Music Professor Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean: “AUBG Is a Unique Place and I Love It Here!”

The name of Associate Professor of Music Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean is familiar to AUBG community members, if not by personal acquaintance then by word of mouth. This is not surprising: Professor Ravnopolska-Dean has been with the university since its founding and has taught students from AUBG’s every class. Beginning with such theoretical music classes as Introduction to Music, which aimed at teaching students how to appreciate music, Professor Ravnopolska-Dean succeeded in introducing applied music classes in harp and piano at a time when no one believed any positive results would come out of teaching students who couldn’t even read music to actually play it. Most of the music curriculum at AUBG was designed and fostered by Professor Ravnopolska-Dean, and she intends to work on developing even more courses.

Outside AUBG, Professor Ravnopolska-Dean is best known for her outstanding achievements as a professional harpist and pianist, and lately, as a composer. Having first studied in Bulgaria, Bucharest, and Italy, she then won the right to get her Artist Diploma at one of the finest music universities in the world – Indiana University in Bloomington, USA. This and the fact that Ravnopolska-Dean’s New York premiere recital took place at Carnegie Hall speak for themselves. It is also notable that Professor Ravnopolska-Dean received several requests for encores at Carnegie Hall.

Professor Ravnopolska-Dean came to AUBG in 1991 to become a pedagogue and never thought of leaving it. Being a native Bulgarian and having studied in the United States, she was very excited about the idea of an American educational institution in Bulgaria, seeing it as a unique way to combine an American style education and a multicultural environment. As Professor Ravnopolska-Dean says, “there are people coming to AUBG that would not normally come to study to the US, and they are very interesting students indeed. It is a unique opportunity: to work for the American system of education in Bulgaria.”

One reason Professor Ravnopolska-Dean enjoys teaching at a liberal arts institution is that the system offers students a freedom of choice not available at European universities. When students sign up for a music class because they want to rather than because they are required to, they feel more satisfied and get more out of the class, Professor Ravnopolska-Dean says. Her applied music classes are a case in point: Every semester, there are huge waiting lists of students willing to take them because the classes provide relaxation and a break from routine in addition to offering intellectual stimulation.

Professor Ravnopolska-Dean believes that it is never too late to start training as a musician and encourages students to pursue their musical interests and develop their talents. Miroslava Mincheva, a former student of hers who majored in journalism at AUBG, got so excited about music that she later applied for a graduate program in music and was accepted at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Mincheva went to complete a doctoral music degree (DMA) in piano at the same university. 

Another fine achievement of Professor Ravnopolska-Dean’s students was their successful performance of the whole of Tchaikovsky’s suite “The Seasons,” which was the first time it was ever performed by non-professionals in the Balkans.

Professor Ravnopolska-Dean is convinced that professors can learn from students as well – especially from students as diverse and interesting as AUBG’s. For example, at AUBG she learnt to play the kantele, a traditional string instrument native to Finland and Karelia.

The diversity of the student body is one of the most remarkable features of AUBG, Professor Ravnopolska-Dean says. It is also what has made teaching at AUBG such an exciting and novel experience year after year.

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