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Love of teaching philosophy, working in classical radio come together for PCC instructor
Photos and Story by James Hill
Brandi Parisi’s expertise in the intersection of philosophy and classical music is famous.
The PCC philosophy instructor was a featured guest on NPR’s “Philosophy Talk” this past fall discussing the intersection of classical music and philosophy. The national talk show, based out of KQED in San Francisco, used Parisi’s expertise in the two fields to discuss the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s violin performance by Anne Akiko Meyers of Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade,” which is based on Plato’s “Symposium.”
“The ‘Symposium’ is this work by Plato in which seven different philosophers explore the nature of love,” Parisi said. “Bernstein wrote this piece in five movements, but he gives voice to each of the philosophers. I couldn’t have written my résumé better for this thing. Philosophy and classical music all coming together in this one place? It was cool.”
Parisi is no stranger to radio, a field she’s been working in since she was 17. She is an on-air host and produces a program called “Played in Oregon,” which features classical music performances from around the state and is heard Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. on 89.9 FM. Before moving to Portland with her husband in 2007, Parisi had been a host for a classical radio station in Los Angeles before it changed format and laid off its staff.
“I was approached by the classical station here and one thing led to another and we moved up to Oregon,” Parisi said. “Today, I work full time in radio and teach two to three courses a quarter at PCC.
“When we moved to Portland I really didn’t have any intention necessarily of teaching, but one thing led to another, and I picked up one class at the college and just loved it,” she continued. “I absolutely adore teaching and talking about Plato, Buddha; that’s where the really fun stuff is. I love getting into the nitty-gritty of philosophy and seeing it just change lives. That’s the really cool stuff.”
Parisi joined PCC in 2008 and teaches a full ledger of courses, from “Asian Philosophy,” “Ethics,” “Environmental Ethics,” “Philosophy of Art and Beauty” to “Critical Thinking.” Based at the Rock Creek Campus, she teaches all over the college, including Sylvania and Cascade. Her passion for teaching what she loves has impressed her fellow faculty.
“Brandi’s insight and ability to make philosophy relevant both inside and outside of the classroom epitomizes what we strive to inspire for our students here at PCC,” said fellow philosophy instructor Matt Stockton. “Philosophy is at its best when its practice is applied within the community and Brandi does this as well as anyone. We’re incredibly fortunate and grateful for all of her contributions to our students, the Philosophy Department, and the college.”
Parisi credits students for making her time at PCC a joyous one. Her classes provide her with a diversity of students that make her courses fascinating and rewarding for her. She said she could have students who are in high school, just graduated or those that are in their 50s and 60s.“I love the diversity of my students,” she said. “The class sizes elsewhere can be twice as big and the support may not be there. Even as an adjunct faculty I have friends who teach all around the country who work as adjuncts and they don’t have near the kind of support, and the kind of students, that I have here.”
Parisi’s favorite part about working at the college is having students get what she is teaching. There’s an impression by her students who first take her ethics class is that she’s going to lecture on rules and get finger-wagging. But they are pleasantly surprised to find the depth of the curriculum once they get into the coursework.
“It really is about trying to live a life with purpose,” Parisi said. “These classes give students the opportunity to really flesh out what is going to give you a life of meaning so that at the end of this life you hopefully get the opportunity to reflect on what you’ve done. If you have a deathbed and can look back and say that you lived a life with integrity and a life that you can be proud of then that’s really cool. In my ethics class, that happens every quarter. The ‘aha’ moment is ongoing and that’s why I teach.”