Associate Professor, Music Theory
Coordinator of Music Theory Studies

Zachary Cairns

Zachary Cairns, Associate Professor of Music, coordinates the music theory curriculum at University of Missouri-St. Louis.  He received his Ph.D. in Music Theory from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (2010), an M.A. in Music Theory (2003) and a B.S. in Music Education (2000) from Penn State University. While at Penn State, he also earned a Performer’s Certificate in Percussion.

Dr. Cairns has presented papers at the Society for Music Theory, as well as numerous regional, national, and international conferences.  His primary area of research is the avant garde music of post-Stalinist Russia, focusing primarily on the serial music of Edison Denisov.  His work has been published in Studia musicologica, Music Theory Online, Indiana Theory Review, Gamut, and Music Theory and Analysis. In 2012, he was awarded a grant from the University of Missouri Research Board to conduct research at the Tanyeev Library of the Chaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Russia. His research interests have recently broadened a bit to include harmonic organization of guitar solos in the music of Guns N' Roses, metrical dissonance in rock music, and the musical depictions of Russian/Soviet characters in Cold War-era Hollywood films.

As a composer, Dr. Cairns' works have been performed across the United States and in Europe.  His work Two Pieces for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion won first prize in the 2014 Percussive Arts Society's Composition Contest.  An expanded version of that work, Interactions for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion, was premiered at the World Saxophone Congress (SaxOpen) in Strasbourg, France in July 2015.  A work for wind ensemble titled Refracted Moonlight has been performed by numerous collegiate and advanced high school bands across the country.  Other recent works include Rhythmic Ceremonial Ritual for 7 antiphonal tambourines (yes, you read that correctly), The Land of Nod for two-part treble choir with piano, clarinet, violin, and percussion (also available for SATB choir with the same instrumental forces), Concert(in)o for Marimba and Wind Quintet, and Passing Through for alto saxophone and string trio.  A new work, Blumenlieder (for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, and piano), based on the poetry of St. Louis native Sara Teasdale, will be premiered in Stuttgart, Germany in October as part of the American Days 2018 festival.  Several of Dr. Cairns' works are available for purchase through C. Alan Publications.  Please contact Dr. Cairns directly for performance information on any of his non-published works.

Zachary Cairns lives in St. Charles, MO with his wife Whitney, and their two children.


Large Instrumental Ensemble
Refracted Moonlight (2014) - wind ensemble
Ebenezer (1996, rev. 2014) - wind ensemble
Fanfare: Generation Next (2016) - concert band
Hope Remains Within (2017) - concert band
Mischief of One Kind and Another (2018) - concert band
All In (2018) - orchestra (strings and muted brass)
Diablerie (2019) - wind ensemble
Wind Down (2019) - concert band

Choral Ensembles
The Land of Nod (2015) - two-part treble choir with piano, clarinet, violin, and percussion (text by R.L. Stevenson)
The Land of Nod (2016) - SATB choir with piano, clarinet, violin, and percussion
True Colors (arr. 2017) - SSAATTBB choir
Light from Darkness (2018) - SATB choir (text from John 1:5 and H.W. Longfellow)
Where Does My Song Go? (2019) - treble choir with piano (co-written with Whitney Cairns)

Chamber Works
Interactions for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion (2014)
Rhythmic Ceremonial Ritual for seven antiphonal tambourines (2015)
Eight through Eleven: Four Episodes for Seven Trumpets (2015)
Concert(in)o for Marimba and Wind Quintet (2016)
Passing Through
for alto saxophone and string trio (2017)
Beyond the Sequesterd Grove
for solo marimba (2017)
Marimba Malinke
for marimba and djembe (2017)
Blumenlieder (2018) - mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, and piano (text by Sara Teasdale)
        I. Let It Be Forgotten
        II. Blue Squills
        III. Tonight

Contact Information