San Francisco Conservatory of Music Faculty Member Mason Bates
  1. Faculty

Mason Bates


Meet Grammy award-winning composer and faculty member Mason Bates.


  • Applied Lessons


  • PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • MM, The Juilliard School
  • BA, Columbia College


  • Heinz Award in the Humanities
  • Composer-in-Residence, Kennedy Center
  • Composer-in-Residence, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

What is your hometown?

Richmond, VA

What is your favorite recording?

Mouse on Mars: Idiology.

What are you passionate about outside of music?


Who were your major teachers?

John Corigliano, David Del Tredici, and Samuel Adler.

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

"Themify the theme." (i.e. make the theme more like a theme!)

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

“What should I be listening to?”

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

Hearing Gershwin.

What was a turning point in your career?

Discovering electronica as a college student.

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

Writing words.

What is your daily practice routine?

Compose 9-1. Orchestrate 2-5.

What are your most important collaborations?

Mark Campbell (librettist for my opera) and Gus Van Sant (director of the film, Sea of Trees, for which I wrote the music).

Who have you had the privilege of teaching?

Daniel de Togni, Taylor Rankin, Jonah Gallagher, and Yangfan Xu.

What recordings can we hear you on?

Mason Bates: Works for Orchestra, SFS Media
Mothership, BMOP
Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, CSO Resound

What is your unrealized project?

An oratorio or animated film.