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President's Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student

Taylor D. Ackley, Music

Taylor Ackley

Can you tell us, in general terms, about your research?

As a performer, composer and scholar of music I am very concerned about the interaction between our society and its artists. This has led me to work in the field of folk and popular music studies. I am specifically interested in the role class plays in our perceptions (and consequentially support of) different artists’ work. I am addressing this issue in two primary ways. First, I make music that challenges the boundaries of “classical concert” music. I am the founder and director of the Stony Brook Roots Ensemble, a chamber music group that brings the work of under-represented artists and groups of people into the concert hall through the study and performance of traditional American music. Secondly, I study the development of American folk music over the 20 th and 21st centuries. My scholarly work explores how advances in technology and the development of a commercial music industry affect the music created by the American working class.

What excites you about your work?

Music has an incredible ability to connect people. In a time of such intense division it is profoundly inspiring to be able to draw on that ability and create art that actively brings people together. I get to make music with people from a huge variety of backgrounds (both personally and culturally), most of whom I never would have even met if not for music. My hope is that the art we create can continue to accomplish this with increasing magnitude!

How has your time at Stony Brook helped equip your for success?

The opportunities I have been given at Stony Brook have exceeded my wildest expectations. In the music department I have found not only a huge pool of remarkably talented and enthusiast collaborators, but also a faculty and community that is sincerely supportive of me and my work.

What advice would you offer to new teachers finding their voice in the classroom?

As a society we are actively engaging in the process of making sure everyone gets the right for their voice to be heard. Institutions like Stony Brook are leaders in this movement. As teachers, the first step toward this is learning to trust the value of what we as individuals have to say. Your voice matters! Be an example to your students of a supportive, open and informed voice. This can empower them and create an environment in which learning can truly occur.

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