Two jet-black grand pianos marked Boston and Steinway and Sons are shoved against the wall of his cluttered office, which recite Andre Gribou. Endless sheets of scores pour out of the binders underneath his desk. Those sheets represent time, passion, knowledge and demonstration. Each could be a synonym for Gribou himself. Gribou stands tall, slender, proud and accomplished. His youthful tone and demeanor block his grey hair and beard.
Gribou is an acclaimed professor and a scholar of music, through composition, as well as play.
“I sensed my interest and passion for music when I was very young,” Gribou says. “So did my parents and everyone else.”
The professor can recall begging his mother to pay for piano lessons when he was four. An evident passion for the art of music continues to pour out of Gribou today.
“In the arts, sometimes you hear something or you see something and you decide you want to do that thing. Sometimes, just the art itself activates something inside of you.”
Gribou, in a sense, started his career when he first dipped his hands into the sea of black and white keys that make up a piano. He studied music throughout college and eventually received his masters in Classical Applied Piano from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Gribou says he has found himself “gravitating” toward projects where he could incorporate both performance and composition.That mindset eventually led Gribou to receive a teaching fellowship while he was attending Juilliard.
“It always felt very natural to be in a teaching situation,” says Gribou.
After graduation, Gribou found himself teaching piano and composition at his private studio in New York before working adjunct at New York University. Throughout the years, he educated students at The Juilliard School, Trinity College, NYU, the United Nations International School and Ohio University. He has conducted personal intimate lessons, small classes with just a handful of individuals and has taught lecture halls with over 200 students.
Gribou started teaching at OHIO in 1990. He moved from New York to Meigs County, which he described as an “anthropological investigation.” He began as a visiting professor, but then became the music director at the school of dance for a number of years. Now, Gribou works within the Glidden School of Music where he teaches a variety of classes. His most popular class is History of Rock and Roll.
In reflection of Gribou’s teaching abilities, there are four awards mounted on his office walls that read, “Best OU Class Winner” according to The Athens News.
“Gribou is very intellectual and relatable,” Blake Schenerlein, one of Gribou’s students says, “I get excited to learn from him because he is so excited to teach me. He loves what he is talking about and he wants everyone else to love it as much as he does.”
Gribou arrives 15 minutes early to every class to haphazardly compose his score of lecture notes on the chalkboards. Even that introduction is a show. Students gaze in excitement, as they read every word, letter by letter as his cursive connects his thoughts. With a quick flip of his hair, he turns around and starts his story by saying, “When we last left our heroes.”
A humble approach to lecture and conversation builds anticipation for when he sits down to demonstrate a song on piano. Gasps of excitement fill the room and slight smiles fill the faces of everyone in the audience as they bob their heads to the steady beat of the bass keys.
Gribou has played piano at respected venues such as The Lincoln Center, The United Nations, The American New Music Consortium and The Kennedy Center.
“There are certain venues that feel very special,” Gribou says, “As I continue to play in different places I tend to find it’s really much more about different audiences or different cities.”
Gribou is best known for is his success as a composer. He has crafted endless numbers of pieces. He received an Emmy nomination for the score of “Wandering Souls: Tet 68”. He went on to win an Emmy for “The Last Dance”.
“It’s always very nice to be recognized for the work that you do, but I have different opinions on which pieces I should have been rewarded for,” Gribou says. “I take it with a grain of salt. There have been times where people thought that this would be the right piece to submit and the committee that was adjudicating will listen to the wrong excerpts.”
Despite Gribou’s awards and endless scores, he can’t select one specific aspect of his career as his greatest accomplishment.
“Still being able to find an interest and a passion in playing and teaching and being involved in music after all of these years is my greatest accomplishment,” Gribou says.
As for what’s in store for Gribou’s immediate future, he is currently teaching a semester of fine arts in London. That speaks to his ceaseless passion for learning that he has maintained his interest in music. There is always more to be observed, listened to, to be composed or played.
Featured photo by Cate Groubert. Andre Gribou walking the streets of London.
This story is part of a month-long multimedia series about the Athens music scene called “Sounds From the Hills: An Athens Music Project”