Aaron Beck

James W. Rogers Professor of Music, Director of Musicology

Evans Music Center, MSC: 18

Academic Credentials

PhD 1993, M.Phil. 1991, MA1989 Columbia University, BA 1983 Barnard College

Professional Experience

Professor Beck has published widely on the subject of Italian medieval and Renaissance music and art, including his new book Boccaccio and the Invention of Musical Narrative, as well as Singing in the Garden: Music and Culture in the Tuscan Trecento and Giotto’s Harmony: Music and Art in Padua at the Crossroad of the Renaissance. Prof. Beck recently completed a video entitled Music and the Black Plague published on the website Middle Ages for Educators supported by Princeton University. Also a writer of fiction, Prof. Beck published Fiammetta, which won Honorary Mention in the Writers Digest International self-published book competition. In 2007, the American Musicological Society named Prof. Beck Master Teacher of the AMS, only the third professor to receive this recognition. In 2000 they received the Graves Award from Pomona College for outstanding teaching in the humanities and in 1998 they were named Lewis & Clark College Professor of the Year. Prof. Beck was inducted into the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame, October 18, 2012, for playing basketball. In 2013 Prof. Beck released Strange Land, a recording of their original compositions. Prof. Beck was selected to participate in a week-long seminar on Teaching European Art in Context in the summer of 2016 sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges. Published in Imago Musicae, their newest article uncovers the identity of the piece the Mozarts perform on the keyboard in the Mozart Family Portrait. Prof. Beck writes program notes for the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

Prof. Beck continues to fight for human rights. A dual citizen, Prof. Beck brought his family to Italy during the scholastic year 2013-2014 for his sabbatical research into Renaissance music in the archives of Bologna.  His family was denied visas because Italy does not recognize same-sex marriage. Prof. Beck found an attorney in Italy to help them and after many twists and turns, like the road that climbs to his ancestral home of Gressoney, his case was presented before the Italian supreme court in 2016. He and his daughter travelled to Rome in February 2016 for the verdict. He was interviewed in the Italian press and on Italian TV. In 2018 the Bologna Court of Appeals rendered a verdict, which allows his daughter to become an Italian citizen.

In Bologna, Prof. Beck studied painting with Antonio Postacchini, in order to better understand music’s relationship to art. One of their paintings was accepted for publication in five2one magazine. It is entitled Alone and Pensive, after a madrigal by Monteverdi. Prof. Beck’s photographs appear in literary journals, including Sinister Wisdom and HCE Review.

Prof. Beck was interviewed about teaching music and social justice on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s podcast HearTOGETHER and contributed to a panel sponsored by Columbia University to discuss LGBTQIA+ student athlete welfare in April 2021. You can view the panel discussion here

In April 2021, Prof. Beck gave a presentation on diversity and inclusion to JP Morgan’s Treasury Services group. The group has monthly meetings with guest speakers that exemplify D & I values, act as a role model, provide examples of overcoming adversity and challenges that they have faced, and act as a leader in progressive thinking and actions. JP Morgan Treasury Services comprises over 3000 employees, a subset of about 75 of which were invited to the discussion.

In June 2021, Prof. Beck participated on a panel for the Clarion Society in NYC about music and pandemics with four other musicologists. You can view the panel discussion here

Please click here for Prof. Beck’s CV.