Erik Rapprich ’05 helps Smithsonian, BuzzFeed with skills honed through music study

Erik Rapprich ’05
Erik Rapprich ’05

When the Pew Charitable Trusts wanted voters to be better informed about elections, they turned to Engage.

When the Smithsonian’s National Zoo needed a microsite celebrating its 125th anniversary and showcasing the return of the American bison, Engage was up to the task.

And BuzzFeed? When they wanted to map the likely political dynamics of a wide variety of Facebook communities, they contacted Engage.

Erik Rapprich ’05, chief operating officer and managing partner of the Washington, D.C.-based creative communications firm, is in charge of making it all happen.

He oversees the staff and projects – and loves the people, the challenges and the impact their work has.

Rapprich double-majored in government and music. His path to Engage was anything but cookie-cutter; Rapprich has been playing classical piano since he was three and music influences everything in his life.

When he started college, Rapprich understood that music contributes to the way he sees and thinks. The music program at Connecticut College helped him nurture that artistic perspective.

The program also prepared him for life in ways that Rapprich hadn’t realized it would. The performances, for example, taught him discipline and how to work under pressure. 

And the curriculum required Rapprich to broaden his understanding of music. He was both anxious and skeptical about expanding beyond classical. But, as he delved into different types of music and learned how they evolved and what they expressed, he developed an appreciation for a range of sounds – including contemporary music.

“Music opens your mind,” Rapprich said. “Learning to be open is something that’s helpful in every part of your life, including a business setting.”

After graduating, Rapprich tried law school for a year and realized it wasn’t for him. Connections he made with students at other Connecticut colleges as an undergrad (he was state chair of the College Republicans and also interned with the U.S. House of Representatives) soon led to a collaboration. He moved to Washington in 2006 and started a firm that worked to bridge the gap between politics and technology. Additionally, he worked as a freelance programmer, designer and project manager.

He also co-founded Citizinvestor (, the largest crowdfunding platform for public projects in the U.S. Some 65 percent of its offerings have been successfully funded, compared to about 40 percent for Kickstarter.

Rapprich joined Engage ( in 2010 to build and lead its creative and production teams. Earlier this year — in addition to becoming a father — he was made a partner in the firm and was promoted to chief operating officer.

When he’s hiring, Rapprich says he looks for self-starters who are willing to take risks, are able to think outside the box and have demonstrated initiative. “What have you done? What have you started?” he asks.

Those are skills that Rapprich says he learned at Connecticut College. He said he also learned that he needs to be who he is while respecting others for who they are. He gained the courage to question his assumptions and the confidence to act on his convictions.

“There’s an intangible quality at Conn that sparks your passion. It teaches you to think and do something,” he said. “You come to realize that you’re not just getting a job after college, you’re becoming a citizen in the greater community — locally and globally.”

January 15, 2015