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Ralph Farris

Ralph Farris
Strings - Viola

Teaching Philosophy

As musicians, as artists, we are first and foremost, communicators. And at the heart of communication is listening.

Listening—to our colleagues, to our environs, to our own voices—is at the core of my teaching.
Ours is a living art form and it must be honored and cared for by exploring, studying, and listening to music traditions beyond the Western Classical canon, as well as the popular vernacular. This informs both the artistic practice and the technical. Alongside my steadfast and considered approach to the fundamentals, I encourage boundary-breaking exploration and experimentation in my students. Etudes are built from found challenges; extended techniques are welcomed and mastered; transcription exercises open minds and spirits to new possibilities.

Improvisation, composition, vocalization, multi-media work, movement-based performance—whatever discipline a student is keen to explore, they are given the tools to live and create, empowered, in that space. And they share the fruits of their labors with their community, in studio sessions, in concert halls, in recordings and video, and in non-traditional venues.

Real-world experience is key if artists are to challenge the status-quo. As such, my students build innovative projects; craft unique and rewarding ensembles; and find, and own, their space in this most challenging field as they build dialogue with presenters, funders, artist-colleagues, and audiences alike. My studio affords students the freedom to find their most fully expressed, brilliant and open-eared selves.

As a Massachusetts native and a former student of Longy’s Preparatory School, I am thrilled to return to Longy and I am deeply inspired by our school’s most timely and critical mission, “to prepare musicians to make a difference in the world.”
Indeed, that is what it’s all about.


Multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer and conductor, Ralph Farris has spent the last three decades on modern music’s front lines, collaborating with a wide range of luminaries, from Leonard Bernstein, Ensemble Modern and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, to Gorillaz, Kaki King, Robert Mirabal and Merce Cunningham. The onetime Music Director and Solo Fiddle of the Roger Daltrey band, Ralph was an original Broadway company member of Disney’s “The Lion King.” An award-winning graduate of The Juilliard School (BM/MM), award-winning three-time Tanglewood Fellow, Hermitage Artist, and YoungArts Interdisciplinary Master Teacher and National Reviewer, Ralph holds an honorary degree from Denison University.

Ralph is a founding member and Artistic Director of the genre-bending string quartet ETHEL (Resident Ensemble at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Petrie Court Café; Ensemble-in-Residence at Denison University; 2019 Levi Family Distinguished Visiting Artist at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University; 2018/’19 Quartet-in-Residence at Kaufman Music Center’s Face the Music; 2018 EG Presenter; Multi-year TED Presenter; 2009 GRAMMY® Award with Kurt Elling).

Beyond his many performance credits, Ralph has produced recordings for and with ETHEL, for artists such as Hevreh and Stanley Grill, for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Balcony Bar from Home” series, and for the Broadway and 9/11 communities.

He was lead coordinator of the volunteer corps of musicians at St. Paul’s Chapel and St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, supervising 500+ performances offered in support of the 9/11 Rescue and Recovery Effort.

Ralph provided string arrangements for the GRAMMY®-nominated Five For Fighting hit, “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” and he worked as music supervisor / coordinator / conducting coach on Martin Scorsese’s “The Key to Reserva.”

Guest Curator of Randy Cohen’s “Person Place Thing,” Ralph has served as Host of Carnegie Hall Family Concerts, and in partnership with Rogers Art Loft (NV), as Curator & Host of Co-Lab: The Art of Collaboration.

Featured Composer of New England Conservatory Preparatory School’s Contemporary Music Festival (2018), Ralph has received commissions from Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Ringling Museum, dance evangelists Monkeyhouse, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Las Vegas darlings Jarrett & Raja, the Jerome Foundation, and the NEA. His scoring credits include Jehane Noujaim’s “Pangea Day” industrial, Tracy MacDonald and Matt Zodrow’s “RIGGED,” the Aquila Theatre’s productions of “A Female Philoctetes” and “The Tempest,” and ETHEL’s “Documerica,” “The River,” and “Circus: Wandering City.”
Ralph endorses the AVID family of software solutions.