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Performance class proposal


The object of this class is to give students the opportunity to study, in one course, composition, arranging, publication, history and performance, using rare orchestrations of the 1890-1920 period in American music. This rich history produced some of the finest classical and light classical music, but it also initiated a massive revolution in popular culture and created many of the greatest names in American musical history. Students learn this history and the techniques of composition through study and performance of the music itself on their own instruments (including voice). Additional written materials, recordings and interesting artifacts from the period enhance the study, resulting in not only a musical but a cultural history.

The class activity typically includes:

  • sight-reading and rehearsal of archival published orchestrations and contemporary music written in the older styles
  • analysis of orchestrations, and comparison with derived piano, vocal or larger works, when applicable
  • study of the recordings, and readings in the extant texts, criticism and commentary
  • individual projects as determined by the interest of the student
  • instruction in the techniques of historical research
  • possibility of hearing some of the world’s top performers who occasionally visit and perform in San Francisco, and who are happy to donate their time for a class performance

Additional class activity includes the planning and performance in concert of a representative selection of music.

This period in music is known to be under-represented in the curricula of most colleges, even though the era defines the cultural revolution in America. In this one short time frame were the beginnings of what we now call the ragtime era, the blues, the jazz era, the swing era, ‘popular’ music, vaudeville, Broadway musicals, the piano roll and other automated music, the music publishing business, the recording industry, the broadcast industry, the film industry, music trade journals, the concept of musical ‘stars’, and the most complex live-music industry ever known!

The music studied in the course includes foreign compositions and editions from approximately 25 countries, relevant published music such as national and patriotic music, national anthems, etc. All of the materials contribute to an understanding of the sources of musical inspiration, the development of style and principles and techniques that were invented then and are still in use.

All of the music and other materials are mine. None of the original orchestrations are commercially available. Distribution and duplication for class use is fully covered under the public domain and fair use rules of copyright. Due to the natural flexibility inherent in the orchestrations, the class can be successfully conducted with a variety of instrumentation among the students. A minimum of 10-15 (and a maximum of about 20) students of orchestral instruments, piano and voice would be suitable.

To further recommend this course, it should be noted that I have taught various versions of classes like this, and invariably the students find the material to be fun, enlightening and musically satisfying. It certainly is a welcome alternative to typical studies of jazz and popular music, and it provides an ideal enhancement to the rest of the curricula.

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