Raoul Birnbaum

“In the early 1980s, I studied with the extraordinary saxophonist and improviser Lee Konitz (b. 1927) for a year or two, and we would play spontaneously improvised duets around standard melody lines. This was a profound experience. Konitz is well-known for his distinctive, unique musical voice. He always said (and made this a principle of his own musical life) that every tune you play, no matter how familiar, should sound as if it were being composed at that very moment. It has to be alive. To do so, you cannot fall back on familiar patterns, you cannot feel secure in presenting the same set piece, even if listeners applaud, because then it’s dead (and in a certain tragic sense, at that moment so are you). I have tried to hold to this principle in teaching my students, and in research and writing as well. It has to be alive.”

Raoul Birnbaum is the Professor and Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in History of Art and Visual Culture Department, as well as the Gary D. Licker Memorial Chair at Cowell College. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award after the 2012-2013 academic year.

See his advice on designing a course here.

Interview Questions
0:00 Introduction
0:19 What experiences have shaped your teaching?
1:30 What kind of teaching training have you recieved?
2:21 How has observation been helpful for you?
3:34 What has changed since you first started teaching?
5:06 How do you prepare for a class?
6:01 What are some challenges you face in the classroom?
7:12 What are the biggest barriers to student success?
8:08 How do you keep students engaged in your classroom?

Teaching Statement
Birnbaum Teaching Statement

Contact Information
Website: http://havc.ucsc.edu/faculty/raoul-birnbaum
Office: 203 Cowell College
Email: rbirnb@ucsc.edu
Phone: (831) 459-4155