School is back underway here on the campus of Indiana University, so this week the Ether Game Brain Trust is giving new meaning to the phrase “taking notes” and playing some pedagocial music in a show dedicated to music educators. We’re calling it “Purely Academic.” Browse below for nine music educators who made big contrabutions to classical music.
Carl Orff (1895-1982) Carmina Burana: Fortuna imperatrix mundi Despite being originally written for the stage, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” has become one of the most celebrated pieces of twentieth-century concert music. Its famous “O Fortuna” opening has been featured in movies, commercials, sporting events, you name it. The “Carmina Burana” itself is a collection of profane poetry written by 11th- and 12th-century itinerant monks. The manuscript ended up at a benedictine monastery in Bavaria, which gave rise to its name: “Carmina Burana” means “Songs of Beuren,” the old form of the word Bayern, the German word for Bavaria. While Orff had only this one hit in the world of music composition, he was much more successful in the field of music education. His “Orff Schulwerk” or “Orff Approach” to music pedagogy teaches musical skills and creativity through improvisation, and has been used all over the world.
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) St. Paul's Suite, Op. 29, No. 2 Holst’s tuneful St. Paul Suite is a popular piece of music, especially with school ensembles. This makes sense since Holst wrote it for the orchestra of the St. Paul Girl’s School in Hammersmith, England. Holst was the music director for the St. Paul Girls School from 1904 until his death in 1934. At the same time, he was working at the James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, succeeding Ralph Vaughan Williams in the post. He was a much-beloved teacher at both institutions, and also visited the United States several times as a guest lecturer. Most of his compositions during this period were written in the soundproof music room at St. Paul Girl’s School. The St. Paul Suite was originally written for the school’s all-girl string orchestra, but Holst later added wind parts so it could be played by full orchestra. He also used parts of the St. Paul Suite in his popular suites for military band.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) Violin Concerto in E, RV 271 'L'Amoroso' Antonio Vivaldi’s first official teaching post was at the Pio Ospedale Della Pietà in Venice. This was one of four institutions in Venice dedicated to the care of orphaned or abandoned children. In one respect, the institution was a kind of hybrid between a music conservatory and an orphanage. Orphaned boys learned a craft or trade and left the Pieta for apprenticeships when they came of age, while girls were given intense musical instruction. Of particular interest was the Pietà’s orchestra, consisting of girls who had become virtuoso performers under Vivaldi's teaching. Vivaldi had to be elected to his post every year by the board of governors, and proceeded to have an “on and off” relationship with his employer. He held his post from September 1703 to February 1709, when the majority voted against retaining him. In September 1711 he was re-elected to his old post, which he retained until March 1716.
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) PLÖNER MUSIKTAG: Morgenmusik Urged by friends to leave Europe at the start of World War II, Paul Hindemith reluctantly set out for the United States, intending to stay only a short time. Around the same time, he turned his attention to becoming an educator, and he received invitations to teach from such prestigious schools as Cornell University and the State University of New York. Finally, he was invited to give a series of lectures at Yale, where he was offered a visiting professorship, a post he gladly accepted. The university wanted him to help with their continuing reform of musical studies, and allowed him a great deal of freedom to design his own curriculum. He began writing several textbooks, only one of which was completed. His composition classes were thought to be the best in the country at the time, although he refused to acknowledge that any of his students had talent, with the exception of composer Lukas Foss.
Carl Czerny (1791-1857) Variations Brilliantes Op. 14 Carl Czerny began to perform at an early age and was composing by the age of seven. Eventually his father would bring young Carl to the great Beethoven for lessons, and though Carl was Beethoven’s star pupil for only a few years, the two remained close, and Beethoven often sent Czerny his works to proofread. By age 15, Czerny also became a teacher, incorporating influences from both Beethoven and Clementi into his pedagogy. His most famous pupil was Franz Liszt, whom he believed had started his performing career too early and didn’t have enough training in composition. Czerny’s output is massive, due mainly to his immense series of exercise books. The two most notable still used today are The School of Velocity, and The Art of Finger Dexterity.
Howard Hanson (1896-1981) Serenade, Op. 35 Howard Hanson received his first musical training at Luther College in his hometown of Wahoo, Nebraska. After further studies at Northwestern, he held a number of teaching posts until 1921. That year he won the Rome Prize, and spent three years in Italy studying with Ottorino Respighi and others. Upon his return to the United States, Hanson was named director of the Eastman School of Music, a post he held for the next 40 years. He transformed Eastman into one of the foremost music schools in the country. His influence helped to establish the doctoral degree in music composition. He also wrote important music textbooks and was involved in numerous national musical education organizations.
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) Piece for Cello and Piano in c sharp The claim could easily be made that Nadia Boulanger is the most important composition teacher from the 20th century. Many of the most notable 20th century composers studied with her, including Aaron Copland, Virgil Thompson, Philip Glass, Roy Harris, Astor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter, Michel Legrand, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, David Diamond, Daniel Barenboim, Emile Naoumoff (the IU professor and pianist in this recording) and a host of others. She was a gifted composer herself, who placed second for the Prix de Rome, a prize her father won in 1835. In 1913, Nadia’s sister, Lili, became the first woman and youngest person to ever with the Prix de Rome. Sadly, Lili’s life was cut short in 1918. Lili’s death marked the virtual end of Nadia’s career in composition, as she felt herself to be an inferior composer. Nevertheless, Nadia prevailed in the world of composition as one of the foremost teachers of it.
Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) Budavari Te Deum [Te Deum of Buda Castle] Zoltán Kodály is known by educators for creating a system of musical instruction commonly called the “Kodály Method.” Believing that direct experience through voice and body was essential for learning music, Kodály created a system of hand signs, rhythmic syllables, and a form of musical shorthand known as stick notation. He also emphasized choral music, and created a large body of two and three-part sightsinging exercises. Kodály’s educational method actually grew out of his interest in folksong. From 1905 to 1925 he collected and published a vast amount of Hungarian folk songs. Although Kodály’s ultimate goal was to train students in classical methods, he stated in 1967 that the classics “are much nearer to the folksong than is generally recognized, for direct expression and clear form are common in all folksongs”
Robert Earl Bell (b. 1950) Fresh Featuring brothers Robert and Ronald Bell from Youngstown, Ohio, the group Kool & The Gang burst on the scene with their self-titled debut album. Although none of the singles from their first album went very far on the charts, the initial success of the group led them to produce several more live and studio recordings. During the 1970s, the group experienced a lull that ended with the addition of new lead singer James “JT” Taylor in 1979. Taylor had been a preschool teacher and nightclub singer before he auditioned for the group. With a new lead vocalist, Kool & the Gang released their most successful track “Celebration,” which was the group’s only number one hit. However other tracks from this era were still successful, including the 1984 single “Fresh” which reached #9 on the US Top 100.