These past two weeks I had the opportunity to be Professor of Clarinet at the Hartwick Summer Music Festival. A festival for high school students, the camp is a two week program of performances, methods classes, and masterclasses along with the normal fun-times of camp life like frisbee, baseball games, and hiking.
Pictured is Viola Yip's graphic score that I presented in a masterclass on reading graphic notation. Rather than jump into the abstract, I had the campers analyze the graphics of traditional notation in order to connect sheet music to the graphic world of rules and interpretation. Why do we not consider traditional notation a graphic score? With this opening question, the goal was to connect the thought and activity of reading graphic abstract scores into reading traditional notation - an effort against being a passive musician, merely sitting back and not interacting with the music.
From there, the discussion was great and the students had many awesome questions about what they were seeing in the scores and what they we listened to - including Projections II by Morton Feldman. I then had them all perform Viola's piece in groups, yielding many different interpretations and great listening experiences. The creativity in these performers, as I find with many high school students, is phenomenal because they are so open to different ways of thinking.
After the class, I am even more motivated to create an educational outreach program about graphic scores for various grade levels - to both understand the mechanics of musical notation but also rekindle creative forces in students who may be stifled by the rigid structure of traditional musical practice. Classical music is very open to graphic decoding, just as Brian Ferneyhough gives us complex problems to read, and John Cage gives us the openness through almost formal contracts. I'll be developing this over the next couple of weeks to go in tandem with a graphic score concert with Wooden Cities, where we will perform old and new works of non-traditional notation, including Viola's piece and many others. I'll end with a question, however, to get feedback about what would be interesting to see in such an outreach.
What would you do for an educational outreach on graphic scores? What would you like to see young musicians learning about this kind of music?
Welcome to my blog, where I will be posting updates about my amazing colleagues in music and musicology, my own thoughts about performances I've seen, and general philosophical discussion about the arts and music.
It is appropriate to start this now, here, as I get ready to teach at the Hartwick Summer Music Festival. Two weeks of great teaching, musicianship, and working with an amazing faculty can really help you focus your energies.
Plus, I just finished participating in the fresh inc. festival; an amazing two weeks where I experienced life as a 'camper' rather than teacher while surrounded by copious amounts of talent, chamber music, and contemporary music premieres galore!
I also just finished teaching the online version of my "Glee and TV Musicals" course (currently piled under the final papers as I type this). It went well and I'm always excited to hear that my students had no idea what they were in for when they signed up for a class about Glee. Who knew Nietzsche could be so relevant?
It's crazy that within a month I am professor of musicology, professor of clarinet, and clarinet student. And it is important that I keep all of these roles up. Music, especially, is a constant learning curve - new things are constantly being written - each performance could be the tiniest bit more nuanced. It also keeps my teaching in check - where to push and where to pull when it comes to students. I don't think one can be a good teacher without knowing how to be a good student, since we teach ourselves the best.
It's times like these where the many strands of my education and career weave together in new and exciting ways, where even I am not quite sure what will come of it. In the next two weeks, I get to help high school students learn and grow, and I'll be ever more energized from it.