration component is co-taught with the band and choral directors. The objective of the orchestration sequence is to establish a basic competence in arranging for school group ensembles. In the first semester, the class learned basic instrumental ranges, common doublings and transposition. Arranging ensembles takes place in the second semester. The final project for this class was to have the student conduct his/her own arrangement for the Wind Symphony and University Chorus. Texts used: Kent Kennan and Donald Grantham’s The Technique of Orchestration and Blatter’s Instrumentation/Orchestration.

Private Piano (for music minors, secondary instrument) Buffalo State College (Fall 1999-Spring 2001). Individual piano lessons for music minors and those who wish to pursue class piano beyond the four-semester sequence. Texts Used: Individual pieces vary based on level of difficulty and interest.

Music and Art
Kansas City Art Institute (Spring 2006). “Music and Art; History and Form since the Age of Enlightenment” is an interdisciplinary course offered through liberal arts and jointly taught and designed by composer, Mara Gibson and, visual artist, Brett Reif. The course is unique in that students are exposed to formal and technical similarities of painting, sculpture, architecture and music composition, allowing for a fuller understanding of the structural relationship between art and music. This relationship also offers great insight into the origins and underlying principles of various art movements. Using this format, the student will come to know the philosophical, formal, technical and historical intent of the major artistic trends. The class will begin by establishing the formal properties of art and music, then trek through artists plotting the related components, as well as conceptual differences of these two medium. The objective of the course is for art and music appreciators to attain a broad understanding of the structure of art and music and the formal properties used to elucidate the major philosophies that guided those formal decisions over the past two centuries.

Music Fundamentals
Canisius College (Fall 2000-Spring 2001). Music fundamentals is designed for the student with no prior musical experience. Basic reading and analysis skills will be established. Text used: John Clough and Joyce Conley’s, Scales, Intervals, Keys, Rhythm and Meter; Ars Nova’s Practica Musica software.Survey of European Art Music Tulane University (Spring 2002 –Spring 2003). This class is a historical survey of Western Art Music. While this class is open to non-majors, it is much more thorough than a general music appreciation class listed above. The musical selections are hand picked by the instructor to accompany Joseph Kerman’s text, Listen.

Survey of European Art Music
Tulane University (Spring 2002 –Spring 2003). This class is a historical survey of Western Art Music. While this class is open to non-majors, it is much more thorough than a general music appreciation class listed above. The musical selections are hand picked by the instructor to accompany Joseph Kerman’s text, Listen.

Survey of Western Music Since the Enlightenment
Kansas City Art Institute (Summer 2004, 2005, Fall 2007, Spring 2009) I designed this course, along with three other music classes, as a curriculum addition to the Liberal Arts department. Like Introduction to Music/Music Appreciation, the goal of the course is to give art students the tools needed to understand and enjoy music. This class is more focused, however, since it begins with the Age of Enlightenment and traverses through the present. Everywhere we go we hear music: some of it good, some of it bad. It doesn’t matter what genre of music, there is good and bad to found in all forms. To be able to discern the good from the bad, we study music; how the composer is inspired, how music is put together and how it is presented to us. Most of all, it is important to learn how to listen. Music will be presented in a historical context and studied as a developmental process. We will begin by establishing a basic vocabulary to discuss music. Opinions are welcome in this course, but you are required to back them up through the listening tools you learn from listening, reading, discussing and analyzing. This class will greatly inform and broaden the creative pursuits of art students, whatever the media.

Theory 1
Canisius College (Spring 2001). This course is intended to instruct music majors and minors in the foundations of tonal music theory. Topics studied include elements of notation, intervals, scales, harmony, some keyboard skills and ear training. Text used: Bruce Benward and Gary White, Music in Theory and Practice; Ars Nova’s Practica Music.

Twentieth Century Music and Ideas
Kansas City Art Institute (Fall 2004, Fall 2005, Fall 2006, Fall 2008). Another curriculum addition to the liberal arts department at KCAI, “Twentieth Century Music and Ideas” explores various overlaps between music and the ideas behind visual artists’ artwork since the turn of the century. While no one-semester course could ever do justice to the sheer diversity of 20th century music and art, this class will attempt to survey major musical and artistic movements, as they pertain to one another. Many early 20th century artists present their artwork to their audience as an autonomous object while contemporary artists encompass a more universal format with less traditionally defined boundaries, often one that allows for a merger of different artistic media. Since most of the music and art we will be investigating in the second half of the semester can be characterized by these less traditional, medium-based boundaries, it makes sense to begin looking at such overlaps as early as Modernism. Specifically, we investigate the musical inspirations and connections between visual artists and composers through listening, analyzing and reading. We explore how specific pieces of art and music are inspired, put together and presented to us grouped by philosophical ideas and aesthetics, not necessarily always in a linear format. There are guest lectures by musicians, visual artists and art historians. Ultimately, the class looks for correlations between music and art, by answering questions such as, what is musical about the way a specific piece of art is constructed? What is visual about the music? Were any of these artists inspired by one another?

Women in Music
Kansas City Art Institute (Spring 2007, 2008). In Western Music, women have had an important presence in both the musical past and present. In this course we learn how and why women’s contributions to the field of music have often been invisible. We will explore the numerous important roles women have had in the making of music, whether as composers, performers, pedagogues, students, patrons, or scholars. Our focus on composers/performers will range from women of the Middle Ages, such as Hildegard von Bingen, to nineteenth-century women such as Clara Schumann and Fanny Hensel, to twentieth century women like Ruth Crawford Seeger, Laurie Anderson and to women of today, like Sophia Gubaydulina, as well as many in the realm of popular music. In studying women in music, the relationship between gender, sexuality, and music will be explored, in addition to investing “masculinities” and music, “femininities” and music, and image and identity in music. How is masculinity invested in music? What are “feminine” or “feminist” influences in music? How can we recognize them? As this is a Liberal Arts elective course designed with non-music majors in mind, students need not know how to read music. The course begins with an introduction to musical terminology and musical discussion, which will help facilitate class discussion and the writing of a listening journal.

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