Lessons in Composition and Musicianship


Musicianship is the mastery of musical skills such as sight reading and the ability to absorb and write down what is heard through “inner hearing”.

Thorough musicianship training is often overlooked, and the benefits of mastering these skills are immeasurable, whether you’re a rock musician, a choral singer, a singing actor or an aspiring classical musician. (More about musicianship)

My training includes several years at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary, where I was exposed to the Hungarian approach to musical education. Known as the “Kodály Method” in this country, it is a powerful and intuitive approach for all ages and levels of musical sophistication. My musicianship students get the full benefit of this approach. (more about the Kodály Method)


Whether you are interested in writing pop songs, film scores or classical concert pieces, I help you to master the building blocks of composition: form, harmony, melody, counterpoint, etc.

Depending on my assessment of your goals and existing skills, I may advocate focusing on counterpoint or sight singing, as well as your own work. I consider mastering these skills to be a prerequisite for composing any kind of music.

My particular strengths include text setting and writing for the voice, as well as various aspects of music for the stage. Students interested in these areas are especially welcome.

General Info

Teaching hours are flexible on weekdays, and I’m located in Oakland’s convenient and leafy Glenview District, convenient to highways 580 and 13.

“What I most appreciated about Michael’s musicianship class was the truly holistic approach. Using solfège, hand signs and memory exercises helped me to internalize the lessons more than ever before and to more deeply understand harmonic relationships in the scale.”

Emily B.,

“Michael is easy to work with and has a lot of respect for the learning process. He has introduced me to a whole new level of musicianship which is essential for composing. He has helped me bridge the gap from music teacher who imparts knowledge to musician who molds artists. Thanks to Michael, I am passing on a higher quality of music education to all my students.”

Monica T.,
Piano teacher and composer

“Michael is a great composition teacher and composer, who combines his extensive knowledge of music with a keen sense of humor and real sensitivity to his students. His focus on musicianship training is part of what makes studying with him so valuable. He helps students do the kind of work that really builds the right kind of foundation for future musical endeavors, and he does so patiently and with a fantastic sense of humor.”

—Michael Z.,
Composer, Songwriter and Performer

Michael has a uniquely sensitive approach to teaching musicianship and composition. It is through this approach that he is able to custom tailor to your needs and goals as a musician. For me, having a musical background as a percussionist, my aural skills and ear training have benefited tremendously from Michael’s Hungarian Kodály approach to solfège. I’ve found studying with Michael to be both challenging and rewarding.

—Chris H.,
adult composition student

Mr. Kaulkin is a great composition teacher. His respect for students is awesome and he is comfortable to be around. Also his willingness to go into areas such as pop and broadway is resfreshing. I think Mr. Kaulkin is an ideal teacher.

—Daniel C.,
high school-age composition student