Rick Applin

Professor

"The linear aspect of harmony is an important theme of mine, and contrapuntal thinking is essential to understanding that harmony is independent lines of melody moving together, producing a unified effect. When my students think about and write counterpoint, they begin to see harmony in that way. In my tonal harmony courses, I teach it the other way around: that counterpoint is a way of managing and expressing harmony. It's a unified concept."

"Love of music is our common bond in all my classrooms. With the education majors, it's love of teaching as well. In my tonal harmony course for education majors, we role play in our third hour: I become a high school student with the rest of the class, and one of the class members teaches. I show my students that you can maintain a certain degree of informality that is nevertheless infused with a sense of respect for the institution, for the teacher, and for the classroom."

"One of the joys of this job is being able to let young people in on musical styles and individual works that they haven't heard before, and that's a great thing to see. For any musical person to hear great music of any style is an eye opener. But people react differently to different pieces of music. A few years ago, in my History of Western Music class, I played a Mahler adagio with the score up on the screen. When the lights came up, a young woman in the first row was in tears; obviously it touched her in some way. Other students found it interesting, but were less moved."

"I'm not there to give my students musicality; they already have that. I rely upon their musical souls to be there, then try to help them gain some of the technical elements they need. But I believe we learn emotionally as much as we do intellectually. When we care about and react positively to something, when we have that strong feeling, knowledge is deeper. I try to build the classroom experience on that kind of thinking-and have a good time while we're there." 

Career Highlights

  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • M.M., Boston University
  • Compositions performed by many national and regional ensembles
  • Works performed and recorded for international release by pianist Kaili Peng
  • Teaching experience in theory and composition
  • Author of Tonal Counterpoint, Berklee Press