Sean Friar

Assistant Professor of Practice

  • Program:
  • Division:
    Classical Performance and Composition


Sean Friar 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—in the continual experience of suspense and surprise—that good classical music has always championed.”

He regularly composes for ensembles within and outside the realm of traditional concert music, with recent commissions which run the gamut from works for orchestra and string quartet to a junk car percussion concerto and music for laptop orchestra. He has received commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Modern, Cabrillo Festival, Chamber Music America, New York Youth Symphony, NOW Ensemble, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Curtis Institute, and Present Music. His music has been featured at festivals around the world including Aspen, Bang on a Can, Bowdoin, Cabrillo, Carlsbad, Face the Music, GAUDEAMUS, International Young Composers Meeting, Norfolk, Nuova Consonanza, SONIC, and the Venice Biennale. He is also Director of the Composition Program at the Sunset ChamberFest summer music festival in Los Angeles.

A recent winner of the Rome Prize, Friar has received awards from ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Copland House, Chamber Music America, Composers Inc., Fromm Foundation, the New York Youth Symphony, New Music USA, the Fisher Piano Competition, and SCI/ASCAP. Recordings of his music can be found on New Amsterdam Records, Innova Recordings, Darling Records, and Crescent Phase Records.

Friar holds a Ph.D. in Composition from Princeton University and undergraduate degrees in Music and Psychology from UCLA. His principal teachers were Steven Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dmitri Tymoczko, and Paul Chihara.

Friar joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music in Fall 2013.