Sean Friar

Sean Friar

Assistant Professor, Composition

What I do

Chair of the Composition department.


music, Composition, Performance, piano.

Professional Biography

Chair of the Composition Department, Sean Friar is a composer and pianist who grew up in Los Angeles, where his first musical experiences were in rock and blues piano improvisation. His music keeps in touch with the energy and communicative directness of those musical roots, now along with an expansive and exploratory classical sensibility that is “refreshingly new and solidly mature… and doesn’t take on airs, but instead takes joy in the process of discovery [and] in the continual experience of suspense and surprise that good classical music has always championed.” (Slate Magazine).

He regularly composes for ensembles within and outside traditional concert music. His output ranges from works for orchestra and chamber ensembles to a junk car percussion concerto, music for laptop orchestra, and microtonal piano duo. He has received commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Modern, Cabrillo Festival, New York Youth Symphony, NOW Ensemble, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Curtis Institute, the Redlands Symphony, and Present Music. His music has been featured at festivals around the world including Aspen, Bang on a Can, Bowdoin, Cabrillo, Carlsbad, GAUDEAMUS, International Young Composers Meeting, NASA, Norfolk, Nuova Consonanza, SONIC, the Venice Biennale, and the World Saxophone Congress.

A winner of the Rome Prize, Friar has received awards from Copland House, the Fromm Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, Composer’s Inc., and New Music USA. His music can be found on New Amsterdam Records, Innova Recordings, Parma Recordings, and Crescent Phase Records. In late 2021, his album, Before and After, was released on New Amsterdam Records to international critical acclaim; he most recently released Shades on Parma Recordings, which features his work as a composer and performer with his duo partner, saxophonist Dr. Jeffrey Siegfried.

Friar is chair of composition at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. He also directs summer composition programs Sunset ChamberFest (Los Angeles, Suncoast Composer Fellowship Program (Sarasota), Lamont Summer Academy (Denver), and previousl at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. He previously taught composition at the University of Southern California and UCLA. He holds a Ph.D. in music composition from Princeton University and undergraduate degrees in music and psychology from UCLA. His principal teachers were Paul Chihara, Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey, and Dmitri Tymoczko.


  • Ph.D., Music Composition, Princeton University, 2017
  • MFA, Music Composition, Princeton University, 2009
  • BA, Music, UCLA, 2007
  • BA, Psychology, UCLA, 2007

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers

Media Sources


Friar, S. (2021). Before and After/NewAm Triple Album Release Show. NOW Ensemble. Le Poisson Rouge/New Amsterdam Records, Le Poisson Rouge, New York.
Friar, S., & Ensemble, N. O. W. (2021). #4571 - Unusual Chamber Ensembles. NOW Ensemble. WNYC New York Public Radio, New York.
Friar, S., Johnson, D., & Ensemble, N. O. W. (2022). "Chant". Big Takeover Magazine, New York.
Friar, S. (1969). Finding Time. Los Angeles Philharmonic. Los Angeles, CA, USA.


  • Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome