Mary K. Robb

May 2018

I'm sure Mary Robb has a lot of impressive experience in music and that she knows every single thing she has taught us. However, I think we often overlook the huge gap between academic or professional excellence and pedagogic abilities. It is clear that Prof. Robb does not possess the latter. Not only is her approach to music outdated and unnecessarily rigid, but it also does not have the students' interest in mind. She is not teaching in order for her students to understand the complex material that is being presented, but she teaches in order for her students to understand that she knows things we clearly do not. What I mean by this is that I hadn't had a professor (probably since middle school) that very transparently enjoyed being in a position of power and authority. Her way of asking questions, of talking to us, even of taking roll call was condescending (she used a very offensive baby voice). She also didn't show genuine interest in student participation or perspective, because everything we said, if it was slightly different from what she thought, she would correct. I once met with Prof. Robb to discuss a paper and I was shocked by her lack of disposition, empathy, and flexibility. This class didn't give me anything but rather took energy and enthusiasm away from me. It was an emotionally draining class, truly. Rather than being interested in what students were feeling through the music, how they were responding to the sounds, and what they were viscerally experiencing, she asked us to memorize rhythmic patterns and vocabulary. She occasionally asked us to talk about how we felt, but with Italian musical terms, of course. In general, this class was not organic, it was the complete opposite. It was heartbreaking, offensive, frustrating, and the worst experience I have had at Columbia. I do genuinely wish no other student has to go through this because no class, no instructor, no discipline should kill academic curiosity and interest rather than encourage it.

Dec 2013

She's adorably awkward, passionate, energetic, and really wants to help every student do the best they can. I thoroughly enjoyed all my interactions with her. Also she doesn't use the silly textbook most other sections require you to purchase, and I loved her for that. (instead she assigned First Nights by Kelly, a really good read that I'm glad I own now) That being said, her section isn't exactly the "chill" experience that every one tells you music hum will be. She doesn't inflate grades, and expects you to really prepare for the exams. The weekly workload is light, but the exams are hard to prepare for and hard to do well on. So if you are paranoid about grades, this might be stressful. (it was for me) All in all, solid section and great teacher. Just not the easier choice.