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Richard Masters

Richard Masters, Associate Professor

Richard Masters, Associate Professor
Richard Masters, Associate Professor

School of Performing Arts
242B Squires Student Center
290 College Avenue
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-0340 |

Richard Masters is a soloist, opera coach, chamber musician, and orchestral pianist based in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he is an associate professor of piano and collaborative piano on the music faculty at Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.

Masters’ significant collaborations include concerts with baritone Donnie Ray Albert, flutist Valerie Coleman, mezzo-soprano Marta Senn, the late mezzo-soprano Barbara Conrad, and many others. He has appeared with former Boston Symphony principal trombonist Norman Bolter, former Juilliard String Quartet violinist Earl Carlyss, saxophonist Harvey Pittel, and under the baton of the late Lorin Maazel. Masters has performed solo, chamber, and vocal recitals throughout the United States and in Europe.

As a solo pianist, Masters plays a wide variety of standard and non-traditional repertoire, including contemporary pieces written for or commissioned by him. A strong proponent of contemporary American composers, he has performed world premieres of pieces by Kenneth Frazelle, Charles Nichols, Kent Holliday, and many others. He is an enthusiastic performer of British music from the early 20th century, focusing in particular on the solo piano music of John Ireland. The critic John France wrote on MusicWeb International “Richard Masters approaches [John Ireland's Piano Sonata] with great style and understanding: all the facets of Ireland’s art are present here: ‘…the lyrical, the dramatic, the extrovert and the melancholy — the intense self-questioning and the open, almost naïve, avowals.’”

Recent appearances include performances at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s “Music at the Gardner” series, the National Flute Convention in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Conservatory, the Schola Cantorum in Paris, and concerts in Toronto and Trinidad/Tobago. He has also performed at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, and the Percy Grainger Home and Museum in White Plains, New York.

In addition to his performances as a pianist, Masters is active in the world of opera and musical theatre as a coach and conductor. He recently conducted performances of Carousel, Fiorello!, Oh, Kay!, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Le Nozze di Figaro, Babes in Arms. In the summer of 2018 he served as associate head coach with the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, working on Wagner’s Das Rheingold and Strauss’ Arabella.

In April 2019, Masters and his Virginia Tech colleague Amanda Nelson revived The Sap of Life, a show written by the songwriting duo Maltby and Shire that was last performed in 1964. Prior to joining the faculty at Virginia Tech, he was principal opera coach at the University of Texas at Austin.

Masters is a Yamaha Artist. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a master’s degree from The Juilliard School, and a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music.

  • Piano Music
  • Opera History
  • Piano Pedagogy
  • Vocal Coaching Pedagogy
  • British Music
  • DMA in Accompanying and Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester), 2010
  • MM in Collaborative Piano, The Juilliard School, 2007
  • BM in Piano, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2005
  • Audio Review Editor, College Music Society Symposium Journal
  • Editorial Review Board Member, American Music Teacher Journal
  • Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarship (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 2019-2020)
  • Certificate of Teaching Excellence (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 2019-2020)
  • Sharon Malone Award (Theatre Department, Virginia Tech, 2016)

Journal Articles

  • “The Doge Comes to America: A Reception History of Simon Boccanegra in the US” Opera Journal (accepted, expected June, 2020), 37-97.
  • “It Goes Like This: A Quick Introduction to Vocal Coaching for Pianists.” American Music Teacher (June/July, 2018), 14-17.
  • “Summer Intensive: A Case Study in Cross Departmental Collaboration” SDC Journal, with Amanda Nelson, co-author (May, 2018), 45-49.
  • “House Baritone: the life and career of Millo Picco.” The Record Collector (March, 2017), 53-62.
  • “‘Presiding at the Pianoforte’: A Brief History of Accompanying,” American Music Teacher (February/March, 2011), 16-21.


Book Chapters

  • For the Love of the Voice: Towards a New Generation of Coaches.” in Singing, the Timeless Muse, ed. Darlene Wiley (Gahanna, OH: Inside View Press, 2019), 159-16.


Other Creative Works

  • Molly on the Shore. Irish Reel. – Percy Grainger (transcribed by Lionel Tertis for viola, notated from a 1920 recording and edited by R. Masters) Bardic Edition, 2019
  • The Alkan Society
  • The American Matthay Association
  • College Music Society
  • Music Teachers National Association (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music)
  • North American British Music Studies Association

Who has most influenced you? Why? 

In my professional life, my undergraduate piano teacher Robert Spillman was my greatest influence. He is a polymath: solo pianist, vocal coach, opera conductor, chamber musician, composer, and writer.  He does it all, and he does it well. I learned so many things from Bob. The majority of my technical approach to the piano comes from him, as does my pedagogical outlook.

Bob always demanded the best I had to offer, and was never afraid to say “No, that’s not good enough.” He teaches via the Socratic method — if something isn’t working, he will try to lead you to the right solution using questions, forcing you to think for yourself. 

Almost as important, he makes students think of music’s intersection with society and culture, using imagery and historical references that many teachers would never think to employ.  If you study with him, you learn a lot more than just how to play the piano! 

I had excellent teachers before and after working with Bob, but he is unique in the awe-inspiring totality of his gifts. I use what he taught me every day in my own teaching, and I can safely say that I am a teacher today because of him.