Collage of piano and musical score

Theory, History, and Composition

The Conservatory is privileged to have several composers among its faculty members and offers individual lessons in 30, 45, and 60-minute lengths, depending on student need and teacher recommendation.

Youth Theory Schedule

August 29, 2023 – June 5, 2024
Annual Tuition+: $720/$324*

Adult Theory Schedule

January 2 – March 19, 2024
Tuition: $180

+Material fees not included
*Discount for students concurrently enrolled in individual lessons

Class Descriptions

Youth Theory

Students enrolling in Theory classes will be required to take a placement exam unless enrolling in Music Theory Prep.

Music Theory Prep is for young students who are just starting lessons and not yet proficient at reading music. Topics include: treble and bass clefs, time signatures, rhythm, notation, and an introduction to famous composers.

Age 9+.

June 14 – August 16 (10 Weeks)
Tuesdays: 6:00 – 6:30 pm
Instructor: Renee Gilormini
Tuition: $200

This course is designed for students who have taken theory at PCM. It reviews concepts learned in previous classes to prepare students for the fall.

This class is for students who have completed Theory Prep through Level 2. Please contact the PCM office at or 626.683.3355 for enrollment information.

Building on the skills learned in Prep 1, students will learn about accidentals and enharmonics, measures and simple time signatures, whole tones and semitones. Introduces major scales and key signatures. Course includes reading about and listening to works by great composers.

In this course, students expand their knowledge of key signatures to include relative, as well as the concept of harmonic minor.  They continue learning the constructs of good melody writing, and begin to study the great composers.  This level introduces tonic chord symbols.

Students expand their knowledge of key signatures to two sharps and flats and are introduced to melodic minor.  They play these scales on the piano and on their own instruments.  They learn about major and perfect intervals and begin octave transposition.  This level adds dominant triads and chord symbols to their repertoire.

In this level, students study key signatures and scales up to three sharps and flats.  They learn how to transpose a melodic line into another clef, and are introduced to minor intervals.  This course adds subdominant triads to the mix, and students now progress to writing four-measure melodies outlining specific harmonies.

Students continue the foundations established at the Elementary levels and further develop understanding of notational conventions, analysis, melody and composition, and music history.

Intermediate level examinations require cumulative knowledge of concepts from all previous levels.

Students learn about double sharps and flats, as well as augmented and diminished intervals. They learn how to transpose a melody up by any interval, and are introduced to half and authentic cadences. Students go more in depth into the characteristics of the Baroque and Classical eras.

Winter Adult History Courses

January 4 – March 7, 2024
Thursdays: 9:30 – 11:30 am
Instructor: Brian Lauritzen
Tuition: $320

For many reasons—including coincidence—the ‘20s always seem to be a decade of change. Whether it’s the 1720s, 1820s, 1920s, or our current decade. This course will examine music from all of these decades (and perhaps even earlier) and explore the soundtrack to these pivotal moments in history.

January 5 – March 8, 2024
Fridays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Instructor: Dr. Oliver Greene
Tuition: $320

Music in the 1980s was a continuation and an expansion of musical styles from the 60s and 70s, and a period of development of influential urban styles of music. This course examines how technological advancements, audio-visual media, politics, and economics helped to create pop, rock and R&B superstars like Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Tina Turner. It explores the impact of MTV and music videos, major R&B and rock bands, and country music stars like Kenny Rogers, Reba McIntire, and Dolly Parton. It also examines how politics, economic conditions, and a disregard for the needs of African Americans and Latinos in US urban centers led to the evolution of hip hop and rap.

January 23 – March 26, 2024
Tuesdays: 9:00 – 11:00 am
Instructor: Dr. Sarkis Baltaian
Tuition: $320

This class examines and explores the Piano Character Piece in the nineteenth century, which was most closely connected with the Romantic ideal of art work. Representative works include compositions by late Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms.

Spring History Courses

March 22 – May 31, 2024
Fridays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Instructor: Dr. Oliver Greene
Tuition: $320

Popular music in the 1990s represented a period of musical fusion and the acceptance of recent styles of music previously considered to be fads. Contemporary R&B, Rock, Country, Pop, and Rap were the most popular styles of the decade. Noted R&B vocalists included Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, and Destiny’s Child. Popular rock bands included Nirvana, R.E.M., U2, Aerosmith, and the Beastie Boys. Celebrated Pop artists of the decade included the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez. Country music in the 90s featured hits by The Judds, Garth Brooks, Alabama, and Shania Twain. Regional styles of Rap evolved, resulting in the East Coast – West Coast feud and the murders of two major artists: Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. The 90s also produced celebrated rappers like Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Jay-Z, and female rappers like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, and vocalist Lauryn Hill. This course provides an overview of the music of these artists while discussing social, cultural, and political issues that influenced them.

March 4 – April 15, 2024 (No class March 25)
Mondays: 9:30 – 11:00 am
Instructor: Dr. Vatché Mankerian
Tuition: $144

One might argue that with its opening titanic singular c minor chord, Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata not only may have heralded the arrival of the Romantic movement, but also established a tradition of composing monumental works for the piano repertoire. These are works that are not only monumental in scope and size, but also especially prodigious in their musical depth and weight. Since then, many composers have followed with such works for an instrument that has yet to lose its popularity and importance in the music world. The course focuses on such works as Beethoven’s Appasionata, Chopin’s Sonatas 2 and 3, Liszt’s Sonata, Schumann’s Symphonic Études, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, and Prokofiev’s “War” Sonatas. This course culminates in a bonus concert featuring a sampler of monumental works covered in the class.

April 11 – May 30, 2024
Thursdays: 9:30 – 11:45 am
Instructor: Dr. Nic Gerpe
Tuition: $256

First given in 1943, the Pulitzer Prize for Music has been awarded “For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.” This course will trace the history of the pieces and composers who have won the award, the influence and aesthetics of those works and composers, and some of the controversies surrounding the Prize. From well-known composers such as Aaron Copland and Charles Ives to recent artists like Jennifer Higdon, Anthony Davis, and Ellen Reid, this class will cover an amazing spectrum of American musical voices and styles.

About Zoom and PCM Tech Support
Zoom is an easy-to-use video conferencing platform that allows “face-to-face” meetings and classes from the comfort of your home. At PCM, we have dedicated staff members that can help you get set up for the class via phone or email. If you’d like tech support please call the front office at 626.683.3355 or