Our master of fine arts in music performance and literature offers students the opportunity to study a broad range of repertoires and techniques—from traditional solo and chamber music to recently composed works, from notated music to indeterminate scores. The program has two options: one dedicated to the performance of composed music and the other to improvisation. Students in both sections learn in a dynamic environment in which older traditions inform contemporary idioms and new music inspires reevaluation of work from earlier periods.
Students may study and perform with top San Francisco Bay Area musicians as well as with distinguished guest artists. Visiting performers have included AMM, MEV, Werner Bärtschi, Iva Bittová, Imogen Cooper, Marilyn Crispell, Amy Denio, Angela Hewitt, Susie Ibarra, Joëlle Léandre, Louis Lortie, Matmos, Meredith Monk, Ikue Mori, Viktoria Mullova, Zeena Parkins, Anne Queffélec, Maja Ratkje, Aaron Rosand, Charles Rosen, Frederick Rzewski, Kazue Sawai, Wadada Leo Smith, Laetitia Sonami, Frances-Marie Uitti, and the late David Tudor.
Musical groups, such as the Contemporary Performance Ensemble, the Mills Performance Collective (which specializes in chamber music), and the Mills Performing Group (originally established by Luciano Berio, Darius Milhaud, and Morton Subotnick to present works from across the genre spectrum) provide a range of performance opportunities.
In addition, the Music Improvisation Ensemble (led by Fred Frith) and the Improvisation Workshop (directed by Roscoe Mitchell) afford unique opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of the practice of improvisation in an intense and supportive environment.
Our program’s strong historical, theoretical, and critical component, staffed by music scholars David Bernstein and Nalini Ghuman, allows performers to gain advanced knowledge of the cultural, analytical, and socio-historical aspects of music, enhancing both their understanding and their ability to perform at a high level.