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Elaine M. Ross, Ph.D.


Dr. Elaine M. Ross joined the music theory faculty at Morgan State University in the Fall of 2018 and Towson University in the Fall of 2016. Prior to these appointments, Dr. Ross was on the theory faculty at Ohio University, served as the chair of music theory at the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles, CA, and as the coordinator of music theory/composition at Central Washington University. Dr. Ross is an extremely active and sought after collaborative pianist. She has performed with such artists as Toby Oft, principal trombone of the Boston Symphony, Harry Watters, premiere jazz trombonist of the army blues (ret.), world renowned clarinetist Fred Ormand, and internationally acclaimed hornist Frank Lloyd, to name a few. Dr. Ross’ research interests include both the creative aspect of composition, where she maintains an active commissioning/clinic schedule, and theory pedagogy, including instructional approaches, the comparison of teaching results for perfect/absolute pitch vs. non-perfect pitch musicians, and the compilation of several pedagogical workbooks. Dr. Ross has also served on the faculty at the University of Minnesota-Morris, University of Michigan-Flint, and Interlochen Arts Academy. As a composer, she is published by Southern Music Company, Sisra Press, and Triplo Press and has had numerous works selected for performances at Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI), College Music Society (CMS), and College National Association for Music Education (CNAfME) conferences. Notable compositions include: Canyons for woodwind quintet – winner of the Sinfonia National Woodwind Quintet Composition Competition in May of 2009; Neon Fanfare for trumpet ensemble, selected for performance at both the National Trumpet Conference in 2010 and the International Trumpet Guild Conference in 2011; and Moonstruck for Percussion Ensemble, performed at the 2013 SCI National Conference and the 2012 Northwest Percussion Conference. In addition, Wildfire for Symphonic Winds reached the quarterfinal round in the Coups de Vent International Wind Orchestra competition and was performed in 2008 in Lille, France.

Educational/Teaching Philosophy

I believe to be most effective as a teacher of music theory, musicianship, composition, music history, and analysis; it is beneficial to be an active performer and/or an active composer. Performing/collaborating with chamber musicians, ensembles, and working with high caliber soloists heightens awareness, enhances sensitivity, and uncovers a level of musicianship that may remain hidden if not developed. It is my goal to teach students how to apply and transfer the knowledge they acquire in the music theory/aural skills classroom into their practice, applied lessons, ensemble playing, and all areas of their musical life. Through a “layered” and integrated approach both analytically and aurally, in addition to the typical content knowledge and skill sets acquired, my outcomes are also geared toward the following:

•Functional/Interpretive Listening and Analysis

•Identification of embellishing elements/structure both visually and aurally

•Informed and artistic “Reading” Skills

•“Absolute” pitch students – Directed listening… not completely reliant upon pitch recognition.

•Comprehensive understanding integrating analytical and aural components

Students need to maintain a high level of academic achievement while also acquiring the everyday skills for optimal success in their chosen career path. I aspire to integrate the theoretical, philosophical, creative, and practical elements into one complete package.

As a composer and instructor of applied instrumental lessons, the same is true. Basic skills and technical issues can be reinforced and further developed with exercises, but practical application through the repertoire has a more substantial impact on complete musical growth. Young, inexperienced composers require parameters and guidelines, most importantly with regard to form and harmonic function. The composer’s technique consists of the knowledge and comprehension of melodic and harmonic function, formal structure, and orchestration. Creativity lies in the way in which these skills are applied or manipulated to produce a meaningful musical experience for the performer and/or listener.

I also believe that administrators have numerous daily challenges and we as educators/advisors need to assist with these issues through our organizational and educational efficiency and vision. Ongoing budget constraints, functionality of integrated departments, and the continuous search for the right combination of academic programs and faculty are many of today’s obstacles. These often disguise the underlying challenge of serving each student, faculty, and staff member individually, while maintaining an uncompromising standard of excellence through which music and all the arts convey their meanings to the arts community and society as a whole.

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