Thomas L. Rhea

Associate Professor
617 747-2487

"In my career prior to teaching, I did the three things that you do if you're in music technology: music, technology, and business. I did these serially—one thing after another. I had a varied career as a musician. I trained at Florida State; played with two symphony orchestras as a trumpet player; played with student organizations of all kinds; did some recording in Nashville; and was a paid chorister at two Episcopal churches."

"Then I got into music technology and did that for some time. I had some instruction on electroacoustic music, but when the Moog synthesizer arrived at George Peabody College (with no manual), we opened it up and said, 'Okay now what do I do?' I graduated in 1972 with a Ph.D. But instead of taking a college teaching job, I got into the instrument business with the old Moog synthesizer company, a job that took me all over the world."

"That's a tripartite career, and that's what we're now asking students to train for in parallel. It's extremely difficult. But if you don't know music, technology, and something about the business world, you're really going to get skinned out there. You need savvy in all three."

"I'm known for my exhortations; I suppose you could even call them rants. And my favorite rant is this: students don't work hard enough nowadays. To be really successful—to be a professional—requires a form of controlled fanaticism. I've been around the world many times and I've met many people. I've flown around with famous English rock gods, and I've worked with all kinds of people in the business. And the characteristic that I've noticed common to highly successful people is that they're fanatical."

"They don't just practice or work a little bit; they go to incredible extremes. They perform amazing feats, primarily because they can focus intensely. They're not constantly entertaining themselves and don't need to be frivolously stimulated. I would really like to see my students become more monk-like about music, technology, and business. I'd like to see that sort of devotion."

"It's difficult. Boston is a vibrant and colorful town, and there are lots of things pulling students' attention away from their studies. I think it's possible to thrive in an arena that has distractions, but it takes focus. It's unfortunate that right now a lot of students imagine that they can 'multitask.' The mantra of multitasking is simply a bill of goods designed to induce people to buy the goods and services that support such a notion. Those who can focus and do so fanatically will rise to the top."

 

Career Highlights

 

  • B.M.E., Florida State University
  • M.M.E., Ph.D., George Peabody College
  • Former clinician, design consultant, and director of marketing at Moog Music
  • Author of owner's manuals for Moog, Crumar, Steiner, and others
  • Columnist for Keyboard Magazine
  • Historical research cited in the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments and the New Harvard Dictionary of Music
  • Concept designer and first composer for Oxylights, world's largest permanent MIDI music and light installation (recognized in Guinness Book of World Records)
  • Former trumpeter with Tallahassee and Nashville symphony orchestras