UCF’s music programs are host to an array of distinguished and talented faculty, each with their own unique and inspiring journey to where they are today. Ross Monroe Winter, one of the School of Performing Arts’ newest hires, is a fitting addition to the ranks. An alumnus of the New England Conservatory of music, Winter went on to have a successful global career. Playing with Brazil’s Orquestra Sinfônica da Universidade de Caxias do Sul, the Boston Philharmonic and other orchestras throughout the U.S., his endeavors even landed him in Hollywood – he helped prepare Robert Downey Jr. for his role in the 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes. Winter has also appeared on screen in Sex and the City 2, Taylor Swift’s 2010 NBC Thanksgiving Special, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and many more movie and television spots.
Teaching, however, is where Winter finds his true path. “Along the way, I knew I wanted to teach even though I had a totally different trajectory in undergrad,” he says. His experience in the professional world showed him what students really need to succeed, and his own teachers and mentors exposed him to many different approaches in the classroom. Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philharmonic left a particularly large impact. “His zest and zeal for life was literally infectious. As a student and a member of his orchestra, I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like that, I want to inspire people the same way that he does.’”
With his own students, Winter hopes to impart the vital lessons he’s learned throughout his career, such as having a critical eye towards detail and awareness and being able to teach themselves. “The kernel of my teaching philosophy is: if it’s not fun, why do it? Musicians put as much stress and pressure on themselves as brain surgeons do. But in concert, if we play a wrong note nobody dies. So, what is there to be so afraid of? Our job is to bring enjoyment to other people, so if we don’t enjoy what we’re doing and the process of the whole thing, who will enjoy what we do?”
Winter choose UCF as the next step in his teaching career after much consideration. “I discovered very quickly how much the School of Performing Arts, the college, and the university are truly investing in what’s happening in music here. And I have seen it through recent faculty hires, through new positions and through new programs. They’re investing time, energy, and money in extremely positive ways to make an impact. And I want to be on this crescendo of positive impact.”
Prospective music students should also look closely at what’s happening at UCF. “There are excellent string faculty here: David Bjella (Cello), Chung Park (Orchestra) and Ayako Yonetani (violin) are hugely respected pedagogues with a lot to give. So, a student coming here would truly be educated in all facets of a music career in addition to excelling on their instrument.”
Even UCF’s location gives students an advantage. “Especially in music, a student’s career begins the minute they set foot in the door at their undergraduate school. Tenfold if they’re coming here for a master’s program. All the students that they’ll be working with will be their colleagues for life,” he says. “The Orlando area allows a music student to start their professional career immediately. That’s what I coach my students in doing and try and help them do: build their resume immediately. And there’s tons of work, gigs, and teaching opportunities for all levels of students in the Orlando area.”
“What someone thinks of as a career in music is probably not what they’ll end up doing. You have one goal that you think you want, but even if you attain it, things change, people change, desires change. And I feel like I had a really good dabble in all of it to help my student’s figure out what’s possible in music.”