Luis Fernando Amaya, a doctoral candidate in composition and music technology in the Bienen School of Music, has been named a Northwestern University Presidential Fellow – the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University.

This highly competitive fellowship is awarded to fewer than 12% of nominated students. All recipients become members of the Northwestern Society of Fellows and participate in various Society functions, including dinners, special events, an annual retreat, and other activities. Presidential Fellows demonstrate outstanding intellectual or creative ability combined with the capacity to play an important leadership role not only in the Society of Fellows, but also in their respective disciplines and beyond. The fellowship is funded by the president of the University and awarded by The Graduate School.

Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Amaya is a Chicago-based composer and percussionist. His music has been performed throughout North America and Europe by artists such as the Arditti Quartet, Yuko Yoshikawa, Cuarteto Arcano, Quartetto Indaco, Spektral Quartet, and Ensemble Dal Niente. He is the recipient of various awards and fellowships, including the Fonca-Conacyt Scholarship, and he represented México in the 61st International Rostrum of Composers of the UNESCO in Helsinki, Finland. As a performer, Amaya is a member of the collective composition and free improvisation trio Fat Pigeon. He studied composition and music theory at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Musicales (CIEM) in México city.

Amaya’s work regularly addresses topics including collective memory, "flaw," and the relationship between humans and non-human others (such as plants and animals, imaginary or not). For his dissertation project, Amaya is writing an opera, Árbol de Bocas (“Tree of Mouths”), for 24 voices, saxophone quartet, percussion, and multi-channel electronics. The piece addresses the question of how humans would relate to plants if the latter could emit sounds that expressed physical and emotional states.

“I am confident that Luis’s dissertation work will justifiably bring distinction to the Bienen School of Music and to our program as an incubator for creativity combined with cutting edge scholarship,” said Jay Alan Yim, associate professor of composition and music technology. “His participation in the Society of Fellows will likewise be an extended opportunity for other gifted PhD students in different disciplines to benefit from Luis’s perspective on their own research topics and for him to gain fresh insights into his own work.”

Previous Bienen School recipients of the Presidential Fellowship include Jason Rosenholtz-Witt (musicology, 2017) and Susan Agrawal (music theory/musicology, 2002).


  • composition
  • Jay Alan Yim