Theory, History & Composition

The Theory, History, and Composition Department provides a comprehensive theory and musicianship program as well as a series of weekly music history courses (for adults only) designed to promote an understanding of musical styles and genres. While history classes are offered quarterly, theory and composition classes are offered based on student interest and availability. Email for theory and composition inquiries.

Year-long offerings

Music Theory for Adults

If you are interested in Music Theory individual lessons for adults, please contact Stephanie Purschell at or 626.683.3355.

Winter Quarter History Courses

Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Symbolist and the Last Romantic

Instructor: Vatché Mankerian
Schedule: 5 Weeks| Thursdays 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Jan 11 – Feb 8)

These two composers were born almost a year apart — both were influenced by Chopin and initially continued his pianistic Romantic tradition. However, their paths would diverge. Rachmaninoff remained true to Romanticism until the end and, as a result, was rightfully dubbed the last Romantic. Scriabin on the other hand, was influenced by mysticism, synesthesia and theosophy, and departed from Romanticism and moved into a territory of dissonant and atonal music, for which he was dubbed Russia’s foremost Symbolist composer.

Music for the Keyboard: The Development of the Piano Etude

Instructor: Dr. Sarkis Baltaian
Schedule: 10 Weeks | Fridays 9:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. (Jan 12 – March 23)

This class examines and explores the development of the piano etude from the Classical period through 20th century. Representative works include etudes by Hummel, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Debussy, Messiaen, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, and many more.

Jazz Goes to Hollywood, Part I: How the Music & Musicians Have Impacted the Movies

Instructor: Dr. Ray Briggs
Schedule: 10 Weeks| Fridays 1:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. (Jan 12 – Mar 16)

In fairly recent times, big budget films depicting various aspects of jazz culture, such as La La Land (2016) and Whiplash (2014), have been overwhelmingly successful at the box office and received numerous accolades at highly regarded benchmarks of cinema like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. While this may be celebrated as breaking new ground between the two art-forms, the relationship between jazz and film has existed for more than a century. As the first of a two-part series, this course seeks to provide an overview of this pairing by surveying “jazz and film” (i.e., jazz used as a film score) and “jazz on film” (i.e., jazz as the featured subject matter) from the late 1800s to the middle of the twentieth century. Particular aspects to be highlighted include seminal films, significant directors and movie studios, innovative composers and noteworthy musicians.

Visit the Fees page for more information about tuition and registration fees.