The Progressatorium Podcast

BRIAN PERTL It's All Invented

Episode Summary

Brian Pertl, Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music shares his belief that a broad and deep liberal arts education, paired with a world class conservatory education is the absolute best preparation for young artists. With an open door policy, Brian has built a culture of 'yes' where he empowers students and faculty to have radical ideas and take risks. On and beyond the stage, learning through improvisation is key to the Lawrence experience.

Episode Notes


As the Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, Brian Pertl has introduced a wealth of new initiatives that have put Lawrence at the forefront of reimagining the conservatory of the 21st century.   He has created a comprehensive health and wellness initiative for musicians, expanded world music, early music, music education, and new music offerings. In addition, he has greatly increased our web presence including live, four-camera web-casts of all large ensemble performances, and has added courses on entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity for musicians. Most of all, he is a nationally recognized advocate for the idea that a broad and deep liberal arts education, paired with a world class conservatory education is the absolute best preparation for a musician in the fast-changing, collaborative world of the 21st century.  His recent TEDx talk, "Music Education, Improvisational Play, and Dancing Between Disciplines," is a public expression of this passion.

Brian Pertl's passion for music began right here at Lawrence University in the early 80's where he received a B.M. in trombone performance and a B.A in English from Lawrence University. After receiving a Thomas Watson Fellowship, Brian traveled to Australia, Tibet, Nepal and India to study the use of harmonics in Aboriginal didjeridu playing and Tibetan sacred chanting. Upon his return, Brian completed his M.A. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. He then moved to Seattle to undertake his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Washington. Before completing his degree, he was offered a position as an ethnomusicologist at Microsoft. He, along with a team of other ethnomusicologists, helped pioneer the use of music and sound in multi-media reference titles, by selecting, licensing, and captioning over a thousand music excerpts for Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, Encarta World Atlas, and Encarta Africana. For ten years, Brian managed the Media Acquisitions Group, Microsoft’s central resource for selecting, tracking, and licensing all forms of audio, images, and video.

Brian has also been an active lecturer, music educator, and performer. He was a lecturer for Humanities Washington from 1992-2008. He has given well over 300 presentations across the state of Washington and around the country. A few of his most popular titles include: “Tantric Voices and Thighbone Trumpets: The Sacred Music of Tibet,” “Monkey Chants and Throat Game Songs: A Sonic Adventure of Global Proportions,” and “Didjeridus, Discos, and Dim Sum: How the World Fell in Love with a Termite-hollowed Log.” Brian was also selected by the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street project to be the State Music Scholar for their New Harmonies traveling exhibit celebrating American roots music. Brian has been one of the leading proponents of didjeridu in the North America. He is one of the founding members of the Northwest Didjeridu Panel, which has been one of the central resources for highlighting North American didjeridu traditions since 1992. Each term he teaches multiple sections of didjeridu for any interested student! 

Brian is married to Leila Ramagopal Pertl '87 who is known for her innovative, immersive approach to music education.  Together they teach classes on world music, present hands-on executive training seminars in creativity in the workplace, and are leading advocates for the importance of music education in all of our lives.