“My whole focus is to get students to the point where they don’t need me,” says Marcus Thompson, adding that his goal as a teacher is to empower young people with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to perform music on their own.

Thompson, who plays viola and is professor of music, earned a doctorate from The Juilliard School and has performed for audiences around the world. At MIT, he was solely responsible for developing the performance arm of the music curriculum. He initiated the Chamber Music Society; now there are 20 chamber music groups each term. He also initiated the private study program, which allows 50 students to study privately with master teachers at MIT and across Boston. And it was through Thompson’s persistence that MIT’s new music practice rooms became reality.

Students say his classes are a gift. His great strength is that he allows each student to move at his own pace.

Not only is there rhythm in music, Thompson says, but finding the right rhythm applies to teaching too. “The most important lesson I’ve learned as a professor is not to force anything, but to allow things to happen at their own rate. It’s important to let an individual find his own pace.”

Students say he is fair, honest, and direct. They know where they stand with him, and they like that. Perhaps his most powerful impact, they say, is that he not only teaches the subject but sets an example in speech, conduct, and commitment.

“Perhaps it’s the passion with which I say something, or the enjoyment I show for a piece. Students think, if it’s that exciting, maybe they should pay closer attention. Sometimes,” he says, “the things you’re not consciously transmitting speak the loudest.”