Joel Clifft, DMA

Director of Keyboard Studies
Phone: (626) 815-6000, Ext. 3592
Photo of Joel Clifft, DMA


Joel Clifft earned his doctoral degree from the University of Southern California while studying with Dr. Alan Smith and Bernadene Blaha. Dr. Clifft’s primary area of study was keyboard collaborative arts, with minor fields in solo piano, music theory, and composition. He graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and was chosen as the “Most Outstanding Graduate” at both the Master’s and Doctoral levels. Dr. Clifft attended USC on a full scholarship and in addition, was a recipient of the Gwendolyn Koldofsky scholarship.

As an active collaborative pianist, Dr. Joel Clifft has performed in concert with many world-class musicians, including violinist Midori, erhu player, Ma Xiao Hui and clarinetist, Ken Grant. He has extensive international performance experience, appearing in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Brazil, Korea, China and Singapore. He also performed a solo and collaborative program at the United Nations in New York.

Dr. Clifft is Director of Keyboard Studies at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches piano, music theory, accompanying and ear training courses. He is also an adjunct faculty member at USC where he teaches collaborative piano. In addition, he has served as a judge for many competitions, including MTAC and MTNA, local, regional and state competitions.

As a software developer, Dr. Clifft created Music Theory Pro, an iPhone app for music education. The app teaches Music Theory and Ear Training using cutting-edge technology. To date, the app has received more than 120,000 downloads. In 2013 Music Theory Pro was expanded to mac computers and iPads and a second app, Jazz Chords Pro, was released during the same year. A third app, Music Theory Professor, is expected to release later this year.

Dr. Clifft has also developed a passion for studio singing. In recent months he has provided vocals for Universal Pictures, The Paramount Group, and Dreamworks.


  • DMA, Keyboard Collaborative Arts, University of Southern California
  • M.M., Keyboard Collaborative Arts, University of Southern California
  • B.M., Piano Performance, Music Theory/Composition, Music Education (with honors), Azusa Pacific University

Academic Areas

  • School of Music (College of the Arts)
    • Undergraduate Programs
    • Graduate Programs


  • Instrumental Accompanying
  • Music Fundamentals
  • Music Theory
  • Piano
  • Practical Musicianship
  • Vocal Accompanying