Alan Belkin: Composer, Teacher

NEW: «Musical Composition: Craft and Art», published by Yale University Press
NEW: Online Courses
“Imagination, the most important freedom” – Alan Belkin


Brahms is reputed to have said: Everything you need to know about composing can be learned from Bach. He was right. What makes Bach great is not the fact that he was an expert contrapuntist, but the richness, harmonic and melodic, of everything he wrote. It’s a kind of generosity, unmatched in the history of music.




Falling in love with music: I started to play the piano when I was seven. My grandfather paid to have an old upright piano moved up from the basement to our apartment. This proved to be a determining event in my life.
Apart from studying piano all through my childhood and adolescence, I studied harmony and counterpoint with Prof. Marvin Duchow for several years in private lessons. This kind and extremely generous man was not only a profound musician, but a mentor and a friend when I most needed one.
I gave my piano debut concert at age 18.
At around the age of twenty-one a friend took me to try out a new (at that time) tracker organ. It was love at first sight, and I began studying the organ, first with Dom André Laberge, and later with Bernard Lagacé. Although I play less now, I became good enough on the organ to be a finalist in the Dublin International Organ Competition, and a semi-finalist in the Toulouse Bach Competition.
I obtained a B.A. from Concordia University and a Masters Degree from McGill University, but my real education in composition took place when I was accepted to the Juilliard School. Not being an American citizen, I could not work in the U.S., so I commuted for three years every week to New York to obtain my doctorate, while working full-time in Montreal. I studied at Juilliard with David Diamond, and for a few months with Elliott Carter.
I have taught at all four of Montreal’s universities. From 1982 to 2016 was a full-time faculty member at the Université de Montréal. I am proud to have been awarded a prize as «Best Associate Professor» in my university in 1994.
Now I am retired, and I teach privately and online. I mainly teach composition, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, and analysis for composers.
My music has been played in Canada, in the United States, in Europe, in Russia, in Mexico, in Australia, and elsewhere. For a full list of my works and recordings, please see my worklist page.