Alex Zhang, YMS Boston Student - awarded Outstanding composition in the JOC program, 2016

Alex Zhang, YMS Boston Student - awarded Outstanding composition in the JOC program, 2016


Dr. David Ibbett is on the Composition Faculty at the Yamaha School of Boston, and holds a private music studio in Lexington, Massachusetts.

He has held teaching positions at the University of Cambridge, the University of Birmingham, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 

His students have performed extensively with the Yamaha Junior Original Concert program in Massachusetts and at the National JOC, the BBC Proms Young Composer Workshop, and gone on to study at Music Colleges and Conservatories. 

For enquiries, visit the Contact Page.

Teaching Philosophy: Composition

Composition draws on all of the musical skills: performance, improvisation, theory, listening skills and craft. From the simplest of beginnings, these skills can culminate into great works of imagination - a journey that requires dedication, but also a sense of joy: the joy of discovery.

Teaching composition is one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of my career. The reason for this is that learning happens on many levels simultaneously. During a lesson, a technical ‘what to do?’ question will often springboard into larger topics: harmony, structure, acoustics, the expressive ideas behind the music. So often, a technical challenge stems from a creative one, where the composer's musical personality must show the way forward. But how to discover this?

Assembling the jigsaw puzzle of influences into a coherent, polished and above all personal style of composing can be a daunting task, but with patience and careful listening - to music, but also to yourself - a natural will emerge.


The study of piano provides a wonderful opportunity for self expression, as well as a vital foundation for understanding the world of music.

I teach piano repertoire in classical, jazz and rock styles, combined with keyboard skills, harmonisation and arranging. When learning an instrument, I believe that balance is key - between fundamentals, traditional repertoire, and music of a student's choice. I often work to help students create their own arrangements of songs. This provides a wonderful perspective for learning piano repertoire, an opportunity for creativity, and often, a technical challenge!


The core subjects of theory, harmony and counterpoint underpin many musical styles. I have found that the best way to share this knowledge is through active engagement. In my classes, exercises are written, played, sung and improvised – a full range of musical disciplines. For example, a harmonisation can be written down in 4-part harmony, performed at the piano, sung by a group, or improvised against a given bass. Activities can then be interspersed with discussion and creative criticism, with the bigger picture gradually taking shape. When it comes to the ‘rules’ aspect of traditional theory, I believe that it is important to offer full explanations for inquiring minds, and this often requires a good deal of context and reference to other music - to Bach and Mozart - but also to contemporary styles, including the contemporary spectralists and electronic music. Through this, we can shed light on why music has rules - how they can be invented, followed, bent and broken. 

Music Technology

As an active electronic music practitioner, I believe that all students should have the opportunity to study electronic music – its history, recording processes, the arts of sequencing and processing. Many of my composition students incorporate electronic work into their practice, as this is now essential for any career in composition.

I teach the following software: Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Garage Band, Max MSP and Sibelius.