The Composition Department
The BMus degree in composition at Yong Siew Toh (YST) is designed as a launchpad for a future generation of composers. It balances a structured training program with space for students to discover and explore their own musical passions. It is a program that helps students find a unique voice and begin to speak through their music with confidence. Some may decide to become film music composers, focus on work with theater and dance, write experimental electronic music or cutting edge contemporary orchestra works, or compose for their own ensemble that blends instruments from diverse cultural traditions. Whatever their direction, the composition program at YST aims to challenge students intellectually while supporting them in the pursuit of their dreams.
studying composition at YST
A major in music composition at YST Conservatory includes weekly private instruction with a composition mentor along with modules covering different aspects of contemporary composition. We offer modules in composing for orchestra, symphonic band, choir, and Chinese instrumental ensembles as well as modules in computer music and the analysis and history of contemporary music. Students also receive support for the development of necessary aural and rhythmic skills for contemporary composers as well as professional training in public presentation, writing programme notes, rehearsing with ensembles, and professionally presenting their music in score and recorded formats. Majors participate in the weekly Composers' Forum where they share their work and receive feedback from peers and mentors as well as learn about contemporary music through guest artist presentations and analysis of important contemporary works.
Composition majors compose for a variety of instrumentations, from solo instruments to large ensemble pieces and even orchestra. Projects involving electronics and computers are also encouraged and supported through modules on computer music. In the senior year, composition majors complete a Final Year Project, including a minimum of 25 minutes of music, publicly presented and recorded. As part of the Final Year Project, students offer a public presentation on their works.
There are numerous performance opportunities for composition majors, and many opportunities to work with professional musicians. You can learn more about these opportunities here.
YST Conservatory maintains top-notch facilities specifically for the artistic development of its student composers. These include computer hardware and software, microphones, recorders, speakers, and even a piano exclusively for works with extended techniques. You can learn more about these facilities here.
Alumni of the composition department have gone on to successful careers in different areas of music.
- Dr. Chen Zhangyi (Class of 2009) continued on to a DMA at the Peabody Conservatory and has returned to Singapore and is currently Assistant Professor of Composition at YST Conservatory.
- Dr. Emily Koh (Class of 2009) continued on to a Ph.D at Brandeis University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, University of Georgia.
- Dr. Diana Soh (Class of 2007) continued on to a Ph.D at the University at Buffalo as well as IRCAM. She currently resides in Paris and is a highly sought after composer with numerous commissions and performances.
- Wong Kah Chun (Class of 2011) continued on with studies in conducting at the Hanns-Eisler Musikhochschule. Following that, he won the Mahler Competition in 2016 and is now internationally active as a conductor of major symphony orchestras.
- After graduating, Danny Imson (Class of 2013) was immediately offered a teaching position at a private high school in China where he worked for 3 years. He is now back in Singapore teaching composition at the School of the Arts, Singapore.
- Joshua Cerdenia (Class of 2014) continued on at the Juilliard School, receiving a Master of Music degree. He is now living in New York City and working as a composer.
Music Technology & Computer Music
Recording as Creative Practice
Music and Machines
Synthesis and Signal Processing
Composition and Contemporary Music Ensembles
The conservatory's ensemble dedicated to contemporary music, particularly works from the last 50 years. The module leaders aim to engage students with a diverse range of new approaches to composition, programming landmark works along with composers from diﬀerent regions and aesthetics concerns. Each semester students learn solo, chamber, and large ensemble pieces. All instrumentalists in the Conservatory are scheduled into at least one semester of OpusNovus which is also available as an additional free elective for those who might wish for further exposure to contemporary music.
In this module, students propose projects and select mentors to lead them in those projects. In that regard, it is like an independent study. Collaboratory exists for projects involving collaborative composition and improvisation (like activities in Collaborative Music Making), realizations of experimental works involving graphic, indeterminate, or text-‐based scores, and new works with electronics and live instruments.