YU Faculty Profile: Daniel Beliavsky

By: Yosef Rosenfield on behalf of Features Staff  |  November 25, 2020

By Yosef Rosenfield on behalf of Features Staff

Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight a YU faculty member. For the November edition, the YU Observer is highlighting Professor Daniel Beliavsky.

Name: Daniel Beliavsky

Department: Fine Art and Music

Educational Background/Qualifications: BA — Columbia University; MA and Ph.D. in music theory and composition — NYU

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

How long have you worked at YU?: I taught at Stern College from 2006 until 2007 and have been teaching at Yeshiva College from 2007 to the present.

What got you passionate about your field?: Initially, it was not by choice: I come from a family of musicians — my father and brother are both professional violinists — and my parents had me start learning piano when I was 5 years old. I started performing professionally as a teenager, soloing with orchestras and giving recitals, and I was fortunate to perform throughout the United States and in Europe. Once in grad school, I started recording CDs — my first was the world-premiere release of composer Lukas Foss’s complete piano works. This was when my passion skyrocketed: I started seeing opportunities to produce original and unusual projects. Accordingly, since that first CD recording, I’ve released two additional CDs and have produced two documentary films on contemporary classical composers. My most recent film, about composer David Del Tredici, examines if and how personal passions impact compositional aesthetics. This question has recently motivated and inspired my work in music performance, analysis and documentary filmmaking. 

What do you like about working at YU?: I love working with my students — they’re smart and curious, and they like to be challenged academically. My courses range from theory and practical musicianship to history, philosophy and aesthetics — and the students who take these classes motivate and challenge me, as well as each other, as we explore how music operates across these various fields.  

How has COVID-19/Zoom affected the way your classes function?: Overall, I have been able to transition from face-to-face instruction to remote learning smoothly. The only difficulty is with practical performance courses, where the technology lags a bit and sometimes makes it somewhat challenging to coordinate ensemble performances.

If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be and what would he/she speak about?: At the moment, I would love to bring in two living people, filmmakers Hilan Warshaw and Stephen Fry, and one deceased composer, Richard Wagner, to have a debate about the impact personal ideology has on creative output. This is a central question in my Aesthetic Revolutions course, and while Warshaw and Fry have both made documentary films about Wagner’s deeply troubling personal ideology against the backdrop of his phenomenal music, it would be illuminating to have Wagner react to contemporary views of his personal legacy and his music’s place in history.

Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in your field?: Develop thick skin, learn to accept rejection and sometimes unsolicited advice, and above all, be ready to hustle! Importantly — this is something that has worked well for me — I recommend looking for opportunities to develop a personal voice that contributes meaningfully to less-explored niches of the discipline.

What is one thing you want students to know about you?: My parents and older siblings immigrated twice. First, when it was especially dangerous to do so, they left the former Soviet Union and moved to Israel. Several years later, they settled in Milwaukee, where I was born. I am constantly inspired and encouraged by my parents’ willingness to take risks, question the status quo and fight to live according to their convictions. 

Is there a YU professor you admire who you would like to see highlighted in future editions? Email us at theyuobserver@gmail.com.