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2007 Mrs. A.B. "Dolly" Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching: Miguel Roig-Francoli

Keeping it light has proved to be a hit with his students, earning Miguel Roig-Francoli one of UC's most coveted teaching awards.

Date: 5/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
By: Katie Rankin
Phone: (513) 556-4984
Photos By: Andrew Higley

UC ingot   Monotony is verboten in Miguel Roig-Francolí’s classroom.

"They say I’m a very energetic, enthusiastic teacher," he explains.

"I tell [my students] at the beginning that we are going to work very hard. Yet I make it a huge point to share fun with the students, and that they are having fun also. We laugh a lot and get very silly. We have a great time in class."

And what of those rare moments when things hit a lull?

"I do my best to shake the boredom out of everyone’s boots in a matter of seconds," he says with a laugh.

Miguel Roig-Francoli
Miguel Roig-Francoli

This lighthearted yet earnest approach has made Roig-Francolí one of CCM’s most beloved professors as well as a 2007 winner of the A.B. Dolly Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching. Since joining the faculty in 2000, the Ibiza, Spain native has received fervent praise from students, alumni and colleagues for his pedagogical prowess. Nominator Cara Tasher (’06 DMA Choral Conducting) calls him "the most impressive faculty member at the University during my tenure," and senior cello major Jennifer Brown states simply, "He is able to take an extremely difficult subject and make it understandable to the average student musician."

That "difficult subject"—music theory—can be described as the study of musical structures and processes. Every song, sonata or symphony is the sum of many intricate parts. Music theory explores how music works through the analysis of a composition’s patterns, pitches and textures.

Roig-Francolí is a respected expert in this arena, having written two textbooks (Harmony in Context, McGraw-Hill, 2003; Understanding Post-Tonal Music, McGraw-Hill, 2007) and numerous scholarly articles. According to his colleague and division head Robert Zierolf, Roig-Francolí’s "reputation as a master teacher" of the subject extends beyond the walls of the CCM Village and into "the music theory community at the national level."

He also has experience putting theory into practice, having forged a parallel career as an accomplished and award-winning composer. His works have been performed by esteemed orchestras and ensembles here in the U.S. as well as overseas in London, Berlin, and throughout his home country.

But as any educator can attest, knowing and teaching are two different things, and bringing the theory of music to life for young musicians who may be accustomed primarily to performing or composing can be, according to Brown, "no easy feat." Undiminished, Roig-Francolí summons his trademark enthusiasm and passion for the subject to prove to his students that understanding music’s building blocks is vital to their artistic lives.

Miguel Roig-Francoli
Miguel Roig-Francoli works to inspire his students.

"As human beings," he says, "we have a heart and a feeling, and we have fingers and muscles that make us play very fast. But we also have a brain, and the brain allows us to understand things."

He describes a scenario where an actor takes the stage and simply recites his lines, without a sense of context or comprehension of his words. "It’s unthinkable," he says. "It’s the same with music. You don’t just play music mechanically without understanding what happens. It helps us to transmit it much better."

As for his reputation as an effective educator, Roig-Francolí is quick to share credit with his students, citing their willingness to express their opinions and to embrace a truly collaborative classroom approach.

"I try to involve the student in the process of learning and teaching, so it’s a joint venture," he explains. "It’s not me who teaches them. We learn together."

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