PROFILE: Exploring Postgraduate Music Education

VCFA student Zachary Zweig celebrates success during his residency. – When Daniel Godsil explored postgraduate music programs from home in Illinois, he immediately recognized that traditional curriculum models could not adapt to his lifestyle. Adjunct teaching schedules and other music work obligations made finding a flexible, personalized degree program essential to his search. Vermont College of Fine Arts’ (VCFA) Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition program, with its low-residency, high impact curriculum and flexible, individualized course load was a perfect fit.

Godsil boasts about VCFA’s first-of-its-kind, flexible model that allows and encourages its students to push the boundaries between the education they’ve already achieved, and their highest learning aspirations. Exploring diverse genres of music, learning innovative methods of score writing, and letting their original music speak for itself are all facets that the program’s renowned, virtuosic faculty instill in their students.

VCFA student Benjamin Lieberman performs during an open mic during his 2017 summer residency.

Musicians and music creators of every adult age, from across the U.S., are exploring their dreams in their journey to Montpelier, where VCFA’s physical campus resides.  Breathtaking foliage in the Green Mountains, small town bistros and local watering holes offer any artist unlimited inspiration, but its VCFA’s first-class MFA Music Composition program that is the cornerstone. The flexible, low-residency model encourages and supports student work in on-site intensives, in the virtual and digital realms, and across multiple genres, including contemporary composition, electronic music, jazz, songwriting, and scoring for media.

Students and faculty support each other’s work while on campus.

VCFA’s world-renowned faculty consists of musicians, composers, and artists who consistently share their love of music and expand their student’s talents beyond measure. Faculty mentors work closely with students in rigorous, individualized composition studies, expanding and refining their creative voices. “The caliber of the faculty that VCFA had assembled is unrivaled. There is so much talent and knowledge in the group, you can’t help but be inspired!” says Godsil.

Like Daniel, Richard Tuttobene struggled to find his voice in Los Angeles creating scores for films, television shows, and commercials. Although his work was showcased on the big screen and over the airwaves, Richard’s creative desires propelled him to enroll in the VCFA’s program. Instead of writing to fit what other people wanted the music to sound like, Richard desires to compose his own original music, versus writing to his employers’ specifications, were finally fulfilled!

VCFA students Roger Zahab and Jessica Meyer perform during their residency week for peers and faculty.

VCFA’s low-residency model is key, providing students the opportunity to compose for outstanding ensembles-in-residence and solo artists, while pursuing creative, personal, and professional lives in their home communities. Maintaining a career that maintained his personal finances while exploring his individual music craft afforded Richard the flexibility, support and focus to sharpen his craft. Extraordinary faculty members provide an invaluable experience to students. “You work with them intensely, listen to their vivid lectures, and realize their breadth of knowledge and experience so vast,” Tuttobene shares.

Jenny Choi and Jackson Mann study intensely during VCFA’s summer residency for Music Composition students.

Alumni frequently boast about the program’s immense support system, from faculty, advisors and their fellow students. The safe, non-judgmental space allows artists to flourish, and insists that creativity and exploration are accepted and encouraged. In 2013, Beth Bradfish of Chicago enrolled in the program after three-decades devoted to composing music for video and film. Although many people in her life discouraged her from returning to school, she took a leap of faith, acknowledging that the yearning to fulfill her musical dreams would finally be achieved.

VCFA Music Composition Postgraduate students enjoy beautiful surroundings, and exception performance opportunities while in residency on campus.

“In such an intense environment, the faculty support is an immeasurable oasis. The non-critical acceptance of the entire community, with diverse viewpoints is unparalleled,” Bradfish said. She credits the program with building her confidence in her skills, allowing her to surpass the fears of writing and performing her original compositions.

Students Diane Moser and Rob Frankenberry rehearse as an ensemble with Reed Robins during VCFA’s Music Composition program 2017 summer residency.

Helming from diverse lives and careers, Daniel, Richard, and Beth’s experiences at VCFA all share common elements:  they’ve experienced an irreplaceable transformation. By committing to their VCFA’s post-graduate education, they’ve embarked upon inscribing a fulfilled, successful future.


Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition program offers a 60-credit graduate degree over two years. Faculty mentors guide and support students through four six-month semesters of self-designed composition study, complemented by twice-a-year, seven-day residencies on campus.  To learn more about the program, its extraordinarily accomplished faculty, new works created by our students and all other information, visit

Photographs by Anthony Pagani