Before joining Columbia’s faculty in 1977, Richard Woodbury was a musician, a composer, and a dancer with Mordine and Company Dance Theater. That background has served him well over the past 34 years as he has made instrumental contributions to the growth and development of the Dance department, where he is associate professor and music director.
“I teach a variety of courses including Music and Rhythm in Dance, Technology for Dancers, and Dancemaking II. All of these courses have their own specific connections to my creative and artistic endeavors,” Woodbury says. “More importantly, however, they all ask students to practice purposeful artistic processes—to continually question, to be open to surprises, to mindfully notice and react to what’s happening in their work. I try to instill these ideas in my students while I struggle to practice them in my own work.”
This attention to guiding students through the rigors of the artistic process is part of what sets Woodbury apart as a teacher and an artist, roles for which he was recognized recently as Columbia’s 2010 Distinguished Faculty Artist. The honor joins a list of others his work has garnered: Joseph Jefferson and Helen Hayes awards for outstanding sound design, the Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Collaborative Artist, and nominations for Drama Desk and Ovation awards.
Describing Columbia as “diverse, passionate, and engaged,” Woodbury appreciates the college’s learning environment.
“Commitment to access and diversity, emphasis on learning by doing, hybridization of an arts conservatory model with a liberal arts college model, and faculty who are committed to teaching, yet also engaged with distinction in the arts they teach all make Columbia a unique learning environment,” Woodbury says.
For Woodbury, the greatest reward he gets from teaching comes when he gets “to witness young adults grow up both personally and creatively.” He works hard to help them in that journey. “I try to approach every student with respect and compassion,” he says. “Each is an individual and many have complicated and difficult lives. Some have overcome substantial obstacles just to be here. This does not mean I lower my demands or standards. Rather, it means I work hard to help those who actively struggle to succeed, and I try not to judge those who are unable to do so.”
Audio: Compositions by Richard Woodbury