professor
Matthew Ricketts

Sep 2018

Matthew is a fairly good teacher who means well. He teaches the class such that it is accessible to students with no musical background whatsoever, but I found that he was not the best at describing more technical concepts without jargon. He can come across as very formal and reserved, but he is good-natured and really wants all of his students to leave with a greater appreciation of music regardless of background. Most of the assessments rely very little on technical knowledge. His midterm and final were structured the same way: multiple choice/fill in the blank, listening ID based on an abbreviated list of pieces (~10 for the midterm and ~17 for the final, and IDs were not cumulative), mystery ID (a piece we had not heard before where we identified features rather than composer and time period), short essay, and short answer (on the final only). You could rely a lot on historical context and musical trends for the exams, although some of the multiple choice questions featured historical details or vocab words that were only briefly mentioned in class. He gives almost no direction on how to study for exams aside from the format of the questions, but if you review your class notes very thoroughly and review the main points of the Cook readings you'll be okay. You need to have the listening IDs down pat as there is no way to get around knowing composer and time period (not exact date), especially for the final where the works were less dramatically distinct from one another. However, he is not trying to trick you on the IDs. He is also a stringent grader. That does not mean he is unreasonable, but for example he gives you a percent grade on participation (so don't expect an automatic 100% freebie like other core classes). Take him up on reviewing drafts for writing assignments, and be creative/have an argument so you're not just regurgitating the Cook ("Music: A Very Short Introduction"). Most people got feedback on their first writing assignment that there was too much summary.

Jan 2018

Columbia's Core Curriculum is widely accepted by undergraduate students as quite dependent on the energy, knowledge and engagement of the professor. I could not imagine a better person to have taught Music Humanities than Professor Matthew Ricketts. Music and Art Hum are both courses necessary to a solid liberal arts foundation but difficult in execution due to varying degrees of exposure to the fields of their students. Professor Ricketts made Music Hum not only easy to grasp, comprehensive in depth and thought provoking but enjoyable and entertaining, too. His mastery of the subject material and efficiency of communication made this class exceptional. He would often sit down to the piano to play tonalities and segments of the works we'd just heard in order to clarify his points or demonstrate the musical elements by slowing down, speeding up or changing key of the works. This was not only impressive, but it helped his students connect to the works in a tangible way (as tangible as music can ever really be). Professor Ricketts handled all levels of student questions with the same thoughtfulness and respect even with students' obvious gaps or proficiency in musical capability. He graded fairly but with constructive critiques, he adequately prepared us for exams, he was exceptionally organized and prompt, he pointed us to further and outside resources when applicable and he was generally a joy to learn from. I can't imagine having missed out on taking his course, and he has positively and permanently shaped my experience with Columbia's Core Curriculum.

Aug 2014

I think Matthew did a pretty good job. It wasn't the most exciting class ever, but he was clear and helpful. The quizzes were occasionally odd, in that they're the kind where the fill-in-the-blank is a very specific phrase defined in a very specific way, but if you take notes carefully that shouldn't be an issue. I don't know if this is standard for the class, but I really liked that he could just hop on the piano and play just about any piece off the top of his head or show us an example of the style/technique he was talking about. He's quite flexible, open to feedback, and basically this really chill guy who makes Music Hum very doable.

Dec 2012

This was Matthew's first semester teaching, so it is understandable that he was still refining his teaching methods. He would often assign 2 listening pieces per class (~25 minutes of listening for hw/class), but we usually only covered 1 of those pieces. The class can be dry sometimes--Matthew can ramble a little--but overall this was a fine Music Hum experience. The pop quizzes are easy, we only had to write one 5 page paper, and Matthew is an easy and generous grader. The best part of the class with Matthew is that he is an amazing musician, so he can play out different parts of the music for class over and over to help explain a concept. Overall, I'd recommend Matthew as a Professor--he makes it as low stress as possible.