Congratulations to Richard King, winner of Schulich's 2017-18 Teaching Award in the research area.
Since joining the Schulich School of Music in 2009, Richard has been consistently admired by students and staff alike for his commitment and passion towards teaching. In a recent letter of recommendation, Justin Chervony (MMus ‘19) wrote, “Richard is a truly phenomenal educator for doing the simplest things well and consistently, while going above and beyond whenever needed to create a comfortable, supportive and engaging environment for his students … He inspires us to be the best we can be and get the most we can every day.”
We spoke with Richard over a recent email exchange to learn more about his career as an educator at the Schulich School of Music.
What is your teaching approach?
My general approach to teaching is two-fold. Firstly, I encourage my students to be open-minded, even while demonstrating my own preferred techniques. In the discipline of sound recording, it is well known that certain schools introduce a certain "style" of recording to their students, and the graduating classes each year risk becoming clones of their instructors and fellow classmates. This is not the case in my classes, where a concerted effort is made to encourage students to think for themselves, as they experiment with and assess the various standard techniques employed in commercial music recording. I strive to remain consistent with this pedagogy across all of my seminars. Apart from traditional microphone techniques and common recording practices, there are many areas of audio production that are considered to be highly subjective. Various opinions exist as to what constitutes a successful recording in terms of balance, timbre, and spatial presentation. Within this varied range of approaches, students are able to explore and develop their own taste.
Secondly, I try to demonstrate all of the techniques I employ on a regular basis, with a clear indication of why they have worked for my recording projects. I am completely open with students as I reveal to them the different methods I have used over the years, including the more technical aspects of acoustics and signal processing, as well as strategies for interacting with artists, producers and clients as a collaborator and entrepreneur. I preface most lectures and demonstrations with a short note about how there are more ways than one to complete each task, before focusing on a particular technique of my own. Students are encouraged to experiment as much as possible, while refining basic techniques. By following this concept, I educate by providing specific tools and demonstrating techniques without limiting the way the students think. The goal is to develop versatile, highly trained graduates with well-formed opinions without prejudice or bias so they may continually adapt and learn throughout their careers. Since my early days of teaching I have realized that the chronology of information dissemination is an incredibly sensitive issue. In that regard, I have kept a yearly journal in the hopes of refining and improving my pedagogical style over time. I refer to this journal each time I update the following year’s course materials and structure.
How does your professional career and research influence your teaching?
During the 15 years I spent in New York with Sony Music I was lucky to work with many world class artists and on high profile and rather complex recording projects. I draw upon that experience during my seminar in Advanced Recording techniques, as we discuss methodologies for recording orchestra, chamber music, voice and solo piano. Working closely with musicians is not always easy, and I have had plenty of intense experiences where careful diplomacy was a priority. We frequently speak about “control room sociology” and how to manage the various personalities involved in making a recording. I also spent many long hours working with old analog tape sources from the Columbia and RCA vaults – this experience allows me to teach a restoration course with authority, whether it is a theoretical issue or a practical matter such as baking “sticky tapes”.
Through my work as a film scoring engineer I learned how Hollywood films are made – this is valuable information that is not available online or in any publication. I teach a course in Audio for Video wherein I am able to give my students a step-up as they enter the industry with “insider information” on film scoring techniques.
Research – I am currently investigating high resolution audio and immersive/3D recording. While I do not specifically teach these topics, there is a strong overlap. Our students are always working at high resolution and are constantly evaluating the results. At this point, our class recording projects normally involve some aspect of 3D recording, through the inclusion of height channel microphones. Techniques for these investigations are based on my previous research experiments and the corresponding results.
About the Schulich School of Music Teaching Awards
Each year the Schulich School of Music recognizes faculty members and student instructors for their outstanding contributions. The Schulich School of Music Teaching Awards recognize excellence, commitment and innovation in teaching, and the importance of these qualities in the academic experience of students at McGill. Prizes are awarded annually to each winner at Spring Convocation.