November 15, 2022

Inside MSM: Learn About MSM’s Contemporary Performance Program

The Contemporary Performance Program (CPP) is a graduate program for students wishing to focus on contemporary classical music. Our students are creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial. Our alumni thrive as soloists and members of prestigious ensembles.

At the program’s core is the critically acclaimed chamber ensemble, Tactus; music critic Alex Ross of The New Yorker hailed one of its concerts as “the deepest, grandest noise of the musical season so far.” Students work with living composers, develop new works, and perform 20th- and 21st-century masterpieces in solo and ensemble settings.

Department Chair and Artistic Director Margaret Kampmeier shares more with us about the program.

CPP Department Chair and Artistic Director Margaret Kampmeier speaks to audience members attending a concert this fall by Tactus, the critically acclaimed CPP performance ensemble.

What is the Contemporary Performance Program at MSM?

The Contemporary Performance Program (CPP) at MSM is a two-year master’s degree program with a specific focus on classical contemporary music. Performers come from all over the world to study in this prestigious program.

What does a typical schedule look like for a CPP student?

Our students tend to be very busy! The program features private instruction and group performance, along with classes in aural skills, electronics, and experimentation. In addition to the required classes and electives, students participate in composer collaborations, independent studies, and performances across the school. Students A sample student schedule can be found here.

“When I heard about the Contemporary Performance Program at MSM, I knew that was where I wanted to be. Without all of the friends and teachers I met there (who are now my closest collaborators and colleagues), I would not be where I am.”

Pianist, Bang on a Can All-Stars

CPP students in Manhattan School of Music's premier chamber ensemble, Tactus

What do you think sets CPP apart from other programs? What opportunities and resources are available to CPP students?

One of the biggest advantages of being at MSM is living in New York City. So much new music goes on here. You could go to a different concert every night! At the same time, the program itself has an intimate feel. Year after year, the students form a tight-knit community, supporting and inspiring each other. In fact, it is quite common to find CPP students and alumni featured in many prominent performances around the city. Between lessons and coaching, students also have much contact with the faculty who all renowned experts in the field of contemporary music.

“One of the huge benefits of MSM is its location in NYC, home to the richest and most saturated scene in contemporary classic, jazz and other genres.”

Who can apply to this program?

Applications are open to performers on all instruments and voice. Many students come directly from an undergrad program, but quite a few also attend to pursue a second master’s degree. If you are passionate about contemporary music, open-minded, and creative, this is the place for you!

How does this graduate program help students to build careers and professional connections, both while attending MSM and once they graduate?

During the program, students take some career readiness/entrepreneurial courses. A big focus of the program is community building, a skill that bears fruit throughout one’s professional life. Many of our students start to work outside of school during their second year of study, and from that point on, it’s a rather smooth segue into the profession.

Where can we find CPP alumni?

Many prominent ensembles got their start in CPP: Mivos Quartet, loadbang, TAK, Quartet121, RighteousGIRLS, andPLAY, and InfraSound, to name a few. You can also find CPP alumni in Bang on a Can All Stars, International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, BlackBox Ensemble, and as active members of the vibrant freelance scene.

“I always enjoy meeting CPP alumni at gigs I play on, and it happens often. In fact, at a recent performance of mine, we realized there were four generations of CPP alumni on the concert!

Where can we hear Tactus and CPP students next?

The most recent Tactus performance was on Monday, October 31st, and the livestream is still available for viewing on the MSM website. The next Tactus concert is Monday, December 5th at 7:30pm, and will feature the music of Erin Rogers, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, George Crumb, Corie Rose Soumah, Sarah Hennies, and Missy Mazzoli. Come check it out if you are in town!

An excerpt of "Rising Tide" by Nina C. Young, performed by Tactus in the 2021-22 season.

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