Composer Mentors

Key in the online discussion process of the Music-COMP are the professional composers who are hired to review student work in a password protected website. These mentors are paid a stipend to comment on student work in progress and offer suggestions. Some of the artists are available as artists-in-residence. They also present workshops, and prepare resource materials for teachers and students. Other composer mentors combine full or part time jobs teaching and mentoring on the site.

After working as a mentor with Music-COMP for 10 years, Matt LaRocca became the Executive Director in 2017. Matt is on the composition and theory faculty at the University of Vermont and is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra. Committed to new music and innovation, Matt is the Chair of Creative Projects for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

As a musician, Matt is equally at home in both the rock and classical worlds. His classical work has been commissioned by groups such as the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Youth Symphony and the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra. He also works as an arranger for rock bands and has created orchestral arrangements for artists such as Guster (his work can be heard on their OMAGAH! album), Kat Wright, Francesca Blanchard, Haux and Henry Jamison. Artistic residencies include an expedition to the high arctic through The Arctic Circle organization and composition/improvisation teaching residencies at schools throughout New England and California. Matt performs as a violist and guitarist in classical, rock and improvisation ensembles, and most often can be seen playing the electric viola through his array of guitar pedals. He holds degrees in chemistry and music from Middlebury College and a doctorate in music composition from Boston University.

For more information, visit

Erik Nielsen, Senior Composer Mentor
Composer Erik Nielsen has created works for chorus, orchestra, wind ensemble, solo instruments,chamber music, works for dance, film and electronic music. His pieces have been performed all overthe world. In September 2015, his opera, A Fleeting Animal, a collaboration with poet/playwright David Budbill that premiered in 2000, was performed in a newly revised edition to great acclaim in six . locations in Vermont. Recent commissions include A Voice in the Night, a four-movement work for bassoon and piano, written for William Short, co-principal bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Bryan Wagorn, pianist and assistant conductor at The Met; Fanfare in B Flat, commissioned by the Vermont Symphony for their 80 th anniversary, Glimpses of Azure, commissioned by the Boston string orchestra, A Far Cry; The Crane Maiden for chamber ensemble, narrator and three actors; Trajectory of Flight for mezzo-soprano and strings; and his Quartet for Strings #2.
Erik has been a mentor with Music-COMP since 2004 and Senior Mentor since 2011. As a singer, Mr. Nielsen has performed throughout New England and various locations across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom as a tenor soloist, member of the trio Tres Voces and various touring ensembles. Mr. Nielsen lives in Brookfield, Vermont. For more information visit
Michael Close
Michael Close is a composer, cellist, and music educator living in Worcester, VT. He graduated from Bennington College in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in music composition and a master of arts in education. He teaches cello and chamber music classes at the Monteverdi Music School in Montpelier. He has been a composer-mentor with "Music-Comp" since 2004, a program which encourages and supports students in composing and arranging music. He is also the music teacher at Doty Memorial School in his hometown of Worcester. Michael has been the cello section leader of and has been a soloist with the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. He also plays with a variety of chamber music groups including Arioso, Yellow Sky, and the Living Woods baroque ensemble. He is a prolific composer and some of his most recent works have been performed by the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra (VT), The Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony (MI), The Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, The Playground Ensemble (CO), Chamber Music at the Scarab Club of Detroit, The Eleva Chamber Players (VT), the Vermont Choral Union, and Arioso (VT). His newest work, 'A Child's Book of Animals' a song cycle for Bass voice and Orchestra was premiered by the Longmont Symphony in Denver during January 2019. For more information visit
Travis Ramsey
Travis M. Ramsey holds degrees from the University of Southern Maine and Boston University.  His music has been commissioned by bands, choruses, and orchestras throughout New England including the Wellesley (MA) Symphony Orchestra, ChoralART (Portland, ME), and the Bel Canto Chamber Singers (Lebanon, NH).  Recent commissioned works include a setting of Nancy Tillman’s beloved children’s book On The Night You Were Born (ChoralART, 2016), Maginificat in A (Bel Canto, 2017), the concert band work based on a poem of John Updike TVO: Triumphant Voltage Overload (Cape Elizabeth High School, 2016), and music for Back to School, a documentary about one-room schoolhouses in small-town Vermont (Historic New England, 2015). 
Travis’s work When the Stars of Morning Sang was the winner of ChoralART’s New England Carol Competition in 2018.  His setting of Walt Whitman’s “A Song for Occupations” To Reach Them My Hand was featured as an ACDA/ChoralNet Silver Platter Award in 2015. Be With Me Still was a finalist in the Meistersingers 2010 choral composition contest; his Hush: a manger song was a finalist in the Hendrix College Carol Competition in 2016.   Travis is an ASCAP member and five-time recipient of the ASCAPlus Award.
Current commissions include Brass Magnificat (commissioned by ChoralART and slated for premiere in 2019), SATB settings of Nancy Tillman’s Wherever You Are, My Love will Find You and Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, and The Importance of Being Little (String Quartet No. 1).  Travis splits his time between composing and teaching music in Norwich, Vermont.  He is also a mentor for Music-COMP and an adjudicator for the Vermont All-State Composition Scholarship.  Travis lives with his wife, children, cats, and approximately fourteen chickens in New Hampshire. For more information, visit
Alistair Coleman
Alistair Coleman is a young composer from Washington, DC. Recently, he was appointed the Composer-in-Residence of the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale for their 2017-18 season. In this position, he received two commissions from the ensemble that were premiered at Strathmore Hall. His music has been programmed broadly, including commissions and performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra, Houston Brass Band, Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir, Takoma Ensemble, National Cathedral Choral Society, and musicians from the Baltimore and National Symphonies, New York Philharmonic, American Brass Quintet, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. Current commissioned projects include a micro-concerto for violinist, Soovin Kim, and the Burlington Chamber Orchestra, and a concerto for Grammy-award-winning cellist, Zuill Bailey, to be premiered during the 2019-20 season. 
With three published works, Alistair is the youngest composer ever published by E.C. Schirmer Music Company in its one-hundred-year history. He has received awards and honors from ASCAP, American Composers Forum, and the National YoungArts Foundation. Alistair was featured on the National Public Radio show, “From The Top” with Host Christopher O’Riley in 2018. 
Alistair was a fellow at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and studied at the Atlantic Music Festival, Curtis Young Artists Summer Program, Oberlin Summer Composition Workshop, and the New York Summer Music Festival. His teachers have included Richard Danielpour and David Serkin Ludwig, faculty members at the Curtis Institute. Currently, Alistair is pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree at The Juilliard School. At Juilliard, he studies with Robert Beaser, takes academic coursework at Columbia University, and engages in mentorship with President Emeritus Joseph W. Polisi. For more information, visit
Rebecca Larkin
Rebecca Larkin is a musical storyteller. As a composer and flutist, her music conveys an unraveling narrative that she and her audience can interpret in any way they wish.Inspired by soundtracks and concert music alike, Rebecca writes visual music for the stage and screen. She has been named a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer awards and a scholar for the Game Audio Network Guild (GANG). She is an enthusiastic collaborator and constantly seeks opportunities to create new cross-disciplinary work.
An active performer of new music, Rebecca has recently been a featured soloist with the North Country Electronic Music Festival and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium. Rebecca is the flutist, founder, and director of Wind Speaks, a woodwind centered ensemble that performs music by living composers. From NASA to Steampunk, Wind Speaks performs music that responds to the world we live in.

Rebecca received her B.M. Flute Performance degree from Ohio Wesleyan University where she studied flute with Nancy Gamso and Randall Hester and composition with Jennifer Jolley and Clint Needham. She recently earned her M.M. Composition degree from the University of Oregon where she studied composition with Robert Kyr and David Crumb and flute with Molly Barth. For more information visit

Justin Rito
Justin Rito (b. 1986) composes eclectic concert music that takes inspiration from both classical and contemporary culture. Recent collaborations have included performances by Latitude 49, Fifth House Ensemble, and the Arx Duo, and upcoming premieres include Translated, commissioned by the Moreau | Vantuinen Duo and To break your heart forever, commissioned by the Jenison Wind Ensemble. Justin is Assistant Professor of Music at Northern Vermont University, and lives in Jeffersonville, VT with his wife, daughter, and a very spoiled Weimaraner named Arvo. For more information visit
Lee Heuermann
Lee Heuermann, composer/singer-actor, pianist and flutist is a freelance musician and teacher living in Berkeley, CA. She was formerly on the faculty of the School of Performing Arts (SOPA)/Music Department at Virginia Tech where she taught classes in Music History, Music Theory, Voice, and the First Year Experience. In 2014, she was music director and conductor for the SOPA musical, Spring Awakening. Additionally, she was on the faculty of the University of Montana’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and The Wilderness and Civilization Program, where she taught and developed such classes as “Sound in the Natural World”, “Women in Music”, and “The Psychology of Music”, as well as classes in music composition. In 2013, Heuermann performed her work Being Peace, and was a featured speaker with her talk, “Being Peace and the Power of the Voice”, at the 3rd Annual International Conference of Young Buddhists and Scientists in Hong Kong. Additionally, her composition Ridge of Blue Longing, was the 2011 recipient of the Judith Lang Zaimant Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) and was recently released on Ablaze Records Millennial Masters series, Vol. 8. Heuermann has frequently collaborated with Amy Ragsdale’s Headwaters Dance Company, most recently with Meditations on Love, and for The Montana Suite Project with New York choreographer, Donna Uchizono. In 2012, Lee worked with poet, Prageeta Sharma, creating the song cycle A Lesson In American History, based on the life of suffragist, Alice Paul. 
As a singer, Lee specializes in contemporary music and experimental jazz and is an improvisational pianist. She has created and performed in the one-woman cabaret show, Lust Into Small Change, featuring the works of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht and Edith Piaf. Additionally, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts/ Interarts Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for her performance art piece Wearing Water / Eating Cement – Icons to Kiss, with visual artist, Elizabeth Lide. Heuermann was Artist in Residence in composition at the Banff Center for the Arts, and in 2010, performed at Banff in “Resonations”, a concert for peace sponsored by the United Nations. Most recently, Lee has performed with bass- clarinetist, Laura Carmichael (Amsterdam) and in concerts with Danny Bittker, saxophone/clarinet/flute, in The Gathering (The Jazz School, Berkeley) and Danny Boy Blue (Bird and Beckett, San Francisco). 
Lee’s composition teachers have included Daria Semegen, Sheila Silver, Daniel Weymouth, Jacob Druckman, Betsy Jolas, Lukas Foss, Marlos Nobre, and Malcolm Peyton. Heuermann has a Ph.D. in Composition from Stony Brook University, a MM degree from the Yale School of Music, and a BA from the New England Conservatory of Music, and was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University. To learn more about Lee’s works visit her website at 


For just a few dollars per month, you can help ensure students will be writing music with Music-COMP for years to come. With your support, students throughout Vermont will continue to see their music come to life!