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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.

Omar Thomas

Visiting Faculty


Hailed by Herbie Hancock as showing “great promise as a new voice in the further development of jazz in the future,” educator, arranger, and award-winning composer Omar Thomas has created music extensively in the contemporary jazz ensemble idiom. Thomas will serve as visiting faculty in Music Theory at the Peabody Conservatory in 2018-19.

Department Leadership

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

JOEL PUCKETT is one of the most performed composers in America. Hailed as "visionary" (Washington Post) and "an astonishingly original voice" (Philadelphia Inquirer), his music has been performed by the leading artists of our day and is consistently recognized by organizations such as the American Composers Forum, BMI, Chorus America, NPR (Favorite Composers Under 40), and the American Bandmasters Association. The Fix, his full-length opera commissioned by Minnesota Opera, will premiere in the March 2019, with a libretto by Academy Award winner Eric Simonson. The work depicts the rise and fall of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Puckett chairs the Theory Dept at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

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.