I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Ted Hansen. During my tenure as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University-Commerce, I took every class he taught (something I probably can't say about any other professor in my training). As I reflect on those courses, I am struck by the way in which every class was so uniquely organized and tailored to the students and to the topic at hand. No two were alike.

Dr. Hansen instructed us in music theory, including his incredibly challenging all-atonal ear training course, as well as graduate music analysis, where I was exposed to the complete spectrum of riches of 20th century musical syntax for the very first time. 

I learned to compose counterpoint and thanks to his humane grading policies, we were able to keep iterating on assignments until we could write like Palestrina. I am so grateful to have received this training in the old style and it continues to have a profound affect on how I listen to and study music of all eras.

In addition to his composition and teaching, Dr. Hansen was a consummate jazz pianist, having—by his telling—approximately 1,500 standards from the American Songbook committed to memory. On the first day of his Formal Analysis class, as he often did, he began to play jazz standard at the piano as students were walking in. It was always a balm in the midst of the never-ending grind of student life as a musician. After he finished, he introduced himself and the course. He then offered an A in the course to anyone who could name the song and its composer. I can’t claim even familiarity with but a fraction of the titles Dr. Hansen could play by heart, but on that day he chose “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green, a song I knew well, thanks to my days as a vibraphone player in my High School Jazz Band. To his astonishment, I ventured to blurt out, “Body and Soul.” However, I choked when he pressed me to name Mr. Green. That mistake cost me many late hours of additional study that semester!

In all seriousness, it was that class that exposed me to the wide, and wild, world of Beethoven, far beyond what a basic harmony classes offer, and the music of Prokofiev and Ravel. I will never forget checking out LP’s in the music library (LONG before it was once again cool to do so) and pulling out these remarkable scores.

I first heard the astonishing Ravel quartet in Ted Hansen’s Formal Analysis class.

His orchestration class kicked my butt! His exacting standards for the projects left me working at all hours trying to puzzle through what was required. I'm grateful that I was challenged to get to know the orchestra at such an intimate level at such an early point in my studies. I also took composition lessons from him.

Perhaps best of all was his capstone course on Music, Architecture, and Philosophy, where we made "big idea" connections across disciplines and time periods that continue to inspire me to this day.

He was a brilliant composer, and a passionate and dedicated teacher of music. He was hilarious and incredibly energetic for a person his age. That passion elicited a deep loyalty from his students. His office door, like his little bag of baby carrots, was always open. 

As much as any conductor or percussion teacher, Dr. Hansen shaped me as a young musician and I am forever grateful for his excellent training.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Hansen.


Jordan Randall Smith is the Music Director of Symphony Number One.