Bunita Marcus in session with composer Nathan Bibb.
Photo by Jason Schoch


I have two goals when teaching composition. First and foremost is to help the student recognize what they are truly hearing in their head, not what they want to hear, or even what they would like to hear.  By focusing on what they are truly hearing, we discover what is unique and distinguished about the student's music.  From there we focus on developing a notational system and compositional process that reflects this new, unique sound world.

Many of my students already come to me with advanced degrees in music. In these situations, I not only work with the student on compositional problems, but I also help them transition from a degree to a real career in music composition. We look at everything from surviving as an artist to working with performers in rehearsals and in concert. We examine the art of balancing instruments on stage, writing program notes and grant proposals , applying for commissions and contests, as well as talking to audiences.

I often attend dress rehearsals, work with the student to get professional performances and recordings, and encourage contact between their peers, top-notch performers and professional composers.

My years of experience with performances and concert production all over the world has given me unique insight into how careers develop in composition and the unspoken rules that exist and vary from country to country regarding artistic presentation and professional etiquette.


I am now in a position to have composition apprentices who learn not only from composition lessons with me, but also through daily contact - observing my everyday activities, my composing, how I make career decisions and the means by which I support myself.

This is a mentoring process at the highest level, a unique process I pass down from my mentors: composers Morton Feldman, Toru Takemitsu, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Aaron Copland, and Louis Andriessen, as well as artists: Jasper Johns, Bob Rauschenberg, Francesco Clemente, Aki Takahashi and Merce Cunningham.

The apprentice may choose to stay at my house in Brooklyn for the most comprehensive experience. I have a very large, private, furnished room with piano and separate bath. Or you may choose to live elsewhere in NYC and take composition lessons and visit according to an individual plan we will devise that reflects your interests.


Dr. Bunita Marcus is also available for lectures and coaching:

1) On Dr. Marcus' own Music, Notation and Compositional Process
2) On 21st century Notation and Orchestration, Technical Conducting Problems, and Performance Practice.
3) On Morton Feldman's Notation, Performance Practice and Compositional Process.

Dr. Marcus is also available to teach and coach via Skype for those who are not in the New York area.



"In 1985, I wrote a letter to my hero Morton Feldman asking him if I might travel to Buffalo from Boston once-a-month to study composition with him.  He, very wisely, wrote back saying that the distance was too great to do the kind of work he would want to do with me; but, if I contacted his gifted student, Bunita Marcus, I would undoubtedly have a great experience with her. Without knowing me, he was absolutely correct.  I learned about the art of composing and working with Sound from Bunita in ways that I still think about every time I sit down to write a new piece.  She taught me to listen to what was happening in my piece, and to respond to that.  Other teachers I had worked with tried to get me to pay more attention to what wasn't happening in my music and try to develop that - an infinitely frustrating experience.  I felt like I became "me" when I studied with Bunita.  And, as a result this is what I hope to do for my students - enable them to become themselves as excellently as they can."

Dr. Marti Epstein, Professor of Composition, Berklee College of Music

"Studying with Bunita Marcus was probably one of the most important steps in my development as a musician.  Whether the subject was history, orchestration, theory or private composition lessons, she always challenged and encouraged her students to listen and think more carefully.  Like many great teachers, she was capable and strict while also generous and warm.  It was only years later that I realized how much of herself she gave to so many of us."

Fred Lonberg-Holm, professional composer and cellist

"I studied with Bunita Marcus from 1984 to 1986.  I am still learning from her lessons.  She teaches us how to trust and follow our intuition in a very profound way.  On occasion, still we query where the source of music might be – though we never really pin it down, yet always recognize its allure and whisper at the same time.  Bunita has her secrets to help her students release themselves to their intuition...or better put, surrender to it.  After all, for artists, it is our greatest faculty.  I hope others will have the opportunity to work under her patient care and guidance."

Dr. Steven Kazuo Takasugi, Associate, Music Department, Harvard University and Managing Director, Harvard Summer Master Courses in Music Composition

"If we're really fortunate, we meet two or three teachers who inspire us.  They teach with their lives.  Bunita was one of my life's fortunes.  She continues to inspire my evolving recipe for the 'Great Teacher': 1) Connect with the past through understanding 2) Engage with the vitality of the present by listening, conversing, debating, exploring, observing, kvetching about things that matter 3) Listen for your student's future and give them what you can offer them in the present 4) Only sing, play, say, write what you really mean and what you really hear 5) Be brave enough to avoid standardized baking pans and forms, antique molds, and cookie cutters.  Allow to ferment for 90 years or more."

Sheri Bauer-Mayorga, vocalist and choral director

"As my composition teacher, Bunita Marcus introduced me to being a real twentieth-century composer. Every aspect of your work was explored. Nothing was ever left to chance: the shaping of the harmonies and melodies, orchestration, etc. But just as important, she taught me how to reach inside myself and write the music that expressed who I am instead of composing to please my instructor. Her strength and intelligence forced all around her -- professors included -- to either elevate your mind or move out of the way."

Dr. Malcolm Rector, Assistant Professor of Composition, University of St. Thomas



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