Malcolm Rector

Rector Hits High Note with Original Music, Films

Malcolm Rector

When not teaching music theory or directing the jazz ensemble, Dr. Malcolm Rector, University of St. Thomas assistant professor of music, can be found working feverishly on his latest project. Whether it is an art song, a feature length film or music for a ballet, Rector lets his creativity flow into creating award-winning works of art.

Recently, Rector’s art song “Good and Evil” was selected to be performed by music students at the Catholic University of America at the festival “New Voices @ CUA.”

The song was based on Dante’s “Inferno,” the first book in the “Divine Comedy.” Rector wants to set the entire story to music and used the festival as an opportunity to begin to actualize his dream.

In addition to composing art songs, Rector has received many awards for film submissions, including the Final Draft Screenwriters Award for best short script in 2002 for his movie “The Stairwell,” and a Silver Remi from Worldfest – Houston International Festival in 2009 for his music video “X-Man.”  His films have also been shown at the Cannes Independent Film Festival and the London International Film Festival.

Rector has a collection of other recently premiered works. He wrote the score for “Donor Milk,” a documentary that seeks to educate viewers about the importance of breastfeeding and the complications that arise when a mother is unable to do so. Rector also completed the score for his second ballet, “Old Wounds: New Blood,” which premiered at Cullen Hall at the University of Houston in February.

Rector draws inspiration from a variety of sources.

“I’ve always been a visual kid. When I was little everybody had the Superman and Batman comics; I used to cut the characters out and create my own stories,” Rector said. “It was almost like my own storyboard.”

In his college years, Rector studied screenwriting, playwriting and directing extensively. He gained first-hand experience working as a production assistant on the sets of other films. From that vantage point, he was able to study how things were done and apply these same principles to his own work. Along with this first-hand experience, he reads countless books on the art of cinematography and lighting, and he does it all while teaching full time.

Rector, an alumnus, began his college education at Brooklyn College, eventually transferring to the University of St. Thomas, where he completed his degree in music. He went on to earn both his master’s and doctorate degrees from Rice University and has since returned to teach at St. Thomas. He said he enjoyed his small classes during his education here and strives to bring the same feeling of intimacy to students in his class.

“It wasn’t like I grew up wanting to be a teacher,” Rector said. “Every time somebody wanted to know how to do something I would show them how to do it.”

He uses this same approach when teaching his students. He takes the time to make sure that his students understand the material, like his professors did with him, often using sweeping metaphors or references to pop culture to make sure his students understand.

“I am excited to go to a class where I want to know everything that the professor is discussing,” said Ariel Deshotel, one of Rector’s students.

Teaching has been a part of Rector’s life since a young age. As a teenager, he would give free lessons to neighborhood kids, teaching them how to play guitar, piano, clarinet and flute. He never viewed this as a position of authority.

“Teaching is like hanging out with a friend. It’s like, ‘Let’s go over this once more. I want to make sure you get this,’” Rector said.

Learn more about Malcolm Rector’s current projects at

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