"I have had the pleasure of working with Doug Buchanan in multiple contexts. I was honored to premiere the lead role in his opera Lux et Tenebrae, and I have also worked alongside him as a singer, sung under his baton in multiple performances, taken part in his choral ensembles, and benefited from his tutelage. Doug is a rare breed of musician, equally strong in many areas! Doug’s music is fresh, beautiful, and inspired; and as a conductor he is always professional, creative, and unfailingly kind. I have been touched many times by his generosity, and his willingness to go above and beyond for his colleagues; he was one of the first people I thought of when I wanted to work on my musicianship skills and I am always delighted to collaborate with him!"

Nola Richardson, Soprano

Lecturing at the Sibelius Institute, Helsinki, Finland.

Douglas Buchanan, educator


With an “ability to get under the skin of [the music’s] core material” (The Scotsman), Dr. Douglas Buchanan brings his “sense of creative imperative” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) to the classroom as well as the concert hall, utilizing innovative techniques to actively engage students and hone their understanding of material. He teaches as part of the music theory and musicology faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and as composition faculty at Dickinson College, and serves as Artistic Director of the Maryland Choral Society and Choirmaster and Organist of St. David’s Episcopal Church.

An ardent educator, Buchanan has taught and lectured at institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to state universities and conservatories. At Peabody, he was the first faculty member to implement a game-ified music theory classroom, creating interactive and team-building games which developed theoretical skills, inspired creativity, and encouraged social interaction among the students. His work in game design in the theory classroom has been presented at the 2018 and 2016 College Music Society National Conferences and at the 2019 Pedagogy into Practice conference of Music Theory Online. Other research interests include music perception and cognition, music and animal rights, music and evolution, music and meaning, and special topics in music theory (including spectralism, topoi, and rhetoric). Notable presentations and performances regarding these subjects have been at the 2015 College Music Society International Conference, a paper and a lecture-recital at the Ecomusicologies 2014 conference, the 2013 American Musicological Society Capital Chapter Meeting where he received the 2013 Lowens Award for Outstanding Graduate Research, and serving as summer faculty at the Chautauqua Institute. Prior to teaching at Peabody and Dickinson, he taught at Towson University, where he co-founded the Towson University Young Composers Orchestral Readings. He has lectured at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Baltimore, SUNY Fredonia, and the Shenandoah Conservatory. Also a visual artist and poet, Buchanan has illustrated and co-authored books with Continuum Publishing and Lantern Books.

Recognized as a composer of “clear, personal music” that is “filled with terrific orchestral color and weight, not to mention feeling” (The Baltimore Sun), Buchanan has been the recipient of the Sackler Prize in Music Composition, grants from New Music USA for his residency with the LUNAR ensemble and from TACA for his residency with the Dallas Chamber Symphony, an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award, and a Symphony in C Young Composers Award. As a choral conductor and music director, Buchanan brings his devotion to new music to the choral stage, eliciting “assured, nuanced singing” from the ensembles he leads, inspiring a “keen sense of mood, dynamics, and pacing” (The Baltimore Sun). Through his programming he particularly supports emerging composers, and advocates for an increasingly diverse body of repertoire through commissioning and recording.

Dedicated to helping all people, regardless of background, realize their own musical potential, Buchanan co-founded Voices Rise: A Baltimore Choir of Hope with his brother, Benjamin, and with the assistant of a grant from the Peabody Conservatory. Voices Rise partners with Paul’s Place, an outreach agency in south Baltimore, and particularly invites those experiencing homelessness and financial distress to make music in a safe and inviting environment. Recently, he served as music director for a Johns Hopkins study focusing on the positive impact on patients with dementia rehearsing and performing music with their caretakers. He has worked closely with the Dallas Street Choir, and is a founding member of the National Alliance for Music in Vulnerable Communities.

He is fortunate to have many opportunities to sing with and accompany his wife, Kelly, a mezzo-soprano, and also enjoys microtonal interspecies improvisation with his black lab, Grover.

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Teaching Philosophy

I help students attain mastery in a given subject area by inspiring curiosity, a desire for contextualization, and the skills for critical thinking and for collaboration. I view these elements as necessary for a classroom environment that establishes free and critical inquiry. Further, these values aid students as they learn to make aesthetic judgments in the context of their own scholarship and to work effectively alongside colleagues.

To inspire curiosity, I lead by example. In addition to asking questions of students regarding subject matter at hand, I encourage them to verbalize and analyze their own reactions to the material, whether in response to the music being studied, its historical context, or its theoretical concepts. Additionally, I may discuss aspects of the subject matter that continue to intrigue me. I place value on curiosity by actively taking interest in the students’ intellectual discoveries. This encourages the students’ independent quest for knowledge and understanding beyond the basic requirements outlined in a given course syllabus or assignment.

Context is a cornerstone of understanding, particularly in the performing arts. The function of musical elements changes throughout history; it is therefore essential to contextualize musical material and scholarly thought. After imparting basic facts, I bring the concepts to life, whether through viewing contemporaneous art of other disciplines, in-class performances by myself or students, or group creative activity. This creates a dynamic learning environment that contextualizes through actualization, making the information not only more memorable, but more meaningful as well.  

Critical thinking inevitably follows from curiosity and contextualization. If the passion to learn is coupled with the idiomatic knowledge to pursue and realize that passion, then the inquiring mind will follow the logical pathways to explore the scholarly questions at hand. By questioning, implementing, and actualizing the basic facts, students are taught to inquire, evaluate, and reach meaningful conclusions regarding the subject matter.

This environment of critical inquiry is dependent upon the freedom to question and exchange information. Therefore, to support an environment of collaboration, I endeavor to balance friendliness with professionalism and humor with focus, honoring questions and prizing the exchange of information between students. Recently, this has taken the form of game-ified classes, where students work collaboratively to solve puzzles and complete challenges in team settings throughout the semester. This offers opportunities for sandboxing the material, allowing students to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from each other in a non-judgmental and play-full environment.

When the classroom is an enjoyable place where questions are welcomed, intellectual explorations are fostered, and moments of epiphany are prized, then learning even difficult material begins to happen naturally and subsequent benchmarks—be they homework assignments, projects, or exams—become enjoyable exercises that test and solidify knowledge. Within this environment I challenge my students to understand the material presented to them, think in broader contexts, and inspire them to learn and collaborate throughout their lives.

"I have had the privilege of studying composition, orchestration, and counterpoint with Doug. He possesses an incredible wealth of knowledge and compositional vision, and his dynamic energy is incredibly infectious. His teaching style is thoughtful, comprehensive, collaborative, and empowering. Doug seeks to understand his students’ thought-process and guide them towards developing their individual artistic voice and language. Because of the warm, creative safe space he creates, I always left my composition lessons excited to create and looked forward to the next session. He continues to be an advisor and a friend, and I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with such a phenomenal teacher and mentor. I would highly recommend studying with him."

Jamie Leidwinger, Composer
Former Composition Student, Dickinson College; Peabody Conservatory, Class of 2018

"Few educators are able to cater to the personality of a classroom while synthesizing the core contents with a delightful sense of humor. I am lucky and grateful to call Dr. Buchanan one of my private teachers, who helped me harness my creative energy into several compositions including my first choral work which made its debut performance in Germany."

Kellen McKay, Songwriter and Touring Musician
Frontman, Stacked Like Pancakes

Teaching Experience


Dickinson College, Adjunct Composition Faculty, Fall 2014-Present

  • Senior Composition Seminar (individual lessons and advising)
  • Composers’ Forum (repertoire, techniques, and topics in contemporary composition)
  • Electronic Composition (individual lessons)
  • Acoustic Composition (individual lessons)
  • Orchestration
  • Renaissance (16th-Century) Counterpoint
  • Baroque (18th-Century) Counterpoint
  • Introduction to the Art of Composition

Towson University, Adjunct Composition Faculty, Fall 2011-Spring 2014

  • Private Composition Lessons and Advising: Graduate and Undergraduate lessons, including advising Senior Recitals and Commercial and Jazz Composition Lessons
  • Founder and Coordinator, the Towson Symphony Young Composer’s Readings
  • Instrumentation and Arranging
  • Composition Seminar

The Peabody Conservatory Junior Bach Program, Fall 2010

  • Taught composition to inner-city children culminating in a concert of their work

Guest Lecturer

  • Lutheran High School West, Cleveland, Ohio, Honors Academy Lecture, May 2018
  • The University of Texas at Arlington, “Composers and Community,” March 2018
  • New Music Gathering 2016, “The Church of New Music: Places of Worship and the new Music Community,” January 2016
  • The Johns Hopkins University, “Meet the Music,” April 2015
  • Krieger School of Arts and Sciences & Peabody Opera Department, Panelist, February 2015
  • Guest Lecturer in Composition, Shenandoah Conservatory, Spring 2010
  • Guest Lecturer in Composition, University of Baltimore, Spring 2008

Masterclass Leadership, Adjudication, and Research

  • Adjudicator, National Association for Music Education, Composition Competition, Summer 2019
  • Composition Masterclass, Southern Methodist University, March 2018
  • Composition Masterclass, Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas, TX, November 2017
  • Coordinator and Mentor, the Baltimore Choral Arts Young Composers Readings, 2016
  • Adjudicator, Music Teacher’s National Association Eastern Division Composition Competition, Fall 2015
  • Adjudicator, College Music Society Northeast Chapter, Elliott Schwartz Composition Prize, Spring 2015
  • Founder, the New Music @ Old St. Paul’s Composers’ Workshops, 2014
  • Adjudicator, Music Teacher’s National Association Eastern Division Composition Competition, Fall 2013
  • Master Teacher, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society Young Composer’s Readings, May 2012
  • Adjudicator, The Pennsylvania Music Teacher’s Association Keystone Composition Competition, Spring 2012
  • The Royal College of Music and the Peabody Conservatory Composer’s Conference, Presenter; Paper Presented: We the Liminal: A Ritual Approach to Musical Form, 2011
  • Adjudicator, Maryland State PTA Reflections Composition Competition, Spring 2007

Music Theory and Aural Skills, Research and Presentations

The Peabody Conservatory, Adjunct Music Theory Faculty, Fall 2010-Present

  • Music Theory 1-2 (accelerated): Chromaticism and Counterpoint, Baroque style
  • Music 3-4 (accelerated): Form and Analysis, Classical and Early Romantic styles
  • Ear Training Fundamentals

Research and Presentations

  • Pedagogy into Practice 2019 Conference, Poster Presentation, Co-Presenter with Dr. Patricia Burt: “Game Design for the Music Theory Classroom”
  • The College Music Society National 2018 Conference, Co-Presenter with Dr. Patricia Burt: “Game-ifying the Music Theory Classroom”
  • The College Music Society National 2016 Conference, Presenter: “Changing the Game: Transforming ‘Learning to Play’ into ‘Playing to Learn’”
  • The College Music Society International 2015 Conference, Presenter:
    Spectral Echoes: Sibelius’ Symphony no. 4 as a Predecessor to Spectralism, July 2015
  • The College Music Society South Central Chapter 2014 Conference, Presenter; Lecture-Recital:  Taboo Tonalities: Examining the Sonata as Ritual Form, March 2014
  • Course Materials for 20th-Century Ear Training, Qualifying Paper for the Degree of Master of Music Theory Pedagogy, Dr. Kip Wile, advisor, 2008

Towson University, Adjunct Music Theory Faculty, Fall 2008-2011

  • Music Theory I: Music Fundamentals
  • Music Theory II: Part-Writing, Non-Chord Tones, and Seventh Chords
  • Music Theory III: Chromaticism and Small Forms
  • Music Theory IV: Advanced Chromaticism, Large Forms, and Fugue
  • Promoted to Adjunct Faculty II (Senior Adjunct), Spring 2011


  • Graduate Assistantship in Music Theory, The Peabody Conservatory, Fall 2007-Spring 2010
  • Teaching Apprentice in Music Theory and Aural Skills, The College of Wooster, Fall 2004-Spring 2006

Musicology, Research and Presentations

Adjunct Musicology Faculty, the Peabody Conservatory, Fall 2012-Present

  • Music History Intensive: Graduate course covering Greek Antiquity to 21st Century
  • Music History III: 19th-Century Music
  • Music History Intensive: Online Course

Special Studies Instructor, the Chautauqua Institute, Summer 2013

  • Music and Mythic Meaning: a course exploring music cognition, evolution, and ritual

Musicology Graduate Assistant, the Peabody Conservatory, Spring 2010

Research and Presentations

  • The College Music Society Northeast Chapter 2015 Conference, Presenter: Towards a Holistic Model of Musical Evolution: The Ripple Effects of Pair-Bonding on Musical Development in Hominids, March 2015
  • The Ecomusicologies: Dialogues 2014 Conference, Presenter, Lecture-Recital: Vox and the Voiceless: The Absent Reference and the Reference of Absence in Cetacean Musics, October 2014
  • College Music Society Mid-Atlantic and Southern Chapters Joint Conference 2014, Presenter; Paper Presented: Bach and the Breath of God: Pentecostal Rhetoric in the Prelude and Fugue in D Major, BWV 532, February 2014
  • American Musicological Society Capital Chapter Spring 2013 Meeting, Presenter; Paper Presented: Rhetoric Rethought: Affektenlehre in Context; received Lowens Award for Best Student Paper
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Conference: “Music and Liturgy as a Way of Welcome,” Presenter; Paper Presented: Music and Mythic Meaning: An Anthropological Approach to Wonder

Applied Lessons: Piano, Organ and Composition

Piano, organ, and composition instructor, specializing in students with mental, aural, visual and physical differences

Young Musicians

Director, the St. David’s Chorister Choir, 2014-Present

Children’s Choir Director, Old St. Paul’s, 2012-2014

Director, the St. Paul’s Boys’ Choir, Fall 2011-2014

Guest Speaker, Hamilton Park Elementary School Music Program, March 2018

Guest Music Director, Ariel’s Tempest: An Opera for Young Audiences, with music by Douglas Buchanan and libretto by Roger Brunyate, performed throughout the Mid-Atlantic, 2011-2013.

Guest Composer and Speaker, the Peabody Children’s Chorus, Fall 2012

Tutor, the Montreal Royal School of Church Music Boys’ Choir Course, August 2011

Children’s Choir Director, St. Mark’s-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church, 2009-2011