• Four composition faculty
  • Small department of 30 composers enrolled at any one time
  • Both undergraduate and graduate degrees offered
  • Electronic Composition Studio allows student composers and performers access to the latest electronic instruments and equipment
  • Scholarly courses in composition technique, style and theory offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level
  • Close collaboration between faculty, students and visiting artists
  • Annual collaboration between composition students and specific instrumental departments (Viola; Cello; Piano; Guitar, etc.)
  • Extensive performance opportunities, including two department concerts each year for works for 1-4 players, and three concerts each year with varied student chamber ensmbles (Pierrot ensemble; chamber orchestra; winds only, etc.)
  • 4 readings per year of student compositions by the Conservatory Orchestra
  • Annual Highsmith Competition for composition students, with winning piece performed by the Conservatory Orchestra in the season's final concert
  • Biennial Choral Composition Competition, with cash prizes
  • Biennial Art Song Competition, with cash prizes
  • Annual San Francisco-Shanghai Conservatory Chamber Music Competition for student work
  • Annual Kris Getz Composition Competition awards a commission to compose a work for young musicians, to be premiered by students in the Preparatory Division
  • San Francisco is described as a "composer's city," with many opportunities to be involved in premieres, work with visiting composers and shape the future of new music
  • Recent guest composer masterclasses include: John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Caroline Shaw, John Corigliano, many others


Elinor Armer
David Conte chair, composition department
David Garner
Mason Bates

We encourage prospective students to contact the composition faculty to arrange a consultative lesson. The composition faculty and the Office of Admission are happy to answer any specific questions that you have about our program.

Michael Kropf's 2015 Highsmith Winning Piece "High Spirits":

SFCM Alumni Composer Selections:

SFCM New Music Gathering Clips:

Composition Department Events: 2015-2016

Dec 5 | guitar and string quartet by Terry Riley

Mar 6 | Hot Air Music Festival

Orchestra readings will occur each semester, the time is currently TBA

Composition Department Concerts: 2015-2016

Nov 1 | David Conte composition: "60th Birthday Concert" Works of Conte and SFCM alumni

Nov 13 | Composition Department Recital

Dec 7 | Composition Department Recital

Dec 14 | Viola Project X

Apr 4 | David Garner '79 faculty composition recital: Selections from Mary Pleasant at Land's End and a premiere of a vocal chamber-work

Apr 8 | Composition Department Recital



New Music Ensemble

Composition Workshop

Composition Seminar