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Employee of the Month Honor Sounds Good to Cooper

Published: April 15, 2010

Rychard Cooper, a sound technician in CSULB’s Music Department, was recently named by his coworkers as employee of the month.

Cooper left his career as a recording engineer in 1997, returning to CSULB to study music composition. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition in 2001 and 2008, respectively, and twice won the Donald Andrus prize for electronic composition.

CSULB President F. King Alexander praised Cooper for his exemplary service to the students and faculty of the Music Department, saying that “his knowledge and expertise in the area of music technology has lifted the department to a much higher level.”

Cooper’s responsibilities are wide-ranging, from fixing sound equipment and computers to mixing and recording Music Department concerts. He recently moved into producing video.

“We use three high-definition cameras for large shows in the Carpenter Center,” he explained. “I edit the footage together and make DVDs. We also upload some of these videos onto YouTube.” Some of the pieces can be seen on the CSULB Music Department Web site.

After enrolling as a music major, Cooper became a student assistant, then a part-time staff member, then full-time, then began teaching classes in electronic music and composition. Cooper said, “For awhile I was a student, a staff member and a faculty member all at the same time.” While still an undergrad, Cooper was hired by Cypress College to teach classes in recording and record production.

One of Cooper’s career highlights came in 2009 when the University Art Museum hosted composer Brian Eno’s exhibit “77 Million Paintings.” Using sophisticated computer software and audio boom boxes, “77 Million Paintings” featured constantly changing images and music compositions displayed on a wall of 12 monitors. Cooper spent much of the fall semester on loan to the UAM as the computer technician for the show. “Brian Eno has long been one of my heroes,” said Cooper. “His work is part of the reason I became a composer and I got to spend a week working with him. I know that it can be dangerous meeting your heroes, but Eno was charming and eloquent, exactly the person I hoped he would be.”

Cooper offered thanks to Music’s Martin Herman for his support. “While he was my composition teacher, Martin gave me opportunities that led to my becoming a teacher,” he said. “He got me involved in the California State Summer School Arts program (CSSSA), held every summer at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. First I was Martin’s assistant, then when he left, I took over the composition department and I’m now chair of the (CSSSA) Music School.”

Martin Herman is currently interim chair of the Philosophy Department, but is returning to Music this Fall.

Cooper’s classes at CSULB include “Computers and Sound,” offering a basic introduction to electronic music, “Sound Design” and “Composition with Digital Media” addressing the art of collage and remix culture. He also co-teaches a class in basic audio with the COTA Director of Technology, Martin Brenner. In 2007, Cooper also created a special class for the Odyssey Project called Digital Ethics. “We explored the subjects of file sharing, sampling and copyright on the Internet and I am now working with COTA to turn Digital Ethics into a GE class,” he said.

Rychard Cooper and President Alexander
Photo by David J. Nelson
Rychard Cooper and President Alexander

Cooper teaches both about and with multimedia. “My classroom lectures include images, sound and video all mixed together, like a Ken Burns’ documentary,” he said.

Working with technology presses Cooper to stay up-to-date, but it is a pressure he enjoys. “One of the best things about my job is that I get paid to stay current on the things I am most interested in,” he said.

Cooper balances people skills with electronic expertise. “As a full-time staff member, my office hours run all day,” he said. “There are always students in and out of my office with questions. This is one of my favorite parts of this job. I have to thank the Music Department chair John Carnahan for his vision and encouragement and to thank Martin Brenner for making sure I have the equipment and software needed to stay current.”

When he isn’t composing, Cooper enjoys a weekly game of Ultimate Frisbee with music students and faculty.

Cooper is glad he made the choice to join CSULB. “I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life from retail sales to working in warehouses where I wondered if I was making a difference in the world,” said Cooper. “But working with students at CSULB is very rewarding.”

Cooper’s music and videos are available at www.rychard.org.

In addition to seeing Friendship Walk renamed Rychard Cooper Lane for the month, he received several gifts including a CSULB sweatshirt, dinner for two at Domenico’s Pizza, a coupon for Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers, a coupon for a Whopper from Burger King and a $20 gift card from El Pollo Loco.

–Richard Manly