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Raboy Talks About Community and Opening Doors

Lainey S. Cronk, January 6, 2009
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Asher Raboy, left, works with student Matthew Reeves.

"I'm at an age when many professional musicians are jaded," Asher Raboy reflects. "The talent, enthusiasm, caring, intellect, youth and energy of the [PUC] students have taken me away from the jaded and kept my own approach to music fresh and fun."

That's why Raboy, long-time director of the Napa Valley Symphony and part-time director and music teacher at Pacific Union College since 2006, is now working with PUC's music department as a full-time resident artist. In fact, he says, being at PUC has "restored a lot of my faith and taken the cynicism away - it's taken about 10 years off my life."

Raboy's impressive music career includes serving as the music director of the Napa Valley Symphony since 1990; traveling as a guest conductor and conducting ballets, symphonies, and youth orchestras; and composing, lecturing, writing, and teaching. Raboy continues to compose and direct; he just had a piece played in Binghamton, New York, with another scheduled for eight February performances by the Toronto Symphony.

At PUC, he has created a community of music and learning and students are anxious to be a part of it. "Asher Raboy is the most amazing teacher I have ever had," said senior music major Matthew Reeves. "His passion is apparent, and his ability to motivate students with that passion is what makes him a great teacher."

Raboy admits that he may approach teaching differently than some. "I'm a composer and I have to be played, and I know if an audience cheers or boos. So to me it's fundamental - does the piece speak from the part and is it articulate, does it communicate?" For his composing students, he says it's not about tonic chords and dominant chords - though they need to know that stuff. "It's about how you take this vocabulary … and now speak it in a way that can teach somebody." Raboy's passion in music - in teaching and in performance - is to bring down barriers. "The problem with classical music is we have immense barriers to entry," he explains. "So I'm trying to take the barriers down."

Since he's not from an Adventist background, Raboy has been intrigued by the inside workings of this institution. "When I first came to the Valley, [Adventism] was a mystery... There are many myths, all of which are false." Raboy recounts his experience going to college assemblies, where this year's focus is discussing "spiritual authenticity."

"Those things are a little mysterious to me," Raboy smiles. "But I think that understanding why we're at a job is really important. A lot of people go to work and don't know why they're there. Especially when your job is to help others and you're in a community based on service, it's really important to understand these things!" He sees the discussion as deeply valuable, as it asks people to explore the questions, "Why am I here, what does it mean to me?" Raboy says, "I think it makes it a better community, makes the faculty a stronger faculty, makes it a better college."

So he's enjoyed the opportunity to be in this community, opening doors and encountering enthusiasm. "This is a spectacular world," he says. "All you want to do is open the doors, and if you open enough doors, people can choose and walk through the right ones. That's the fun of it."