Music Department Faculty win Quantrell and Graduate Teaching Awards


Music Department Faculty win Quantrell and Graduate Teaching Awards

Each year, the University recognizes faculty for exceptional teaching and mentoring with the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards, believed to be the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching, and the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring, which honor faculty for their work with graduate students. This year, two Department of Music Faculty are among the honorees: Bethold Hoeckner, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College and Chair of the Department of Music, has been awarded the Quantrell prize, and Lawrence Zbikowski, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College, has received the Graduate Teaching Award.


Berthold Hoeckner, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College

It’s no coincidence that music historian Berthold Hoeckner views his classroom as a theatrical space.

“At first, I’m the playwright, director and actor, and the students are the audience. At the end of the quarter, they start teaching each other, and I’m in the audience,” said Hoeckner, who drew inspiration for his classroom model from Chicago Booth Prof. Harry L. Davis.

Hoeckner researches how complex artwork such as film and opera create meaning, and how that meaning is meaningful in people’s lives. He brings this approach to life in “Listening to Movies,” a new Humanities course popular with undergraduates from across disciplines interested in how sound and music contribute to cinematic storytelling.

“Students are very good at noticing things, so they really appreciate a deeper understanding of what they see and hear,” said Hoeckner, who has taught at UChicago for 25 years. “What you see, hear and feel become part of how we apprehend the world and are absolutely crucial in influencing the choices we make. It’s part of what I would call the ‘education of the senses.’”

Hoeckner enjoys helping students grow and develop, and said in each class he always happens to learn something from his students. “It happens even when I’m teaching topics that I know really well. A student offers an insight that would have never occurred to me. I love those moments.”


Larry Zbikowski, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College

Larry Zbikowski is always looking for connections in his work—whether exploring how research in cognitive science illuminates musical understanding, or in the classroom, helping students find links that change the way they view the subject matter.

One of Zbikowski’s favorite moments in class was when, in the midst of an introductory course in music theory, a student connected ideas about music Plato set out in the Republic to a lesson on counterpoint.

“Students bring all of their knowledge to their classes,” said Zbikowski, “and it’s the job of the instructor to tap into that knowledge as well as to expand it.”

To Zbikowski, being a good mentor also means being a good listener, and he finds every opportunity he can to draw his students into the conversation. “Professors famously love the sound of their own voice,” he said, “and yet it is only by bringing the widest possible range of voices into the conversation that knowledge truly grows.”

Other times Zbikowski lets his guitars do the talking—either breaking up the day playing his 1975 Gibson L6S in his office, or performing classical guitar for audiences. Zbikowski leaves his students with the lesson that “thinking in music offers a very different way to think about how humans use a range of communicative media to connect with one another.”

Read about all of the honorees at