Frontiers

Audio/Video: A Little Penn Music

Graduate student composers share their work.
October 2013

Doctoral students in composition in Penn’s Department of Music are trained in the craft of composition, contemporary repertory, and theory and analysis. A portfolio of original works is one of the central requirements of the Master's degree, and a major composition serves as the dissertation at the doctoral level. Here, our advanced students share some of their work.


Erica Ball’s music has been performed across the country by ensembles including the Da Capo Chamber Players, Colorado Quartet, and the American Symphony Orchestra. Her string quartet “w(e)aving,” was awarded an honorable mention in ASCAP's Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. In addition to her studies as a composer, Erica remains active as a violinist, pianist, and music educator, with a special interest in bringing contemporary music to new audiences.

Audio: "Viola Concerto"
Sam Bergman, viola. Kensho Watanabe conducts the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.


Luke Carlson strives to create music that is beautiful, adventurous and profound, achieving a synthesis of style and form that is meaningful and relevant in this eclectic age. His music has been performed and recorded by pianist Lisa Moore and the Oregon Brass Ensemble.  His “Caper” for cello and electronics won the 2013 Network for New Music Student Composer Competition, and his orchestral work “Corridors” was selected for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Ninth Annual Reading Session.

Audio: "Caper"
John Koen, ‘cello.


Melissa Dunphy is particularly interested in composing political vocal music. Her Gonzales Cantata was featured on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, and What Do You Think I Fought for at Omaha Beach?, a choral work in support of gay marriage, was performed by Chanticleer in 2012. Her music has also been performed by the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, St. Louis Chamber Choir, Network for New Music, and the American Opera Theater, and has received rave reviews across the nation.

Video: Selection from Tesla’s Pigeon
Jessica Lennick, soprano, and Tim Ribchester, piano.


Michael McMillan’s interests include French Impressionism, repetition, puzzles, illusions, and compressing large ideas into small sizes. He is also interested in the ways that film and literature can affect compositional style. His academic research has focused on the music of György Ligeti, as well as music by Danish composers.

Audio: Light Verse, First Movement
Chris Goddard, piano, Hannah Levinson, viola, and Crystal Medina, clarinet.


Tony Solitro has written for diverse ensembles and instrumentations, with a catalogue including opera, choral, chamber music, fixed and interactive electronic works, and incidental music for theatrical productions. Tony received a Subito Grant from the American Composers Forum to support the inaugural Voice of This Generation series, devoted to contemporary vocal music. He also studies real-time signal processing with MAX/MSP, focusing on spectral analysis and manipulation.

Audio: "Impromptu and Rondo for Violoncello and Chamber Orchestra"
Branson Yeast, ‘cello. Sarah Hicks conducts the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.