From the category archives:

Teaching music

Audition time

February 4, 2009

It’s audition time at UCLA and many other music schools and departments around the world. Students have their hopes up that they will be beginning careers as world-famous musicians, and that schools should be so lucky to have the opportunity to train such talent. Parents assume that their children will get in, because, after all, […]


Dinner with students

February 1, 2009

I’ve always been torn, and erred towards the side of abstaining from socializing with students; although many of my fond memories in college were hanging out with my profs. Last night, one of our students, who has tremendous herding abilities, got a bunch of our class to go to an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks […]

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Matching melody to chords

January 27, 2009

For some odd reason, after 25 years of teaching, I’ve stumbled upon a good way of teaching students how to write melodies that “go” with given harmony. I have been introducing new chords every week, and with each assignment I have students write short chord progressions, and then compose a melody against one of the […]


January thaw

January 18, 2009

Alright: I’m lying. There is no thaw in LA, but Martin Luther King Jr. weekend allows us mortals to slow down. For some unfair reason, school reconvened way too early this year and it has been insanely busy for me on all levels. Here is an extended diary entry that I need to put down […]


This quarter, I am able to provide all the “required books” from online sources. The students don’t have to pay a cent. (Actually, with the California state budget crisis, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were not an internet access fee, or some such fee, assessed.) The prices publishers are charging for slim music theory […]


Teaching folk songs

January 5, 2009

This term, I will be starting each class with a folk song. We will sing, say, four verses; and with each repetition, I will expect the harmony to be richer and richer. I will give them pointers of how to learn to harmonize to any song. My fantasy is that by the end of the […]


Reflecting on my 2008

December 28, 2008

What a year! The highlight of my year had to be the premiere of HOMER IN CYBERSPACE, my new musical written with Mel Shapiro. I don’t have the interest or connections to try to send it to Broadway, but am certain it could have a huge audience if put in the right hands. A trip […]

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One aspect that much of the old Christmas music has is good voice leading. In lay terms, this means if you have four people all singing together, each part flows smoothly and doesn’t jump all over the place. Most of the songs have four parts and are adeptly harmonized. It is exactly this kind of […]


For composers who choose to go the university route, I advocate studying with a variety of composers, and not just sticking with one. In a meeting today, we realized that between our two departments, we have four traditional white American composers, one Japanese American, one from Turkey, another from Lebanon, one from Mexico, and two […]


Yay Levitin! and XM Radio

November 18, 2008

I just picked up Daniel Levitin’s new book “The World in Six Songs.” A thrilling read and is truly coloring the way I think of music nowadays. Quite refreshing. I had grown tired of listening to our local classical radio station playing Vivaldi and Telemann all the time, and news just makes me nervous these […]

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