Student Stories: Brian Riordan

Brian Riordan

Major: Music

Brian Riordan grew up around instruments.

“My dad is a musician, and I always listened to a very large and diverse record collection,” he said. “I played in a ton of bands ranging from rock, jazz, Latin, experimental, classical, electronic, bluegrass, metal, hip hop – really anything that was available at the time.”  

Riordan came to College of DuPage because he wanted to understand music theory better. He was gigging full time in the city and was eager to learn more, so he took two years of music theory and music literature.  

“I remember two quotes from my teachers at the time,” he said. “The first from Lee Kesselman: Eighty percent of life is showing up. The second from Ken Paoli: Learn how to say, ‘Would you like fries with that.’”

Transfer Opportunities at COD

After College of DuPage, Riordan took a few years off from school and continued to play gigs. Then he enrolled at North Central College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music. He completed his master’s degree in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Pittsburgh and remained there to finish his Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition, having received the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship.

“My dissertation was an interdisciplinary study between music and computer science, specifically real-time digital signal processing,” he said. “I’ve also been composing and have had my compositions performed around the country by various contemporary ensembles.”

His many projects include commissioning 52 compositions and producing 13 albums for the “How Things Are Made” composers project. He enjoyed an artist residency at STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam and had compositions commissioned by Callithumpian Consort at New England Conservatory (which then won a composition contest) and Kamraton Ensemble.

In 2023, the Grammy-nominated metal band Code Orange released “The Above,” an album for which Riordan did all of the string arrangements.

Riordan enjoys teaching at Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University and University of Pittsburgh, and he would like to continue teaching now that he finished his Ph.D. He also is the technical director of New Music on The Point, a contemporary music festival. 

He returns to COD when possible and shares his knowledge with current students. 

“I always suggest to any of my students to try and find a tech angle to what you do,” he said. “You are more likely to support your art in the long run.”

Learn more about the Music program at College of DuPage