Department of Music

Bruce Stark

Bruce Stark, Assistant Professor

Department Chair, Music
Senior Lecturer, Music Theory and Composition
Director, DigiPen Jazz Ensemble

Born in San Diego, California, Bruce Stark is a composer/pianist whose music reflects the varied elements of his musical upbringing: early studies in percussion, jazz piano, and classical composition. After completing a Masters degree in composition at the Juilliard School, he lived for more than 20 years in Tokyo, where he was active as composer, arranger and jazz pianist.

His music, ranging from solo piano works to chamber and orchestral pieces, has been performed on concert stages across five continents, and broadcast on radio programs worldwide. His performances can be heard on many recordings (Victor Entertainment, Centaur Records, Hearts Of Space, Meister Music, ALM Records, MA Recordings and various independent labels).

His awards include: First Prize in the Composers Guild Contest, Second Prize in the Barlow International Competition, ASCAP composer awards and others. He was also the winner of First Prize in the solo jazz piano category of the 2013 Wildflower Music International Recording competition, and as jazz pianist he has appeared in major concert halls throughout Japan as well as in Shanghai's Grande Theatre, Kennedy Center, and on a six-country tour of South America.

Lawrence Schwedler, M.F.A.

Lawrence Schwedler

Program Director, Sound Design Programs
Associate Professor, Music

Lawrence Schwedler earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in classical guitar performance with a specialization in electronic music from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1993. He was a founding member of the Modern Arts Guitar Quartet, a chamber ensemble specializing in 20th century music, performing concerts in Europe, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Since then he has worked as a composer, sound designer, and audio director in the video game industry for developers such as The Dreamers Guild, JVC Digital Arts Studio, and Nintendo Software Technology. Together with Claude Comair, Rory Johnston and James Phillipsen he was awarded two U.S. patents for Nintendo, one for an interactive music engine and another for a real-time wave table sound generator.

In the spring of 2011, he began working with DigiPen's Dr. Matt Klassen to develop curricula for two new degree programs in music and sound design, at the request of DigiPen's president, Claude Comair. In the summer of 2012, he left Nintendo to launch and direct the new programs. Schwedler says he feels lucky to be able to share the unique perspective he gained from more than a decade of making music and sound for Nintendo products with the students at DigiPen.

Selected game credits:

  • Rhythm Heaven Fever (Nintendo Wii 2012)
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (Nintendo DS 2010)
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis (Nintendo DSi 2009)
  • Nintendo CrossworDS (Nintendo DS 2008)
  • Metroid Prime: Hunters (Nintendo DS 2006)
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong (Nintendo GameBoy Advance 2004)
  • Ridge Racer DS (Nintendo DS 2004)
  • 1080°: Avalanche (Nintendo GameCube 2003)
  • Wave Race: Blue Storm (Nintendo GameCube launch title 2001)
  • Pokémon Puzzle League (Nintendo 64 2000)

Tacket Brown

Tacket Brown

Adjunct Professor, Percussion

Tacket Brown began playing music at an early age. He was influenced greatly by his grandmother, herself a concert pianist, who started him on drums at the age of nine.  By age 14 he began playing professionally in the Portland metro area at well established jazz venues. His teachers included the jazz drum legend Mel Brown (The Temptations, Stevie Wonder) and Grammy-nominated percussionist Niel DePonte (Oregon Symphony).

In his late teens Tacket began focusing on classical percussion, making his solo debut at the age of 15 performing the West Coast premiere of Daniel Dorff's Allegro Volante for solo percussion with members of the Oregon Symphony. From there, under the tutelage of Niel DePonte, he began performing semi-regularly with the Oregon Symphony as a section percussionist, the youngest member at the time. By age 17 he had received a full-tuition scholarship to attend the highly acclaimed University of Michigan School of Music, where he earned his Bachelor of Music Performance with concentration in Percussion Performance and Music Education.

He has performed countless concerts across the US, Japan, Argentina, Europe, and Canada and has appeared on 40+ albums. He currently teaches drum set and percussion studies at DigiPen and conducts freelance master classes and clinics across the Pacific Northwest.

James Borchers

James Borchers

Adjunct Assistant Professor

James Borchers is a composer, sound artist, and musician. His work emphasizes sound's role as a powerful communicative force and unique physical phenomenon. James's compositions and performances span a range of media, including orchestral and chamber music, electroacoustic and computer music, sound installations, opera, film scores, and music for theater.

James's numerous awards include fellowships and residencies at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Wellesley Composers Conference, Kimmel Center for the Arts, Jack Straw Cultural Center, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. His music has been performed in the US and abroad by groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talujon Percussion Quartet, Dinosaur Annex, the Lydian String Quartet, the New York Youth Symphony, and American Opera Projects. Find out more about James at: www.jamesborchers.com.

Peter Caruso

Peter Caruso

Adjunct Lecturer

Peter Caruso has been a well-known guitarist and educator in the Seattle area for many years. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Performance from Arizona State University in 1985 and has also studied at the University of New Mexico and at Eastman School of Music.

In addition to running his own teaching studio, Caruso Guitar Studio, Peter has been an adjunct professor with both Bellevue College and North Seattle College. He is an active member of the Musicians' Association of Seattle, founding member of the Seattle Jazz Guitar Society, and is active in both the Seattle Classic Guitar Society and the Jazz Educators Network (formerly International Association of Jazz Educators).

Known for his ability to swiftly adapt to different genres, Peter has been featured on various projects, alternately playing classical, jazz, and Latin American music. Currently, his performance calendar consists mainly of solo classical guitar for private events and concerts, but he still plays jazz on occasional club dates. His teachers have included Frank Koonce, Hector Garcia, David Russell, Joe Pass, and Gene Bertoncini, and he has shared the stage with many well-known artists, including Bill Dobbins, Rodger Williams, Natalie Cole, Rufus Reed, Frank Lacy, and members of the Seattle Symphony.

Peter's approach to teaching is to focus on the student as an individual and to, as quickly as possible, find the most effective way to present material and achieve the best results.

Alex Chadsey

Alex Chadsey

Adjunct Professor

Alex Chadsey started piano lessons at age 7 and continued formal music training through college, receiving a B.F.A. in Jazz Studies with High Honors from the University of Michigan in 2003. He relocated to Seattle in 2005 and began working with some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest Latin and jazz artists. Chadsey was featured twice at Meany Hall as part of the University of Washington Visiting Artists in Ethnomusicology Concert Series — in 2007 with Joe Santiago and in 2010 with Laura Rebolloso. In 2009 Chadsey was featured on the independently-released recording Brazilian Songbird by Seattle-based jazz ensemble Sambatuque. Later that year he performed at El Teatro del Estado in Xalapa, Mexico, with the Panamerican Big Band, directed by Rufus Reid. In 2010 Chadsey performed, recorded, and arranged music for the East L.A.-based Chicano rock group, Quetzal. He played the Fender Rhodes piano on two tracks for Quetzal's 2011 release Imaginaries, which won the 2013 Grammy Award for "Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album."

Chadsey is a two-time recipient of the City Artist Grant from the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in 2011 and 2013 respectively. The most recent grant supported a project called "Sounds Beyond Barriers," which featured collaboration between students from the Seattle World School and a diverse team of artists, community activists, and educators from Los Angeles, Mexico, and Seattle.

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon

Assistant Professor of Music and Sound Design

Greg Dixon teaches courses in Advanced Composition and Sound Design at DigiPen.  He holds a Ph.D. in music composition with a specialization in computer music from the University of North Texas, where he worked as a composition teaching fellow, recording engineer, and technical assistant for The Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia (CEMI).  Greg received his M.M. in Music Composition and B.M. in Music Engineering Technology from Ball State University.

His compositional research focuses on electronic music and interactive music systems for games, acoustic instruments, sensor technologies, and human interface devices. 

Dixon has worked for more than fifteen years as a professional sound engineer, which has greatly influenced his strategies for designing sounds in the studio.  In addition, he has served as a producer, recording engineer, arranger, performer, mixer, and mastering engineer on dozens of commercially available recordings in a wide variety of genres.

Sara Figueroa

Sara Figueroa

Adjunct Lecturer

Originally from Austin, Texas, Sara Figueroa earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Classical Vocal Performance from Rice University, followed by a Master of Music in Classical Vocal Performance from the University of Houston.

As a performer, Sara has combined her exceptional vocal technique and engaging stage presence to delight audiences in such roles as Fiorilla (Il turco in Italia), Jouvenot (Adriana Lecouvreur), and Despina (Così fan tutte).

A gifted instructor, Sara opened her own voice studio in 2004. She continued private voice instruction upon moving to the Seattle area, where she has been an influential member of the music education community since 2007. Sara has collaborated many times with the award-winning Lake Washington High School choir department, including as musical director for several of the school's productions, such as The Music Man, Grease, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She has also served as an officer and board member of the Puget Sound regional chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

In 2016, she joined DigiPen's Department of Music as an adjunct faculty member. In her spare time, Sara enjoys traveling with her husband and is active in the Junior League of Seattle.

John Kim

John Kim

Adjunct Lecturer

John Kim, a native of Tacoma, Washington, received a full scholarship to attend the pre-college division at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree. He earned a Master of Music at the Manhattan School of Music studying with New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow. Upon Kim's graduation, the college's dean invited Kim to be guest soloist under legendary maestro Sixten Ehrling with the Manhattan Symphony. Kim was a New York String Orchestra Seminar participant under Alexander Schneider and Jaime Laredo with performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He led the Jupiter Symphony of New York as Concertmaster and other ensembles at Merkin Hall, New York Town Hall, and Riverside Church NYC. He also served as Assistant Concertmaster of the Sarasota Opera in Florida, attended the Tanglewood and Spoleto festivals, and performed with jazz saxophonist David Sanborn at the White House for President Bill Clinton. He has toured cities in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, and Italy with the North Carolina School of the Arts International Music Program and also performed in the Seoul Festival Orchestra under Myung-Whun Chung at the Seoul Performing Arts Center in South Korea.

In the Puget Sound area, Kim is the former Concertmaster of the Bellevue Philharmonic and Northwest Sinfonietta, Associate Concertmaster of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Principal 2nd Violin of the Tacoma Symphony, and a member of the Seattle Symphony during their inaugural season at Benaroya Hall. He was the top prize winner of the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle Competition, featured artist on KING FM "Live by George," and appeared as a guest soloist with numerous regional orchestras. In chamber music, he has collaborated with international artists Richard Stolzman, Elina Vähälä, Ralf Gothóni, Joseph Silverstein, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra for Ensemble M and performed on the UW World Series at Meany Hall and Second City Strings Chamber Music Series. Currently, Kim plays frequently in the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra and Seattle recording studios for motion pictures, Xbox, and Playstation games. He is on the coaching faculty of the Seattle Conservatory of Music and the Seattle Youth Symphony and maintains a private teaching studio in Bellevue, Washington.

Pat Nelson

Pat Nelson

Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Pat Nelson has been a bassoonist with the highly acclaimed Westwood Wind Quintet since 2001 and has released 14 recordings on the Crystal Records label. She is Co-Founder and President of the Bellingham Chamber Music Society, which presents traditional and contemporary chamber music and premieres works by new composers. Pat also performs with the Western Washington University faculty woodwind quintet, Fifth Inversion, the Skagit Opera, Melodious Notes on San Juan Island, and the New York-based trio Sapphire Winds.

Originally from Rhode Island, Pat received her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master of Music degree in Bassoon Performance from Northwestern University. Her teachers include John Pederson (North Carolina Symphony), Robert Barris (Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony), and William Dietz (Tucson Symphony).

Pat is the bassoon instructor at DigiPen Institute of Technology and at Western Washington University. In addition, she maintains a large private studio in northwestern Washington. She is a frequent clinician and adjudicator in the Pacific Northwest and has been guest artist and instructor at Musicfest in Wales, Utah State Music Festival, Wright State University, and California State University at Long Beach.

Stephen O'Bent

Stephen O'Bent

Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Stephen O'Bent is a Seattle-based conductor, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Trombone Performance from Occidental College and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington, where he also completed a Post-Baccalaureate Certification in Music Education. Since 2008, Stephen has been a touring member of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, the world-renowned musical juggling troupe, where he acts as both performer and Music Director. He also serves as Associate Minister of Music and Arts at Bellevue First Congregational Church and leads the Vivissimi ensemble of the Seattle Girls' Choir. O'Bent has performed on five continents, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, and has composed and arranged over 200 pieces of music.

In addition to his choral duties, O'Bent is half of the indie duo PepperJill & Jack, bandleader for the New Old Time Chautauqua's annual summer vaudeville tour, and holds a private teaching studio in piano, guitar, voice, and trombone. He's quite fond of his SNES and invites you come to join him for a round of Donkey Kong Country (1 or 2) at your convenience. Find out more about Stephen at: www.stephenobent.com.

Marcin Paczkowski, Ph.D.

Marcin Paczkowski

Adjunct Lecturer

Marcin Paczkowski is a composer, conductor, and digital artist, working with both traditional and electronic media. As a composer, he is focused on developing new ways of creating and performing computer music. His pieces that involve real-time gesture control using accelerometers have been performed at the Music of Today concert series in Seattle, Washington, the Northwest Percussion Festival in Ashland, Oregon, and the Audio Art Festival in Kraków, Poland.

As a conductor, Marcin is involved in performing new music and premiering new works. He is the conductor and co-director of Inverted Space, a Seattle-based new music collective. He is also the music director of the Evergreen Community Orchestra in Everett, Washington, and co-founder of the contemporary chamber vocal ensemble Pogratulujmy Mrówkom in Kraków, Poland.

Marcin received his PhD from the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He also received Masters' degrees from the Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland (Composition and Conducting), and from University of Washington in Seattle, Washington (Composition). He was a grant recipient at the Polish Institute of Music and Dance and the Lesser Poland Scholarship Foundation Sapere Auso.

In 2016, Marcin joined DigiPen's Department of Music as an adjunct faculty member.

Steven Saulls

Steven Saulls

Senior Lecturer, Music

Steven Saulls earned a Master of Music degree from the University of Arizona in 1982 and taught music theory and musicianship at Central Arizona College and Pima Community College for nearly a decade. He is an alumnus of Boston's Berklee College of Music and of the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Washington University. From 1990 to 2000 he was a touring artist and artist in education for the Arizona Commission on the Arts' Artist in Residence program.

Steven has performed hundreds of classical guitar concerts throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico and South America. His debut recording, Steven Saulls Plays Works by Ponce, Torroba & Bach, received international acclaim. In addition to solo concerts, he has performed over 200 chamber works, including works for guitar and orchestra by Vivaldi, Ponce, and Rodrigo.

Steven currently teaches music theory, musicianship, and fundamentals of music and sound design at DigiPen. He also designed and teaches a ProjectFUN summer workshop, Sound Design for Games and Animation, and has been a freelance music engraver for the Hal Leonard Music Publishing Company since 2009.

Brian Schmidt

Senior Lecturer

Brian Schmidt has been creating music, sound, and audio technology for games since 1987. As the 2008 recipient of the Game Audio Network Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Brian has a credits list of over 130 games for companies such as Sony, Electronic Arts, Capcom, Sega, Microsoft, Zynga, Namco, and many others. Apart from his work as one of the industry's first freelance game composers, Brian spent 10 years at Microsoft as the primary audio architect for the Xbox team, where he was responsible for technologies such as XMA and XACT. He also created the boot sound for the original Xbox. Brian’s work has been featured in the "Legends of Game Music" CD set and received Sega’s "Best Sound" award. His theme from the 1988 video game NARC was covered and recorded by The Pixies.
 
In 1985, Brian received undergraduate degrees in music and computer science from Northwestern University, where he created the dual degree program between the School of Music and the Technological Institute. He went on to complete his master's degree in computer applications in music in 1987, and portions of his thesis work appeared in Computer Music Journal. Brian also presented his thesis work, by invitation, to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) special conference on audio technology. Brian is a frequent and in-demand speaker, as well as the founder and executive director of GameSoundCon, the largest professional conference on game music and sound design.
 
Brian sits on the advisory board of the Game Developer Conference and is a founding board member of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.). He is also a former steering committee member of the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (ia-sig) of the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and has presented as a keynote speaker at The Game Developers Conference and Project BBQ. Brian also belonged to a select group of 10 game audio professionals who successfully lobbied the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) into making video game soundtracks eligible for the Grammy Award in 1999.

Matt Wexler

Matt Wexler

Adjunct Professor

Matt Wexler began his musical studies on alto saxophone, but his interest in deeper sounds led him to migrate to baritone sax, then to bass clarinet before he finally settled on electric bass guitar and double bass. He earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree with honors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he participated in the UMass Amhert Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, multiple jazz ensembles, the Mt. Holyoke Euridice Ensemble, and Jeffrey Holmes' DownBeat-Magazine-award-winning Studio Orchestra.

Since relocating to the Pacific Northwest, Matt has maintained a bustling performance schedule. In addition to being first-call bassist for over a dozen performing jazz, folk, pop, and rock artists in the Seattle area, Matt has served as the principal bassist for the Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Festival Orchestra, performed with Philharmonica Northwest and the Federal Way Symphony, and worked with several teaching orchestras. Matt has also toured and performed at major festivals alongside artists in the US, Canada, and Japan.

Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder

Adjunct Associate Professor

Rachel Yoder currently serves as adjunct professor of music theory, musicianship, and clarinet at DigiPen Institute of Technology, and as editor of The Clarinet, the quarterly journal of the International Clarinet Association. Based in the Seattle area, she currently performs with the Madera Wind Quintet, Seattle Modern Orchestra, and Odd Partials clarinet/electronics duo, with additional recent collaborations including the Universal Language Project, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, and a video production of Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint at the Classical KING FM studio.

Rachel has performed and presented throughout the United States, including at the International Clarinet Association ClarinetFest and the International Computer Music Conference. She previously taught clarinet and woodwind pedagogy at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and taught clarinet as a teaching fellow at the University of North Texas, where she earned a doctorate in clarinet performance. She also holds degrees from Michigan State University and Ball State University.


Courses offered by this department:


Course descriptions from all departments: