Project Rationale:From our combined experience of over 14 years in performing and teaching, we have seen that passion for music is contagious. If we can show passion for a subject and that we have taken the time to study and are knowledgeable about it, students have a tendency to catch our excitement about that topic, thus enabling us to expose them to music that they would have never otherwise explored. In our college training, much of our education was in the later styles, music from the 1700s and forward. However, all band and choral literature has its roots in the music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods, termed “early music” (~800-1750AD), which is the focus of our travels this summer. At the elementary levels, students are usually taught about the major composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Each of these composers draws on previously written music, but the music of that time period is not emphasized in beginning music education. As high school and middle school teachers, we have the opportunity to expand that education by exposing students to early music. In order to do this, and to communicate the music effectively to an audience, we have to perform the music with the original style and techniques for which it was written.
As a team, we are interested in attending concerts and events that will expose us to high quality performances by some of the best early music performers in the world. This will enable us to learn the correct sound and style of such music and to serve as a guide to develop a correct sound for our own groups as they perform early music. By attending these concerts and events, we will explore and answer the following questions: How does music from over 500 years ago relate to our students today? What are the similarities between early musical instruments and early choral techniques and those that we use in our classrooms? How can we as 21st century performers, choose, teach and perform music from this time period, executing it in a style that is consistent with the way the music was performed in that time period?
Few experiences open minds and educate the way travel does. It is very easy as a classroom music teacher to get “stuck” in our own school, caught up in our own program, and bogged down with dates, events, and performances. Regional music conferences and events sometimes remind us that we live in a bigger world, but larger scale travel is a fantastic opportunity to experience music in a cultural context. Most of the regional events offered for music teachers are concerned with the way in which instruments and music are taught, with very few major performances by top rated professional ensembles. Watching a world-class group perform in a certain style or with certain techniques is one of the best ways to learn that style or technique. It is experiential learning at its best.
By gaining a better understanding of how the “best of the best” perform and interpret early music literature, we can be more knowledgeable about how to teach it to our own groups. As we stated before, if a teacher is passionate about a subject and deliberately knowledgeable about it, that passion is contagious. We can be more effective in channeling that passion into making music by knowing what a group playing or singing in that particular style should sound like. It is one thing to read about Renaissance music performance techniques in a textbook, but to hear a world-renowned group like The Sixteen (who have been singing together since we were born and have produced more than 75 authoritative recordings) perform live is a tangible experience that cannot be replicated in text.
We hope you will enjoy our posts as we learn from the best how to correctly interpret and perform early music!