Sean Friar - Composition Faculty, Program Director


Sean Friar grew up in Los Angeles, where his first musical experiences were in rock and blues piano improvisation. While his focus soon shifted toward classical music, his composition has always reflected the energy and directness of those musical roots. Friar blends these contemporary styles with an expansive classical sensibility that Slate magazine called “refreshingly new and solidly mature… and doesn’t take on airs, but instead takes joy in the process of discovery—in the continual experience of suspense and surprise—that good classical music has always championed.” Friar holds undergraduate degrees from UCLA and graduate degrees from Princeton.  He studied composition with Paul Chihara, Ian Krouse, Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey and Dmitri Tymoczko.

He thrives on composing for ensembles within and outside the realm of traditional concert music, with recent commissions which run the gamut from works for orchestra and string quartet to a junk car percussion concerto and music for laptop orchestra. His music has been performed throughout the world by ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, Argento Ensemble, So Percussion, Crash Ensemble, Ensemble Klang, NOW Ensemble, the American Composers Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Alter Ego, Orkest de Ereprijs, Psappha, Darmstadt Staatsorchester, ensemble Interface, Present Music, Newspeak, Janus, Quintet of the Americas, Formalist Quartet and the famed electronic duo, Matmos.

Festivals featuring his music include Aspen, Bang on a Can, Bowdoin, Cabrillo, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at BAM, GAUDEAMUS Muziekweek, International Young Composers Meeting, La Pietra Forum for New Music, Norfolk, Nuova Consonanza, Nuovi Spazi Musicali, RadialSystem, SONiC, Wild Shore and the Venice Biennale. Recent commissions include a co-commission from Alarm Will Sound and Ensemble Modern, a work for orchestra for the Cabrillo Festival and a Chamber Music America commission for a 30-minute percussion quartet for Line C3 Percussion.

The youngest winner of the Rome Prize in over 25 years, Friar has received awards from ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Copland House, Chamber Music America, Composers Inc., the New York Youth Symphony, New Music USA, the Fisher Piano Competition and SCI/ASCAP.  Recordings of his music can be found on New Amsterdam Records, Innova Recordings, Darling Records and Crescent Phase Records.

Friar joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music in Fall 2013.

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