Guggenheim Fellow Paul Rudy finds music everywhere

If you want to reach Paul Rudy, try yodeling.  When not in his office or studio, Rudy can be found bicycling, scaling a Colorado summit or hiking.  But even then, he is attuned to the music around him.  Rudy composes music using sounds – not from instruments, but from sources not traditionally associated with music - like a cactus or a truck roaring down the highway.    

Rudy is coordinator of composition at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance whose discerning ear and stunning works have earned him a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship.  He is excited about the opportunity for a semester leave, because it was during an earlier sabbatical in Taos, New Mexico, that he wrote his electroacoustic symphony, In Lake’ch.  

“From the University’s perspective, it involves shuffling assignments and rearranging schedules when faculty members take leave; but I really flowered during my time in Taos.  Leave is a great gift from UMKC, and I am extremely grateful,” says Rudy.  

Rudy’s scholarly path was fairly routine:  earning his degrees, teaching, leading workshops and composing.  But there were some mind-boggling detours along the way.  A fellowship from the Fulbright Foundation supported a trip to New Zealand in 1997, where Rudy began to experience a greater impact from music than he had imagined. 

“I have always had a love affair with sounds.  Increasingly, I came to see their power to stir us emotionally and physically.  The right combination of sounds can help us get our own houses in order, then begin to reconcile with others.  Sound is a portal to the spirit.”   

UMKC has had an electronic music department since the 1950’s; but the increasingly commonplace use of computers drove composing into the electroacoustic age.  Still, as Conservatory Dean James Mobberley points out, “There is first and foremost the art.  The technology is the instrument, like paper and pencil or oil and canvas.  Paul Rudy is acclaimed for his musicality, not the technology he employs.”  

For his Guggenheim application, Rudy submitted a movement from In Lake’ch and a composition, November Sycamore Leaf, that won a prize in 2007 at the Sounds Electric electroacoustic competition in Dublin.

Without false modesty, Rudy credits the Conservatory for his expanding talents.

“I pinch myself every morning to make sure this position, these friends like Zhou Long and Chen Yi and Jim Mobberley and my great students are all real.  It feels like I’m dreaming.” 

Christopher Biggs, a UMKC DMA student in music composition, provides the student point of view in working with Rudy.

"Paul Rudy is a dedicated and inspiring teacher.  His comments about music have profoundly affected my artistic thought.  His positive attitude and excitement significantly have enriched my educational experience at UMKC."

For more about Rudy’s work and avocations, visit,, or





                       Photo: John Mason

"I've always had a love affair with sounds."