School of Music Announcement about the Fall Semester

The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts Returns 

Dear New and Returning CalArts Music Students,

What is the music to make in this moment?

What is the music we will make now?

We will decide and make it together.


These are among the supreme musical challenges that we, in our collaborative CalArts community of artists, will take up now. In our School, we will become deep learners in both familiar and unfamiliar territory and equip ourselves with the tools we need to confront the seismic shifting we are experiencing in the evolution of our societies and turn them into blooming possibilities for remaking our world. Let’s embolden ourselves to begin together planting seeds of new opportunities in the fertile soil of music. Let’s contribute to helping a better world emerge from this time of meta-change in our environment.

The Herb Alpert School of Music (HASOM) is excited to welcome you into CalArts Returns. Our faculty, staff, and student assistants have been pouring enormous energy into imagining how we’ll do that. By now, you will have read in the CalArts Provost’s statement of last week that we are planning a model for immersive delivery of our courses and instruction in several ways: fully remote instruction, several types of mixed remote and in-person engagement, and fully in-person classes. Here’s a rundown of just a few of the highlights we are working on in the HASOM plan, as we know them right now. Bear in mind that all of this will be continuously tweaked and refined as we receive ever-changing governmental health and safety guidelines. So, like the greatest of improvisors, we are constantly adapting to what surrounds us. Rest assured that everyone’s safety is absolutely at the top of our priority list in all of this.

Prioritizing Experiences in Spaces
What is it that we all have said we miss most? Playing together, interacting in ensembles, collaborating in making new music and media works—these are things identified most often as what we really want to get back to. So, we have assessed our available physical spaces, measured them to determine their maximum capacities with necessary social and musical performance distancing parameters, and decided to schedule these spaces with this priority in mind. Note that musical performance requires very specific kinds of distancing. Depending on the instruments involved, this can be significantly more than the standard six feet of space for social distancing, and may require the use of physical barriers. Vocal performance demands further, very particular guidelines. We have mapped all that out and will organize activities to fit safely within these parameters. We will provide you with all these details when you arrive.

In order to preserve everyone’s safety, our classrooms now can accommodate only significantly reduced numbers of people. As we schedule activities, we will prioritize small ensembles and other activities that really need room for in-person interaction. Moderately larger groups may meet in larger spaces, like The Wild Beast, ROD Recital Hall, the Gamelan Room, outdoor facilities, or other bigger spaces when possible.

Course Scheduling Blocks
Most fully remote courses will be scheduled in the mornings. Most mixed (remote and in-person) and fully in-person courses will be in the afternoons. A few courses will be scheduled on weekends. A commuting hour will be scheduled in the early afternoons, in between the morning remote and later mixed mode courses. In and around all that, rehearsing and practicing blocks will be scheduled in available rooms at fixed times. Students who need individual on-campus practice times and ensembles that need on-campus rehearsal times will be assigned to specific rooms on a fixed schedule basis. Fixed times in electronic labs, computer music and media studios, and recording studios will also be assigned. In most cases, an hour will be scheduled in between classes that take place in on-campus rooms. All this is to facilitate cleaning as needed and contact tracing, if that were to become necessary. Remember, our safety is our top priority.

What if you can’t get to campus?
Rest assured, that plans are to provide ample courses that can be taken remotely for students who are unable to be here physically. Students facing challenges in this regard will be able to make progress on their degree pathway. Through mentoring and contact with faculty and School administrators, we will develop enrollment plans with fully remote courses for such students

Core Curriculum for Undergraduates
Instruction in most of our fundamentals, practical musicianship skills, music theory, and historical survey courses, etc. will be fully remote, mostly in the mornings. Instructors for these courses have been developing and preparing materials optimized for remote instruction. Incoming BFA, international, and returning students, who may not be able to get to campus, should note that we will be able to provide a good menu of courses that you can take remotely, so that you can get on with your education and progress on your degree path.

Chamber music will be managed in small groups and will be scheduled in spaces that allow for proper distancing. Larger ensembles may expect very interesting projects to be undertaken in spatial music using large rooms and outdoor spaces to explore this fascinating body of musical literature. Faculty in specialized areas like piano, percussion, electronic percussion, and guitar are working on new projects and adapted learning models.

It is critically important in the world of networked music production today that musicians focus on acquiring skills needed to produce and distribute work in this radically altered landscape for musicmaking. Some of these essential skills include: home recording, video production, and home broadcasting. New course content is being developed to address these urgently needed techniques.

The Jazz Specialization Director has already sent out an email outlining some preliminary details. Again, these also highlight remote recording skills and playing in small ensembles. Lessons will be offered in a mix of remote and in-person formats. Other classes will be scheduled primarily remote in order to keep on-campus spaces available for rehearsing. Faculty also have ideas for collaborative projects across the School and even the Institute. As always, individual attention is high priority for all the faculty, however that may be arranged.

Musical Arts/Experimental Pop
Faculty in this Specialization have invented some truly exciting ideas for clustering courses that address important skill sets and knowledge for the new world. These are arranged in various pathways that maximize efficiency in delivering in-person instruction, while maintaining safe attendance densities and distancing. One cluster, called Hybridity and Production, includes course topics like Production as Composition: Global Studios and Audiotopias and Music Cultures: Hybridity and Experimental Pop. Another cluster, called Self-Production includes The Art of the Mix and Writing for Experimental Pop. A third cluster, called Ensemble Production, includes Creative Repertory Ensemble, Music in the Oral Tradition, and Project Recording. Finally, a fourth cluster, Vocal Production, focuses on Producing the Voice.

Music Technology: Interaction, Intelligence, and Design (MTIID)
Faculty in this Specialization are working on adapting and developing remote course content to maximize staying safe in this time. Instructors are developing remote learning models that are flexible and enable learning at your own pace. The intention is to concentrate on developing personalized learning pathways. In this way faculty hope to energize means of providing even more individual attention to students than is possible in larger group classes.

The resilient and imaginative VoiceArts faculty have found unique ways to adapt the curriculum to current conditions. Offerings in the VoiceArts Specialization will take place in-person, mixed mode (remote as well as in-person), fully remotely, and even outdoors. The Specialization’s goals are reflected in the commitment to be academically sound, healthy, and socially conscious. 

VoiceArts is leveraging the special requirements for physical distancing of singers by creating innovative classes that include learning opportunities in the areas of voice technology and digital recording.

The VoiceArts area is committed to fostering artists to create work and performances that reflect ideas of the world around us. To that end, they are initiating a year-long project to inspire a body of works on themes related to social justice, race, environment, LBGTQ, and/or other issues chosen by each student. This initiative will guide students’ efforts in repertoire selection and programming, and will include presentations of original works, reimagined interpretations of existing repertoire, themed programs, and recordings. 

Composition and Experimental Sound Practices
Individual attention to each student’s learning is core to instruction in composition. Lessons will mostly be taught remotely, and the Specialization Director is planning individual meetings with students to keep in touch with their work that might even take place on picnic benches outside. Faculty in this Specialization have been concentrating on remote learning models, partly to reserve time in available on-campus spaces for work that emphasizes necessary in-person work. Exceptions include courses in Field Recording and Experimental Music Workshop that will be taught in-person. Faculty want to work with students on how to address the ways in which, in the evolving outside professional world, composers have needed to become more and more in charge of disseminating work themselves. This process now takes place so much more over the Internet than in the past, often bypassing traditional publishing pathways, that composers need to develop new technical and professional management skills to thrive in this world. Faculty will be helping students explore this rapidly evolving terrain.

Students in the Performer-Composer Specialization will work with their mentors to develop largely customized curriculum pathways. BFA students begin with required Core Curriculum courses, alongside lessons and other electives, and then fan out into a field of options as they progress, year by year. MFA students can choose from many courses offered to fill broad curriculum categories with specified numbers of units. DMA students work individually with mentors and faculty to construct their coursework, research, writing, composing, and performance projects. All Performer-Composer students can work with faculty and draw from courses available in any of the HASOM Specializations. Interdisciplinary pursuits are encouraged as possible, a highlight being the course taught by the Deans of the Dance and Music Schools, Choreographers and Composers, which will meet in-person for site-specific work.

World Music Performance
World music classes will use both remote and mixed (remote and in-person) modalities. Indonesian dance routines have been recorded on video for students to follow and practice remotely in preparation for in-person experiences. Recordings of individual parts in Javanese and Balinese ensembles are used for practicing; and appropriately distanced gamelan setups are being devised. We expect African dance classes to take place largely in outdoor spaces for appropriate distancing. Indian music and other classes will use various mixed mode instruction. Crossover collaborations, in both traditional and new styles, are being envisioned by faculty. Composers and Performer-Composers are encouraged to explore opportunities to make original works incorporating world music resources. Collaborative production projects utilizing technology are likely to emerge.

BFA in Music
Students pursuing the rigorous BFA in Music (without a designated Specialization) will follow their curriculum as specified, also drawing on courses offered by various Specializations in several mixed-mode formats.

This is an extraordinarily interesting time for live performance in music. On the surface, it is a super difficult time, as the size of audience gatherings is restricted by government health agencies and performer distancing is challenging. On the other hand, in just a few short months, many amazingly innovative responses to these challenges have emerged. CalArts students and faculty have explored new means of disseminating performances right alongside those on the front lines of new media.

HASOM will focus its resources on continuing to explore these means. Performance broadcasting will be emphasized. Faculty are working on plans and technologies to enable broadcasting (live streaming) performances from a variety of physical spaces. When audiences are restricted, performances can be staged in smaller rooms than usual, but still reach wide remote audiences. “Live” broadcasting will be emphasized. We have learned that putting effort into drawing people’s attention to live, in the moment, remote performances, tends to be more effective in gathering collective energy than methods that involve simply uploading audio/video files to sites enabling individuals to watch them whenever they want to. The HASOM community will continue to explore this world.

Our ability to produce events with live, physically present audiences will be subject to evolving, governmental health agency guidelines. At present, these guidelines restrict performances open to the public. Small performance events that are part of curriculum activities, that are not open to the public outside of CalArts, may become possible, again, depending upon guidelines.

Whatever the circumstances are, we will adapt and improvise!

It is very important for musicians now to become adept at managing recording, editing, and sharing audio from their home environments as much as possible. Fortunately, realitively inexpensive technology is now on the market that can enable quite a bit of reasonably good quality production. Several faculty and staff have been working on a set of CalArts learning tools for How To Set Up Your Home Studio. This is exciting! Watch for an announcement about when this will be launched. We are hoping to set up a remote meeting for everyone sometime in the summer that will also include some faculty being online for Student Q and A sessions.

To the extent that financial resources allow, HASOM will endeavor to assist students who may be particularly challenged in accessing technology. Faculty are working on ways to help students get going with technological tools and make the most of what’s available.

Access to HASOM’s technology-based facilities, Digital Recording Studio, ROD Studio, Computer Media Labs, Machine Lab, Electronics Labs, etc. will be organized with fixed scheduling times assigned to students who need them for coursework or projects on a prioritized basis. Stay tuned for more details on all of this.

Access to Campus
Mechanisms for campus access are being studied and developed by a professional management team. Maximum campus population density, the number of people that may be on campus at any one time during a day, will be subject to governmental health agency guidelines. CalArts will provide and continually update information on how that will be managed. This will include designated entry points, hallway pathways designated for traffic flow, and other mechanisms. Stay tuned, as more information is distributed.

This is just the beginning. There is an old saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” HASOM is working hard to help make your experience here a springboard from which to launch yourself into a yet to be imagined world. In the coming semester, you will also become a huge part of CalArts’ emergence into this new world, and join a vibrant community of artists that will stay with you for many years to come.

Here are some key HASOM people with whom you are encouraged to stay in touch if you have any questions:

Admissions information 
Sarah Melnick, Admissions Counselor for Music

Amy Knoles, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management

Leaders of Specializations and key faculty

Musical Arts/Experimental Pop
Eyvind Kang –
Emily Evans –

Nicholas Deyoe –

Jacqueline Bobak –
Paul Berkolds –

Composition and Experimental Sound Practices
Michael Pisaro –

David Rosenboom, Dean –
Stephen Lehman –
Viny Golia –
Ulrich Krieger –

Music Technology (MTIID)
Ajay Kapur –

David Roitstein –

Core Curriculum
Robert Wannamaker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs –

For any other Faculty or Staff with whom you need to communicate, see the CalArts Directory for contact information: