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Michael Gilbertson headshot


Office 510

Courses Taught

Music History: 20th and 21st Century

Music History: Choral Music

Undergraduate Musicianship

Undergraduate Music Theory

Graduate Music Theory Review


MM, Yale University

BM, The Juilliard School

DMA, Yale University


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

elegant” and “particularly beautiful”

— The New York Times


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 music of Michael Gilbertson has 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. Gilbertson was one of three finalists for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music, losing to rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Gilbertson’s works have been programmed by orchestras including the Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Opera, New World Symphony, Albany Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, wind ensembles including The United States Marine Band, and Grammy-nominated choirs Musica Sacra, The Crossing, and Conspirare. Gilbertson holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Yale University where he studied with John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, Samuel Adler, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, Martin Bresnick, Hannah Lash, and Christopher Theofanidis. 

Gilbertson is the founder and artistic director of ChamberFest Dubuque—an annual festival that raises money for music education. Gilbertson’s published music includes works with Boosey & Hawkes, G. Schirmer, and Theodore Presser. In March, 2016, Gilbertson was MusicalAmerica Magazine’s featured Artist of the Month.