Professor, Piano
Steinway Artist

Hello and welcome!

As you can see from my biographical statement below, I have been at JMU for quite a long time. In fact, for me it has been a journey with many unexpected twists and turns from those early days (when JMU was not yet a School of Music) to today. Today in 2020, we are not only a School of Music, but a large program with twice as many students and faculty than when I arrived in the late 1980’s. We have bachelors, masters and doctoral programs, and we live our diverse musical lives amongst an incredibly caring and high-achieving faculty, talented students, and all done with beautiful facilities and equipment.

So, if I have been at JMU exclusively for all these years, why do I say that this has been an “unexpected journey”?

Three reasons come immediately to mind:

  1. JMU has changed – In addition to what I said above, JMU itself has become quite a university itself. Obviously, growth in terms of footprint and students, having almost tripled in both areas since my early days. But more importantly, I believe JMU has made a conscious choice to be a school that is creative and engaged, in other words, alive. You may know that both our president and our provost are either amateur or professional musicians themselves. The difference that that makes is astonishing. Music is not a service unit of the university. It is one of the primary ways that we interact with our local community and with the world. At the same time, the focus of the university and the School of Music has always been on students, and their success both while they are at JMU and preparing them for the new opportunities which are in the world today.
  1. I have changed - I have had more opportunities and different directions in my career than I could ever have imagined when I arrived at JMU. I have found that I have become more and more interested in the music of Beethoven, Liszt and 20th century composers, over the years, and those interests are in part reflected in the bio you see below (If you want to ask me any questions about any aspects of my history, feel free!). But I had no idea that I would love teaching for many years at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in the summers, where I could work with high school students about the interaction of the arts and culture. I had no idea that playing in an orchestra, not as soloist but as a member of the ensemble would be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It has indeed been a journey, replete with changes, challenges and learning opportunities. I share this in part because it is the story of most all musicians. Your career will almost certainly involve sudden change and maximum adaptability. And with this in mind, it is how we all work to prepare you for life after college.
  1. Students change – As a faculty member, the most important part of being at a university is my relationship with our students. The close relationships built over four years of private study are like nothing else you will ever see in college, and it is unique to music study. Many of my own private piano students have become my close friends after graduation, and I continue to follow their careers as graduate students, teachers, performers, music entrepreneurs, or in some other professional capacity outside of music altogether. I appreciate how each of my students came with their own unique set of skills, learned differently, built their confidence in performing or presenting in different ways, and learned to play and love piano repertoire, all in their own individual way and in their time. This experience is what all incoming music students have to look forward to in their college music future.

Thank you for reading! You are always welcome to write, ask questions about what you read, and above all, plan a visit. I can speak for every faculty member in the School of Music with complete confidence that we would love to meet you and find out how you can become a part of what we are doing here at JMU.


Steinway Artist Eric Ruple joined the piano faculty at James Madison University in 1987. He enjoys an active career as a solo and chamber musician, including several performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Steinway Hall in New York, and he is also pianist for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, including principal keyboard role in the ongoing “Harry Potter Live” concerts. He was also featured in Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs” with the VSO Jazz Ensemble. His recording “Musica Incognito” with hornist Ian Zook has earned unanimously positive reviews from several national and international publications. He is an active member of the American Liszt Society and is a regular adjudicator in Hong Kong. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan.

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