This section will be my opportunity to share my teaching experience and share my favorite topics.
I was hired originally to conduct my school’s band. I was met immediately with a challenge: from the roster I had from the previous year, only thirteen (13!) musicians showed up to my first rehearsal, most were community adults, and four (4!) of them were percussionists (all students). Two years later, according to the earliest band roster I could find, I had 33 musicians.
So, my first challenge was one of recruiting. In my composition/music theory major courses for either my BFA or MM, I had no course or even any comments about real world challenges such as recruiting. Luckily, I am an easy-going (to a fault) person and I like social situations, so I was able to visit schools and talk about the band. My conducting classes, analysis classes, music history classes, etc., were all important, but I realized my preparation was incomplete.
The second year of my teaching, I was given a lecture course: Fundamentals of Music. I was a little disappointed, but I realized that at least this was a paying gig.
The first 8 weeks of the course were not quite stellar. I was trying to be very careful and I followed a textbook to make certain I didn’t miss anything. By midterm, a group of three non-traditional aged (not the typical just-out-of-high-school) students came to me and said, “This is boring.” To be honest, before they came to me, I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t connecting with the class as I knew I could. My reply to them was, “I know.” I decided to ditch the text (I knew the stuff deeply anyway) and chart a new course. The result was a course so successful that when one of the school’s building projects was in the planning stage, I was told that the music department was going to expand, along with a larger classroom and new keyboards for the piano lab (where I taught Fundamentals).
Not too long after I started teaching Fundamentals of Music, I was asked to teach a second section of Music Appreciation (where we talk about Mozart and Beethoven, etc.) and Jazz Appreciation.
I have a confession to make. When I was asked to teach a college freshman-level Jazz Appreciation, I first said “no”. I really didn’t want to, so I asked why they thought I was qualified. Their response was, “well, you play the saxophone.” I emphasized that my saxophone study was in the classical repertoire, which confused them, but, before they rescinded their offer, I accepted. Hey, it’s a paying gig.
I want to say this about my teaching that first Music Appreciation section: I stunk. It’s not that I don’t know the subject matter, it’s that I wasn’t given a lot of time to prepare for it. Nevertheless, I wanted so badly to teach it well and impart my vast knowledge about the music I love that I spent too much time on boring music (to non-musicians) and not enough time on Beethoven.
Having learned from my mistakes (actually, I hadn’t learned as much as I would have liked), I spent less time pre-Mozart, but still too much time in the Mediaeval and Renaissance styles. Although I had a calendar, when I was in the teaching zone, I often got carried away. The result was that by the end of the first semester, I was only beginning to talk about Bach. At that pace, I don’t think I would have been able to give Richard Wagner and the Ring Cycle the time it deserved and, before you say, “just skip it”, it deserved a lot of time. I taught this course for a few years and, by the time it was canceled, I hadn’t fine-tuned it the way I would have liked.
This blog is my way of trying to rectify this. My goal is to share what I know about music: it’s history and music theory. I won’t be able to upload my entire musical brain, which is probably a good idea, but I will share what I believe is important. NOTE: This blog is mostly subjective, but I will have a good amount of facts that all, or nearly all, musical scholars agree on. If anyone finds something in this blog that is inaccurate, I welcome debate and I will correct myself. Please note that I can be persuaded on some things, but on others, I will stand my ground.
I hope you have as much fun reading my entries as I’ve had in creating them. Some of these entries are coming right from my lecture notes. My students seemed to enjoy those.