UMKC’s Composition program is one of the leading programs in North America with 50 – 60 majors (freshman through doctoral). Faculty include Chen Yi, Zhou Long, James Mobberley, Paul Rudy, Reynold Simpson and Mara Gibson all of whom combine active careers as composers with their teaching.

Our faculty have received Fromm Foundation and Koussevitzky Commissions (Mobberley, Chen Yi and Zhou Long); a Charles Ives Living Award (Chen Yi); membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chen Yi); Rome Prize Fellowship (Mobberley and Rudy); Bourges Prize and ems Prize (Rudy); BBC Masterprize and 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music (Zhou Long), The National Endowment for the Arts (Gibson, 2012 and 2014).

Our students and graduates have also won teaching positions, awards and commissions, including:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • Barlow Prize
  • Fulbright Fellowships (Sweden, New Zealand)
  • ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composers Awards
  • American Composers Orchestra Underwood Readings/EarShot Readings
  • Young Composers Project China International Composition Competition
  • Residencies and Workshops (dozens, including the Wellesley College Composers Conference, Aspen Music Festival, June-in-Buffalo, Atlantic Center for the Arts
    Fontainbleau, the Cortona Sessions (Italy), and many others)
  • Positions at Louisiana State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Mahidol University (Thailand), Southern Methodist University, Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing, China), Kansas City, Kansas Community College, and Montana State to name a few.

They are very active in all areas of composition, including teaching, serving as composer-in-residence for orchestras, free-lancing, film, and other commercial work.

Performance, mentoring, and other opportunities in our program

  • 3 annual orchestra readings with the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra
  • Annual orchestral composition competition
  • Annual wind symphony composition competition
  • Annual chamber composition competition
  • Student Composer’s Guild, 4 concerts each year for student works
  • Mentorship program (undergraduates paired with graduate mentors)

Curricular Highlights

  • BM degree with flexible applied/ensemble options: three undergraduate instrumental tracks: 1) standard instrumental/vocal; 2) secondary level study or methods classes; or 3) electronic/computer as instrument; and Improvisation ensemble or Ensembles for Composers
  • MM and DMA project-based career oriented comprehensive exams designed by the student
  • Flexible DMA degree with 9 hours of electives allowing for secondary emphasis
  • Students rotate among teachers in a mix of seminar style (small groups) and private lessons.


  • Composition Workshop (50% discount for current students)
  • Thailand International Contemporary Music Festival exchange
  • ArtSounds and collaborative and multi-disciplined opportunities
  • COMPlaborations: studio pairings for short compositions in collaboration with instrumentalists
  • Guest artist reading sessions (past/present residencies include eighth blackbird, PRISM Quartet, Carpe Diem String Quartet, Strike! Duo, Music From China Ensemble)
  • The Patricia and Howard Barr Institute for American Composition Studies at UMKC
  • Regular visits by distinguished composers (Steven Stucky, John Corigliano, Yehudi Wyner, John Duffy, Ezra Laderman, Martin Bresnick, Bernard Rands, Christopher Rouse, Augusta Read Thomas, Stephen Hartke, Tania Leon, Zygmunt Krauze, Frederic Rzewski, Joan Tower, Robert Beaser and Mario Davidovsky, to name a few).


  • Scholarships and partial or complete out-of-state tuition waiver available
  • Composition GTA
  • Studio Manager GTA
  • Musical Bridges Teaching
  • Summer travel support (amount varies from year to year)
  • Merit based scholarships

Collaboration, entrepreneurship and exceptional artistry are highlights of our program with a stylistically diverse faculty, a collegial environment, and myriad performance opportunities. As DMA student Dillon Henry notes, “To work with a faculty with such diverse backgrounds and writing styles, who have earned so many accolades in the field, who still care so deeply about their students…that’s really special, and you don’t get that everywhere.” Sophomore Aaron Hill reports, “The composition program at UMKC has opened many doors for me, and exposed me to techniques and ideas I never even dreamed were possible. The professors act as guides for the student and I feel that allows me to be truly myself.”

Read about some of our DMA Composition students here and here.

The Patricia and Howard Barr Institute for American Composition Studies at UMKC