May 1, 2018

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson

In his Music Theory Colloquium talk in April, Dr. Richard Nelson offered some words of wisdom as he prepares for his retirement from the Cleveland Institute of Music at the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year. Rick has served in the music theory department at CIM since 1996, teaching nearly every student who has passed through these doors for the past 22 years.

1. Work hard—unceasingly—to develop your basic musicianship so that you can adapt and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. 

2. One can never know enough pieces of music, Shakespeare plays, Renoir art works, Gehry buildings, really good BBQ restaurants and world-class museums. These are the things I enjoy – figure out what you enjoy and what inspires you, and keep learning.

3. Be curious.

4. Pay attention to your people skills. You want to feel at ease with that person who is interviewing you for a job, or your stand partner, or your next-door neighbor.

5. Expand your abilities without sacrificing your main instrument. Do things like join the jazz band or the Baroque orchestra; learn to improvise; study the organ and the harpsichord if you’re a pianist; listen to as much music as possible—especially for other instruments; go to the museum; listen to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge; watch the Met Opera’s HD broadcasts in movie theaters.  

6. Life has a way of throwing us curves and bringing the unexpected to us. Embrace the opportunities you have, because you never know where they will lead.  

7. Don’t tell people your problems. 90% don’t want to hear them, and the other 10% are glad that you have them. You’re better off keeping them to yourself.

8. Life is not fair. Get over it and keep going.