Music Theory, Composition & Songwriting

Music Theory, Composition & Songwriting

The Community Music School at UNCSA offers lessons in music theory, composition and songwriting. From film music composition and projects with Cirque du Soleil to work at local churches, instructors have a depth of experience to help you develop your own skills and musical voice.

Michael Kinchen

Jazz Composition


Deborah SuarezDeborah Ellis Suárez

Deborah Ellis Suárez has taught piano and voice since 1979, and at the Community Music School since 2000. She currently teaches piano, music theory and music composition. Deborah is a published composer with piano pieces published by Willis Music Company and distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation.  

She has a Master of Music degree in Music Composition from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she was a graduate assistant, teaching in the Music Theory department and also in the Music Engineering Technology Studios. She then took a year of Film Music Composition at the graduate level at UNCSA. Her undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts degree was from Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, where she studied piano, voice, choral conducting and music composition.

Recent projects include a commission from a Hungarian orchestra to write several pieces and composing vocal music in Hungarian. She is also currently studying the healing frequencies with a cymatherapist to find applications within musical context. In her teaching, Debbie uses music technology to give her students a 21st century music education. She attempts to tailor the instruction to the individual student's learning style and goals.


Bruce TippetteBruce W. Tippette

Bruce W. Tippette is a composer, performer and educator. He holds a Master of Music from UNCSA in music composition and a Bachelor of Music in music composition/theory and music education from Appalachian State University. His compositions have been performed across the United States, and he actively receives commissions for both choral and instrumental ensembles.

In addition to his concert works, he has composed original compositions for choreographers, film and has co-composed music for a children's musical. Bruce's work Unconquered,” written for orchestra, won the 2012 Mary Starling Composition Competition, and the Winston-Salem Symphony performed it four subsequent times. Additionally, he was chosen in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to compose five new works as part of an experimental collaboration with Cirque du Soleil and UNCSA. Alfred Music, C. Alan Publications, TrevCo Music Publishing, BRS Music and Brass Chamber Music Press currently publish his compositions.

Bruce is the recipient of many awards, including the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship and the Lynn Freeman Olson Composition Award for his piano solo, Dance of Fire.” As an educator, he teaches music composition, theory, piano and voice at the Community Music School and he is the Youth Music and Handbell Director at Augsburg Lutheran Church. He resides in Winston-Salem with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son.