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The Department of Music Theory, including the affiliate areas of Ear-Training and Keyboard Studies, strives to intensify the musicianship of conservatory students and provide the required skills for a profound and concentrated understanding of music.

In George Peabody’s charge to the original trustees of the institute, he sought “to furnish that sort of instruction, under able teachers, in the theory and higher branches of music, for which there has heretofore been no provision, and which students have been obliged to seek abroad.” The current Department of Music Theory continues to realize this original vision.

The faculty in the Department of Music Theory is comprised of scholars, composers, and performers following in the tradition of such distinguished Peabody music theory faculty as Danish composer Asger Hamerick, first director of the Conservatory (1871) and professor of music theory; Otto Ortmann, pioneer in the psychology of music and director of Peabody; the renowned pedagogue and composer Nadia Boulanger (music theory faculty, 1942-43); and composers Elliott Carter (music theory faculty, 1946-47) and Henry Cowell (1951-56).

Students at Peabody work closely with the Music Theory Department in their three-year undergraduate curriculum, graduate seminar classes, and advising towards their doctorates.

Department Leadership

Joel Puckett—Chair Music Theory, Ear Training, and Keyboard Skills

JOEL PUCKETT is a composer leaving both audiences and the press buzzing. His music has been described as, “soaringly lyrical” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), “Puccini-esque” (Wall Street Journal), and “containing a density within a clarity, polyphony within the simple and - most importantly - beautiful and seemingly spiritual.” (Audiophile Audition). Parterre Box recently proclaimed, “Puckett should be a household name” and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns mused, “if the name Joel Puckett isn’t etched into your brain, it should be.” In 2011 NPR Music listed him as one of the top 100 composers under 40 in the world.

Clinton Adams—Ear Training division coordinator

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Clinton Adams has been a member of the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory since 1983. Adams studied piano with Raymond Hanson, Artur Balsam, Fernando Laires, and Nina Svetlanova.

Patricia Sayre Graham—Keyboard Skills division coordinator

Patricia Sayre Graham earned a BM at Lawrence Conservatory of Music, where she earned the Performer's Prize. Ms. Graham went on to earn an MM at Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Ellen Mack and Walter Hautzig.

Visiting for 2019-2020: Jessica Hunt

Jessica Hunt has been commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra (upcoming 2019-20 season), the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (The Eagle Tree), the Gaudete Brass Quintet (seven works), Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, The Michigan Lighthouse Landmark Legacy Project, Access Contemporary Music, and many others.