Ray Knapp Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

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Ray Knapp, distinguished professor of musicology and humanities, has won the UCLA Faculty Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award for 2023-24. Knapp is one of six faculty selected by the award committee from a large field of extraordinary nominees across the university.

“Ray Knapp’s thirty-five year record of teaching excellence has been a defining constant in our department culture,” said Bob Fink, professor of musicology and chair of the music industry program. “I’ve witnessed first-hand for decades his humane values.”

Jordan Jugh Sam, Ray Knapp, and Ashley Dao

Knapp describes his own teaching philosophy as “playing the long game,” coaching students as they develop their own projects, take ownership of them, and see them to fruition. Empowering students requires trusting them, while honing their academic skills in the classroom and through meaningful assignments.

“Perhaps the most impressive and laudable aspect of Ray Knapp’s teaching is his radical inclusivity,” said Fink, “It is not an exaggeration to note that his teaching and his administrative work—where he has been a passionate curriculum architect at the department and university level—has touched every single undergraduate at UCLA.”

Students have consistently reported that Knapp’s teaching is equal parts rigorous feedback, accountability, kindness and humor.  Eminently approachable, Knapp often mentors students who might otherwise not see themselves as belonging in academia.  

Knapp’s passion is matched by seemingly limitless energy. While mentoring graduate students, he still makes time to engage in individual tutorials for undergraduates, where he has earned a reputation as a steadfast advocate and supporter.

“He’s one of the most supportive, effective, and understanding teachers I’ve ever had,” said Ashley Dao, whose trajectory as an undergraduate in musicology has been extraordinary, including winning the coveted Beineke award, given to only twenty students across the United States to support graduate study. “No matter how busy he is in his many, many roles, Ray always makes the time to meet with me for at least an hour every single week and has come to every paper I’ve ever presented and nearly every event I’ve organized at UCLA.”

Knapp’s collaborations with students often leads to publication credits for them, and his work as director of the Center of Musical Humanities has brought musicians, filmmakers, scholars, and students together for symposia that have addressed themes important to Los Angeles’s diverse communities.

“He is the soul of our department,” said Dao.

Just so.