Ramon L. Ricker, the first Director of the Institute for Music Leadership 2001 – 2015

Ramon Ricker
Emeritus Professor of Saxophone
Senior Associate Dean for Professional Studies (retired)

Ramon Ricker is Professor Emeritus of Saxophone, and retired Senior Associate Dean for Professional Studies at the Eastman School of Music. In 2001 when the Institute for Music was founded, Dean James Undercofler named Dr. Ricker to lead it. He served in that capacity until his retirement from Eastman in 2015. As a senior administrator at Eastman, Ricker was instrumental in shaping the School’s innovative Institute for Music Leadership, with its Arts Leadership curriculum that offers courses in entrepreneurship, careers, leadership, performance, contemporary orchestral issues and musician’s injury prevention and rehabilitation; its Center for Music Innovation and Engagement that helps student’s inventions and ideas become realities; the Office of Careers and Professional Development; and the Orchestra Musician Forum with its website Polyphonic.org and the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research.

He joined the Eastman faculty in 1971 in a part-time position and became full-time in 1973, the same year he received his Eastman doctor of musical arts degree. His association with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) began first as a clarinet soloist in 1972, and in 1973 he won a position in the RPO as a member of the clarinet section. He continues to play in the orchestra today. In 2013 his Institute for Music Leadership team was awarded the Meliora Award, a University of Rochester award recognizing staff members whose work performance and dedication during the preceding few years exemplify the University’s motto, Meliora (ever better). In that same year he was the first Eastman faculty member to be awarded the Dean’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary leadership, dedication, service and philanthropy to the Eastman School.

Dr. Ricker began his musical studies on the clarinet. At age 16, while continuing to study the clarinet, his interest in jazz led him to begin saxophone lessons. Throughout his career he has enjoyed performing a wide variety of music on both clarinet and saxophone that has included classical and jazz. This is reflected in the careers of his students who have taken diverse paths. Some are successful public school music teachers while others comprise a diverse who’s who in the professional saxophone world that includes positions in Broadway pit orchestras and military bands as well as traveling road bands, small jazz groups and pop and contemporary ensembles. His student jazz group, Saxology, won DB Awards from Downbeat Magazine every time it entered—best collegiate small group three times and outstanding performance twice. Of the nearly 150 saxophone students in Ray’s studio during his tenure, 47 currently hold college saxophone teaching positions. His books on jazz improvisation and saxophone technique, as well as many of his compositions, are viewed as standards in the field, with over 145,000 copies sold worldwide and translations into French and Japanese.

As a professional musician he has performed and contracted hundreds of television commercials and program themes including national accounts for NBC, ABC, Cinemax, HBO and Arts and Entertainment. As a composer and arranger he has been honored by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Creative Artist Public Service, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP. His arrangements have been commissioned by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the American, Atlanta, Cincinnati and North Carolina Symphonies, and his works are published by Schott Music (Germany), Alphonse Leduc (Paris), Alfred Music (USA) and Jamey Aebersold (USA). His latest book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor; What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools (2011, Soundown, Inc.) has become a must read for music students and was honored as a Finalist in the Business: Entrepreneurship and Small Business category of The USA “Best Books 2011″ Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.

With his wife, Judith, the Rickers share their house in Fairport, NY with their three Rhodesian Ridgebacks.