By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Westborough – As the youngest of four siblings who all took instrument lessons from an early age, Jonathan Rappaport was playing the accordion by the time he was 7. He spent junior and senior high school singing in the advanced school choir and participating in school plays and musicals. With music and the arts having remained a prominent part of Rappaport’s life, the Westborough resident was honored in November at the State House along with four others named “Champion of Artists” by the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition.
The “Champion of Artists” award was bestowed upon Rappaport and the other champions during the 11th annual “Artists under the Dome” event at which Massachusetts artists of all specialties were invited to the State House in appreciation for their part in helping the state’s financial wellbeing and quality of life.
After high school, Rappaport attended the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, majoring in music education as well as studying piano, saxophone and voice. Meanwhile, he was active in several vocal and instrumental ensembles. After becoming a music educator, he was exposed to the Kodály approach of music education, and was inspired to earn a graduate diploma in the method.
“It was in this program that my personal musicianship was elevated to a much higher level, and my choral conducting improved tremendously,” he said. “Because my ‘internal’ musicianship had increased, I found I could create original music, and began a side career of composing.”
He has composed a wide range of choral music, either completely original works or arrangements of folk songs, a quintet for piano and strings (premiered in 2015 by Kaleidoscope), and other chamber music for various instrumental ensembles.
Rappaport became completely enthralled with music.
“Music, and the other arts, are as important as breathing air and eating nutritional food,” he said. “The arts are the food of the soul and spirit.”
In 1998, Rappaport co-founded the Southborough-based the Kodály Music Institute with his colleague, Mary Epstein, where he continues to teach courses in pedagogy, materials analysis, and conducting, and continues to reap satisfaction from his work.
“It is gratifying that we have educated hundreds of teachers over the past two decades and that tens of thousands of students are receiving better instruction in music as a result,” he said.
In addition to his work with the institute, Rappaport serves as executive director of Arts|Learning, an organization that supports professional arts teachers and educators of all disciplines in kindergarten through 12th grade, and works to advance opportunities for future artists.
Rappaport’s has also published five books and was the recipient of numerous honors, including the “Lifetime Achievement Award” presented in March by the Organization of American Kodály Educators.
Despite Rappaport’s wide-ranging accomplishments, he said he was quite surprised to learn he was selected a Champion of Artists.
“As this came totally out of the blue, it was completely unexpected to receive such an honor,” Rappaport noted, “and very much appreciated.”