Formally Black Swan Music, Soundown, Inc. was founded and incorporated in 1991. It is a music publishing, musician referral and consulting firm. It is managed in partnership by Ramon and Judith Ricker. The company publishes Dr. Ricker’s award winning entrepreneurial book, Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools, now in its second edition. It also produces a wide range of Ramon Ricker’s jazz and saxophone pedagogy books, musical arrangements and original compositions. In addition, it refers musicians for radio and television commercials, recordings, live concerts and traveling Broadway shows. In 2009, Soundown, Inc. expanded to include a strategic brand consulting practice, specializing in research-based corporate and arts branding, marketing and fund-raising strategies.
Ramon Ricker, President
Ramon Ricker is Professor Emeritus of Saxophone and retired Senior Associate Dean for Professional Studies at the Eastman School of Music. In 2001 when the Institute for Music was founded, Dean James Undercofler named Dr. Ricker to lead it. He served in that capacity until his retirement from Eastman in 2015. As a senior administrator at Eastman, Dr. Ricker was instrumental in shaping the School’s innovative Institute for Music Leadership, with its Arts Leadership curriculum that offers courses in entrepreneurship, careers, leadership, performance, contemporary orchestral issues and musician’s injury prevention and rehabilitation; its Center for Music Innovation and Engagement that helps student’s inventions and ideas become realities; the Office of Careers and Professional Development; the Orchestra Musician Forum with its website, Polyphonic.org; and the Paul R. Judy Center for Innovation and Research.
He joined the Eastman faculty in 1971 in a part-time position and became full-time in 1973, the same year he received his Eastman Doctor of Musical Arts degree. His association with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) began first as a clarinet soloist in 1972, and in 1973 he won a position in the RPO as a member of the clarinet section. He continues to play in the orchestra today. In 2013, his Institute for Music Leadership team was awarded the Meliora Award, a University of Rochester award recognizing staff members whose work performance and dedication during the preceding few years exemplify the University’s motto, Meliora (ever better). In that same year he was the first Eastman faculty member to be awarded the Dean’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary leadership, dedication, service and philanthropy to the Eastman School.
Dr. Ricker began his musical studies on the clarinet. At age sixteen, while continuing to study the clarinet, his interest in jazz led him to begin saxophone lessons. Throughout his career he has enjoyed performing a wide variety of music on both clarinet and saxophone that has included classical and jazz. This is reflected in the careers of his students who have taken diverse paths. Some are successful public school music teachers, while others comprise a diverse Who’s Who in the professional saxophone world that includes positions in Broadway pit orchestras and military bands, as well as traveling road bands, small jazz groups, and pop and contemporary ensembles. His student jazz group, Saxology, won DB Awards from Downbeat Magazine every time it entered—best collegiate small group three times and outstanding performance twice. Of the 170 or so saxophone students in Ray’s studio during his tenure, fifty-two currently hold college saxophone teaching positions.
His books on jazz improvisation and saxophone technique, as well as many of his compositions, are viewed as standards in the field, with more than 145,000 copies sold worldwide with translations into French and Japanese. As a professional musician he has performed and contracted hundreds of television commercials and program themes including national accounts for NBC, ABC, Cinemax, HBO, and Arts and Entertainment. As a composer and arranger, he has been honored by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Creative Artist Public Service, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP. His arrangements have been commissioned by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the American, Atlanta, Cincinnati and North Carolina symphonies, and his works are published by Schott Music (Germany), Alphonse Leduc (Paris), Alfred Music (USA) and Jamey Aebersold (USA).
His latest book, Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor; What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools (2011, Soundown, Inc.) has become a must read for music students and was honored as a Finalist in the Business: Entrepreneurship and Small Business category of The USA “Best Books 2011 Awards”, sponsored by USA Book News. A second edition was released in 2018. For more information please visit www.rayricker.com. Ray and his wife, Judith, share their home in Fairport, New York with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
Judith Ricker, Vice President and Treasurer
Judith Ricker has spent her career straddling Rochester’s arts and business worlds. Beginning in the fall of 2018 she began teaching “Marketing for Musical Enterprises” in the Eastman School of Music’s newest graduate degree program, Master’s in Music Leadership. She is also teaching oboe at Nazareth College and playing with the Wilmont Woodwind Quintet during the 2018-2019 school year.
In 2013 Judy retired from Market Probe, an international Market Research firm, to pursue independent consulting opportunities. She joined Market Probe as Executive Vice President of Brand Research in early 2011. While there, she developed an approach to measuring Brand Passion, and was honored with the 2012 “Creative Mind Silver Innovation” award from the Advertising Research Foundation for that work.
Prior to joining Market Probe, she spent 12 years at Harris Interactive. As Division President of Harris Interactive’s Brand and Communications Consulting, Judy was responsible for developing state-of-the-art methods for researching brand and advertising effectiveness. She has been a frequent speaker at national industry conferences, and a guest lecturer at venues in Europe, Asia and South Africa. Her industry expertise spans financial and business services, consumer package goods, energy, health care, automotive, retail, travel and hospitality, technology and not-for-profit organizations, and her clients have included many of the Fortune 100. During her years at Harris Interactive her team won several Ogilvy Awards for advertising effectiveness.
Joining Harris Interactive in 1998 from the Eastman Kodak Company, Judy brought with her a wide range of qualitative and quantitative research experience, with particular expertise in brand, product positioning and communications research. Her work with the Kodak brand earned the company an Effie Award in 1997. During the period between engagements with Harris Interactive and Market Probe, she served as an independent consultant to Geva Theatre Center, using marketing tools to increase individual giving to the company.
Judy began her career as a professional musician, spending 15 years in the oboe section of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and as a teacher at Hochstein School of Music and Dance. She remains an active musician, performing with Antara Winds, a professional woodwind quintet that released a CD of works commissioned for the group. She also performs regularly with local organizations, including the Rochester Oratorio Society, the Rochester Broadway Theater League. Judy has served on the Hochstein Board over many years and is the current Board Chair. She has also worked with other not-for-profit organizations on their strategic planning initiatives.
Judy holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, as well as a Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, and an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the William E. Simon School of Business Administration of the University of Rochester. During her final year at the Simon School she was awarded the honor of being select as the School’s, as well as the University of Rochester’s Outstanding Adult Student.”
She is married to Ramon Ricker, an Eastman School of Music Emeritus Professor of Saxophone and Senior Associate Dean for Professional Studies (retired).