PRIVATE COMPOSITION LESSONS

I offer one-hour composition lessons for musicians of any age or experience.

I have been asked by some people about what lessons consist of, what my teaching philosophy and approach are, and cost of lessons, so here are some details about how I approach my composition lessons:

What can I expect with lessons?: Lessons are one hour, run over Zoom. The day before the scheduled lesson, I email the student a Zoom link and request to have music emailed to me. I like to have the music the day before because I spend at least 30 minutes listening to the work multiple times and studying it in preparation of our meeting. I take notes and am ready to begin as soon as the lesson begins so that no time is spent watching me listen/look at the music for the first time. Likewise, the more one listens to music, the more details one is able to pick up, so I feel that the student gets more nuanced feedback on their work.

How much do lessons cost?: There is a sliding scale that is dependent on the individual’s circumstances. The first lesson is always free.

How often does one have lessons?: Students can sign up for weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly lessons, and that is entirely dependent on what works best for the student. That being said, I tell all my students to never hesitate to reach out and ask me a question between lessons. I am even happy to meet for a few minutes over Zoom if the question requires a more detailed answer. I would much rather have my students reach out with questions if they are stuck on a project and get them answered so that they may continue writing instead of waiting a week or two until our next lesson and not composing because they are stuck.

Do you ever spend time analyzing or discussing other composers’ works? Absolutely! It is often very helpful to look at how other composers solve certain composition challenges that may come up during the writing process. Along these lines, I often like to use a teaching technique from one of my teachers, Christopher Rouse, and assign listening assignments that often will illustrate various solutions to compositional obstacle. 

Teaching Philosophy:

I have also been asked by some people about my teaching philosophy and approach, so here are some details about how I approach my composition lessons:

I have had the great fortune to study with a number of wonderful composers and teachers during my years at Eastman and Juilliard, such as Samuel Adler, Robert Beaser, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, and Augusta Read Thomas. Their teaching has greatly shaped my work, not just a composer, but as a teacher. I strive to bring a similar commitment to excellence in my own private lessons and classroom teaching. My goal is to help my students express themselves through their music in as direct a way as possible while helping them find their own musical voice.

I feel strongly that in order to help the student develop into a mature composer, they first should be introduced to as many facets of the musical language as I can expose them to. In my compositional instruction I focus on developing three sets of skills that, through my experiences as both a student and a teacher, I believe to be invaluable for a composer. These skills are: developing a comprehensive technique in order to express as clearly as possible that which one wishes to express, the ability to develop motives throughout a composition, and understanding how to construct a logical, large-scale form.

In order to help the student achieve as strong a technique in all aspects of music, I often work to find the balance of teaching within the musical language of the individual student and working to expand the student’s knowledge of various compositional techniques. I try to expand the student’s knowledge of the repertoire through listening assignments and analysis of other composers’ works, trying to associate the listening assignments to compositional issues that come up in our lessons.

In working towards teaching the technique of motivic development, I turn towards the scores of other composers, ranging from Bach to Brahms to Corigliano, to show various ways and techniques used by many of the great composers of the past and present.

I believe that having a logically constructed formal plan is a critical factor in composition that students often overlook. I explain to students the importance of the formal blueprint in order to produce the maximum effect for what they wish their climax to be. To stress this, I use not only examples in the musical repertoire, but also examples from films and books.

If you are interested in having a trial lesson, please feel free to reach out and schedule one at my website: https://mathewfuerst.com/composition-lessons