In March, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and music associations across the nation celebrate Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM). It is a time to appreciate the importance of music to the formation of young minds and its value in our everyday lives.
Every spring, orchestra teachers anticipate getting next year’s rosters. They give a good indication of the instrumentation they’ll be working with in the coming fall when school begins.
You have decided on the trip, made all the preparations, and your students and parent groups have been hard at work raising the funds to ensure that every student can participate. Now it is time to choose the repertoire that you will be presenting.
Performance planning is rarely the highlight of any music director’s season. Designing your concert may be enjoyable in itself, but the stress that comes with finding the right music, keeping track of what you have and haven’t reviewed, and deciding on the best concert order can begin to weigh on anyone after a while.
Our editors have their work cut out for them when choosing which titles to include in our Editors’ Choice series each year. We did some digging to find out which titles Pepper customers favored this past year and were pleased to see that, for the most part, you liked what we liked. Here is a list of the top 10 picks for both band and choir music, amongst you, our customers!
One of the highlights of the holiday season is enjoying one of the many music programs that add so much to the season. While attending one such holiday concert, I experienced an added touch that really enhanced the evening’s performance.
As audience members arrived, they were greeted by several small student groups playing carols. The groups consisted of various instruments and were placed at different locations, both outside the entrance as well as throughout the foyer. I noted they were spaced far enough apart that they didn’t interfere with each other’s performance — all the while keeping the sounds of the season within earshot of the incoming audience. The effect was that of instrumental carolers, creating a festive atmosphere that greatly enhanced the seasonal atmosphere for the evening’s performance.
The “caroling” groups consisted of middle school musicians that had volunteered to perform. The carols came from several standard holiday collections that can be rehearsed with full band and are easy enough to perform with little rehearsal time. The director divided the band into the small caroling groups for the concert night. The caroling groups were so well received that they took the show on the road, and used the instrumental groups at various functions around town — playing before choir concerts and singers caroling before band concerts.
What a festive addition to holiday celebrations! It not only builds performance opportunities, responsibility and confidence in young musicians, but puts your audience in the mood for a special holiday treat!
I recently enjoyed a Ballston Spa Community Band concert while attending the New York State School Music Conference in Albany, New York. Prior to the concert, I had the opportunity to meet the conductor, Ms. Tracy DeRagon. One of the pieces programmed generated a rather interesting conversation. The name of the ninth piece on the program was ‘Tis a Gift by Anne McGinty. This piece holds special meaning in the hearts of both the composer and to many Pepper employees, so I shared the story with Tracy.
On July 17, 1996, three band students from the Montoursville Area High School (Northern Pennsylvania) tragically lost their lives aboard TWA Flight 800. Following a memorial concert held shortly after the accident, members of the band suggested the idea of a dedicatory work. With this in mind, we were contacted to make this idea a reality. We approached composer Anne McGinty about writing a commissioned work, and she eagerly agreed to write the piece to honor and celebrate the students’ lives. At that point we decided both the composer’s worldwide royalties as well as all proceeds from Pepper’s sale of the piece would be donated to the band’s ‘Tis a Scholarship Fund for Music Education.
Return now to the Ballston Spa band concert in 2010. Before each piece, the conductor shared personal stories and introductions about each piece. When it was time for ‘Tis a Gift, she shared our conversation with the audience.
Attending this concert left me with a very special feeling and I felt truly honored to be part of a special cause that transcends music and still has meaning today.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “Music is the universal language of mankind.” So many music lovers from around the globe have enjoyed listening to albums, cassettes, CDs and digital downloads that many artists travel to foreign lands in order to share music in person with their fans. We’ve seen an explosion in technological innovations on the internet and YouTube that gives people instant access to artists from different backgrounds and cultures.
A great example of the synergy of diverse styles happened right in my back yard, here in America at a concert held at the Mann Music Center for the Performing Arts located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That summer evening concert featured the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a classically trained pianist, both peforming along with the Philadelphia Orchestra. This benefit concert was held to support the Mann Music Center’s Youth Education and Community Outreach Programs.
Both Ms. Franklin and Ms. Rice expressed their musical talents individually during the concert, and much to the audience’s delight, they combined forces as Condoleeza accompanied the Queen of Soul on her version of “I Say A Little Prayer.” Just before the benefit concert came to a close, Aretha Franklin belted out “Freeway of Love,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and believe it or not, Ms. Franklin performed Puccini’s operatic composition “Nessun Dorma,” creating an exciting and magical night for all who attended this wonderful musical event.
Aretha Franklin and Condoleeza Rice have obviously traveled through life on two very different paths, both professionally and musically, only to end up sharing a concert stage on a summer’s night. I remain amazed how music truly does bring people together.
Click here to read more about the concert and the Mann Music Center.
Click here to view music by Aretha Franklin.
Concert etiquette is important as it shows respect for both performers and fellow audience members alike. Musicians that pursue their craft in earnest grow to appreciate the hard work and just plain guts it takes to take the stage and carry out a musical performance. When I taught middle school, we included concert etiquette as part of the general music curriculum and reinforced the concept at concerts. A brief concert etiquette guide was listed on the back of concert programs, stating a few obvious points such as waiting until a piece is concluded if you must leave the room, and refraining from talking while the music is being performed. When the Principal made his opening remarks to begin the concert, he would often draw attention to the guide. This brief mention supported the effort of the musicians on stage, and pointed to the responsibility of the audience to be courteous during the concert. It effectively set the tone in the auditorium (or gym, or cafeteria.)
Here’s a perspective on concert etiquette provided by MENC featuring renowned music advocate and motivational speaker, Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser.
If you have ideas that work for you in promoting concert etiquette, please share them and we’ll post them here.
When we think of classical music we conjure sounds of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Wagner, and Copland, among others. But it’s no secret that with that love of the classics often comes a noticeable hesitation to embrace contemporary classical music, a genre encompassing works composed from the mid-1970s to the present day.
Finding an audience for modern music that is perceived as awkward and unpleasant is not easy. Fortunately there are major orchestras that, through artist residency programs, openly support works from new composers. But should we as listeners take a chance on contemporary classical music? As rhetorical as this question might sound, I believe that I have nothing to lose and attempting to answer it will only help the longevity of classical music as a whole. In other words, why not?
Spaces Between (2006) – Jen Wang
Sonata for Cello and Piano in D major, op. 102 no. 2 – Ludwig van Beethoven
S.T.I.C. (1995) – Dan Becker (b. 1960)
This was a new kind of symphonic experience, an auditory buffet that introduced me to contemporary music paired with pieces that were not so contemporary, without program notes or a pre-concert lecture. Instead, prior to each piece the members of the ensemble would demonstrate each piece’s contrasting styles through the recitation of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was fascinating to realize the vast differences between Beethoven’s counterpoint and Carter’s complexity, explained through a well-known folk tune.
This process gave the audience a chance to learn about each piece and the composer’s creative approach that created it. It enabled us to personalize the music as it was played, therefore making it more difficult to dismiss it as inaccessible. Kathyrn Bates Williams, founding member and cellist, states in her blog, “Listening to all music is important. It distinguishes the artistic values that we appreciate and those we don’t. It brings us surprises both good and bad.” I can’t help but agree with her. It’s a risk, a small risk that we take in seeing contemporary concerts, equivalent to trying a new restaurant.
After the concert we filed into the lobby where the composers Jen Wang and Dan Becker mingled with the audience. Suddenly it dawned on me how important it was for these two artists that there even was an audience, that it possibly didn’t matter whether or not I actually liked their music.
This is an extremely liberating concept for me as a listener and performer. The New Spectrum Ensemble strives to promote contemporary composers, and to accomplish that it took me on a strange journey made available through their unique, tongue-in-cheek programming. My journey might result in me not liking everything that I hear and that’s ok. In the end all that matters is that I showed up and listened.
Meet the members of the New Spectrum Ensemble here: www.thenewspectrum.com. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about contemporary classical music or just looking for an informative website from one of today’s most entertaining musical thinkers, please check out Alex Ross, music writer for The New Yorker. His website and blog are located at www.therestisnoise.com