department of music

Fine Arts Center, Suite E, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881 – 401.874.2431 or 401.874.5955

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Kirsten Volness

  • Lecturer/Teacher in Composition & Theory
  • Department of Music
  • Phone: 401.874.2794
  • Email:
  • Mailing Address: Department of Music
    Fine Arts Center, D104
    105 Upper College Road
    Kingston, RI 02881


Kirsten Volness is a composer, pianist and educator who grew up outside a small town in southern Minnesota—a place that fostered in her a keen interest in the outdoors and the wonders of nature.  The magic to be found in the natural world informs and inspires her creative work as do various spiritual philosophies, social and environmental issues.

She has received commissions from the BMI Foundation, ASCAP/SEAMUS, the Kansas City Electronic Music and Arts Alliance, World Future Council Foundation, REDSHIFT Ensemble, and Hotel Elefant, and has written for performers such as NOW Ensemble, Colorado Quartet, Cambridge Philharmonic, and Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. She collaborates often, as pianist/multi-instrumentalist for new music ensemble Hotel Elefant, writing songs for Exilkabarett and Erik Ehn’s Tenderloin Opera Company, as a founding member of the interdisciplinary performance group Awesome Collective, and as an affiliated artist of Sleeping Weazel. She was twice recipient of the Fellowship in Music Composition from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (2014 and 2010) and was awarded a 2011 grant from the New Music USA. Her electroacoustic work has been performed at numerous festivals including Bourges, SEAMUS, NYCEMF, Electronic Music Midwest, NoiseFloor, and Third Practice. Her acoustic work has been featured at festivals presented by the American Composers Alliance, Midwest Composers Symposia, and the Montréal and Edinburgh Fringe. Recent collaborations include Meridian Project, a multimedia performance/lecture series exploring astrophysics and cosmology. She is on the board of directors for the non-profit Boston New Music Initiative and produces new music/multimedia concerts in New York and New England.


  • University of Michigan, Doctor of Musical Arts in composition, 2008
  • University of Michigan, Master of Music in Music Composition, 2004
  • University of Minnesota, Bachelor of Arts in music theory and composition, summa cum laude, 2002

Awards and Honors

2014 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Music Composition

2014 Individual Project Grant from Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in support of Meridian Project

2011 MacColl Johnson Fellowship in Music Composition, Finalist / Honorable Mention

2011 Music In Architecture-Architecture in Music Symposium, University of Texas at Austin – 2nd Prize

2011 Composer Assistance Program grant from the American Music Center (New Music USA)

2010 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Music Composition

2007 BMI Women's Music Commission

2007 ASCAP/SEAMUS Student Commission Competition – 2nd Prize

Regents Fellowship, University of Michigan School of Music/Rackham Graduate School (2005-08)

Phi Beta Kappa (2001)

Phi Kappa Phi (2002)

Golden Key International Honor Society (2000)

Dean's List (Fall 1998, Spring 1999, Fall 1999, Fall 2000, Spring 2001, Fall 2001, Spring 2002)

Waller Scholarship (University of Minnesota, 1999)

Presidential Scholarship (University of Puget Sound, 1998)

Music Scholarship (University of Puget Sound, 1998)

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