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Douglas Ashley

Douglas Ashley
Professor Douglas Ashley

World Renowned Pianist Strikes a Balance at the College of Charleston
By Anne Craddock

Raised in Kansas City, Mo., Douglas Ashley, Ph.D, began playing the piano at age seven. As a child, Ashley was encouraged to take up piano by both his grandmother, who was a concert singer, and the other children in his neighborhood. His neighbors and grandmother played a large part in Ashley's early motivation.

Ashley attended Northwestern University for both his undergraduate degree and his doctorate. He was also granted a scholarship from the Austrian government to attend the Conservatory of Vienna. After applying to many colleges for a teaching position, Ashley felt that the College of Charleston was perfect for him because, "I would have been happy going here as a student and that's what teaching here means."


Rather than trying to make his students professional musicians, Ashley simply wants them to appreciate music and notice that "some of the great moments of Western Civilization" have related to music. Ashley believes that music is essential to a liberal arts school such as the College of Charleston and encourages all students to pay attention to music as they hear it in their everyday lives.

While teaching and preparing for his classes take much of his time, Ashley remains a disciplined performer, making time each and everyday to practice.

Throughout his distinguished career, Ashley has played in more than a dozen European countries. On different occasions the American embassies in foreign nations have honored him with receptions. His talent has been appreciated worldwide. Reviewers in Italy and Austria have, respectively, written about Ashley in these ways: "Douglas Ashley, an American poet-musician, gifted with a fervid sensitivity." and "...smooth, fluent technique. In the romantic program pieces, he succeeded in displaying a wide variety of tonal coloring."

Ashley travels to Austria at least three times a year to perform and serve as a judge in the International Brahms Competition.

In addition to his musical talent, Ashley speaks five languages: English, French, Italian, German and some Czech. He says this makes traveling to other countries to practice and perform easier.

Ashley studied in London with Maria Curcio who in in turn provided inspiration for his book, "Music Beyond Sound: Maria Curcio, A Teacher of Great Pianists." After writing this book he later helped Curcio in Spain. He also spent a number of summers in Italy and played with the Rome Festival Orchestra as an Artist-in-Residence.

Ashley has also found time to perform all over America. The Tallahassee Democrat stated, "Ashley's playing was always tasteful and musical, without extravagances, and without the personal idiosyncrasies which so often distract." Ashley has played at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Spoleto Festival in Charleston and many other respected venues.

Many of Ashley's students find that his upbeat attitude in the classroom inspires them in ways they never expected. His talent and love for music are obvious as he shares with others his knowledge. "Dr. Ashley's worldly experience and unwavering ambition has driven him to reach heights that surpass many of the finest professors at the college," said Patrick McWilliams, one of his students.

Ashley teaches many different music classes at the college but his specialty is Music in 19 th century Nationalism. Ashley also gives his time to the Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity on campus where he serves as their faculty advisor.