Brian Alegant - Acceptance Speech

2015 Outstanding Baccalaureate College Professor of the Year
Brian Alegant
Professor of Music Theory
Oberlin College

Thank you for the introduction, Mark, and for being here to share this award with me.

I feel blessed. Most days I can't believe that I get paid to talk about music, which is my passion and my calling. Music challenges and inspires me, and fills me with awe. I can't imagine a world without it, and I can't imagine doing anything more rewarding. I'm doubly blessed to teach at Oberlin College, which is truly a unique, even magical place. I consider myself lucky to be able to work with and learn from extraordinarily talented and motivated students. I am especially thrilled to be the first professor of music to receive this prestigious award. Words cannot express how gratifying it is to be recognized for the decades I've spent perfecting my craft: learning how to help my students learn more deeply, speak music more fluently, take greater intellectual and interpretive risks, and embrace fully and unapologetically their artistic voices.

I would like to congratulate all of the educators who are honored here today. And I would like to express my thanks to my wife, Marci, who helps me not take myself too seriously; my son Jordan, whom I cherish; my dear friends, whose presence here means the world to me; my extraordinary colleagues at Oberlin, who inspire me to uphold the highest standards of rigor and achievement; Art Frank, who taught me perhaps the most important lesson I've learned about this noble profession: that it's not about me and my teaching, but about the students and their learning; President Marvin Krislov and my dear colleague Jan Miyake for their support; the thousands of interested and interesting students I have enjoyed during the years; and CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for this prestigious honor.

One of my most powerful childhood memories is hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. I still get goose bumps when I hear the opening of the third movement, an adagio of sublime and heartrending expression. That was the first time in my life that the universe—and my place in it—seemed to make perfect sense.  

So you can see why it thrills me to help future generations of students discover for themselves the awesome and transformative power of music. Plato said it well: "Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." Victor Hugo had an even clearer view: "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."

Thank you very much.