New head for the School of Music

Noel Zahler has been chosen to head the School of Music beginning July 1. Zahler, who has a strong background in both administration and composition, will take over the position from current interim head Marilyn Taft Thomas (also head of School of Music from 1988 to 1996), who will return to her position as a member of the faculty in the School of Music.

Zahler comes to Carnegie Mellon from the University of Minnesota, where he served as a professor of composition and held the position of head of the university’s music school. Zahler’s accomplishments include composing a number of pieces encompassing both classical sounds and electroacoustic, interactive, and multimedia works. Recordings of his music are available on the Opus One and Centaur Records labels. Zahler’s compositions have been performed in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Zahler’s innovation in the field of music technology will be warmly welcomed at Carnegie Mellon. “[Our university] is already at the forefront of music and technology,” said Thomas, the interim head. “We wanted to have someone who would further enhance the collaborative activity that already exists here.”

Zahler’s experience as a composer who incorporates new technology into his work will most certainly be reflected in his administration at Carnegie Mellon. “How we combine the power of musical sound and its interpretation through performance into works that speak to each of us is, for me, what making music is all about,” Zahler said in a university press release. “In my own work as a composer, I try to build imaginary sound-worlds that resonate differently, with emotion and meaning, for everyone who hears them.” In addition to composition, Zahler has co-authored Artificially Intelligent Computer Performer, Score Follow, and Music Matrix, three music software programs. He won the Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) prize for his sound score to “Gothic Tempest,” a computer-realized video. In addition to composition, Zahler’s writings about the connections between music and artificial intelligence, music theory, and computer music have been featured in several publications, among them the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Zahler’s education includes a Ph.D. in musical arts from Columbia University; a master’s degree from Princeton University; a certificato di perfezionamento from L’Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy; and a bachelor’s degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music at CUNY Queens College. He was recently elected \vice president of the American Composers Alliance, a national organization founded by Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions in 1937.

According to Thomas, the transition for the new head will be a very smooth one. “The School of Music is stronger for the new head.... I like him very much, and we’ve already started collaborating,” she said.