San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty member, Michael Gilbertson

Courses Taught

  • Music Theory
  • Musicianship
  • Music History (20th Century)


  • MM, Yale University
  • BM, The Juilliard School


  • San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Composer-in-Residence

Awards and Distinctions

  • Pulitzer Prize for Music, Finalist
  • Musical America Magazine, New Artist of the Month
  • BMI Student Composer Award
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters, Charles Ives Scholarship

What is your hometown?

Dubuque, IA

What is your favorite recording?

Earl Wild Plays Gershwin.

What are you passionate about outside of music?

American history and tennis.

Who were your major teachers?

John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, and Aaron Jay Kernis.

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

I love Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules for writers, the most important being rule #1: "Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted."

What was a turning point in your career?

Teaching with Joan Panetti in the Hearing and Analysis program at Yale.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Gershwin, Prokofiev, and Mozart.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

Paris, 1928.

What are your most important collaborations?

Caroline McGraw (playwright), Kai Hoffman-Krull (poet), and Daniel Baker (choreographer).

Who have you had the privilege of teaching?

Michael Blume, who is now a touring pop star!

What recordings can we hear you on?

Messages to Myself, Musica Sacra, MNR Classics

Celebrating the American Spirit, Essential Voices USA, Sono Luminus



The works of Michael Gilbertson have been described as “elegant” and “particularly beautiful” by The New York Times, “vivid, tightly woven” and “delectably subtle” by the Baltimore Sun, “genuinely moving” by the Washington Post, and “a compelling fusion of new and ancient” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was one of three finalists for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Quartet. Michael’s published music includes choral works with Boosey & Hawkes and G. Schirmer, and orchestral works with Theodore Presser. Michael serves as artistic director of ChamberFest Dubuque, an annual summer festival he founded in 2009, and serves on the board of directors for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Michael holds degrees from The Juilliard School, where he  studied with Samuel Adler, John Corigliano, and Christopher Rouse, and from Yale where he studied with Aaron Jay Kernis, Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Ezra Laderman, Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, and Jeanine Tesori. His works have been programmed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Opera, Albany Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Virginia Opera, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Symphony in C, The United States Marine Band, Musica Sacra, The Crossing, and The Esoterics. His chamber works have been performed by the Verona Quartet, Akropolis Quintet, Sybarite5, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, the Copland House Ensemble, and Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.